The idea of giving away toys together with candy or snacks stemmed from the Osaka service mindset. Ezaki Glico, the first company to market candy packaged with a toy, considered that children's mission in life is to eat and play. Illustrated cards were packaged with products right from the launch of the original Glico candy in 1922, and these later evolved into toys.
As we enter the 21st century candy-toys are undergoing a major boom, and the term shokugan (a new Japanese word that combines the characters for “food” and “toy”) has entered the language. What sparked off the boom was the Choco Egg, produced by Furuta Confectionery. Both children and adults were entranced by the ingenious figures contained within the egg-shaped chocolates.
Mr. Hiroshi Morimoto, president of Shokugan Oukoku, the first Japanese wholesaler to specialize entirely in shokugan, says that “The trendsetters of the shokugan boom come from Osaka, too.”
“A series of different toys is sold for each shokugan theme, and until you open the box you have no idea which toy is inside. This idea, which mixes the fun of a mystery prize and the enjoyment of collecting the whole series, is a very typical Osaka concept.”
Yet another gimmick is used to fan the flame of enthusiasm among collectors.
“We mix in just a few toys that aren't included in the official lineup. Their scarcity means these secret items fetch high prices on Internet auctions, creating a further boom. I think this gimmick has all the hallmarks of Osaka people's skill at commerce.”
Keep your eyes on Osaka: who knows what new ideas will emerge next?
The newest Glico series (from Ezaki Glico) comes with mini picture books of children's stories from Japan and around the world. Sadly available only in Japanese, they are fully readable despite their small size. The logo on the package has been turned into a large sign in Osaka's Dotombori district, where it is a popular sight for tourists.
The Furuta Confectionery Choco Egg that kicked off the shokugan boom. The high quality of the giveaway figures, as well as the “mystery prize” thrill of not knowing which of them was inside, both spurred their popularity. The photo shows the “K-Car Series,” which contains models of light automobiles, launched this fall.
Shokugan aimed at adults have also recently become popular. The photo shows a series featuring reproductions of armor and helmets worn by medieval Japanese warriors, which would also make an excellent souvenir from Japan. It doesn't include any snacks or sweets, but like other shokugan is sold in convenience stores and similar outlets. This product is sold by Meister Japan.
This article is written with the cooperation of:
Shokugan Oukoku:http://www.dagashi-ohkoku.com/ Ezaki Glico Co., Ltd.:http://www.glico.co.jp/ Orion Co., Ltd.:http://www.orionstar.co.jp/ Coris Co., Ltd.:http://www.coris.co.jp/ Furuta Confectionery Co., Ltd.:http://www.furuta.co.jp/ Meister Japan Ltd.:http://www.ms-japan.net/ Matsuokaseika Co., Ltd.:http://www.mangetupon.co.jp/