July 21, 2006

Vintage Cork Blocks From Jiyugakuen


Another eBay find I can come clean on--only after I won it. This time it's from modernist eBay shark Andy, who tipped me off to these vintage blocks made from cork. They're Japanese, and they're from Jiyugakuen, a pioneering progressive school in Tokyo. In the Taisho era, that interwar period when Japanese culture opened up to the West in a major way, Frank Lloyd Wright was attracted enough to Jiyugakuen's innovative curriculum to design a building for the school.

It's one of three buildings he did at the time (the early 1920's), including a private house and the Imperial Hotel. It's the last one left in Tokyo. I doubt Wright had anything to do with these blocks at all, and I can't figure out if they're from a school store, a licensing or product venture, or if they were just spirited away from the storeroom, but they're in immaculate condition.

The kid's been making toadstools out of them to keep her bunnies dry.


I ate cork all the time as a kid. We had a cork lid to our laundry hamper and I peeled off so much to munch on that my dad had to replace it with wooden slats. Those blocks wouldn't have lasted a day with me.

(Yeah, I was a strange kid)

Awesome toys and a great recommendation. There are soooo many wonderful benefits to block play, eg, improved fine motor skills, play skills, cognitive development, etc. Too many parents buy toys that blink or buzz when you touch a button. That doesn't leave much room for creativity. I mean toadstools for her bunnies...that is pure genius! Great recommendation :)

My dad was a winemaker, so we always had bags corks for wine bottles lying around. one of the greatest toys ever.

Also, when my parents would finish a bottle of wine, they'd take the cork, char the end of it with a lighter and then use the resulting blackness to paint beards and mustaches on us kids. fun fun!

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