1957- Japanese Humanoid Robots and Toy Robots – Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

Jiro Aizawa, born 1903, is very significant in terms of Japan's history of robots, toy robots in particular.  (also Dr. Aizawa, Uncle Robot, Dr. Robot, Zirou Aizawa, Dr. Aizawa Zirou, and 二郎相澤 in Japanese.)

In 1910*1, when in 5th grade, Aizawa saw his first mechanical man in a London exhibition [RH Note that the word robot was not coined until 1921]. Since 1925 he had made scores of entertaining robots, founded a "research institute" to produce and popularize them, and became something of a folk hero in his own right. In 1934, he unsuccessfully petitioned the government to recognize the word "robot" as his personal trademark. (Inside the Robot Kingdom: Japan, Mechatronics, and the Coming Robotopia by Frederik L. Schodt, 1988) 

[*1 Some reports suggest date is 1914, not 1910. If Aizawa was born in 1903, then to be in 5th grade it was more likely to be 1914, making him 11 years old.]


The Institute:

The Japan Institute of Juvenile Culture was set up in 1952 and run by Jiro Aizawa and Osamu Tezuka (the creator of Astro Boy). It was based in Hoyamachi, west of Tokyo, and was dedicated to the production of new toy ideas. Back in 1964, the institute received an annual subsidy of 50 million yen (US$138,500). The institute provided 250 toy manufacturers with designs for toys sold in England, France, Germany, Italy, Monaco, Switzerland, and the United States of America as well as Japan.

At one time the institute had more than seven hundred toy robots of various sizes. The most important members of this family are the so-called Ten Brothers, of which the oldest, Master Ichiro, is over seven feet tall, and the youngest, Master Juro, is much smaller. Each of the robot brothers has a special talent, or trick to perform., such as converying messages with gestures, smiling, or even reading people's palms. However, the most popular with the visiting children, is Master Hachiro, the least spectacular of them all, who when beckoned approaches them totteringly and shakes them by the hand. (Jasia Reichardt: Robots: Fact Fiction Prediction, 1978) 


Since 1959, Aizawa started building large, quite stylized humanoid robots, starting with Mr. Ichiro.  Prior to that his robots were 'toy' sized, although one larger one [see below] was built to tell the time in 1957.

The above robot was called "Universal Robot No. 2" c1947.

There were so called the ten brothers. I have images of more than ten so it is not clear as whether or not the robots built for Expo'70 are included in this ten as well as others. I will update this aspect as it becomes clearer to me. Most of the robots below will eventually each have their own web page.

1. Mr. Ichiro [Master Ichiro] [  一郎 ] 1959

2. Mr. Sparks 1962

3. Mr. Fugio

4. Mr. Shinsuk 1963?

5. Goro [Master Goro] 1962 ("Goro" means Five, and is the 5th brother).

6. Mr. Saburo [ 三郎 ]

These robots look very similar. The middle robot is probably Mr Fugio (see 3 above). 

Mr. Tetsu [Tetsu-kun] 1973 Green stamp robot

Dai II – standing – blue stamp robot #2

Mr Atomic rubber stamping robot – supposedly built for another Expo in 1968.

9. Mr. Hachiro [Master Hachiro] – a robot that totters and shakes hands.

10. Mr Juro – 1967 welcomed visitors to Science Museum in Tokyo (Juro means "ten").

Ryo-Kun Drawing Robot

Another unknown-name Aizawa robot [not Goro as claimed by others]

There's a large slot in the front and speakers – maybe it is a record player?


The robots built for Expo'70 in Osaka, Japan.

Mr. Taro [Taro-Kun] Cameraman robot [built for Expo’70] and featured with robot below in Fujipan Pavillion.

No-name robot [incorrectly called Goro in the recent restorations] usually paired with Mr. Taro above.

Mr. Kuro [Kuro-Kun]

Probably an Aizawa robot, 7ft tall, at the Fujipan pavilion. One robot display was by Jiro's partner Osamu Tezuka (the creator of Astro Boy) so possibly the robot was at least from their Institute of Juvenile Culture. 


Mini Orchestra Robots:

(Source: Mechanix illustrated September 1951)

Robots in Ragtime
The Japanese have come up with something new in toys. It’s a mechanical orchestra and its tinny music has captured the hearts of the youngsters.

Jiro Aizawa, an ex-Kamikaze plane designer, is the creator. Loath to discard his mechanical training after the war, he turned to experimentation with robots, a subject in which he had long been interested. His results are quite amazing.

The orchestra’s actual music is produced by a phonograph record synchronized with the movements of the players. In its repertoire are: Buttons and Bows, Beer Barrel Polka and Rumba Tamba.

See more Aizawa Musician robots here.


Aizawa's robot's re-discovered and restored at the Kanagawa Institute of Technology.

[updates to this at a later stage]


1948: Mechanical Elephant

A book cover with elephant. The article says the book was published in 1948.

The cover reads: "Happy modeling & handicraft" and the author "Tokyo metropolitan kogei (craft) high school instructor Jiro Aizawa". The elephant (the pet name is "Tamakichi-kun") was made by Aizawa.

Thank you Hisashi Moriyama for providing a translation of this page.


Photo credits: A lot of the images were collected when I had no intention of re-publishing them. If you are the author and would like recognition, please contact me on reubenh at cyberneticzoo.com .

Some images from "gernot" at Alphadrome .


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Monday, October 10th, 2011 at 12:28 am and is filed under The Robots. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.