Tamiya/Ebbro Chat Parts 1 & 2

Chat with
Shunsaku Tamiya (President & Chief Executive, Tamiya Inc)
Makoto Kiya (President, MMP Ltd.)
frank discussions today, on then and now

moderation, composition & text by Masahiro Asano
photographed by Tadashi Ono (Hot Lens)
special thanks to Tamiya Inc.

an unofficial translation from the Japanese text in
the July 2013 issue of Model Graphix magazine
--- all rights reserved, Model Graphix magazine Japan ---


The Oil Shock Turning Point

Tamiya I don’t remember anything about Kiya immediately after he joined the company.  But that’s only because he was in the Molds Department at first, and I don’t usually have much contact with people on that side.

Kiya     Yes, that’s right.

Tamiya I first became aware of this guy’s existence back during the oil shock (’73).  We were running out of raw materials in Japan, and since we had a branch in New Jersey in America, we were doing our production at the factory there.  He went to manage our molds there at that time.  That is, if a molds craftsman didn’t go, the molds could get ruined.

Kiya     We brought quite a number of molds to America then, didn’t we.

Tamiya Yeah, those were difficult times, weren’t they.  So I remember him well as one of our “employees off to the States during the oil shock”…  Anyway, quite a lot of people joined the company in about ’68, when Kiya came in.  I’m pretty sure there were no entry tests back then?

Kiya     Right, there weren’t any tests.  Just an interview with the plant manager.

Tamiya We were letting anyone in the company who came, that loved models.  So, it’s not like this guy got in because he’s especially talented at anything (laughs).

Being a “model lover”, however, is an important factor in my company.

Kiya     ’68 when I joined the company was, as the Chief has just said, a time in which a whole bunch of people came in.  And, most of us went into the dormitory, because we’d come in from the countryside.  It was more a house that’d been rented than a dormitory, with everyone living together…  And when we’d gather at nights, the only thing we’d talk about was models.

Tamiya Yeah, they’d sit around big circles, drink their drinks, and have their model discussions (laughs).

Kiya     Yeah.  It was the greatest environment.  Every night was like a modelers’ convention.  And then the Chief, who was Planning Department Manager at the time, would sometimes slip us bottle presents (Suntory Old whisky).  And when our dormitory leader would shout “There’s a bottle present from the Planning Manager!” everyone would come running, and it’d be empty in no time.

Tamiya Yeah, it was as lively as a college dormitory, wasn’t it.  But I don’t remember slipping you guys any bottle presents (chagrin).

Lotus Comes to Tamiya!
--- all rights reserved, Model Graphix magazine Japan ---

----Kiya-san, did you not want to be posted to the Design Department when you joined the company?

Kiya     Yeah, well at first, the “I want to be involved in mold making” part of it was bigger for me, and my “designs no matter what!” attitude hadn’t really set in yet.  But as I was making molds, I’d be looking at the design blueprints and starting to think “If only it had been done this way”.  And then I got cocky, and would talk to the design people saying things like “Wouldn’t it be better like this, here?”  And then they would say things like “Well then why don’t you do it, eh?” and that led to me putting in an “I want to do designs” request with the plant manager.

Tamiya Yeah, in Kiya we had someone who knew a lot about cars and airplanes.  That was the biggest reason for his transfer to designs.

And back then, I had been going off to do the F1 research myself, but when I got too busy, I started having this guy do the F1 research sometimes instead…  It was interesting back then, wasn’t it.  It was almost half like fun and games.

Kiya     Well, it might have been like that for you, Chief, but it didn’t seem like fun and games to me at all.

Tamiya Yeah, but we got to meet those famous drivers face to face.

Kiya     True.  And at those first demonstration runs at Fuji in ’74, the Chief invited the Lotus staff over.  I was so surprised to see that, an F1 team coming to the company.

Tamiya Yeah.  They came here (Tamiya Headquarters), and we also had a party out at Lake Yamanaka too.

Kiya     Yeah, that’s right, that’s right!

Tamiya Back in those days, I think you could say we had the strongest connections to F1 in Japan.  We’ve been paying royalty money to teams for commercializations since the 6-wheel Tyrrell, and because that one was such a run-away hit, we paid 60-million in yen of the time to Tyrrell.  And when that became known to other racing teams, they tried to start snuggling up to us too (laughs).

----What kind of impression did seeing Kiya-san’s car model designs leave you with, Chief Shunsaku?

Tamiya I wasn’t particularly surprised in any way.  Because most of the time we measure actual cars to make them.  What was good for Kiya, however, was that if there was a little design mistake and a situation arose where some parts didn’t fit together, he’d go from the Design Department on the 3rd floor down to the Molds Department on the 1st floor, and fix it behind my back (laughs).

Kiya     Yes (chagrin).  I caused trouble from time to time back then.

Tamiya With an outside moldsmith word gets out because an invoice comes for the repairs, but when it’s in-company, you don’t find out because a bill doesn’t come.

Kiya     …Yes, yes, and with the 1/35 series 37mm German anti-tank gun I first designed (sales date: May ’74), the pin positioning was off a little, and the leg angles were a bit wrong from left to right.  So I said “I’d like to fix just this, here”, and the Chief said “Do it yourself!”

Tamiya Yeah, but that’s because you’re originally a moldsmith.

Kiya     Yes, and for that one I actually did do the repairs myself (laughs).