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Robots, Dolls, Electronic Gadgets Top Japanese Christmas Lists

December 23, 1987

TOKYO (AP) _ Fantasy robots, toy laser guns, talking dolls and miniature electronic gadgets are the top sellers in gift-crazy Japan this Christmas.

Storefronts are festooned with yuletide decorations and recorded Christmas caroles abound as merchants gird for the season’s buying spree that fuels Japan’s $6.2 billion toy market.

Christmas is not a religious holiday in Japan, but Dec. 25 is celebrated with as much commercial fervor as in the West. Shopping streets are decked out in Santa Clauses, colored lights and reindeer swooping ahead of fully laden sleighs.

Heading the list of the Top Ten Christmas gifts at Hakuhinkan’s toy store are a racetrack system, ″Zillion″ laser gun, ″Zoids″ robots Deathsaurer and Deathpion, and Transformer robots that can be folded up into spacecraft and other vehicles.

The popular girls’ toys include Jenny’s Beauty Salon - a beauty parlor for the doll Jenny complete with tiny mock containers of shampoo, perfume and toothpaste, as well as earrings and hair ribbons - and Amy, a $159 talking doll.

At Mitsukoshi department store, down the street from Hakuhinkan in the Ginza shopping mecca, Jenny is displayed in dozens of costumes. The Sylvanian Family of petite animals offers a dining table set, bathtub with cotton fuzz to resemble a bubble bath and even a toilet, all sold separately.

″They never had anything this detailed when I was growing up,″ said Tokiko Toshi, 19, a clerk at Mitsukoshi’s toy corner. ″And you have to be pretty rich to buy the whole set.″

For the boys, Transformers made by Takara, Japan’s No. 2 toymaker, are selling strong. With such names as Destron Garbatron, Weird Wolf and Obominas, they can battle robot foes from top toymaker Bandai named Giludis Devil Invader GD-4, Zalios or Cessna Robo MR J-8.

Bandai also puts out the popular Tamagoras robots. ″Tamago″ means egg in Japanese, and the robots are plastic eggs that unfold into dinosaurs, gorrillas and other beasts.

Bandai’s hottest seller this year are figurines based on St. Seiya, an outer space fantasy television series, says Seiichi Haga, chief of Bandai’s development section. More than 5 million have been sold since they were introduced in January.

Bandai and its competitors capitalize on the popularity of action TV animations and pump out matching characters, their spaceships and weapons to a generation of children brought up on cartoons. Transformers figure in a TV series, as do Takara’s latest item: the Norakora Rock dolls, which dance in response to music, or the clap of hands, or a shout.

Santa’s Japanese elves have put out a variety of laser-gun toys with target belts that light up when ″hit.″ There’s the Maskman Laser Magnum with built- in samurai sword and for the daring, Tomy’s $117 ″Survivor Shot″ which comes with spaceman headgear and the English explanations, ″If you get shot in the psycho-converter, you actually get several shocks to the side of your head. Fifty-meter (165-foot) range.″

Hakuhinkan even carries the U.S.-made ″Akuma Ikinie″ (″Devil Sacrifice″), a demon with a flabby transparent stomach from which one extracts the guts, organ by organ, smothered in slime. ″Ueh 3/8″ says Ms. Kobayashi, the Japanese equivalent of ″Yech 3/8″

For adults, fancy portable diaries, miniature electronics and tiny stationery items in credit-card sized containers are this year’s rage, says Ichiro Saito, head of customer services at Ito-ya, Tokyo’s largest office supplies retailer.

The notebooks, called ″system diaries,″ range from $80 to a $1,200 version in lizard skin.

Other card items are a phone directory that holds 410 numbers and electronic dictionaries for Japanese, English, German and Korean.

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