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Passion for Toys Fills Mexico Museum

by Dario Lopez
Monday Jan 16, 2017

Even as a child, Roberto Shimizu loved collecting things.

So when his Japanese immigrant father opened a stationery and toy store in Mexico City in 1940, Shimizu began a lifelong quest to save and collect toys.

More than seven decades years later, that youthful fascination lives on in the Antique Toy Museum, a four-story building packed with objects that transport visitors back to a nostalgic past.

Tucked in the middle of the capital's historic but seedy Doctores neighborhood, it is stuffed with Legos, superhero action figures, robots, model airplanes, trains and Hello Kitty.

There are also "lucha libre" wrestling masks and old traditional Mexican toys and other playthings that are reminders of the country's once-robust toy industry that has all but disappeared following the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Shimizu still helps out occasionally, but the museum is now run by his son, Roberto Y. Shimizu Kinoshita, who is struggling after a congressional decision to stop allocating cultural funds for the collection.

The museum has had to cut staff by half and most of its cultural events and workshops have been suspended, says the son, who hopes to raise money for the museum through a Kickstarter campaign.

"It is very sad that once again the budgets destined for culture are the ones most punished," the younger Shimizu said at the opening of a recent Barbie doll exhibit.

"Through our toy museum, our intention has always been to share our collection so that people enjoy and relive their childhood memories, to enter that tunnel of time to relive all those past Christmases and Three Kings' Days when you got your new toys - and even the toys you never got."

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