Select Language

Information Disclosure Project for Jidai Gangu collection

Research period: April 2019 – March 2021 / Project for Database Improvement (project period: max. 2 years)

Coordinator HIDAKA Shingo



This database is being created for the “Gangu oyobi kanren seso shiryo”, aka the “Jidai Gangu collection”, which was donated to the National Museum of Ethnology (hereafter Minpaku) in March 2013. Designated by Osaka Prefecture as a tangible folk cultural property, the Jidai Gangu collection is a collection of toys and materials made up of approximately 15,000 items of materials from the Edo, Meiji, Taisho, Showa and early Heisei eras, as well as approximately 58,000 toys. It was amassed by collector Toshikatsu Tada from 1975 onwards through visits to flea markets and old houses from Hokkaido to Tanegashima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, and is one of the top collections in the country. Its key characteristic is the wealth of historical documents, such as newspapers, supplements, magazines, books and old records, which enable an investigation of the toys and their historical background. Creating a database for the Jidai Gangu collection, which itself includes documents highlighting the historical context in which the toys were produced, will be of great significance to toy research.


A public ledger of the Jidai Gangu collection was in the process of being compiled by Osaka Prefecture, but it remained unfinished at the time the collection was donated to Minpaku. After receiving the collection, the work of matching the ledger with the photo files was undertaken in Professor Hidaka’s office, and after three years the initial work of sorting through the material was complete. The work that we shall call here preliminary sorting, involved checking that there was no discrepancy between the information recorded in the ledger and the information that could be gleaned from the photographs. The conclusion drawn from this was that there was a highly probability of missing materials which had not been delivered to Minpaku. The work of sorting the collection later progressed to the stage of correcting entries in the ledger and assigning specimen numbers for the exhibition materials displayed at the special exhibit “Toys Expo-Children in Modern Japan”, which opened on 21st March 2019. In the course of doing this work, it became clear that there were numerous items for correction in the information recorded in the ledger.

Based on the above process, in this project we will begin by carrying out the work of comparing the ledger with all the remaining items in the collection, checking the content of the ledger entries, and carrying out any necessary corrections. A survey of the documentary materials will also be conducted, and the ledger entry for all items completed. Following this we will classify the Jidai Gangu collection into the following 21 categories, based on Mr. Tada’s classification criteria: 1) Tin toys; 2) Mass media toys; 3) Menko, marbles; 4) Karuta, playing cards; 5) Dice, fukuwarai; 6) Coloring games, paper craft; 7) Colored paper, paper cut-outs, origami; 8) Sumo toys, forty-seven ronin toys; 9) Playground equipment; 10) Games and picture books; 11) Battledore, kites, spinning tops; 12) Wooden toys, celluloid toys; 13) Stencil drawings, dressing up, coloring books; 14) Dolls (from the Edo era to the present); 15) Playing house and water toys; 16) Toy vehicles, optical toys; 17) Girl’s toys; 18) Boy’s toys; 19) Candy store and fairground toys; 20) Children’s pictures and costumes; 21) Modern Japanese history seen through toys. As with the ‘“Culture of Japan” exhibition database’, we will not just assign one category per item, but will employ multiple classifications enabling selection according to numerous criteria. As such, we will consider the necessity of introducing even more categories. In addition to classifying each toy according to the Edo, Meiji, Taisho, Showa and Heisei eras, we will investigate the era of production, and attempt to specify as far as possible the period of manufacture. We will also generate data to link the detailed information of each toy with information about the toys’ manufacturer and manufacturer’s recommendation for how to use the toy, as well as the research results of members of the study group responsible for the joint research project on the Jidai Gangu collection entitled “An Interdisciplinary Study of Children’s Culture and Society from the Viewpoint of Their Artifacts in Modern Japan” (October 2014 to March 2018). This work will be conducted in consultation with the aforementioned joint research group. Aside from this, we will negotiate to get approval to include items in the database that may be subject to copyright restrictions, in particular toys modelled on television anime series and manga characters, and carry out preparatory work to ensure the speedy publication of the database. The copyright negotiations and other work of this nature will be conducted in consultation with the Information Division.

As an additional development for this database, we will introduce a memo function in the form of a page which will display the history of any new information added to the database, or when additional information is received from toy researchers. For this we must consider very carefully how wide to make the circle of people authorized to add information.

Expected results

The Jidai Gangu Collection Database (tentative name) will be based on the platform developed by the project leader for the Info-Forum Museum database ‘“Culture of Japan” exhibition database’, which was published in 2018. It will feature a memo function in the form of a page which will display the history of when any new information is added to the database, or when additional information is supplied. Users will be able to search the database using a free-text search, by searching on the Edo, Meiji, Taisho, Showa and Heisei eras, by searching materials, such as metal, wood, celluloid, or by searching by category of toy, based on Mr. Tada’s classification criteria. We will add a simple commentary for each of the search criteria to make it easier for users to understand the classifications. By doing this, we aim to encourage use by curators at museums planning exhibitions on toys, as well as researchers whose main focus is children, such as education and home economics specialists, and we hope that it will encourage the shared use of the Jidai Gangu collection itself.

Outcomes from 2020

1. The state of the implementation of this year’s research

In 2020, on the basis of results from the first year of the project we completed the classification of the database dividing into the following categories. In 1) Form, 26 types (doll toys; war toys; ride-on toys; power toys; mass media toys; paper toys; Menko cards; Karuta cards; Sugoroku boardgames; clothing changes; coloring-in pictures; marbles and ohajiki flat glass beads; optical games; water toys; masks; board games; construction toys; Gokko – pretend-play games; sports games; souvenirs; educational toys; traditional sweet shop toys; musical toys; materials related to toys I (children’s clothing/costumes/accessories); materials related to toys II (books/photographs); and other; 2) Three types of users (boys; girls; both boys and girls); 3) Five ways of playing (competition; Gokko pretend-play; appreciation; solo play; and building); 4) Five types of the main season in which the games are played (New Year; The Doll’s Festival; the Boy’s Festival; Christmas; and all year round); and 5)Four types of production era (Meiji; Taisho; Showa; and Heisei); 6) Nine types of main materials (plant origin; skins and hides; metal origin; soil origin; shells; stone origin; glass origin; artificially made materials; cloth origin); 7)Size; and 8) Remarks. All of the above categories were translated into English and the components of database construction also completed. In addition, we constructed the database adopting platform of the already publicly available ‘Culture of Japan exhibition database’ as part of the info-forum museum.

2. Overview of the research results (achievements of the research objects)

The largest remaining task of the database is copyright and the handling of photographs of gangu which are under copyright. We are focussing on the indication by the Copyright Section of the Agency for Cultural Affairs on 24 October of 2019, from the first year of the collection of the photographical data, that ‘our basic thinking is for a flexible limitation of rights as which corresponds with the developments in digitalisation and networking’ (Copyright Act, Article 30-4, Article 47-4 and Article 47-5) and also within this, ‘to the extent considered to be necessary in light of the purpose of the action set forth in the relevant item, when exploiting it is incidental to the undertaking of that action, the work can be made available to a minor degree by the activity’. Making the image data available is dependent on this and in regards to the ‘minor degree’, we will abide by Minpaku’s ‘Methods of making information public’ in ‘Guidelines for the publishing of information relating to works online’. In order to avoid contravening the ‘Special uses’ (Examination, making copies of materials and so on) in the ‘Special rules for the use of humanities research organisation resources’, we have decided to limit the still image data size up to a horizontal length of 1500 pixels (for example, in the case of a 1,500 x 1,200 pixels size, it would be 1,800,000 pixels). We are considering uploading the photograph image data as thumbnail sample images (180×180 pixels). However, as this is an important point, we will continue to cooperate with the Information Division on the standard of handling the thumbnail images. Further, this database has a password protected log in system, through which information can be added and a memo functionality which can display historical pages when new information is added has also been developed.

3. Records disclosing achievements (publications, public symposia, sectional meetings of academic conferences, electronic media, etc.)

・Shingo Hidaka, 2020, “About the forum-type museum” Jidai Gangu collection Database “”, Kinki Mingu Gakkai (ed.), Kinki Mingu 42, pp.33-43, Kumamoto city, Kinki Mingu Gakkai, 26. Apr.2021, ISSN:0910-674X

Outcomes from 2019

1. The state of the implementation of this year’s research

In this year of the project, along with the database display categories and the classification of toys by shape, the classification of the Jidai Gangu Collection was also progressed forward. The display categories and form classifications are as below.
1)Form of toys
1. Dolls: Human-like toys
2. War toys: Toys relating to war
3. Toys vehicles: Toys for riding on
4. Force powered toys: Toys which use a type of force to play
5. Mass media toys: Popular characters toys which have appeared in the mass media, or are related to popular characters
6. Paper toys: Various toys made from paper
7. Menko cards: Menko by material—clay menko (doro menko) , lead menko (namari menko) and paper menko (kami menko) —of which paper menko are the most commonly known. Menko are played with by throwing the menko into a small hole dug in the ground, trying to flip over your rival’s menko, or by collecting the menko.
8. Karuta cards: Rectangular cards with pictures or song lyrics. One of the ways to play with karuta is to compete to match up the pictures or songs on the cards.
9. Sugoroku boardgames: A type of boardgame. Players roll the dice and progress forward the number of places shown on the dice. The first to reach the end of the board wins.
10. Doll dress-ups: Cloth or paper costumes, played with by changing a dolls’ clothing.
11. Coloring-in pictures: A set outline which is colored-in in preferred colors.
12. Marbles and ohajiki flat glass beads: Round-shaped glass beads used for games and to look at.
13. Optical games: Games which use the qualities of light.
14. Water toys: Toys which use water.
15. Masks: Toys which are played with by wearing on the face.
16. Board games: Games which are played by moving or removing markers or cards along a board.
17. Construction toys: Various parts which are put together to construct or make a toy.
18. Gokko: Playthings used for playing gokko (pretend)
19. Sports games: Toys which are used in games enjoyed by moving your body and competing to win according to set rules.
20. Souvenirs: Souvenirs which are playthings.
21. Educational toys: Toys which assist in children’s learning
22. Traditional sweet shop toys: Toys sold at traditional sweet shops
23. Musical instruments:
24. Materials related to toys I (children’s clothing/accessories): Children’s clothing with pictures of popular children’s characters and associated accessories.
25. Materials related to toys II (books/photographs): Historical artifacts which are of cultural property value (bunkazai) from the Jidai Gangu Collection.
26. Other: Toys or playthings that do not fall into any of the above classifications.
2)Main users
1. Boys
2. Girls
3. Both boys and girls
3)Ways of playing
1. Competition: Playing by competing against one another.
2. Gokko: Playing by pretending to be something or someone.
3. Appreciation: Enjoying the toy as a decoration.
4. Solo play: Playing by one’s self
5. Construction: Playing by constructing something.
4)The main period for playing
1. New Year
2. The Doll’s Festival
3. The Boy’s Festival
4. Christmas
5. All year round
Era of production
6)Main materials
1. Plant origin: timber, plant seeds, lacquerware, bamboo, paper, carbon paper, rubber, other plant material
2. Skins and hides: hide, leather
3. Metal origin: tin plate, lead, steel, aluminum, antimony, dye-casting alloys, other metals
4. Soil origin: soil, unglazed pottery, pottery, porcelain, clay
5. Shells: shells, whitewash
6. Stone origin: stone, gypsum, magnets
7. Glass origin: glass, colored glass, mirror
8. Artificially made materials: artificial leather, chemical fibers, celluloid, plastic, vinyl, vinyl chloride, soft vinyl, photographs, film, cellophane, gunpowder
9. Cloth origin:
Supplementary information

2. Overview of the research results (achievements of the research objects)

Currently, together with the classification of each toy into the above categories, the final check of each category explanation is being finalised by cooperating researchers and preparations for the English translation are also underway. On this point, we believe that we are mostly progressing in accordance with our project plan. We also gave a research presentation on this project at the Kinki Mingu (everyday items) Research Conference held on December 22, 2019 and exchanged opinions regarding the display categories amongst other things. The opinion exchange which occurred here is reflected in the work on the organizational system of the categories.

3. Records disclosing achievements (publications, public symposia, sectional meetings of academic conferences, electronic media, etc.)