Where have all the toys come from?
By Kim Kyung-hoon
When you look at the mountain of toys in this picture, you might think that your childhood dream has come true and this is a toy lover’s paradise.
In fact, what seemed to be a child’s dream come true was not a magic spell but “recycling”.
Japan’s famous contemporary artist, Hiroshi Fuji, renowned for using the theme of recycling in his various artworks over the last decade, held his solo exhibition in Tokyo and surprisingly, his art creations were made from more than 100,000 unwanted toys. The numerous toys had been collected from across Japan over the last 13 years through community activities to recycle these unwanted toys by bartering among children.
Fuji, who initiated this social activity, got inspiration from Papua New Guinea where he volunteered as an art teacher in the 1980’s. In Papua New Guinea he witnessed that everyday plastic goods, which usually are abandoned in his home country, were bartered and used by natives as priceless, valuable commodities. When he returned to Japan with this inspiration, he became a pioneer of “recycling art” in Japan.
The variety of abandoned and recycled toys in this exhibition is countless: Mickey Mouse, Nimo, Shrek, Toraemon (a Japanese cartoon character which has been well-loved for several decades). It proves that the more something is loved, the more it’s produced and the more it’s abandoned.
Today, many fast food restaurants offer plastic toys featuring popular cartoon or movie characters with kids’ meals. Most of them, commonly made from inexpensive plastic, easily break and lose pieces. Therefore, they are forgotten or disdained by their little owners very quickly and end up going to a landfill.
After this exhibition entitled “Central Kaeru Station — Where Have All These Toys Come From?”, these 100,000 toys will be returned to the community group’s toy recycling project and they will resume their real mission: giving smiles to kids.