Sunday, December 4, 2022

Nintendo Ele-conga manual restored

The Ele-conga (エレコンガ) is an electronic percussion instrument, created by Nintendo and released in 1972. It offers five different analogue sounds: Snare, Maracas, Claps, High Congas and Low Congas.

I recently came into contact with Forgotten Futures, an organization whose mission is "to revive lost and forgotten yet vital artifacts of electronic musical instrument history by collecting, faithfully restoring and preserving original instruments".


Nintendo Ele-conga (1972) manual front

They were interested in preserving the Ele-conga manual and I gladly provided a scan of a copy from my collection.


Nintendo Ele-conga (1972) manual inside

The document was digitally restored by Mike Buffington (his site here). I believe he did a great job, removing all stains, creases and other damage. You can see the result here.


Nintendo Ele-conga (1972) manual back

If you would like to learn more about this wonderful Nintendo item, check out this previous blog post.

For more information about Forgotten Futures, go to forgottenfuturesmusic.org.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Building the N&B Block Garden House

In this post we will take a look at the building of a Nintendo N&B Block (任天堂ブロック) set.

If you don't know what N&B Block is, check out this introduction.

The set we are putting together is called "Garden House" (ガーデンハウス). This was one of the smaller N&B Block sets.

It dates from 1968 and has model number NB 980-G. This model number also identifies the list price at the time: 980 yen. This translates to around 3,500 yen in today's money.

When I found this particular set, it was so-called "new old stock"; the blocks were still shrink-wrapped.

Today these blocks will be liberated from underneath the plastic film, after almost fifty-five years of waiting.

A single folded sheet with assembly instructions (組み立て方説明書) is included. It is printed one-sided, in colour.

When unfolded, the instructions measure around 38 by 54 centimeters.

The text in the top right corner states:

Assemble in order, while looking at the completed drawing.

Various other things can be assembled with these parts. Let's assemble your own things.

There are many other sets in the Nintendo (N&B) block [range].

A table is provided that lists all included parts, with their colour (red, white, blue, yellow or green) and part count.

The total number of parts for this set is 179.

Nintendo must have had a good quality control back then (like they do now), as all listed parts are present. There are no spare parts.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Nintendo's Before Mario Party

Well over thirty years before the first Nintendo 64 Mario Party saw the light of day, Nintendo was already selling games to create fun and excitement at parties.

One of such games was the well-known Twister, to which Nintendo obtained the Japanese distribution rights from US company Milton Bradley in 1966.


Nintendo's first Twister version (1966)

The first version released by Nintendo (called ツイスターゲーム or "Twister Game" in Japanese) was a straight localization of the original American game, retaining most of the original box art, including the Western looking folks on the front.

In the years that followed, Nintendo released two more versions of Twister, until they lost (or gave up) the license sometime in the mid 1970s.


All three Nintendo Twister versions

In today's post, we will take a closer look at the second version.

The game attributes (play mat and board with spinner) of this version are identical to the first release, however the box art and box dimensions have been changed, as well as the manual.


Nintendo's second version of Twister (1967)

The front of the box now shows a Japanese group of people playing the game, signalling that this is a game that works in a Japanese setting.

The American origin of the game is still reflected in the two faces included on the left side of the front.

Although the pictures on the front portray the fun party purpose of the game, a second message is also relayed: exercise is good for you.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Former Nintendo HQ in Architecture book (1996)

The book presented below is called "Kyoto Photo Gallery" (京都写眞館), from the series "Modern masterpieces" (近代名建築). The author / photographer is Akihiro Fukushima (福島明博), and it was published in 1996 by the Japan Newspaper Publishing Center (日本機関紙出版センター).

Over a hundred buildings are featured in the book, and we show it on this blog because one of those buildings is the former head office of Nintendo.

In the book, some basic information is provided for each building, and a brief description.

The former Nintendo head office was built in 1933 by the Osaka Hashimoto group (大阪橋本 組).

It is a "three-story reinforced concrete structure" that is "a nice building located on a main street, a little west of Kamogawa. It has an Art Deco style combining straight lines and roundness, but it omits detailed decorations."

The author contacted Nintendo to find out who the architect was. "Mr. A of the General Affairs Division informed me [...] the next day." Unfortunately, the answer was "I still don't know the name. Some people said they were architects who lived around Nanzenji."

A single full page photo of the front view of the building is included. You can see a glimmer of the original wooden structure on left.

As you may have heard, the building was recently renovated and repurposed as a hotel. More on that here.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Nintendo Australian Copilas operation manual

In a previous post, I showed the Australian version of the Nintendo Copilas.

For completeness sake, a full scan of the operation manual is provided here.

As part of the localization for the Australian market, the document was fully translated into English.

Like the rest of the localization, it has been professionally done.

Besides the English language, the manual is identical to the original Japanse version.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Nintendo Copilas localized for Australia

The Copilas (コピラス) was an affordable photo copier, introduced by Nintendo in 1971. In the early 1970s, Nintendo released multiple products outside their core toys and games market, and the Copilas was one of these. Others included the Nintendo Candy Machine, Uni Rack, Twins and Mamaberica.


Japanse version of the Nintendo Copilas

It was believed that these products were all limited to Nintendo's Japanese home market. The only known version of Copilas was the one sold in Japan. This version is described in detail in this post.


Nintendo Copilas localized for the Australian market

I say "was believed", as recently the version shown here popped up, seemingly out of nowhere. It is a version that has been fully localized for the Australian market.

On this version, all Japanse text has been replaced by English translations. The company name used is also the international version: "Nintendo Co., Ltd.".

The box shows that the machine is made to work with 240 volt current and 50 cycles, the Australian standard, as opposed to the 100 volt which is used in Japan. The voltage / cycle indication is stamped on the box, rather than printed, allowing other configurations to use the same box.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Nintendo's oldest playing cards? Marufuku No. 1

Nintendo was founded in Kyoto back in 1889. This means that the oldest items the company produced are now well over a century old.

One of the oldest items in my collection, possibly the oldest, are these pieces of paper.

They are the remains of a box of one of the earliest sets Western style playing cards manufactured by Nintendo, from the early 1900s.

Five of the original six sides of the box remain. The top side, that functions as a closing lid, unfortunately is missing.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Nintendo Lefty RX English promotional leaflet

A few weeks ago, when scanning Yahoo Auctions Japan for vintage Nintendo toys, my eyes spotted a Lefty RX G.T. Sport set. The set was in decent condition, but nothing I did not already have in this collection. Or so I thought, on first glance.

I have always had a soft spot for these 1972 toy racing cars. Nintendo turned their obvious disadvantage (it cannot steer to the right), into a unique selling point. So I pay extra attention when an auction of one of these scrolls by, and gave it a second look.

Something looked off and unfamiliar.

I quickly realised that included in the box, besides the standard black and white manual, was a leaflet I had not seen before. Enough reason to bid. Luckily I won the item for a reasonable amount.

When the package arrived at my place a few weeks later, and I opened the box, I was glad I had acquired it.

The document turned out to be a full-colour promotional leaflet, in English. A document I had never seen before.

Around this time (late 1960s to early 1970s), Nintendo was trying to expand their market abroad, mostly through foreign distributors. English language versions have been found for many of their products from this era, including the Ultra Hand, Love Tester, Challenge Dice, Ultra Machine and Ultra Scope. However, this was the first time I saw that a similar attempt was made for Lefty RX as well.


Monday, August 22, 2022

Nintendo Kyoto Souvenir Playing Cards (1950s)

This is a story about a beautiful set of vintage Nintendo playing cards, and dealing with a certain amount of disappointment.

In a previous post, I shared a document from the 1950s, called the Nintendo Playing Cards Report.

This document is both a company introduction and a product catalogue. It provides a comprehensive overview of all products offered by the company at the time; (mostly) playing cards, as the title suggests.

Of all the card sets shown in this document, one set in particular caught my attention: the Kyoto Souvenir Playing Cards (スーベニヤトランプ), that include a photo of some aspect of Kyoto on each card, so over fifty different photos in total.

This set of cards intrigued me for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the cards look beautiful. Within Nintendo's product portfolio, these are some of the earliest examples of themed cards, that offer more than the standard card suits with a colourful back design. [Another early example are these Nintendo Takarazuka cards.]

Also, there is a strong link between Nintendo and the subject of Kyoto, as it is the company's hometown.

Furthermore, these cards provide a view of how Kyoto, and by extension Japan, presented itself to tourists at that time. They offer a window to that past, when tourism was still largely a domestic affair. Foreign visitors came to Japan only in small numbers, and most non-Japanese tourists in Japan consisted of US troops stationed in Japan following the occupation after Japan's defeat at the end of World War 2.

From the 1950s, the Japanese government did promote tourism to foreign nationals, as it brought in much needed foreign currency, and these cards fit that promotional effort.

Very recently, I managed to find two copies of this set. The first I ever saw, after more than twenty years of searching for vintage Nintendo items. Also the first to appear in collector circles. As you can image, this discovery made me very happy.

Even more fantastic (or so I thought initially), was the fact that they are unused, old stock. [Later it became clear that I celebrated too early, more on that at the end of this post.]

The boxes are in relatively good condition, although they are somewhat dusty. Not surprising really, given their age of around seventy years!

The front and back of the box contain nice drawings of scenes from Kyoto, as well a diamonds and clubs symbols.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Former Nintendo HQ opens as Marufukuro hotel (and beforemario is present, in book form)

A few months ago, on April 1st 2022 to be exact, the former headquarters of Nintendo at Shomen-Dori in Kyoto opened as the Marufukuro Hotel, after extensive restoration and remodelling.

Recently, there was a nice surprise for me personally, which I will keep for the end of this post.

This building has played an important part in Nintendo's history. Although it wasn't the first building occupied by Nintendo, it is located on the spot where the company started, and served as headquarters for around a quarter of a century; from the moment it was erected in 1933 to the late 1950s. It also was the home for the Yamauchi family during this period.

The building was modern for its time, well designed and crafty built, with many nice details; signalling a company on the rise. It was commissioned by Sekiryo Yamauchi, Nintendo's second president. Hiroshi Yamauchi, Sekiryo's very successful successor and third president, also conduced his business from here during the first ten years of his reign.


The Marufukuro Hotel in 2022

After Nintendo's center of power moved to newer offices in other areas of Kyoto, and the building was no longer used in any form in the company's daily operation, it was kept more or less in the state from its period of prominence.

During the last twenty years or so, it become a spot to visit, a place of pilgrimage of sorts, for Nintendo enthusiasts from across the world.

Back in 2015 I took a picture there with my just released Before Mario book, in front of the door that remained largely closed for decades. [More on that visit here.]


At the former Nintendo HQ in 2015

When comparing the current 2022 version of the building with its former state, a few things stand out.

Two large circular 'Marufuku' logos have been placed on the top of the front and side facade. Although they look like they have been there from the start, they are new additions. A clock was added above the front door, and sun screens above the windows.


At the former Nintendo HQ in 2015

The middle section has been build more high up. Originally this only contained some smaller, single-story rooms and a court yard.


At the former Nintendo HQ in 2015

Most prominently, a whole section was added to the left of the building. Originally housing a wooden structure from the early days of the company, this had remained a vacant lot since that structure was torn down around 2004.


At the former Nintendo HQ in 2015, the missing original building

Fast forward to 2022, where we find the building looking splendid. The old exterior has been cleaned and the building is extended with tastefully designed additions.

The biggest change, of course, is that the front door is now open. At least, open to all who book a room for the night.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Nintendo Nagoya office opens in 1959

In the 1950s, Nintendo was expanding its operation, including a move of the headquarters to a new, larger production location. The Nintendo Playing Cards Report from the mid 1950s provides a good overview of the various locations in use at that time in Kyoto, as well as branch offices in Tokyo and Osaka. These branch offices supported the company's national sales and distribution network.

The magazine below introduces another new location.

The magazine is called Gangu Shoho (玩具商報), which translates to 'Toy Business Bulletin'.

It is a monthly magazine, and this particular copy is number two from 1959. The issue date 'February 5th 1959' is printed on the top right corner, in the traditional top down notation (昭和三十四年二月五日). The magazine cost 100 yen.

The magazine is filled with trade news and ads by manufacturers and distributors of toys and games, as well as sweets. Basically, anything you are likely to find in the toy section of a department store, a toy store, or a dagashiya (駄菓子屋).

The news section includes a piece about Nintendo.

The headline reads "Nintendo Nagoya branch newly established".