The word 'Buriki' which means tin plate in Japanese, has originally derived from the Dutch word 'blik' (tin toys in Dutch is 'blikken speelgoed') meaning 'tinned iron'. In Germany, it's called 'blechspielzeug'. Until Mid 1870's, most of the imported tin plates were used for the production of oil cans.
Initially, toy business in Japan was sluggish. After the Sino-Japanese war of 1894, the business started picking up. Introduction of printing machines for the tin plate and technology of clockwork from Germany accelerated Japan's tin toy industry. Eventually Japan became the tin toy producing center, leaving behind Germany which was totally devasted by the First World War.
The political uncertainty since 1938 had a devastating effect on the tin toy business. Many toy manufactures closed down. The Second World War broke out and effected the industry. Actually 1947 was the year when luck finally turned to Japan's favour. Under the American occupation, tin plate toy industry was granted a right to resume its operation and to export. In 1948, friction toys such as trains, fire engine trucks and automobiles emerged. Around 1955, electronic toys took over friction and wind-up toys. In the year of 1963, about 60% of the exported toys in Japan were made out of tin plate.
Unfortunately, this trend only remained untill the mid 60's. The tin plate toys gradually disappeared as plastic and superalloy toys emerged. Examples of Japanese manufactures are Marusan, Masudaya, Nomura (TN), Yoshiya (Kobe Yoko or KO), Masuya (SM), Bandai, Sankei (NK), Horikawa and Yonezawa.
Nowadays, Japan's tin toys of the 1950s and 1960s are considered some of the most ingenious and well-wrought inventions of 20th-century manufacture. Of these, their toy robots are the most highly prized, both for their beauty and their clever designs. But the robots reveal much more about Japan than its commitment to quality in manufacture. It was in the making of toys, and toy robots in particular, that Japan first expressed its foresight and its nearly boundless ambition, each product being an expression of wakon-yosai, or Japanese spirit and Western learning. These toys not only reflect the changing economic and political realities of Japan and the United States during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, but they also embody an expression of hope that has significantly influenced both Japanese and American Baby Boomers.
Coupling traditional metalworking skills with imported machinery, Japanese tin toys established a worldwide reputation in the 1920s and 1930s for their quality and detailed workmanship. With the resumption of international trade in 1947, exports grew rapidly. Leading American marques such as Ford, Packard, Lincoln, Chevrolet, Belair, Buick, and Cadillac competed to market ever more seductively styled cars to U.S. consumers in an increasingly automobile-based society. In Japan, toy manufacturers followed these styling trends closely, retooling often in order to offer miniature versions of the latest models to eager American children.
Find here a List of Japanese toy manufacturers.
What's it worth? Take a look at this Japan price guide: sold listings for a value indication.