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MUJAM: A Window into a Playful Past in Mexico’s History

by planetnomad on February 7, 2012

Packed into a three-story flat in Mexico City’s Colonia Doctores is a history lesson waiting to be taught. Only two blocks from the Obrera Metro station, directly off the Eje Central, sits one of the world’s largest collections of toys and Mexican pop culture around. The items were collected by one individual, who to this day, insists that his 40,000 plus exhibit contains more than an assemblage of items, and if inspected carefully, details an account of Mexican history through playful objects.

Trained architect, Roberto Shimizu, opened the MUJAM (Museo del Juguete Antiguo Mexico) in 2006 in hopes of helping Mexicans and people in general, reconnect with a past that’s quickly disappearing in the age of the digital culture. In 1955, at the age of ten, Mr. Shimizu began collecting toys and never looked back. Later on, he would travel to Europe, Japan, and all over Mexico to acquire a variety of items, mostly used toys which were produced by anonymous artists. “Most of these toys depict what daily life was like for a lot of people and the fact that they’ve been played with means they carry those ‘good vibes’ of the children”, shares Mr. Shimizu.

Spread over three levels in the flat his father built, the MUJAM showcases only 5% of the collector’s entire million-plus pieces. Items are organically arranged throughout four wings or ‘salas’ and displayed in recycled products which Mr. Shimizu himself, restored and repurposed. In the first wing, you’ll encounter globes, lunch boxes, a vintage jukebox with toys from the era displayed inside it, and you’ll also find toy cars from the Japanese toymaker “Tomica”. Sala two is usually reserved for traveling exhibits and recently had an extensive private collection of Barbies as well as a colorful and nostalgic array of “Cantinflas” memorabilia. The last two wings, three and four, display several Mexican toys as well as wooden toy guns, drums, oversized metal cars, and locomotives.

With such an array of toys, there’s ample opportunity for everyone to discover and connect with something. And, as Mr. Shimizu was quoted recently in a BBC Mundo interview, the contents of the MUJAM represent “keys to unlocking forgotten archives full of magical and fun moments.”

One might ask if in the midst of this digital age we live in this type of museum would resonate with the youth of today. Mr. Shimizu assures that the appeal is far more general than one would suspect. “A lot of these are one-of-a-kind items which were made in Mexico during a time when creative output was at its height. Adults who stroll through definitely connect with a bygone era, but, surprisingly, even high school kids seem to be drawn in, and for that, I’m happy to share this collection.”

MUJAM exterior

Whatever the feelings you might possess about the MUJAM’s relevance in today’s world, one thing clearly becomes evident, a tip of the hat is in order for Mr. Shimizu who maintains that the window into a slice of history has drawn in general interest, and for that, must remain open. would like to thank the entire staff for the hospitable welcome during a recent visit.


Dr. Olvera #15, Colonia Doctores
Delegación Cuauhtémoc
Mexico City, D.F. 06720

Entrance Fee:  50.00 Mxn.
Hours:  Mon-Fri, 9-6PM
Sat, 9-4PM
Sun, 10-4PM

Tel:  5588-2100
Twitter:  @MuseodelJuguete
Official Facebook Page –

Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Documentary Video – “A Mexican Toy Story” – by Alba Mora Roca

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura February 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Another great post Mark! You know I’ve heard of this museum, but I had no idea it was right in my neighborhood. It’s not something I’d normally be interested in, but I have to admit you’ve peaked my interest! 🙂

planetnomad February 9, 2012 at 11:18 am

Thanks Laura for your kind words! I had wanted to visit this museum for a long time and finally got around to going by there. I think it’s super important to maintain these one-of-a-kind treasures and believe most people, especially the younger generation, should be aware of collections like this. Plus, the family is really nice and one can tell they love what they are doing in bringing this to the public. You have to check it out soon! 🙂

Cara Lopez Lee February 12, 2012 at 11:05 am

I love antique toys, Mark, and the idea of old toys as miniature representations of past culture resonates with me. The photo of the old-fashioned delivery truck drives that idea home. All the photos in this piece are delightful. If I ever go to Mexico City, I’m definitely going to this museum!

planetnomad February 22, 2012 at 11:52 am

Thanks for your visit and your comments Cara! As I’ve mentioned in the piece, this collection only represents 5% of the founder’s collection…can you imagine what other, potentially more fascinating, pieces are in storage? Hopefully someday the entire contents will be on display for us to enjoy. In the meantime, I am happy to hear that you are intrigued and would love to visit! I hope to hear real soon that you’ve visited this great museum and met the founder and his family…it’ll be a treat for sure!!

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