We finally arrived! At the grounds of the much-dreamed-of IPMS!
We marveled at the depth of the hobby minds that continue to hold an event of such scope!
We looked forward to the many wonderful encounters that awaited us.
An entire week, from August 1st to August 8th.
I, plus 4 members of the SWS development team, finally traveled to represent the manufacturer Zoukei-mura with a display booth at the dream modelers’ event, the International Plastic Modelers’ Society (IPMS) USA National Convention, which was held in Omaha in the American state of Nebraska.
In this entry in the Old Man’s Blog, I hope to grow closer to you by sharing my IPMS trip diary in full detail. For a short while, please give me the pleasure of casting your thoughts with me to the event grounds of IPMS “Omaha By The Sea.” That week flew by in the blink of an eye, it was so much fun~~~!!
We’re going to lay out the true essence of SWS in front of real American fans~!!
Keeping that resolve hidden within our 5-man SWS development team, we departed! As if in blessing, even the local sparrows seemed to give us a noisy send-off.
To tell the truth, I have always loved sparrows. Remember, there’s that fighter plane known as the Commonwealth Boomerang, right? The one from the Royal Australian Air Force.
Isn’t it surprisingly cool in how it so closely resembles a sparrow in both appearance and ambience?
Thus seen off by sparrows, we departed from Osaka-Itami International Airport and transferred at Narita International Airport, for a total flight time of 12 hours.
We entered the USA in Chicago, at O’Hare International Airport. After that, a further 2 hours of flight time. Already completely exhausted, we finally touched down in Omaha!
“Oh! So this is Omaha~! The city is bigger and more beautiful than expected~!”
A 5-man team in pretty rough shape. Holding the boxes that contained the completed Skyraider, Shinden, and Ta 152 models (more precious than anything except our lives!) under our arms, we staggered from the airport and just barely survived making it to the rental car agency.
“Oh! What’s this~! It’s summer in America, too~!! It’s so hot~!”…????
At that moment, every single member of our 5-man team was still a tourist at heart.
Completely unknowing of the fate that awaited us, we were the very definition of carefree optimism!!
In the rental car, which was completely loaded with the 5 of us and our luggage, we set off for the city of Omaha proper. By the way, the car that we picked was an Infiniti SUV.
It was a gutsy car, with a huge body that you don’t see in Japan. It was truly delightful, such that I felt that even if we fell from a cliff, surely I’d survive. Furthermore, it was brand new, and filled to the brim with power!
With a great roar, pedal to the metal! The start of a truly splendid journey!!!!
As could be expected, it was the height of American midsummer, where the heat waves go on for days!!
With strong sunlight from the beginning of the morning, it would suddenly be 40 degrees Centigrade, and we, who came from delicate Japan, and moreover, were still suffering from jetlag, were mercilessly assaulted by the heat. (Furthermore, for some reason there would be devastating thunderstorms at night!)
We drove around 40 minutes from the airport. As soon as we arrived at the hotel that we were to stay at, we didn’t even pause for a break as we all gathered together to go check out the event site.
It wasn’t as if we had a lot of time to spare, as it was one of our valuable days in America, so there was no time to relax.
Around 15 minutes from our hotel by car, the event site (the Embassy Suites Omaha-La Vista Hotel & Conference Center) turned out to be unexpectedly close. At any rate, in America, even in Omaha, there are freeways running all over the place, which is very different from Japan. With multiple wide lanes, there are no obstructions to the huge panorama that spreads out before you. It was a nice change from the narrow roads of Kyoto!!
Moreover, it was all toll-free! Did you know, that would be absolutely unthinkable in Japan!
We arrived in a moment, going straight off the freeway to the entrance of the hotel where the event would take place.
That was another thing we were surprised by, the size and scope of the hotel that was hosting the event!
“Oh my, what’s this~! This is~!!” It was so large and beautiful that we had no other words. All of a sudden, we of the SWS team felt very nervous.
Once we entered through the huge glass front doors, we were greeted by a cool and pleasant atmosphere. Although it was still two days before the start of the event, several IPMS members were already at the event site and appeared to be busily setting things up in the area where the event information desk would be. (They all looked very cool in their matching T-shirts!)
And then, one of them quickly noticed us, and came to meet us with a smile!
It was Randy! When we contacted IPMS to tell them that we of Zoukei-mura wished to have a booth, despite the fact that we were scraping right up against the deadline, he very graciously corresponded with us, and made all the arrangements such that we were able to safely participate in the event.
A sudden meeting with a person who turned out to be just as wonderful as we’d imagined! All of us suddenly felt very relieved.
Member volunteers of IPMS, including Randy.
The Japanese gentlemen on the far left is Mr. Shimizu, the Commander-in-Chief’s friend and an American resident.
He is a very dependable person – not only did he help out at the event, he also assists with the development end of things.
“Welcome to IPMS Omaha! Let me show you where your booth is.”
Randy was a gentleman to the utmost. He was an older American man who loved his hobby, and who had a truly beautiful smile.
Surrounding the huge main event hall for the model contest were 4 large rooms of varying sizes where sales, workshops, and panels would take place.
Our Zoukei-mura booth was in the West Vendor’s Room, the 2nd-biggest room which was dedicated to sales, and where many wonderful plastic model manufacturers were clustered.
This time, our booth consisted of only one table. On it, we displayed the finished models for the Shinden, Ta 152, and Skyraider, with all sorts of tags, banners, posters, and flyers, as well as merchandise for sale – the table was fully loaded with goods that we had brought with us, which all needed to be displayed.
Day 1 was only a preparatory visit, so we retired for the day at that point. After making preliminary arrangements, that night we worked diligently at sleeping to reduce our jetlag.
The day prior to the opening of IPMS Omaha dawned. It was finally time to begin constructing the Zoukei-mura booth.
We were filled with energy. In the morning, the staff went to Home Depot, a large home improvement center, to purchase materials. To them, who are well-used to hosting events, there is no difference between America and Japan. Just like always, they smoothly begin to prepare setting up the booth.
By the way! Just as we began to set up the booth, a large group of people came along.
We were still at the point of opening up all the boxes, with nothing at all on the table yet, but they came seeking handshakes anyway, amidst cries of, “He~ey, Shinden!!” or “Zoukei-mura?” or even an unfamiliar pronunciation, “ZM?”
That’s right. Apparently Zoukei-mura is difficult to pronounce in America, so we are often referred to as ZM here.
“I see~! So we’re ZM, huh~!” And in the way of Japan, we quickly grew used to it. As we bustled to and fro, the booth was also completely finished.
Finally, all there was … was to await the event opening….
But for some reason, everyone frequently came to ask, “Will you be selling the Shinden?” or “Do you have the Ta 152?”
There were also inquiries of, “Is it possible to purchase the Skyraider?” For some reason, it seemed that everyone, while still hurrying about their own work, was still thinking about the Zoukei-mura booth.
Already, there was a crowd of people gathering in front of the Zoukei-mura booth.
Then, out of sheer desperation in that moment, we reluctantly declared, “OK, we’ll start selling the Shinden!” Even though there were several hours still to go before the event opened, all of the 6 Shindens and Ta 152s that we had brought with us had completely sold out to our fellows inside the room.
“Eh? Then if we just open like this, what on earth are we going to tell the attendees when they ask what we have in stock~~!??”
That fear was spot-on. After that, I don’t even know how many times we were asked, “Hi~! Do you have the Shinden~?” Repeatedly, we could only answer, “No, sorry! The Shinden is sold out, sorry!”
Even apart from the Shinden, a little after 10 minutes after the event opened, our booth didn’t have a single piece of sellable merchandise left.
After that, all we had for sale, or rather for display, were flyers, the 3 finished models, and our smiles.
But even though we lamented, “Ah~! If we had known it would be like this, we would have brought more Shindens and Ta 152s with us~,” at that point in time, the Shinden had sold out even at Volks USA.
The Shinden has been sold out at the stores in Volks Japan for quite some time, so there was nothing that could be done.
The only model we currently have in stock is the Ta 152, and not many at that – who knows how long they’ll will last?
Whether or not you can imagine the chaos of a booth in such a state, after that, we received continuous visits from the attendees.
Many of them greeted us with the happy news of, “I pre-ordered the Skyraider~!”
When asked, many were in attendance after spening several hours on planes and cars from all over America, having greatly looked forward to this event. The main event hotel was fully booked, and so were several hotels surrounding the event site – goodness, it was truly amazing!
In the midst of so many passionate scale modelers, there was one person who had even pre-ordered 4 Skyraiders from Volks USA. We had discovered the existence of a true sympathizer to the SWS development concept.
My heart warmed, truly touched. Thank you!! Thank you!! It was worth my and the SWS team’s coming all the way to Omaha just to hear those words.
Us old guys getting all excited over the Skyraider.
The man in the center wearing a suit is Ken Yamanaka, who does translation in addition to overseeing planning and operations.
After hearing the Commander-in-Chief’s passionate words, everyone came to love the Skyraider even more!
And one more thing! Right after the event opening, a local Omaha TV station came to interview Zoukei-mura!
They focused on the Skyraider, and after hearing that it was a display from Japan, they carefully circled it with the camera. Unfortunately, we were unable to follow up on the broadcast, but I’m sure it made good news for the viewers.
At IPMS, along with merchandise and finished models, we had brought along button badges to sell for “Great East Japan Earthquake Relief,” just like we do at our events in Japan.
Along with showing our gratitude to America and the American military who gave so much relief to earthquake victims in Japan under “Operation Tomodachi,” we hoped to receive donations from attendees at the event site.
They were colorful buttons, showing the SWS logo along with pictures of the Skyraider, P-51, Shinden, or Ta 152.
And what do you know, many people expressed interest, and plopped down a 5-dollar donation. How truly kind everyone was! And all at once, the buttons began to sell out one by one. Everyone, thank you so very much for all of your donations.
We will send the donations to the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, by way of the Japanese Red Cross.
From the bottoms of our hearts, we extend our gratitude for your kindness.
Goodness, we were literally so busy that we didn’t have time to eat. We were continuously invaded by SWS fans, or rather, scale modelers who happened to be fans. The Zoukei-mura booth was very congested – there was even an interesting person who spoke to us in halting Japanese.
In any case, we were a small booth consisting of only one table, so even just three tall American men stopping by to mingle with us made things feel crowded.
And in this way, in the midst of such chaos, the first day came to an end.
Fans, maniacs, industry colleagues, publishers, hopeful business partners, tools and supplies, decals, artists, etc., etc. Everyone enjoyed their hobbies, and passed the wonderful hours together.
Such jealousy I felt. It was such an enjoyable and pleasant event. The happy shouts of scale modelers resounded throughout the event hall.
Well~, to tell the truth, it was a little too stimulating for me, a 64-year-old first-timer from Japan. Furthermore, American fans have a little too much energy. And as predicted, 100% of the fans who came to the Zoukei-mura booth were old guys like me!
Again and again, groups of smiling older men descended upon the booth, then disappeared.
The young, beautiful American ladies, the feast for the eyes that I had secretly hoped for, did not appear, alas~!
Button badges for the “VOLKS ONE FOR ALL” fundraising project, with all donations going to relief for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
We received a high level of interest from the American hobby fans, and a great many people participated in our charity project! Thank you very much!
A local Omaha TV station promptly came to interview!
The Commander-in-Chief’s talks also went swimmingly, in the manner of the American hobby fans’ enthusiasm! He’s able to draw such crowds using only his body language that one begins to think he doesn’t need a translator.
Hm~~~m. No matter how you think of it, it was pretty tiring.
Once we arrived, the symptoms of jetlag gradually grew stronger. Our days and nights had been reversed, after all.
“All right~! Tonight, let’s go to downtown Omaha and splurge on the best steak in Nebraska~!!” With that said, we all tore into 50-dollar steaks.
Of course, I ordered Budweiser and the New York steak. “Oh, man~~ This is delicious!”
The following day, we stretched our legs a bit and left the event site to take a plane to St. Louis, where we took a company field trip to the Verlinden workshops. Well, now – what kind of story do you think will unfold regarding that trip?
I’ll continue with that story in my next entry, which will be uploaded in a few days. Please look forward to it.
From an old man who is feeling strangely nostalgic about IPMS – to be continued next time in the Old Man’s Blog!
The Old Man of Zoukei-mura
If you have any opinions, questions, or requests regarding the SWS, please don't hesitate to let us know.
Around 6 more months!! We will continue to refine it to the best of our ability.
Please look forward to the most beautiful and cool-looking SWS “P-51D” in the world!!
As usual, the photograph shows the T1 test shot.
After development progresses, the finished product may differ. Please view this photograph only as a reference.