Yasuta Sato, a businessman dubbed Japan's "King of Toys" who was responsible for smash hit kid favorites like the Licca-chan doll, died Feb. 26, the Japan Toy Culture Foundation said Friday. He was 94.
Sato, a native of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, launched Satoh Vinyl Industries Ltd. in 1955 and renamed it Takara Co. in 1966. The company also created and sold the Choro-Q toy car line, known as Penny Racers in the West.
Approximately four years after Sato's retirement in 2002, Takara was merged with Tomy Co. to form a company called Takara Tomy in Japan and Tomy Co. overseas.
Sato set up the Japan Toy Culture Foundation as a government affiliate in March 1986 with its mission to promote and raise awareness about Japan-made toys. He earned a doctorate of engineering from Yamagata University in 2010.
The doll, considered Japan's version of the iconic Barbie doll, is named Licca Kayama but has become better known as Licca-chan. More than 60 million Licca-chan dolls have been sold in Japan since it was first released in 1967.