Toy, Tin Toy, Robot, "Space Whale"

Display Status:

This object is on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Collection Item Summary:

This metal "space whale" is a tin toy manufactured in Japan for export to Western markets. In the 1950s and 1960s, its maker, Yoshiya (also known as Kobe Yoko Ltd.), specialized in producing mechanical or wind-up toys with fanciful designs. In post-WWII Japan, producing these metal toys began as a way to tap into an international market for "penny toys" or cheap playthings, but developed by the late 1950s into a industry manufacturing creatively-designed, complex toys with moving parts and/lights that competed successfully with Western toymakers. This toy illustrates how Japanese toy makers tapped into the fascination for space exploration even if the basic form of the toy was not space-related. Notice the Sputnik-like satellite on its back.

Using “kanei-kogyo,” or family industries, many Japanese tin toy companies distributed preprinted metal sheets to home-based shops, where families worked together to stamp, shape, and wholly or partially assemble them. The distributor paid these family shops by the piece and shipped the completed toys overseas. Because space themes sold well, many toys received space-age designs or packaging.

The Gewirz family donated this toy to the Museum in 2006.