Sunday, November 4, 2018

Tour inside Nintendo headquarters in 1970

The historic Nintendo company brochure that recently surfaced, provides a great record of its main Kyoto offices and factories as they existed in 1970.

Nintendo had just invested significantly in the development of these buildings, located in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto. Today this lot of land is still owned and used by Nintendo. However, the head office and main R&D offices have since moved to the Minami district in Kyoto, and part to Tokyo. Many of the buildings shown here no longer exist today.

Join me as we travel almost fifty years back in time!

We start with an overview picture. The building on the left are the offices.

The circular sign on the front of this building is the Marufuku logo, used by Nintendo for its card products.

Nintendo had used this logo almost from it's start in 1889, is is evident from this 1915 calendar.

The production facilities can be seen on the right. Check out that huge sign with the Nintendo logo (任天堂) on the roof of one of the buildings.

Nintendo was one of the bigger employers in this area, with a very visible presence.

The site is located close to the Tobakaido railway station. The Keihan Main Line and Nara Line both pass right next to it. A large neon sign with the text "Nintendo Trump" (任天堂 トランプ) has been put up facing the tracks, advertising these playing cards towards the streams of daily commuters.

We now start our tour inside in the office building, and enter the spacious lobby.

Next is a large conference hall that can be used for company meetings.

One of the most interesting areas is the 'products demonstration hall', that shows the entire product range to prospective wholesale customers, like buyers from department stores and toy shops. This setting oozes 1970s design; it must have felt very modern at the time.

We see the wide selection of products that Nintendo was offering at the time, most of which were just released, like the Kôsenjû SP series of light guns and targets. Also shown is the Candy Machine, party games like Twister and multiple board games.

In the back we see a showcase with playing cards, and many models from the Nintendo N&B Block range displayed on the tables in front of it.

Nintendo had also started producing entertainment equipment like roulette tables and we see an example of this in the back.

At the end of the room a display shows a selection with games released the previous years, including the 1966 Ultra Hand, the 1967 Ultra Machine, the 1968 Hip Flip, as well as various board games and the more recent Dynamic Soccer from 1970.

The next picture shows the 'product development design room'.

The room is filled with drawing boards. This must have been the nerve-centre for the company's creative work.

In the cupboard on the left we can see stacks of game boxes. Some by Nintendo itself, but many also by other toy companies, like Epoch and Takara. The team clearly looked for inspiration at its rivals in the fiercely competitive toy market.

The next images show a chemical laboratory and a craft shop used to make tools and machine parts.

Next we move to the production facilities for the various card games, starting with the production line for Nintendo's first product, the traditional Japanese playing cards called Hanafuda.

Overview of the Hanafuda production process

The process starts by creating the cardboard base that will form the back of the cards.

The backs are then painted red or black. A Hanafuda set consist of 48 black and 48 red backed cards.

The front image side of the cards is printed in large sheets and cut into individual pieces.

The cards backs are polished to give a nice shine, simliar to lacquered wood.

The front and back parts are glued together to form the complete card.

To ensure quality, each card is closely inspected before it is packaged into sets.

A system of conveyer belts is available to transport boxes with packaged cards from the production floors to the loading area at street level.

The boxes are loaded into Nintendo trucks and transported to one of the two distribution centres Nintendo owned at the time, in Nagoya and Tokyo, or shipped directly to their customers.

Next is the production line for so-called 'trump' cards, which are western style playing cards.

Overview of the trump cards production process

The cards are printed on large sheets.

The cards are coated to increase durability. Nintendo produced paper based cards and cards made entirely from plastic. According to their company history, the production of these so called 'all plastic' cards started in 1953.

The sheets of cards are cut, and the loose cards gathered in wooden crates.

The cards are given their characteristic round corners by a die cutting machine.

In the final step of the process, the cards are put into plastic boxes by a an automatic packing machine.

Besides cards, Nintendo also produced mahjong games. The image below shows the machines involved in the making of mahjong tiles.

The final series of images in the company brochure shows another factory that Nintendo was using at the time, located in the Uji area in Kyoto. This location is also still in use by Nintendo today.

In 1970 this location was used for the production of newer games. The picture below shows a range of plastic moulding machine, used to produce plastic parts for games and the blocks for the Nintendo N&B Block building sets.

The Uji location was also used to assemble and pack the electronic items Nintendo produced, like the Riffle and Electro Roulette target from the Kôsenjû SP series.

In the last two images we see Nintendo staff loading freshly produced goods into trucks. The open truck in the back is filled with boxes full of Candy Machines, one of the new product introductions from 1970.

The staff does not seem overly concerned in adhering to the 'up' instruction printed clearly on the boxes.

This concludes this fascinating glimpse behind the gates of Nintendo in 1970, a time when the company was growing within Japan, but when the world wide breakthrough with the Game & Watch series was still ten years ahead.

If you enjoyed this post, also check out the introduction of this 1970s brochure with some more company details, as well as the Nintendo 1993 company report, that shows the giant leap the company would make in the 1980s and early 1990s.

[The scans of the 1970s brochure were kindly provided by Fabrice Heilig.]


  1. I'm very surprised no one commented on this incredible find. Thanks to both you and Mr. Helig for sharing this. A wonderful treasure trove.

    I have to imagine after all that you've dug up that there's even more of these, some probably just sitting in a drawer inside Nintendo somewhere. They really need to plunder their archives sometime and start preserving it properly. You've done a good job picking up their slack!

  2. This is just pure awesomeness. It is always amazing to see products from the past, but now we can have a sneakpeek of the acutal factory and workspace from the past. Amazing! Thank you for this!