are most humbled and honoured to have a special guest contribution by the admin
of Puff Puff Thomas Fansite, KC, who
has given us permission to publish his guide to Thomas’s history in Japan,
where the brand has enjoyed enormous success in the last 25 years. Puff Puff
Thomas has adapted and published a
number of Thomas & Friends Interviews and features here on Sodor Island
Fansite for Japanese audiences, and this is the first exchange we have received back
from him – and it’s quite a fascinating read!
Puff Puff Thomas
is the Japanese equivalent of Sodor
Island Fansite, and very much recommended by us for a visit if you’re
interested in finding out about Thomas and Friends in this amazing country. For
us at SiF, it’s just lovely to know that
somewhere out there, in a culture so different from your own, there’s people
equally as passionate and dedicated, and through our association, I feel we’re
bringing the fandom closer together.
In 1973, Kaye and Ward had brought The Rev Awdry's Railway Series
books to Japan, thus beginning Thomas's association with the Japanese people. The Japanese version of The Railway Series was translated by Kuwabara Saburou and
Shimizu Shuyu. Genyuu Kuroiwa, an advisor at Keisei Electric Railway in those
days, supervised the technical terms of the railway.
Although all of the
Rev Awdry's books were translated from Volume 1 to
Volume 26, Christopher Awdry's stories from Volume 27 onwards are still not translated and / or published into Japanese
"Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends"
appeared in Japanese television for the first time in April, 1990, as a segment
of Japanese children's television show called "Hirake! Ponkikki",
produced by Fuji television, a Japanese TV station.
From November, 1990, Thomas
was serialized in the three children's magazines called "Mebae"(meaning
"Sprout") and "baby book" and "Youchien" (meaning
In December in that year, the first Japanese Thomas The Tank Engine's book, "The
Anime book of Thomas the Tank Engine" was published by Poplar Publishing Co Ltd. This book series was also published
by Buzz Book in the UK from 1993. The 1st volume of VHS series "Britt Allcroft's
Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends" was also released by Fuji Television and distributed by Pony Canyon in March 1991.
the British and American versions of the series, from the very beginning, Thomas the
Tank Engine & Friends
would incorporate a team of Japanese voice-actors as opposed to an individual
However, Britt Allcroft did take heart from her decision to hire Ringo Starr, and once again, well-known vocal talent
was hired for Thomas's launch in Japan. For the first eight
seasons, Thomas himself was voiced by Keiko Toda, a well-known Japanese actress and Leo Morimoto, the storyteller, equally
as famed in the country.
The 2nd series began airing on Japanese
TV in 1991, the same year that Sony Creative Products Inc. acquired Japanese
master license for Thomas The Tank Engine, and have been handling the series capably ever since to maintain and expand it's
presence in the Japanese market.
As a result, many new and exciting Thomas related toy
lines were launched, like "Thomas the Tank Engine Departing Now Series", manufactured and sold by Bandai.
December in that year, Hirake! Ponkicki aired a special program, "Thomas &
Trip". This program was aired in relation to the start of the 3rd series,
which was aired from April 1992. In
March in that year, Tomy launched Plarail Thomas Series and in April,
"Thomas Engine Collections"(Bandai Tecs), the die-cast toy series,
was launched by Bandai.
In August, a new book "Shogakukan's Colour Wide Series of Thomas the tank Engine & Friends"
was published by Shogakukan, a Japanese publisher. Contents in the book are
similar to "Thomas & Friends
Annual", published by Egmont in the UK. Many pictures from the TV series,
stories appeared here, and the book was soon made into a series.
Adachi from Fuji Television Network Inc, who spoke to the team behind The Thomas The
Tank Engine Man in 1995, claimed that a lot of Japanese children and their
families did not actually realise that the series had actually come from
Britt Allcroft took pride in
the fact that the stories and characters had been embraced by audiences in a
country as diverse as Japan, and saw it as a great strength of the Rev. Awdry’s
storytelling that Thomas and his friends could translate so easily to other
cultures – particularly one as diverse as Japan, whose market value for Thomas
products around the time was $170 million.
In October 1993, Hirake! Ponkicki was changed to a new show called
"Ponkickies", and in 1995, 4th series of Thomas the Tank Engine started at this
show. In July 1996,
Ponkickies's crossover special "P-chan's
Hello Thomas and James" was released on VHS, where another Japanese character went to the UK to meet Thomas and his friends.
This time, it featured the character, P-Chan, visiting the Mid-Hants Railway's Day Out With Thomas event.
In December 1997,
Japanese new VHS series, "The best
story of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends which everybody chose"
was released. This video series has five volumes, include "Best of Thomas", "Best of Percy", "Best of Gordon", "Best of Henry", and "Best of James &
In August 1998,
Japanese first songs featured VHS, "Thomas the Tank Engine Sing-Along and
Stories" was released. This video featured five songs and two episodes, however,
all songs in this video were in English voice, not redubbed specifically for a
In July of that
the world's first Thomas Theme Park "Thomas Land" was opened at Fuji-Q High
Land park. In December, the 5th Series began airing on Japanese TV.
versions of the Thomas songs were later produced and released in December of 1999 on
VHS and CD.
In August of 2000,
Japanese Thomas & Friends DVD series, "The first Complete works of Thomas The
Tank Engine", launched
with the 1st
to 3rd series becoming available to the general public for the first
time in the world ever on DVD. On
September 9th, "Thomas & the Magic Railroad" hit the big screen
in Japan, and in December that year, Ponkickies crossover special "A Wonderful American
Thomas and Connie" was released. The popular Japanese toy series, "Wind
Thomas", made by Tomy, was also launched in that year.
2001, Japanese satellite television station,
"Fuji Television 721" began airing Thomas's first independent show in Japan, not aired as part of a larger programming block
such as Hirake! Ponkicki.
This show would include eight stories
and two or three songs as part of it's running time.
In December in
that year, "The Second Complete
works of Thomas The Tank Engine" DVD series, featured 4th and 5th
series, was released. Learning Curve's "Thomas wooden railway" toy
series was also launched in the same year.
Prior to the launch of Series 6 in Japan, a special free publication
was made through Sony Creative Products called Thomas Express, which had details of the upcoming stories and the new characters
that the audiences were due to meet such as Salty, Harvey and Elizabeth.
In December 2002, the 6th series began airing on
"Ponkickies 21", the new
series of "Ponkickies" show.
And in March 2003, Thomas's presence as a live event expanded in Japan again with a Miniature
called "Thomas and James's Happy
Train" being opened at Japan Monkey Park, an amusement park located in
Inuyama, Aichi, Japan. Sadly, this railway closed in January in 2009, for
superannuation of the railway.
In March 2004, the 7th series began airing on
TV - before the series went on a hiatus in Japan following the HIT Entertainment takeover. But
Thomas's much loved presence in Japan endured regardless, and despite not airing the eighth series in 2005, many
products were released in commemoration of the 60th
anniversary, including "The 60th
anniversary memory, metallic Thomas" and "Commemorative stamp of Thomas &
Friends", and ‘60th Anniversary Express of Thomas’ was
serviced on Tokyo Touyoko Line from July 16 to August 21. From July 16 to
August 31 in that year, "Thomas and
Friends - The All Aboard Live Tour" was shown at Fuji Television's
summer event, "King of Adventure in
April 2006, the 8th series began airing on
"Ponkicki", the new series of "Ponkickies", the first time that the new Thomas series had aired in Japan. On August
that year, Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway created the longest toy
train track for a Guinness World Record Attempt in Odaiba in Japan, and set a
HIT Entertainment bettered the achievement again in 2009 in Australia
and again in 2010 at Fuji-Q Highland in Japan, home of Thomas Land.
March 2007, "Ponkicki" ended due to
poor viewing figures. As a result, Fuji Television Kids Entertainment Inc., the
production company of "Ponkickies" series and a subsidiary company of
Fuji Television, cancelled contract of all the broadcast licenses of
overseas programs, including Thomas and
Accordingly, Japanese broadcast license of Thomas
& Friends was changed over to Sony Creative Products. And In April 2008, the
9th series began airing as a segment of Children's TV show called
"Norisuta", produced by TV Tokyo and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions.
due to the changeover of broadcasting station, the entire Japanese voice cast for Thomas and Friends
were changed, thus ending many of the original cast's association with the series. In August in the same year, 10th series
began airing on the show, and In November, Japanese version of Calling All
Engines was released.
2009, Thomas & Friends began airing on Cartoon Network Japan, and in April,
11th series began airing on Norisuta with The Great Discovery receiving a cinematic release during the same month.
From July 16th to August 30th this year, Thomas
Saves the Day, a live stage show was performed all over Japan, and in September, Thomas Town, the second Thomas
theme park in Japan was opened (Pictured left).
In April 2010, Hero of the Rails
cinematic release and 13th series began airing in Japan, introducing the first character in Thomas & Friends to originate
from Japan - Hiro, the Master Of The Railway. Hiro was purposely created to give the Japanese audiences a
mascot character who they could call their own.
appropriately, as Hero of the Rails was shown during 2010 in Japan, which was the 65th Anniversary year of The
Three Railway Engines' publication, this movie became part of the 65th Anniversary Celebrations for that year in
Japan - as opposed to Misty Island Rescue, which launched in the English-speaking countries in the autumn of that
Sadly, the 12th Series was bypassed
and has not been broadcast in Japan due to the fear that the mixture of CGI and
live action models may confuse child audiences.
The series has however been shown exclusively at the Thomas Land 3D
April 2011, Misty Island Rescue received its
cinematic release in Japan, and in August, Thomas and Friends set yet another Guinness
World Record – this time for the Longest Plastic Toy Train Track at Fuji Q
2012, Sony Creative Products changed over Thomas's Broadcast station from TV
Tokyo to NHK, and the 14th to 16th series were aired by mixture from April in
the same year. Day of The Diesels received its cinematic release in the same
April 2013, Blue Mountain Mystery received its cinematic release. The Japanese
version of Blue Mountain Mystery
has live-action segment in the beginning of the movie. The segment is similar
to "Mr.Perkins" series, and Takahasi Hideki, a Japanese famous actor,
appears as "Sir Takaboushi Hideki".
Puff Puff Thomas
is very much the Sodor Island Fansite
of the eastern world, bringing brilliant Thomas & Friends news, features
and interviews to the Japanese people, and gained enormous popularity through
doing so. A lot of SiF Interviews and
features have been lifted from here and translated to Japanese – however, there
are a number of items which are of KC’s own creation, which are quite
interesting to read when translated into English. (It is
recommended that you use Google Translate or an equivalent to read in English.)
SiF Blog looks from a western perspective as to why such a rich and diverse
culture like the Japanese, have grown to love and appreciate a British entity
like Thomas so heartily, and KC gives his perspective and reasoning as a