Isn’t it wonderful to live in a country where drunken panda-seals lounge on peanut snack packages sniffing beer? Well, not all Japanese packaging is that weird, but see for yourself. Here is PingMag’s Best of Snack Characters. Enjoy!
WARNING: TONS OF IMAGES TO COME
Written by Uleshka
After exploring Strawberry Sweets’ packages in our Japanese Packaging#1 article, we will entirely focus on “packages with a face” today.
A classic package among the crunchy snacks is definitely Caramel Corn by sweets maker Tohato. Not only is this open-mouth-caramel-corn-face drop dead funny, the taste of these tiny curly flips also causes an immediate addiction (Seriously! Once you open a pack it is definitely impossible to stop until they are all gone!).
Original Caramel Corn package with a mouth full of corn flips. Try for yourself and see that you can’t avoid ending up like that character and keep stuffing as many of these nasty sweets in your mouth as possible! Dangerously addictive!!!
His girl-friend, the cute strawberry milk variation flirting hard!
The other nice thing about Caramel Corn is that it comes in different flavors always causing another cute new face to existence. It is even so popular that other companies tried to copy the look and… failed!!
roasted almonds Caramel Corn
Kuma-Kyara (bear caramel) obviously copying the look of Tohato
And it wouldn’t be Japan, if they wouldn’t come up with a seasonal variation for every little event. There was a cute one for Christmas, now there is the Daruma for the beginning of the year.
Daruma Canael Corn – no, this is not a spelling mistake!
Milk Caramel flavor variation of the Daruma Canael Corn
This traditional Daruma wish doll works like that: make a wish and draw in his left eye, wait until the wish comes true and then pencil in his other eye. Well, the Caramel Corn already has one eye, so you can use the side panel of the package to actually write down your wish:
Caramel Corn’s original side panel on the left and Canael Corn’s blank space to write down your wish on the right
Once your wish is fulfilled, you can draw in the other eye… in case you didn’t throw away your flip package already…
So why is this one called Canael Corn instead of Caramel Corn then? Because **Japanese loooooove word plays and “canaelu” means to wish and make it happen. Bingo!**
Curry flavored Uka-ru chips to make sure you pass your hard university exams…
…and another friendly little helper in the corner of the package!
Now again a seasonal thing: Uka-ru chips! Uka-ru means to enter and in this sense means to enter university or to pass a test. So!? It is this time of the year when all Japanese students have to study really hard to pass – and they usually go to the temple to pray to make sure they really do! In case you can’t be bothered running all the way to pray for yourself, maybe buying this priest on the package and crumbling lots of Uka-ru chips on your books does the trick as well… No guarantee though!
strange shadowhand character on the package catching potato rings (consommé flavor)
Oops! Didn’t catch any yet! These ones have a special salty flavor.
These potato chips in ring form keep changing their name, but what they all have in common are word plays – again! – based around the kids’ game of throwing and catching rings.
Here we have an interesting one!
English Language school Nova made a clever move by applying the old concept of learning + pleasure = good memory! By teaming up with big time choco producer Glico, people can now learn English while indulging in chocolate heavens…
Nova rabbit on Gaba chocolate asking you to visit their website
Heavy Nova branding campaign on Pocky chocolate…
But I wonder! What is this pink bunny doing to poor Japanese citizens who actually don’t want to learn English!?? Just imagine that ‘English’ was your most hated subject at school and now your favorite chocolate forces you to realize, that you still don’t know how to “Take the bull by the horns”!
The forced on Learning English market is a really strange situation here in Japan… Although people study so hard at school, the fact that they have almost zero opportunity to actually ‘speak’ English (at school and in real life) causes a big shyness and English panic. This however creates a comfortable niche for tons of English schools to ask outrageous prices for a little bit of ‘speaking time’.
I wonder who decides what kind of phrases are picked for these packages… I’m glad they didn’t chose Learning for Life! – that would really depress me!
Here we are in our little Famous Characters category. The trick always works (not only for kids…).
All kids love Doraemon
Everyone’s favorite Doraemon on the top of a choco snack box.
Doraemon pack from the side
Shocking green Crayon Shin-chan
Crayon Shin-chan making a silly face on Choco-Bi’s sweet packs
bright green side view
Heidi of the Alps with Cheese
Heidi of the Alps on a cheese noodle snack
Heidi on a crumble-cheese-cake-bread
I must make a confession here! When I was a kid growing up in Germany, I thought everything around me that was in German was German (including Tom&Jerry). Since the story of Heidi takes place in Germany at least to some extend, everything in and around the Heidi story was naturally totally German without question. Therefore Heidi of the Alps had to be German, too. I very much liked it as a kid but couldn’t quite figure out why the eyes were always so big…?
After I started living here in Japan I wondered why everybody knew the story so well…
Thomas the Tank Engine – Ramune
looking at the package this way, it almost could be the head of a train driving towards you
very cute little ramune bottle character
…and an even cuter little bunny drinking ramune with a straw
Ramune is a drink known in Japan mostly for its distinctive bottle design. Like in most of the countries there is some sort of local drink that is simply sweet and carbonated (think Sprite) or – Ramune counts as the Japanese version of it.
Nostalgic Package Characters
Umai-bo in many different flavors
Umai-bo – some salty snack that comes in many different flavors – would certainly be among the top 5 memorable kids’ sweets in Japan. The characters you see on this package are also very famous – but merely designed for this product only.
Ichigo-tsumi – was some kind of special kids sweet, something you don’t get everyday. Ryoko told me that she absolutely loved it as a kid because it was sooo cute and its title (meaning “picking strawberries”) made her feel special when picking one by one from this more than cute package.
Peco-chan, the character representing the major confectioner Fujiya Company, was already born in 1950. For years she was smiling in life-size around sweets shops in Japan, but recently a huge scandal about Fujiya using expired milk to make some 15,000 cream puffs forced Peco-chan to hide…
Along with that people discovered a few “older” food poisoning cases which oops! Fujita failed to report and, well… I suppose from now on poor Peco-chan has to pay the high price for Fujita’s slack quality control.
Bisco, the baby cookie. The original package used to be red.
Bisco’s illustration on the back of the package.
The case of Bisco’s package design reminds me a bit of Kinderschokolade, the evergreen in German kids’ chocolate history. They also had a design with a little boy on it and didn’t change it for – forever!
One day, however, some stupid marketing guy must have come along and talked them into something like: “This design is totally outdated! Unbelievable that we haven’t changed it for years! Quick, quick let’s ask a cheap designer to come up with a new solution which now everybody hates…!” Well, I guess he didn’t quite say that, but that is basically what happened. There even is a website where people keep protesting and demand that the “old” boy comes back on the package. They have already collected over 500 Euros and well… they must really hate the new kid!
Look at Bisco, marketing men and designers of this current world! They changed their little man slooowly over the years, that all my other editors believed that this package has never ever changed at all – until they saw this website!
I remember that a guy at school called Ralf sometimes had these Koala bear cookies and never gave me any, because they were so expensive in Germany. I wish I could have impressed him by telling him this secret: some of these tiny Koalas actually have wrinkles on their forehead from playing the trumpet (!) – and if you find one of these rare ones, it will be your lucky day!
I don’t think that anyone outside Japan who munches away Koalas carelessly knows that. But although I never got any cookies from Ralf, I still have lots of lucky days in my life! The luckiest days are, when my dear editors find geeky blogs for me where people seriously discuss eyebrows and wrinkles printed on chocolate cookies…
Tabekko Doubutsu is actually regarded as a very healthy snack for kids (according to star editor Chiemi): “They won an award because their snack contains a lot of vitamins or calcium or something…!”
Amazing: although they won this award in 1979, they are not ashamed to print it on the package in 2007.
everyone’s favorite Ichigo-Miruku – Strawberry Milk candy
a new version of Ichigo Miruku
If you are a fan of the over-cutesy-cute Ichigo-Miruku candy package, you might be interested to know, that there is also a slick and cool design variation of the same product. Based on a Japanese word play (Yawn! Word play again!??) it uses the numbers 1-ichi 5-go 3-mi 6-ru 9-ku to explain what might be hiding in this bright red bag.
Manga Characters to collect
If all of this is too cute for you, try some of these:
Here we come to our last and my favorite section. Favorite because it contains many kinds of snacks that would be considered ‘highly weird’ in the West and that are absolutely normal here.
That actually reminds me of another story: back in the days in London…
I went to the FlashForward conference at Hoxton Square – or at least to one of these flashy conferences where Joshua Davis) was speaking. He talked about the two big mysteries in my life at that time: Flash and Japan.
What he said – essentially – was that he doesn’t have a clue about anything he is doing, he is just doing it and then finds out what actually happened – afterwards. That was his kind of experimental strategy.
That is why he found himself buying a – what he thought – “chocolate bar” in a Japanese convenient store once, discovering that what he was actually biting into was “something fish”! He bought another one – “fish” again. And another one – and “fish” again. And so on, and so on.
Great story! And at that time, it really made me want to go to Japan even more. The giant challenge of not being able to tell chocolate from fish pretty much made me buy my airplane ticket straight away.
Today I wonder, though: how could Joshua Davis be so much out of his mind to really mistake “fish” for chocolate??? I mean – does this really look like chocolate??
Well, well! I certainly don’t want to insult poor Joshua here! Maybe he just had one of these thinking they were candy…
But still, come on! Just look at it!
Well, but what can I say? I still thank Joshua deeply for his story! Who knows? Maybe I would have never moved to Japan without him!
If you want to see more package designs, visit our Flickr gallery and have a sunny day!