Monday, April 1, 2024

My stay at Marufukuro, former Nintendo HQ

[Long post warning!]

Today marks the second anniversary of the opening of the Marafukuro hotel in Kyoto, on April 1st, 2022. It's a good moment to share my personal experience visiting this special place in Nintendo's history: the former headquarters of Nintendo, situated at the site where the company originated back in 1889.

Nintendo shop in Shōmen-dōri in Kyoto, early 20th century

In previous posts, I've shared the background of this building and it's neighborhood (check it out here), as well as some of its interior details.

Shōmen-dōri in 2023

Many years before the hotel's opening, when the building was no longer in active use and completely off-limits to outside visitors, I had already traveled to this location. At that time, I was content to view it from the outside, steal a small peek inside, and absorb the atmosphere of the neighborhood, which is the birthplace of Nintendo. The highlight of that trip was taking a picture with my recently released "Before Mario" book in front of the well-known old company signs.

My visit in 2015 (in front of a closed door)

At the time, I couldn't have imagined or even hoped for what would happen several years later: a full restoration of the building dating from 1933 and its conversion into a hotel, while preserving the original atmosphere and many original artifacts completely intact.

Hotel Marufukuro, Nintendo's former HQ, in 2023

As you can imagine, ever since the announcement of the hotel's opening, I've been eager to visit. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting closure of Japan to foreign visitors, I had to wait until an opportunity arose last November.

The buildings extends deep from the street

I traveled to Japan together with my youngest daughter, and during this trip, we planned to stay one night at Marufukuro.

As we walked into the building, it immediately became clear that it was even more beautiful than I had imagined through the many pictures I had already seen. My eyes darted between all the interesting details and beautiful items.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

I caught a Nintendo Time Bomb from the 1960s

In a previous blog post I discussed a very rare Nintendo item from the 1960s called the Time Bomb (タイムボーン). For decades, this Nintendo-branded licensed toy had remained out of sight, even to the most dedicated Nintendo collectors and historians. That is, until one appeared for auction on Yahoo Auctions Japan in 2021. An unknown lucky winner took it home for ¥256,555.

As you can imagine, ever since that moment, I have been on the lookout for another Time Bomb. And last November, two and a half years after that first discovery, I managed to acquire one offered by an American seller through eBay. Fortunately, this one was a bit cheaper.

So, without further ado, here's the second known Nintendo Time Bomb, now part of the beforemario collection.

The box is a bit rough and squashed, with some rips. But all flaps are present and the colors of the artwork are still vibrant.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Nintendo 1950s Takarazuka cards with box

A couple of years ago, I reported about a set of vintage Nintendo playing cards from the 1950s, that had attracted my special interest. They were for the Takarazuka Revue, a Japanese theater company, and represented some of the earliest (possibly the earliest) Nintendo trump (トランプ) decks with a marketing purpose.

It is a beautiful set of cards, with full color pictures. That previous post can be found here.

Unfortunately, the deck that I had found at the time was missing the box. But that has since been corrected. Recently a version with box came into my possession, and you can see it here.

The box turned out to be just as nice as the cards themselves. It features branding for both Nintendo and the Takarazuka company.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

First Nintendo product sold in Europe (probably)

In today's post, we'll delve into the first advertisement for a Nintendo product in Europe. At least, the earliest one discovered thus far.

Displayed here is an almanac from Italy for the year 1973.

This almanac, known as Barba-Nera, is a local institution and a synonymous term for almanac in Italy. Remarkably, Barba-Nera still continues its annual publication today, over 250 years since its inception in 1762.

At its essence, the almanac provides information on sunrise and sunset times throughout the year, religious calendars, weather forecasts, and horoscopes.

This is complemented by agricultural insights and diverse topics such as cooking.

A large part of the book is dedicated to advertisements aimed at the Italian agricultural community. So you will find adds for Lamborghini tractors, rather than racing cars.

The 1973 edition spans around 350 pages and includes a sweepstake for 1500 prizes. While the majority of these prizes consist of key chains, there are more substantial items up for grabs.