I’m Jun Watanabe, and from now on, I’ll be writing this column for Hobby Media. I’m a designer currently living in Japan. If you’re an avid Tamiya fan, you may already know my name. I designed an RC car called “Hornet by Jun Watanabe”, released by Tamiya in 2012. It’s Tamiya’s classic Hornet design, adorned with an unforgettable polka-dot pattern and a devilish purple and pink flare. Of course, there is a reason I designed Tamiya’s classic Hornet with such an intense colour pattern—but I’ll save that story for later.
The design of that Tamiya Hornet was a one-time project, but I have other ongoing works with Tamiya, including a collaborative line of t-shirts, nylon jackets, and bags. Although it’s not often—about once a year—I continue to work on exclusive designs for Tamiya.
Two years ago we released a nylon mountain parka, and last year, a down vest. Even now as I’m writing this, I have collaborative projects with Tamiya in the works.
I plan to write for this column every month—but for now, I’d like to get in touch with my roots and tell you about my personal history with Tamiya.
I was born in a rural town in Niigata, Japan. My home is surrounded by farms and fields as far as the eye can see. There are beautiful mountains and the sea nearby. It’s about twenty minutes by car to the closest convenience store, and, in the winter, you can’t leave town due to the tremendous amount of snowfall. I am now forty one years old (as old as everyone reading this—maybe older?), but I still remember my first encounter with RC cars when I was nine.
When I was in elementary school, the RC car craze came to our small, country-side town. The school boys at that time were all reading a manga magazine called CoroCoro Comic. Each issue has more than 700 pages, so it looks like a dictionary, and there is a ton of information about the latest toys, characters, games, and more. I would always read that magazine from end to end. Inside there was a legendary manga series called “RC Boy”. It’s a great RC manga that gave rise to Super Dragon, Fire Dragon, Thunder Dragon, Saint Dragon, and more, all of which were released by Tamiya later on.
CoroCoro Comic‘s influence was so strong that many children began to collect RC cars, one after the other. Parents willingly bought them for their children—they probably figured RC cars that can be enjoyed outside are better than indoor video games. And so it was that many friends around me began to collect Tamiya classics like Hornet, Grasshopper, Fox, Falcon, and so on. Of course, I also asked my father for a Tamiya RC car.
As it so happened, my father was—and still is—a big fan of radio-controlled technology. From before I was born until now, he’s always been passionate about RC airplanes, and is the type of person who would build one by himself. One day my dad gave me an RC car from one of his friends. I was so excited when he told me the news, but when I finally saw it, I was not at all pleased. This car wasn’t, in fact, Tamiya-made. It had such a wide body that I have never seen before, and, while it had a 4WD buggy-style design, there wasn’t a shaft connecting the front and back (like you’d see in a Tamiya Hot Shot), but instead a silver chain. Seeing my disappointed face, Dad said, “This is faster than a Tamiya.”
It didn’t matter. What I wanted wasn’t a fast RC car, but a Tamiya RC car. I would later learn that this car my dad gifted me was Yokomo‘s Dog Fighter.