Cardboard robots win children's hearts
BY AKIHIRO TANAKA STAFF WRITER
Masahiko Senda says free-thinking is the key to craft work. (The Asahi Shimbun)
KYOTANGO, Kyoto Prefecture--Many of us remember making one or two toy models in our childhood, but Masahiko Senda has made model making his life's work.
The 59-year-old computer support shop operator has built more than 10,000 toy planes, dolls and other models since catching the bug as a junior high school student.
Now, a line of whimsically designed robots made out of cardboard is attracting wide attention and giving Senda the chance to share his passion.
"You can use hard cardboard paper to design (models) in any way you want, and it is cheap," Senda enthuses. "I will go anywhere to teach if I can promote the joy of craftwork."
He says, "When I conceive an interesting idea, I can't help but make it straight away."
Last December, he held a popular exhibition of his robots at the Osaka Tin Toy Institute in Osaka's Nishinari Ward and he is now being bombarded with requests to teach elementary school students how to make the models.
One of Senda's latest creations, a 30-centimeter-tall robot that opens to reveal two human-shaped figures running inside its body that totters around on two sets of three hexagonal wheels, is a far cry from the radio-controlled planes that first brought him attention from the model-making world about 10 years ago.
A model jet made from lightweight, flexible resin brought a flood of orders in the early 2000s, and Senda turned the warehouse at his house into a studio. He spent about 10 million yen ($129,750) to buy a resin-cutting machine and sold more than 1,000 models before orders started to dry up when a foreign company started offering a similar but cheaper version.
Senda, with an empty workshop and an expensive machine on his hands, spent three months working out a way to make a life-sized cardboard model of an old motorcycle using the machine. From that experience were born the cardboard robots and a new way to connect with aspiring young model-makers.