Japanventures: Part 2 – Ikaho Toy, Doll & Car Museum
I’m sure everyone has at some point or another read the Initial D manga, watched the anime on television or at least heard of the infamous panda Trueno. Car lovers and anime otakus alike have fallen in love with the five hairpin turns on the Akina downhill that are spoken of as a legend in the show. Is it real? Is it made up? Well fortunately for you it’s all real except for the impromptu eurobeat techno music that starts playing as soon as you start driving. It’s all located on Mount Haruna in the Gunma Prefecture in Japan.
Nestled up right against the infamous “finish line” of the downhill course is a little town called Ikaho which is known for its naturally high iron content hot springs and spectacular views over Gunma. It’s also the home of the Chinpokan Penis Museum but that’s a story for a completely different website. In true crazy Japanese fashion, this is also the location of one of my personal favorite museums: The Toy & Doll Teddybear Confectionery & Chocolate Automobile Museum. Yes, that is the complete name of the museum listed on the sign outside of the building. It is also the current home of the Yokota car collection as well as heaps of other car related memorabilia you never knew you needed to know about until you saw it!
From the exterior, the building seems interesting but similar to other onsens or restaurants that dots the entire drive up to the top of the mountain. Once you enter through the front gates and go up to the ticket counter, you realize that this is like no other museum you’ve ever been to. Kewpie dolls are distributed to color at the end of the self guided tour as well as a map of the craziness that is about to ensue. The first section of the museum presents a large selection teddy bears and dolls imported from all over the world. Some are in display cases and some are on perches above the faux forest ambiance. But as you move deeper into the maze, old arcade games and toys start to make an appearance.