KURUMA: Japan’s Whimsical Answer to Scandinavia’s PLAYSAM car
KURUMA is like the cute Japanese version of the stark Scandinavian PLAYSAM car. Please guys, don’t mess with the KURUMA!
KURUMA, which means “car” in Japanese is a handmade wooden toy car by Mr. Togawa, a wood artist and owner of FLOWERS Woodworks in Yakushima, Japan, an island south of Kagoshima prefecture. KURUMA comes with a hand-carved auto body and “one or two passengers with big smiles”. Unique wood grain means no two cars are the same.
Wakako, who runs Baum Kuchen, the shop that sells the KURUMA, writes: “The clever design lets passengers ‘bubble’ as car moves! Its absolutely adorable look and feel will happily lead to many imaginative stories for children to play with.” If you want to understand what she means by ‘bubble,’ click here for 9 short KURUMA videos scored with Beatles tunes or scroll to the end of this post.
The cars are made of Mountain Cherry, Sandalwood, Wheel Tree and Camphor woods harvested on Yakushima island. They have been finished with a clear coat from Osmo Color which has passed Toy Safety Standards in Europe. KURUMA is available with one or two figures made of European Peach also with a clear coat. The wheels and headlights are made of unfinished maple. The overall dimensions are W 4.25″ x H 2″ x D 1.5″. KURUMA solo cars are available for $48 and double-occupancy vehicles cost $58 here.
The DENSYA (train) model made of Camphor and Maple measuring W 9.25″ x H 3″ x D 1.5″ is also available.
You can tell that Wakako and the Baum Kuchen crew have a lot of love for these simple wooden toys. She talks about how her daughter has a special one-off 3-seater KURUMA, which she uses to take the family on imaginary drives throughout the house.
“I am aware that there are a lot of toys out there… many of which are very cheap and made of plastic. I don’t mean to compete with these plastic toy market.. but more to think of the baum-kuchen’s toys as heirloom for the future… something kids can play for a long time then become a beautiful object/artifact until it gets passed on to the next generation… that are filled with stories and beautiful memories.”
I love when designers fully commit, and commitment is in full effect here. Wakako filmed a 9-part epic story of KURUMA drivers, Hanako and Taro, on their special car trip through Yakushima and Kyoto, Japan!
They even made a trip to meet Togawa-san and Midori-san, owners of FLOWERS, who have been living/working on Yakushima island as wood artisans for more than 15 years.
Click HERE for the FLOWERS studio tour. Click HERE to watch the KURUMA videos. Click HERE to get a KURUMA of your own. Charming.
[This post is dedicated to Sergey Safonov and Pepe Hiller, my toy art friends who admire the beauty of simplicity and natural wood!]
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