RED TAIL talks "Garage Kit" history in Japan
Yuji Sakai - My first "Garage Kit" -
I remember it was early 1990’s when I learned about “Garage Kits”
(Japanese kits produced by small makers in small lot including resin, vinyl, FRP, etc.).
I was around 20 years old.
When I was walking around Harbor Land, the commercial area in Kobe, Japan,
one Godzilla product caught my eye by chance that was piled up in front of a model shop.
I opened the box and was kind of surprised. That was different from plastic models
or figures, which I had built and painted. It was really realistic and very expensive!
Lately I learned that it was a KAIYODO soft vinyl kit sculpted by Yuji Sakai
(Master Modeler of Godzilla Dream).
Plastic models around that time costed 1000 to 2000 JP yen (US$10 - 20)
but that kit was almost 5000 yen (US$50).
I was already fascinated by that beautiful form and purchased my first “Garage Kit.”
It took about a week to start with pretreatment according to the instruction
and painted the kit with lacquer paints and with brushes.
Start as a KAIJU finisher at Godzilla Shop
After a few days of finishing my first “Garage Kit,” I read a newspaper article
that said a Godzilla Shop would open in Sannomiya, the center of Kobe
and they were recruiting a finisher to build and paint kits.
I grabbed the freshly finished kit and visited Godzilla Shop.
The building consists of 4 floors; 1st and 2nd floors were Yatai Mura (food stall village),
3rd floor was Godzilla Shop and atelier, and 4th floor was exhibition space.
The store manager of the 3rd floor was Kyoji Tokita who lately worked
in architecture modeling industry, and the manager on the exhibition space
was Mr. Nagao, the owner of Takarajima.
Takarajima was a “Garage Kit” maker as well as a finisher.
Looking at my first work, Mr. Nagao said surprisingly “Is this your first work on Garage Kit?
And did you paint this with painting brush only? Your work will be professional level
after finishing a few kits.” He hired me as a finisher of Godzilla Shop.
Working at a design firm on weekdays, I tackle “Garage Kits” at home at night
and at Godzilla Shop on weekends. Yellow 4 of Accel Work was my first airbrush.
The kits to be finished were assigned by the owner of Godzilla Shop every week.
Later, he became the president of some famous company that produced small figures
to be enclosed in candy box.
Plan G at Godzilla Shop
The main purpose of Godzilla Shop was to invite Mr. Inoue from Inue Arts
who had dominated the Garage Kit world in Japan and had already scaled down his activities.
This was called “Plan G”.
Mr. Inoue’s first work was to create a stereoscopic sign for the building.
It’s a 1:1 FRP relief sign with Godzilla pulling a food stall and King Kong pushes from behind.
However, his spotlighted work became “an illusion” after the plaster mold was broken
They said I could bring back the surviving mold of King Kong bust,
but I didn’t do so just because I didn’t have a car.
I believe Mr. Takagaki (a sculptor) keeps the mold.
Now I’m enough smart to understand that the mold is worth more than the cost
for using a cab or renting a car to carry it.
Reproduction of "The Battle at the Foot of Mt. Fuji" from Inoue Arts
In a while, Mr. Inoue launched reproduction of “The Battle at the Foot of Mt. Fuji,”
his representative work and one of the masterpieces in Japanese Garage Kit history.
In the age without vacuum defoamer, Mr. Inoue himself made the mold
and casted the parts for around 10 kits, as I recall.
While finishing assigned kits for exhibition, I assisted him whenever I had time.
He gave me one kit of “The battle at the foot of Mt. Fuji,” that I still keep today.
After 1 year or so, the space got unavailable and Godzilla Shop closed it’s business.
VOLKS, Takarajima, and PAO
Besides day job, I continued to work as a finisher for Takarajima
where I built and painted its customers’ orders.
Back in those days, VOLKS dominated the Garage Kit industry releasing various Kaiju kits
both in resin and vinyl.
Mr. Hatanaka, after owner of Zokei Kobo PAO, sculpted most of the products.
Yuji Sakai (Godzilla Dream) already started sculpting, but was not that famous yet.
He was one of the sculptors of VOLKS, I remember.
There were not many shops that undertook finishing.
Takarajima was the only well-known shop in western Japan as far as I know.
Mr. Nagao, the owner of Takarajima, introduced me to Mr. Hatanaka
and I had opportunities to work on sample painting of PAO kits.
Wonder Festival and KAIJU Garage Kits
Besides working as a finisher for Takarajima and PAO,
I personally completed kits and sold at Wonder Festival.
Before the internet age without enough shops to sell kits,
Kaiju Garage Kits sold like hot cakes and sold high at Wonder Festival and other events.
I remember that second hand kit stores such as Mandarake were selling items
at very reasonable prices.
My earlier 10 years as a finisher passed like this.
Collecting Godzilla and Kaiju Garage Kits
Being fascinated by Garage Kit world, I was also a collector.
About 50,000 yen ($500) was spent to purchase kits every month.
Major scale for collection in Japan is 20cm (8 inches) and 30cm (12 inches)
is viewed as a big size kit.
There are not many people who obtain 50cm or 60cm and such kits are produced
in limited number like 10 or 20. These kits achieve premium price later.
Only Paradise released bigger sized vinyl kits around 50 to 60cm using the mold of
old Inoue Arts including Godzilla 1954, 1962 (King Kong model), and 1989 (Biollante model).
Mr. Murakami, current owner of DAIMOS, has sculpted a few items
such as Daimajin and Sanda & Gaira as a modeler of Paradise.
When I heard that Mr. Yuji Inoue - Godzilla Dream - would release 55cm (22 inches)
Godzilla 1989 resin kits, I called him right away to secure the stock.
As I recall thaw was my last purchase of expensive kit.
My passion as a collector diminished while finishing many kits.
I became able to exactly see how the finished statue will appear
just by taking a look at the kit.
My desire to acquire and finish kits for myself gradually faded away.
Since then, just one or two kits are on my wish list per year.
For example, Space Godzilla by T's Facto is the one I’d like to work on when I have time!
Blank period as a finisher
There was a blank period of one or two years around this time
when I thoroughly stopped painting.
I started Armwrestling in 1999 as well as got into keeping reptiles.
My budget and space at home were all gone for creatures, aquariums and food.
Restart with Jeans Koubou
One or two years later, HOBBY JAPAN, a popular magazine about figures, models, and kits,
caught my eye at a bookstore.
An article said that a Garage Kit maker “Jeans Koubou” would open nearby my house.
I called Mr. Nagao in a second.
Just as I expected, he knew the owner of Jeans Koubou, Mr. Goto and introduced me to him.
My life as a finisher restarted and I painted for them
KAIJU Labo DAIMOS
Later on, Mr. Murakami succeeded KAIJU Labo. DAIMOS as his own brand
and was looking for a person who work on it’s sample painting.
I contacted him through Jeans Koubouand started undertaking his work.
It was around this time when I got to know Mr. Takahata, former owner of D-Teck.
Mr. Murakami worked with Mr. Nakaoka, the sculptor of Choheiki Series of Panorama Hour.
Mr. Nkaoka didn’t remember but he was the president of Godzilla Shop
and i already had met him a few times.
Since then, I have worked almost all sample painting for DAIMOS
maybe except just one item for 14 years.
Mr. Murakami always include my name in the article for HOBBY JAPAN
and I started gaining reputation as a finisher.
Asao Zokei, Monster Maker 28, GowRow, Image and T's Facto
Thanks to good people around me, I was able to build good network of personal connections.
At Wonder Festival and other events, I get acquainted with Japanese representative
Godzilla sculptors including Mr. Asai (Asai Zokei), Mr. Niwa (Monster Maker 28), Tamao (Image)
Mr. Atari (GowRow), and Mr. Yamawaki (T’s Facto).
Launch of RED TAIL
In 2005, I finally quit my day job and started my own brand RED TAIL.
Since then, I have worked on sample painting for makers, pattern painting
to be photographed for magazines, and my customers’ orders.
I have finished more than 2000 kits including resin, vinyl, FRP, and others large and small.
Sometimes I did works for larger companies, one of which was
to paint and install a 1:2 figure of MATRIX 2 at TSUTAYA (rental video shop)
in Shibuya, Tokyo during night time.
That 8.4 feet figure was the largest item I have finished.
RED TAIL's growth and Customers
My advantage in painting technique is reality and flexibility;
I can finish Godzillas to classical and modern, and can realize customers’ request.
Some customer want to recreate a screen shot of a movie
and others want to have their kit painted like their pet.
When it comes to Godzilla and other Kaiju, I finish my customers’ kits with total confidence!
Some customer acquire finished kits from auction and order my repainting
to make the items their own.
One of the old customers will open a Godzilla cafe
with many Godzilla related figures I finished and he is already in preparation.
It’s a great honor that my works influence not only my customers’ hobby but also their lives!
My greatest pleasure is to see my customers’ joyful and surprising face when they see the finished kit.
I also sculpted and released two items.
SD Super deformed Godzilla 1991 (King Ghidorah model) and Pitbull.
Godzilla 1991 (called Ghido Goji in Japan) is my most favorite Godzilla.
I also love big size dogs.
This was my sculpting and I sent one finished statue to Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer,
and I believe my pitbull is still on his shelf.
Godzilla Resurgence - Shin Godzilla -
2016 is a Godzilla Year! I’m looking forward to meet and work on prominent kits!!
"What’s Garage Kits?"
Collecting and building resin kits (widely called “garage kits” in Japan)
is Japanese representative subculture rapidly grown after 1980.
Most popular subjects are often female anime figures and other anime characters,
KAIJU monsters such as Godzilla, creatures, military, and others.
Most commonly they are cast inpolyurethane resin,
but other materials are soft vinyl, plastic, FRP, and white metal.
Originally the kits were sold and traded between hobbyists at conventions like Wonder Festival.
As the market grew a number of companies began producing resin kits professionally,
such as Volks, Kaiyodo, and Kotobukiya.
Well-known private makers are Godzilla Dream (Yuji Sakai Zokei Kobo),
T's Facto, Image, DAIMOS, Monster Maker 28 (MM28), Asai Zoukei,
GowRow, KITORA, Honey Bones, TANAKA KENNICHI, and etc.
The scale of figure kits varies, but 1/8 seems to be predominant.
Prior to 1990 the dominant scale was 1/6. Larger kits (1/3, 1/4, etc.)
generally command higher price.
As for Godzilla kits, 8 inches (20cm) and 12 inches (30cm) are the most selling sizes.
Some makers have product line for SD (Super Deformed) kits.
Shinji Nishikawa launched a project called MDA - Mash Deforme Arts - together with Image and KITORA in 2016.
The builder has to paint and assemble the model, preferably with an airbrush.
However, they can also be painted with a regular brush using a variety of techniques
to achieve similar effects as when painting with a conventional airbrush.