by Robert Duban & Matt Alt
Popy, the titan of the 1970’s Japanese toy scene, marketed their die-cast character toys under the famed brand name “Chogokin" (“super alloy”). In what appears to have been a move to out-do "super," rival Nakajima Manufacturing Company unveiled a competing series of die-cast toys dubbed “Ultra Gokin.” In comparison to Popy's dozens upon dozens of licenses, Nakajima boasted just a handful, only two of which were used to make diecast toys -- the animated series "Space Knight Tekkaman" (7/2/75 – 12/24/75) and "Groizer X" (7/1/76 – 3/31/77). And also unlike Popy, Nakajima relied on partnerships with other, even smaller companies to distribute many of its products. Several of Nakajima's mini-diecasts bear the text "Manufactured by Nakajima, Sold by Marushin," and Nakajima shared both the “Ultra Gokin” brand name and licenses with Aoshin. In keeping with tradition of the time, Nakajima stamped a unique logo on many of their products: the "Turtle-Mark." As an aside, this turtle logo often appears alongside yet another logo, the "Bell Mark." The Bell Mark isn't actually a Nakajima brand; it's the logo for a Japan-wide campaign run by an organization, still in existence, that supports local school parent-teacher associations. (The marks are clipped from participating products, collected by the local PTAs, and sent in to the Bell Mark organization for exchange for school-supply coupons and the like.) Nakajima only made a handful of diecast metal character toys, but some are classic examples of 1970's Japanese toy design. The Groizer X toys are particularly interesting: the "standard" Groizer Robo and Groizer X toys feature battery-operated flashing lights. The company rounded out the Ultra Gokin line with a series of UFO-themed diecasts (see "UFO or Die" for more information) and a number of toys based on real-life vehicles – trains, planes and fighter aircraft – as well as a series of metal insects. However, on the current Japanese collecting scene, Nakajima is far better known for their vinyl toys, particularly their large-sized portrayals of characters from the smash-hit wrestling series "Tiger Mask." Nakajima also created talking dolls and the "Action Boy" system, a generic doll body with a unique head-nodding mechanism, that was used as the basis for a variety of toys, including those from Mach Baron, Gatchaman, Meteor Man Zone, Hurricane Polimar, Rainbowman, Tiger Mask, and their own groovy hero series, "Astro Mu Five." (For more information on the latter, read "Turtle Power.") Additionally, Nakajima made mini and standard sized vinyls, missile-firing vinyls, and several "Jumbo" scale polyethylene renditions of characters from Tekkaman. Nakajima also produced a copious amount of non-character merchandise: stuffed animals, snow-cone machines, etc. We've listed Nakajima's "Ultra Gokin" toys below. The list of Japanese snow-cone machines you'll have to find elsewhere.