Travel – Hong Kong and Japan: The Toy Experience

4 04 2007

I have finished chronicling my toy hunting time in Hong Kong. This trip allowed me to expand on the documenting of some toy shop locations from my 2005 Hong Kong trip. I was able to cover more ground which allowed me to assess which location would make a worthwhile visit for other toy hunters. In one of my pre-trip posts, I mentioned Trendy Zone as a potential location for toys. I’m sad to say that it is not true. Walking up through the levels in Trendy Zone unearthed only clothes, watches and other non-toys stuff. You were warned!

And the process of writing down these locations from memory also saw me asking the question, “Which would be a better toy hunting location – Hong Kong or Japan?” Well, let me share my personal take on this.

As with the straightforward nature of my reviews, let me save reading time by giving you the bottomline of it:

Hong Kong – if you want more toy shopping time.

Japan – if you want to experience toy culture and latest toy fads… and some shopping at the side.

For how the points were awarded in this slug-out, read on.

Hong Kong 1 Japan 0 – Toy Store Proximity

The biggest plus point about toy shopping in Hong Kong is the concentration of stores offering variety in a single location. Mong Kok comes to mind. Causeway Bay is also another candidate. For the foreign toy hunter-cum-tourist, proximity between toy shopping locations is tantamount to

  • finding what you are looking for
  • finding the best bargain

Let me explain. With many shops in the same area, it takes lesser travelling time to scour through the toys on display in each shop. And inevitably, comparing prices for the same item becomes much easier.

From my pitstops in Hong Kong, 4 of them were in Mong Kok(excluding the mystery shop), 2 of them in Causeway Bay, 2 of them in Wan Chai. We know that Causeway Bay and Wan Chai are neighbours.  To go deeper, CTMA Centre and Sino Centre are back to back from each other. Animate is opposite CTMA Centre and UML Mong Kok is across the street from Sino Centre. CTMA Centre is a 2 mins walk from the nearest Mong Kok MTR exit, Richmond Centre is also a 2 mins walk from another Mong Kok MTR exit. For Causeway Bay, Toyzone is 30 seconds(when you factor in crowds!) from Causeway Bay Shopping Centre which is a hive of toy shops.

I believe Akihabara in Japan would be the closest to such a similar scenario in Mong Kok. Too bad I was unable to explore it fully. But somehow, I find the Mong Kok scene hard to beat for locale, toy variety and its setting. I could drop non toy inclined companions off in Mong Kok and they will still have a whale of a time while I shop for toys in peace. There is the Ladies Street, sports goods street(Fa Yuen Street), computer centre for gadgets, abundance of clothes stores, food stores…. and even cinemas.


Hong Kong 1 Japan 1 – Scope of Visit

To visit either of these countries just solely to buy toys would not really make sense since the cost of your toy purchases would rocket after taking into consideration the cost of the air ticket and accomodation. As such, there has to be a good non-toy related itinerary also. And Japan obviously is a much bigger place to visit!

But being bigger, the time you take to travel from one place to another in Japan would inevitably be longer and eat into any toy shopping time. And you may not have time to re-visit a store you went on an earlier day of the trip.


Hong Kong 1 Japan 2 – Toy Culture

Related to the previous point. Nothing beats the experience of going to the land where Godzilla, Ultraman, Macross and anime came from. I mean there is no doubt how Japan’s Otaku (geek) culture has influenced the toy scene for the rest of the world. The Japanese has also infused their excellent toy engineering practices to western toy licenses such as Star Wars, 24, Marvel heroes, DC Heroes, etc. And I have more confidence knowing that they create the toy rather than their western counterparts. And I still see Japan as The Source for the toys we love.

The strength of Japan would be the toy or imagination culture. New stuff are coming up everyday. The locals are at the forefront of consuming the latest anime and their merchandise. And it is worth the visit to Japan to soak in a little of the Otaku culture.


Hong Kong 2 Japan 2 – Toy Prices

This is one area where it is debatable and may vary with an individual’s experience. Honestly, pricing of toys depends on many factors such as demand, supply, product origin, market acceptance, age of product and other factors.

For example, Hot Toys Superman is a limited release product out of Hong Kong but it is more easily found in Tokyo and it still retails at the launch price. The Japanese could be more pre-occupied with their own products than non-Japanese products. I mean Japan is anime-land and toy-land! They are spoilt for choice. But outside of Japan, Hot Toys Superman goes for a premium.

But I have awarded Hong Kong the point here because alot of toy producers have shifted their operations to China – the owner of the Hong Kong SAR. 12″ figures from reputable producers such as Sideshow, Enterbay and Medicom are coming off production lines in China. (Check the sole of your Medicom Ghost Rider.) And the thing is that they are hardly inferior to their Japanese counterparts. Hot Toys and Sideshow products are all excellently produced. Sometimes non-Japanese products sport new innovations which the Japanese had not adopted. Think Takara’s 12″ boxes for example.

With ‘Made in China’ products also comes a better price for toys found in the geographically nearer Hong Kong. For example, the Medicom Shadowtrooper went for about 780 HKD upon launch. It would have cost more than 1000 HKD easily in places outside of Hong Kong where premium prices are slapped on Medicom products. Medicom may be Japanese but you’d be surprised that it retails at a higher price than Hong Kong in its home country.

Consider also the Brad Pitt Achilles figure. What would be the price difference if it came out of Hong Kong or Japan with the same product quality.




4 responses

27 05 2007

I recently just returned from a short vacation in Hong Kong. I managed to snag quite a number of toys that I’ve been wanting to have for quite some time – all at great prices. But unfortunately for me, I wasn’t successful locating some of 1/6 scale stuff I need. I did find a few shops specializing in them but the stuff were quite expensive. I was hoping to find some “cheaper” alternatives. Maybe you know of some place in Hong Kong where I might find these?

BTW, I also put together some helpful guides on toy shopping in Hong Kong. I categorized them by district:

Causeway Bay:



Sham Shui Po:

27 05 2007

Hi Vader,
Nice coverage of the toy spots in HK! You’ve managed to snapped some pics of the Toyzone interior! Great job!

If what you meant by cheaper is factory type prices then I do not know of any such places. Where I’ve been too are really retail shops which do sell stuff around market prices.

Maybe these are the places we should delve into next!

29 05 2007

Thanks for the props. I likewise hope to be able to expand the coverage on our next trip and find some real great toy bargains. It’s rather unfair that my wife found lots of bargain clothes and shoes while I didn’t get the equivalent in the form of toys – haha 🙂

29 05 2007

Good point! I can identify with that too. 8P Do drop me a comment when you’ve put a post on the coverage of your next trip at your site.

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