5 Select Japanese Snack Characters That Are Loved by Everyone
In Japan there are many snacks or chocolate candies that enjoy long-lasting deep-rooted popularity since the old days. It might be possibly favorably biased because I am Japanese; however, Japanese snacks are delicious in general. Some time ago my foreign acquaintances told me that Japanese snacks are the best. When I remember this, I think the quality of Japanese snacks after all could be competitive at the international level. Photo: flickr.com
Japanese snacks enjoy such popularity in Japan and abroad, but it must be one of the characteristics of Japanese snacks that popular snacks come with an advertising mascot character.
Mascot characters are a communication tool to bring the consumers and products together, and they also play an important role to enhance the corporate image.
This time we would like to introduce several snack characters that are well known in Japan.
1. “Curl”: Uncle Karl
Meiji Co., Ltd.
The uncle has a very rustic appearance with a bushy beard around his mouth, a towel around his neck, and he is wearing a straw hat. He is living in a fictional village called “Oragamura (My Village)”. He is supposedly around 40 years old. When the first generation TV commercial was broadcasted, he was a supporting character with many animals on stage. But with his humorous and unparalleled strong presence, he became a topic of social buzz, and eventually he muscled his way to the role of the main character.
This snack was first sold in 1968. Back then there was a common image in Japan that snacks were something sweet, and this snack was produced by quickly embarking on the manufacturing of snacks that were popular in America at the time. Its characteristics are curly shape and light texture that readily breaks in your mouth. It is said that the name “Curl” was referenced from the “Curl Dolls”.
2. “Chocoball”: Kyoro-Chan
Morinaga & Co., Ltd.
This character is a fictional bird. The name “Kyoro-chan” was supposedly after his round, cute eyes (“kyoro” being an onomatopoeia for moving eyes). When the snack was first introduced, people paid most attention to its special benefit to receive a prize by meeting a certain criteria, so the character was rather inconspicuous. But once it started to appear in TV commercials, it became immediately popular.
It’s a ball-shaped snack about 1 cm in diameter, and it is chocolate coated with peanuts or caramel inside. A certain percentage of packages came with a mark of an angel, the manufacturer’s corporate logo, printed on them, and when you collected a certain number of these logo marks, you could exchange them for what was called “A toy can”, which was a highly appealing prize for children. This became a hot topic. The “Chocoball” is still very popular and enjoys wide popularity even today.
3. “Tyrant Habanero”
The name “Tyrant Habanero” is a combination between the ingredients of this product, habanero pepper, the extra spicy Mexican chili pepper, and Roman Emperor Nero, who was called a tyrant. “Tyrant Habanero” looks utterly unfriendly and aggressive, but this appearance helps express the crazy hot flavor of this product.
Though extremely hot, its spiciness is habit forming which is how this product became popular. In addition to the products in small ring shapes, there are stick shapes that are easy to snack on, and others are produced to resemble spicy pizza. Starting from the original Habanero, the company is actively developing new product lines.
4. “Kara-mucho”: Tomi Morita
Koikeya Co., Ltd.
Tomi Morita is also known with a nickname “Hii-obaa-chan (great grandmother)”. Her birthday is supposed to be March 3, 1877. She looks like an ordinary obaa-chan, an elderly lady. Because the potato is so spicy that she is always breathing out loudly “hii hii”, and such appearance is often found on the snack package.
Koikeya Co., Ltd. focuses its business on potato chips, and its product development is quite wide in variety. This product is characteristically spicy with hot peppers. When it was first introduced in 1984, spicy potato chips were quite rare and it didn’t sell well at all. But nowadays it became known as the origin of super spicy snacks, and it has become a long seller product. The catch-phrase is “why is spicy potato delicious?”
5. “Polinky”: Polinkies (Jan, Paul, Bell)
Koikeya Co., Ltd
Polinkies characters consist of three different members in personalities and appearances; Jan, the hard worker, handsome Paul, and clumsy Bell. These characters are made directly out of the triangle-shaped products, and three of them show perfect teamwork in the commercials, dancing and singing in unison.
Its crispy texture is easy to eat and they are triangle-shaped snacks. Why is it triangle-shaped? The company has repeatedly thrown this riddle at the consumers in its commercials. But without fully revealing “the secret of the triangle shape”, it has become a long seller product, and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2015.
So we introduced only a few Japanese snack characters above, and what do you think? Each character has originality and they all have unique presence that helps promote the products. Since there are many more snack characters in Japan other than these, when you visit snack sections in a supermarket or convenience store, please pay attention to them. You will surely encounter a character that catches your eyes and make you wonder “what the…?”