How to Ensure Safety Standards When Marketing Your Innovative Toy in Japan

"Toys are the 'friends' which children encounter first." -- Japan Toy Association

Aside from being one of the strongest markets for toys, Japan may very well be the most enthusiastic toy consuming country in the world. The massive and highly influential International Tokyo Toy Show is the country's premier annual exhibition which featured some 35,000 toys in 2018. One of the show’s highlights was on "global toy manufacturing," as Japanese toy buyers are very interested in toys from overseas, particularly ones that are innovative and have educational value. Since 2008, the show has featured the Japan Toy Awards to reward "manufacturers [who] develop high-quality toys that stay abreast of changes in the market."

As the toy industry is well-aware of, the most prominent changes since 2008 have been focused on increased safety standards, after a rash of high-profile toy recalls hit the global toy market.

Nowadays, Japan takes toy safety very seriously. According to World of Toys.org, "more than 80% of [Japanese] customers focus on product safety when buying a toy." The industry is regulated by two different standards: The Safety Toy (ST) standard and the Japan Food Sanitation Law (JFSL). We will look at the requirements for each set of standards to help your toy manufacturing or importing company successfully bring innovative toys to this exciting market.

Safety Toy Standard (ST 2016) and Marking

The ST standard and its corresponding compliance marking was created in 1971 by the public interest organization known as the Japanese Toy Association (JTA). Compliance with the standard is contingent on successful laboratory testing by the manufacturer, retailer or importer. The ST standard was revised in 2016 to include three parts:

  • Mechanical and Physical Properties (aligned with ISO 8124-1)
  • Flammability (aligned with ISO 8124-2)
  • Chemical Properties

Upon proven compliance of all applicable testing standards by a JTA-approved testing lab, the product is qualified to bear the influential ST marking. As of now, participation in the ST Standard and Mark Program is voluntary. However, all toy manufacturers and importers should consider it as good as mandatory in the eyes of the safety-conscious Japanese buyers.

Japan Food Sanitation Law

Japan takes a unique approach to the regulation of toys designed for children under 6 years of age by giving authority to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) under the Japan Food Sanitation Law. Enacted in 2003, this law specifically targets toys either designed to or likely to come into direct contact with children's mouths. That means products such as pacifiers, bottles, nipples, rattles, clay, masks, origami, building blocks, toy phones and dollhouse toys. Specific safety tests target the use of substances considered harmful when ingested, such as cadmium, lead, phthalates, arsenic and other heavy metals.

Lab-verified compliance with Sections IV and V of the JFSL is mandatory for applicable children's products before they can enter the Japanese market.

Lab Testing Ensures Longevity for Your Innovative Toys

Young and old alike, the Japanese toy-excited public will always take an interest in toy companies that can produce either fresh new products, or fresh twists on the classics they grew up with, like the updated "Baseball Game 3D Ace" that celebrated the 60th anniversary of its original incarnation, winning one of the show's coveted awards.

That kind of staying power requires a toy company like yours to remain committed to consistent lab safety testing, which can begin at the design level with Quality Assurance programs, and continue through continued lab testing and factory line inspections.

QIMA applies all national and international toy safety standards to our QA assistance and lab testing services. Our extensive global coverage, Chinese factory expertise, rapid report turnaround times and mobile updates will help you stay on top of your innovative toy line so that you can enter the Japanese market with confidence.

The 2018 Tokyo International Toy Show welcomed 51 foreign manufacturers to the event, and there’s room for more! Find out how QIMA's full-spectrum lab testing and inspection services can help you make the most enthusiastic toy market in the world.

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