Japanese Robots: Jiro Aizawa, the Father of Toy Robots
Probable Source of Humanity's Image of ‘Toy Robot’
Jiro Aizawa, born 1903, is very significant in terms of Japan's history of robots, toy robots in particular. He is also known as Dr. Aizawa, Uncle Robot, Dr. Robot, Zirou Aizawa, Dr. Aizawa Zirou, and 二郎相澤 in Japanese.
In 1910, when in 5th grade, Aizawa saw his first mechanical man in a London exhibition (note that the word robot was not coined until 1921). Beginning in 1925, he created scores of entertaining robots, founded a "research institute" to produce and popularize them, and became something of a folk hero in his own right.
In 1934, he unsuccessfully petitioned the government to recognize the word "robot" as his personal trademark.
The Japan Institute of Juvenile Culture was set up in 1952 and run by Jiro Aizawa and Osamu Tezuka (the creator of Astro Boy). It was based in Hoyamachi, west of Tokyo, and was dedicated to the production of new toy ideas. Back in 1964, the institute received an annual subsidy of 50 million yen (US$138,500). The institute provided 250 toy manufacturers with designs for toys sold in England, France, Germany, Italy, Monaco, Switzerland, and the United States, as well as Japan.
Jiro Aizawa in his robotics playground/laboratory
At one time, the institute had more than seven hundred toy robots of various sizes. The most important members of this family are the so-called Ten Brothers, of which the oldest, Master Ichiro, is over seven feet tall, and the youngest, Master Juro, is much smaller.
Each of the robot brothers has a special talent or trick to perform, such as conveying messages with gestures, smiling, or even reading people's palms. However, the most popular with the visiting children was Master Hachiro, the least spectacular of them all, who when beckoned approaches them totteringly and shakes them by the hand.
The smaller robot, third from the left, is Mr. Hachiro, the hand-shaking childrens’ favorite
Three of Aizawa’s very similar creations; the middle robot is probably Mr. Fujiro
The Toys Get Big - Really Big
Beginning in 1959, Aizawa started building large, quite stylized humanoid robots, starting with Mr. Ichiro. Prior to that his robots were 'toy' sized, although one larger one was built to tell the time in 1957.
The Mr. Ichiro robot in 1959
Mr. Tetsu, the stamping robot, provided commemorative stamps to visitors
Pictured with Aizawa, Mr. Juro welcomed visitors to a science museum in Tokyo; circa 1967
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From the Editor: Learn More!
We’re honored to share this work here, and we encourage robotics enthusiasts and researchers alike to visit the original publisher’s article. The importance of Jiro Aizawa’s legacy, along with that of his contemporary Osamu Tezuka, cannot be overstated. Not only did they create many of humanity’s most iconic robotic forms and images, their work has inspired interest in and fascination with robotics for members of every generation that followed.
See additional images below, and for much more on all the robots mentioned above and a trove of robotics and cybernetics knowledge across all disciplines from around the world, jump through to the original post at CyberneticZoo.com.
Give yourself some time - you’ll be there a while.
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About the Contributor & Article:
This written work and photo collection, with complete references and notes, appears in its original form as an entry at CyberneticZoo.com, an online museum and archive of 20th century robotics and cybernetics. Curated, assembled, and written by independent researcher Reuben Hogget, it is quite likely the finest online resource of its kind.
To learn more about the creator and his one-man robotics passion project, check out this interview from Anthrobotic.com: Robot Treasure Discovered Online: an Interview with the Creator of Cyberneticzoo.com Images: CyberneticZoo.com