Buco Entertainment's Daizo Uehara: Innovation, Bridging Japanese and American Culture and More!

by The Bloom Report | 20 Jul 2023

Biographies and Interviews

MC: We are excited that you will be speaking with Robert Fuhrer about Japanese and American Business Parternships in the Toy Industry- Cultural Differences and Historical Successes at our Inventor Pitch and Innovation Conference - thank you! Please share a bit about your passion and history in the Toy industry.

DU: I was born and raised in Tokyo until I was 11 years old, but I was brought to the US for the first time by my parents in 1984 and lived in a small town called New Canaan in Connecticut spent time throughout High School. Due to that, I was fortunate to have the exposure on both Japanese and American pop culture of the 80’s which in my opinion was in its golden era for Toys, Music, Movies and Cartoons where all these genres had its own creative spree. I really enjoyed the Hybrid experience of both cultures which I also believe influenced me hugely to lean towards the creative path for my career. And since then, my top interest has always been in TOYS! (…and Music too but I’ll save that story for some other time).



MC: So how did you get into the Toy business?

DU: I was hired by a Japanese Toy company Bandai in Japan as a new grad recruitment out of college and my first job was a Sales staff for what used to be called Boys Action Toy category….so this is my 27th anniversary in the industry. (Wow…time flies!)

MC: Speaking of your first job, did you have the interest in the sales job?

DU: Not at all (laugh)…my passion and interest was in the Toy design/development role which I’ve requested, but instead the company put me into the Sales division and my first assignment was to sell-in new products for their Super Sentai*, Kamen Rider, Ultraman, Tamagotchi and many other Toys that Boys dept was developing at the time. It’s unique to many Japanese companies but at the time, companies did not hire new graduates with a focus on specialized jobs in the first place. Instead, they first made applicant/students go through brief interviews and SPI* tests and screened their adaptability and potential skillset. For those who made through the test, they now put you in the official interview trials where it goes up in phases by starting with Manager interview then the directors, VPs… (yes, it’s just like one of those Kung-Fu Video Games!) with final phase being the full interview with the corporate execs including COO and CEO (the Last-Bosses of the stage LOL) In 1996, Japan was in the midst of an era which is called an employment ice age* so I guess I was lucky as I was told later that the hiring rate for new grads was below 1%.

MC: Wow…well, glad you made into Toys! And tell me more about how you got into D&D role which seems to be your most experienced area and expertise.


DU: In between sales duties, I submitted Toy ideas to the head of the development team almost every day and appealed to be moved to Development. And so, I was granted a transfer to the D&D team from the second year and worked as a manager for the live action properties as well
as new Animation based properties e.g. One-Piece, Yu-Gi-Oh, Ultimate Muscle, etc. At the time, Bandai's D&D was not only in charge of product planning, design and engineering, but also in charge of various things such as creating the real show-props with vendors, discussion and negotiation on how the props (=Toys) to be performed and depicted in the show as well as the production for the TV toy commercials…believe it or not, sometimes I was asked do the “act” by getting into Super hero costume to perform actions in the commercial shoot! …So D&D role pretty much covered on everything related to the creatives on physical product.



MC: You also said you’ve worked in Bandai’s US branch, tell us about that

DU: Due to my life background, I was asked to take on a new assignment in their US brand, Bandai America in year 2000 which was to Direct and manage Power Rangers business for the overseas market. At the time, Power Rangers was getting into its slow decline years post the historical phenomenon in the mid 90’s and my mission was to secure stability by injecting more creativity in the brand, manage the Disney relationship (as Disney acquired the brand from Saban brands) and to establish a new ever-green strategy for the brand.

MC: How was your experience with the Disney company?

DU: They obviously had a totally different mindset from the Japanese licensors and companies, but I had a blast working with their DCP team where everyone in their team was so excited and passionate about the Power Rangers brand. They were Toy savvy, smart, understanding, agile but also patient, and caring people…I had so much fun and have great memories of working with them. Those 10-year worth of working with DCP is the foundation of my international Toy career which I would cherish forever. (and still good friends with every single one of them) With the success of the first mission, my role has expanded to other businesses as well as relationships with other local companies such as Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros and Dream Works etc, and launched many new IPs and Toys by leading the creative role for the company until 2013.

MC: and that’s when you got a call from Hasbro, right?

DU: yes, in early 2013 I was called by them and offered a role to lead Global Transformers business as a D&D lead. I was not a big Transformers fan myself (I was more of a GIJoe, He-man kid), but obviously knew about many captivating things company was working on at the time, so I took it without hesitation.

MC: What was your most memorable experience at Hasbro?

DU: Leading the Transformers Toy design was very fun and exciting, and I’ve learned so much especially through the Transformers theatrical creative related projects. I’ve worked closely with both internal/external creative partners and studios to make the characters in the movie come to life in Toy form by implementing innovation on features and gimmicks to make them attractive for kids, fans and for all audiences. I’ve also worked on Beyblade brand as well which was another whole new scheme of things which I needed to learn but was a lot of fun. Another great D&D experience was a license acquisition on a property called Yokai Watch where I was heavily involved from day one – starting of a business pitch, IP localization to the final product execution. My most recent role at the company was an Inventor relations rep for Action Toy category as well as New IP development and explorations by optimizing the partnership with the overseas companies. My experience with the global inventors was mind blowing, and I was so happy getting to know hundreds of Toy Inventors whose mind is set on Toys 24/7!! Their passion, ideas and thinking… and their love for Toys were just so refreshing and inspiring to me which also made me to love Toys even more!



MC: So what are you up to next?

DU: This year, I have set up and started a small business myself supplying services to companies on Toy design, business development as a consultant and as a distributor as well as a License agent. I’m also starting to do some work as a Toy inventor! More to come on some exciting projects that are coming up soon, but I am enjoying the wonderful world of Toys more now than ever!!!

daizo japanese pop culture american pop culture innovation

Tait & Lily, Inventors of Betcha Can't!