The Golden Age of Toy Cars

The Japan Society in New York has an unusual exhibit featuring a collection of Japanese tin toys from the early post-WWII period. It’s called “Buriki: Japanese Tin Toys from the Golden Age of the Automobile– The Yoku Tanaka Collection.” 

Japan had become known for the quality and detailed workmanship of their tin toys during the 1920s and ’30s.

The toys on display have been chosen for the quality of their detailing and their bright colors, like this 1954 General Motors Chevrolet Bel Air two-door sedan shown above.

With the resumption of international trade in 1947, [Japanese] exports grew rapidly. Leading American marques such as Ford, Packard, Lincoln, Chevrolet, Belair, Buick, and Cadillac competed to market ever more seductively styled cars to U.S. consumers in an increasingly automobile-based society. In Japan, toy manufacturers followed these styling trends closely, retooling often in order to offer miniature versions of the latest models to eager American children.

This selection from the Tanaka collection features 70 cars, airplanes, buses, spaceships, speedboats, and helicopters that provide a fascinating overview of the postwar Japanese tin-toy industry–a symbol of Japan’s startlingly rapid postwar rebirth–and of the Golden Age of automobile styling in the United States.

The exhibit runs through Sunday, August 15 at the Japan Society, 333 East 34th St., NYC, +1 212 832 1155.
(Hat tip: Dinosaurs and Robots.)

Book your next trip with Peace of Mind
Search Trips


For photos of full-size models of the Golden Age of the Automobile, check out our galleries of National Geographic archival photos showing Americans touring Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks in their roomy sedans.

Photo by Tadaaki Nakagawa, courtesy of the Japan Society

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet