Saturday, June 13, 2015

Rare photos of Nintendo's playing card factory in the 1950s

In the previous post about my recent get together with Isao Yamazaki in Tokyo, I mentioned that Isao showed me some vintage photos taken at Nintendo's playing card factory. In this post we will take a closer look at these special glimpses into Nintendo's past.

Although I am not sure about the exact date these pictures were taken, I believe they are from the 1950s, possibly early 1960s.

The first three pictures below show the various steps of the production of Hanafuda cards. Hanafuda are the traditional Japanese playing cards that Nintendo started producing as their first product in 1889.

Since those early days, when the cards were made completely by hand in a small workshop, the production process has come a long way. At the time these pictures were taken, the cards were mass produced in a semi-automated factory, with machines supporting the multiple manual steps carried out by a large army of women and a handful of men operating the larger machines.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Two Nintendo enthusiasts meet in Tokyo

One of the highlights of my recent trip to japan was spending an afternoon in the company of Isao Yamazaki. Isao is one of the biggest and most knowledgeable Nintendo collectors in the world. In Japan he is considered a top expert on the history of Nintendo. And Japan being Nintendo's home turf, that is saying something.

Together with my daughter Loes, who accompanied me on this Japanese trip, I met up with Isao at Nakano station in Tokyo. We were joined by the friendly miss Tanaka, who acted as interpreter.

Although Isao and I have been in contact for many years already, this was only the second time we met in person. The first time was two years ago, in May 2013, when I had the pleasure of meeting up at the same time with Isao and Florent Gorges, another Nintendo chronicler.

Isao-san flanked by my daughter Loes and me in Tokyo (April 2015)

Since then, Isao and I both published books on Nintendo's history. So you can imagine there was a lot of catching up to do!

By the way, Isao's book can be ordered from Amazon Japan. Information on my book can be found here.

Isao-san holding his own book and mine

We went for lunch in a soba restaurant near Nakona station.

Before we ordered lunch, we looked at some interesting documents that Isao had brought along, including Nintendo's recently published 2015 company guide, which is richly illustrated with images from Nintendo's 125 year history, many of which we had not seen prior.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Nintendo's birthplace in Kyōto

When visiting Japan a few weeks ago, I took a walk past Nintendo's place of birth in Kyōto, where the company still holds an office at the site where it was established in 1889.

Nintendo means a lot to me, even so much that it inspired me to write a book about its history. Although my visit was limited to the exterior of the building (alas), it is nice to get a feel for the type of neighborhood that the company started in. With some imagination, you can picture in your mind the early days of the playing card business from over a hundred years ago.

Author meets subject

The Nintendo building is situated along Shōmen-dōri (正面通り) [Google map link here] on the eastern part of Kyōto, just west of the famous historical area Gion.

Shōmen-dōri means 'front street', named so because it was the street in front of the Hōkō-ji (方広寺), one of the important temples established in Kyōto in the 16th century. The Hōkō-ji housed Kyōto's great Buddha statue, before this was destroyed, a few times actually, in an earthquake and some fires.

Shōmen-dōri runs west-to-east through the city for about four kilometers, starting near the Tambaguchi Station (丹波口駅) and ending at the Hōkō-ji.

Nintendo was established by Fujisarō Yamauchi as a Hanafuda (flower cards) selling shop and workplace at Shōmen-dōri in the Ohashi area of Kyōto, on September 23 in 1889.

This promotional card from around 1915 lists the Shōmen-dōri address for 'Yamauchi Nintendo' (山内任天堂), the name the company used at the time (written right-to-left in Japanese). This would remain the headquarter address well into the 1950s.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Nintendo's 2015 company guide is a visual celebration of its past and present

In previous posts we have looked at various editions of Nintendo's company guide (see bottom of this post for a list). This guide is completely redesigned yearly and used by Nintendo in Japan to introduce the company to new employees. It is distributed to job applicants who take part in the yearly recruitment process at the start of the fiscal year (in April).

These guides are very interesting for Nintendo enthusiasts, as they provide a peek behind the white stone facades of the usually very closed corporation. The content focusses primarily on present achievements (recent game hardware and software) and the company's strategy for the future.

However, the guides also provide information on the company's history. Nintendo was founded over 125 years ago, and its long and rich heritage must surely be an important reason why young people choose to apply for a job at Nintendo.

The interest for the company's history seems to be growing lately, outside of company as well as within Nintendo. In recent years, these guides have also paid increasing attention to the company's past.

A few years ago, the history was dealt with in just one or two pages with a list of products and events. But the last two editions give it a much more prominent place.

Last year's guide was designed in the style of hanafuda cards Nintendo's first product that started the company back in 1889. And this year's guide even tops the previous one with even more extensive content that provides a fantastic visual celebration of Nintendo's present as as well as its past.

Nintendo company guide 2015 - cover sleeve

The guide comes in a very colorful cardboard sleeve. This sleeve is covered on both sides in many of the different versions of the Nintendo logo that the company has used over the years.

The front and back of the guide itself are also full of logos, printed in beautiful silver ink on a black background.