updated 5 Mar 2011, 04:23
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Thu, Mar 03, 2011
The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN
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Plastic fantastic: Women take to model kits with gusto
by Takashi Nakamura

"Would it better to use more plaster?" one of the five participants asked during a diorama class held at Mokei Factory, a plastic model shop in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. The question seemed quite ordinary but there was just one slight difference: It was asked by a woman.

Yuka Chiyo, of Aoba Ward, Yokohama, was one of three women attending a class at the store that day. Busy working on a diorama themed "broken building," she fixed plaster to polystyrene and used wire to create "scaffolding." It was not until she put her favorite Gundam plastic model in the diorama that she looked truly satisfied.

Along with her classmates, Chiyo represents the increasing number of women devoted to making plastic model dioramas, a pastime that has long been considered exclusive to men.

Chiyo, 29, became hooked on making plastic models in the summer of 2008, her interest piqued after watching a Gundam DVD at home. She decided to make a model of the popular character and purchased a kit at an electronics retail store.

To make the plastic model, she used wire cutters to cut the assembled parts and then filed the ends. She said there was nothing like the sense of achievement she felt when she created and assembled the model's individual pieces one by one.

It took Chiyo three nights to complete the model. When finished, the morning sun was shining through a gap in the curtains.

"I never expected so many female customers to visit [our shop]," said Ritsuo Arima, 35, owner of Mokei Factory. Located on the seventh floor of Shinjuku Marui Annex, the store is often crowed with female customers.

Unlike earlier times, women are joining in class activities and making plastic models at the store's workshop. Mokei Factory has held four women-only plastic model making classes, and according to Arima, these have attracted about 30 members.

Some plastic model manufacturers have picked up on the trend and are developing products that may cater more to the tastes of women. Kotobukiya Co. in Tachikawa, Tokyo, has started selling plastic models of animation characters it believes will attract female enthusiasts.

The company has emphasized the simplicity and attractiveness of its products in order to target women and children customers.

The line of plastic models is apparently selling well.

"The number of men making plastic models is pretty much stagnant. Targeting the female market is much more prudent," a company official said.

Shizuoka-based major toymaker Tamiya Inc. also said, "[The plastic model market] has traditionally targeted men, but we need to pay more attention to the burgeoning female market."

One explanation for the boom in women interested in plastic model making can be attributed to makeup, said Tomoe Ogoshi, 32. Polishing and filing model parts and painting them with colors are similar to the processes involved in nail art and makeup, she said. Based in Tokyo, Ogoshi instructs women in the art of plastic model making and writes essays about plastic models for magazines.

"So many elements involved in making plastic models appeal to a woman's innate sense of beauty. The number of women taking up this hobby is spreading," she said.

Meanwhile, she pointed out the different approaches between men and women on how to make plastic models.

"Many men try to produce models that are identical to the real thing, but women tend to follow their own ideas and use their creativity," Ogoshi said.

"Societal trends are seeing women adopt traditionally 'male' hobbies such as watching trains or climbing mountains. And now women have become interested in making plastic models, which means this trend is accelerating," said Kwansei Gakuin University Prof. Takuji Okuno.

"As women are quite successful at creating networks through their hobbies, I think the number of women hooked on making plastic models will increase," he said.

Years ago, plastic models used to be sold at small shops and arcades. But because of the upsurge in interest from women, the day may soon come where plastic model fans--both women and men--can buy these items at sleek, upmarket shops.

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