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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Nintendo Unirack (ユニラック, 1972)

A few weeks ago I added an item to my Nintendo collection that I had been searching for for quite some time.

The box it came in was battered from residing in some Japanese warehouse for over forty years. But I was happy to find it in the original packaging, no matter in what condition.

The slogan on the box states『使ってみると便利さがわかる』, which roughly means "very convenient to use".

In the early 1970s, Nintendo was producing many things besides toys. Most of these were aimed at households and offices: clocks, baby swings, photo copiers and candy floss machines, to name a few.

Nintendo Unirack (ユニラック) stems from 1972 and was one of these - short lived - attempts by Nintendo to break out in markets besides toys and games.

Unirack is a storage system that consisted of multiple elements that could be assembled freely to create an open closet of the desired size and shape.

The box I found contains one these elements.

The box has a (deliberate) hole in one side, allowing the colour of the element inside to be checked.

Even though this particular box had definitely seen better days, the Unirack element inside fortunately was as good as new and still in its original protective bag.

The Unirack system is made completely out of plastic. With its bright colours it has a clear 1970s feel.

The element can be placed up as well as sideways.

The back is not really nicely finished, so it is best placed against a wall.

The Unirack system has three differently shaped elements, called A, B and C. Each of these elements is available in three colours: blue, yellow and red.

Element A is the simplest, with one large compartment.

Element B has three small compartments, divided by two selves.

Element C has three drawers with silver-coloured round grips.

All three elements have the same dimensions: a square base of 25 centimetres and a height of 37.5 centimetres.

There are four protrusions on each side of a Unirack element. Four small ones on the bottom side and left side, and four bigger ones on the top side and right side.

When multiple Unirack elements are stacked next to each other, or on top of each of other, these protrusions lock. This helps to align the elements and also provides some stability to the structure.

An example configuration (below) is presented in the leaflet that comes with each Unirack element, but of course many different variations are possible.

You may have noticed that elements A and B come with a little plastic bag with colourful pieces of cloth.

This bag holds five small handkerchiefs.

To make the Unirack system more interesting to prospective buyers, Nintendo added a small gimmick.

This is demonstrated in the television commercial that was created for Unirack.

In this commercial, a young boy shows an empty Unirack element and then proceeds to conjure multiple handkerchiefs from it.

This trick is easily explained when we take a closer look inside.

One side of of the Unirack element differs from the others. This side is indicated with a little sticker with a kanji that means 'secret' (秘).

This side has a removable panel and a secret compartment that can be used to store some documents or other flat objects, like handkerchiefs.

I guess Nintendo's Unirack is the only storage system that comes with a build-in magic trick.

With its colourful, fresh look, hip rounded corners and moderate price (element A was sold for ¥1,800), Unirack initially enjoyed a small success in the Japanese market.

However, within one year after its introduction, the cost of oil - the raw material used to make plastic - skyrocketed as a result of the world-wide oil-crisis. Which meant the end of Unirack as an economical viable product at the intended price point.


  1. Nintendo's starting to sound like the K-Tel or Ronco of it's day here. I'm expecting an "As Seen On TV" sticker on this product at any minute!

    1. It should be on its front, probably.

    2. I would also expect with that sticker, but it would be on its front.

  2. This is really cool. I want some of these now I think they are a great idea.

  3. Yeah, this is actually pretty neat. I would buy it if each piece was about $30 or less.

  4. what terms did you search to find this? And was it on Yahoo Auctions?

    1. Yes, I found this through yahoo auctions. Search term Unirack. Plus a lot of patience, as these are extremely rare.