Toyoca  –  Vintage Camera Brand

Toyoca Brand Overview

Toyoca logo

Founded: 1930 — Tokyo, Empire of Japan
  (modern day Japan)
   
Currently: defunct

Toyoca Brand History

Toyoca is a Japanese brand founded in 1930 in Tokyo as Tougodo Company by three brothers-in-law: Masanori Nagatsuka, Tanaka Koichi, and Toyota Yoshio. The company was named after Japanese naval hero Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō who shared a birthplace (the city of Kagoshima) with Masanori.

The company faced many obstacles during the early years of its existence. Many distributors regarded their cameras as novelties and refused to carry them, forcing the company to start its own distribution network which included shops that the company owned as well as authorized resellers in the form of retailers that specialized in clocks, radios, and other related merchandise.

Finding a reliable film supplier was also an issue after an early agreement with Konishiroku (which would later become Konica) fell through, forcing them to import film from the Belgian firm Gevaert (which was later absorbed into Agfa) and, when that was no longer an option, they had to settle with relatively poor quality film made by a fledgling company that would eventually become the giant known as Fujifilm. In a related setback, early offerings by the company included cameras that used an innovative type of “No Need Darkroom” sheet film which could be processed in daylight using specially treated developer fluid. Despite their best efforts, this failed to catch on and the company soon converted its cameras for conventional rollfilms by the late 1930s.

Another issue that plagued the company was the Imperial Japanese Navy’s insistence that they stop using Admiral Tōgō’s name, prompting Masanori to make a personal visit to the Admiral’s home in order to ask his permission to continue. The admiral agreed and written permission was obtained.

During World War II, the company split its manufacturing capabilities into three factories, each overseen by one of the founders (Tanaka Koichi ran one in Toyohashi, Toyota Yoshio managed one in Yamanashi, and Masanori Nagatsuka remained boss of the original one in Tokyo) and began producing military goods. By the end of the war, the Tokyo plant had been destroyed by Allied bombs and the three brothers-in-law dissolved the company and went their separate ways. The Toyohashi factory remained in the photography industry, assumed the brand name “Toyoca” (a contraction of “Toyohashi” and “Camera”), and went on to make the successful Hit subminiature camera which was extremely popular in the United States. Other notable models include the Toyocaflex (a Rolleicord copy), the eccentric 35mm TLR Toyocaflex 35, and the ultra rare Toyoca Six.

Toyoca floundered as the demand for Hit-type novelty cameras decreased sharply and the company was being overtaken by other Japanese camera manufacturers as they came out with newer and more innovative models. Camera production ceased in the 1960s and the company itself seems to have gone under sometime after the 1980s.

Interested in starting or growing your own collection of Toyoca cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.

References:

McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), 639-641.

“Tougodo,” Camerapedia, http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Tougodo

“Hit-type cameras,” Camerapedia, http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Hit-type_cameras

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