Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#21 Character Goods – Rilakkuma

on April 25, 2012

Okay, so I’m sure most everyone is familiar with the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty:

She’s gotten so popular in the US, you can easily find her on handbags, pajamas, lunch boxes, mousepads…the list goes on an on.

In Japan there are MANY different characters.

Of course, there is Hello Kitty (called Kitty-chan here). She’ll probably be around forever.

Some characters have their moment in the spotlight and disappear after a year or two.

Others have managed to retain their popularity over a long period of time (several years). The character I’m going to talk about today belongs in this category.

I present you with Rilakkuma:

His name is a combination between the words Relax and Kuma (Bear). He is thus, the relaxing bear.

Japan is a population of hard-workers. They study too hard, stay at the office too long, spend too much energy caring for their families, and generally don’t relax as much as they’d like to. Thus Rilakkuma is a welcome member of Japanese society to remind everyone to take it easy once in a while.

Rilakkuma is the main brown bear, and I’m pretty sure he’s male. He has a friend (I think female) bear who is white, named Kolirakkuma.

There is also a chick who you often see with them, named kiiroitori (“yellow bird”). He is hard-working and likes to clean, and is often admonishing rilakkuma to get off his butt and do something.

Just about as often as you see Hello Kitty goods here in Japan, you see Rilakkuma goods. A lot of kids have pencil cases, notebooks, charms, hankerchiefs, and other things with him on it. Even adults like him too.

I myself became a fan of him back when I studied abroad 2007-2008. Then I had a Rilakkuma wallet, and also bought a Rilakkuma stuffed animal. At the time I thought the stuffie was really expensive (something like 3,500 yen maybe) but I really wanted it so I splurged. It was totally worth it, because I sleep with him every single night. Since his arms and legs are floppy, he often seems to take on a life of his own wherever he is on my bed, sometimes sprawled out, sometimes half sitting up, sometimes just his head pokes out of the covers. He always looks like he’s cozy though. And snuggling with him does make me more relaxed.

He’s even available on Amazon if you want your own! This is the exact one I have:

San-x Rilakkuma Plush with Secret Pocket

The secret pocket isn’t really secret though; it’s a zipper on his back that can barely hold anything – I’m not sure what it’s meant for. People suggest kleenex sometimes.

The company that owns Hello Kitty is Sanrio. The company that owns Rilakkuma is San-X. He’s the first character in their line-up when you go to their website. It also links you to “goods,” aka products, on offer, though it looks like that site doesn’t sell directly, but rather links you to websites/stores that do.

Very fortunately though, Amazon has a lot of Rilakkuma products. Take a look and see if there’s anything you’d like!

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2 responses to “#21 Character Goods – Rilakkuma

  1. Don’t you find some of Rilakkuma’s poses a little creepy/porno? Haha. He’s always reclining in some suggestion position…Korea also has a HUGE obsession with both Rilakkuma and Hello Kitty – it still blows me away that grown adults have full desk sets of Hello Kitty stationary at places like the bank!!!

    There’s a bit of a dark side too though – I was innocently writing a letter in class the other day on my Rilakkuma writing paper (yip, sucked in) and it unleashed a tirade of anti-Japanese sentiment that really took me by storm! The little kids love these characters and adults seem to be okay with this stuff but my middle school students wanted them to “die” as they represented the Japanese. I realise there’s still a lot of bad feeling in Korea about the Japanese occupation last century BUT I was surprised to hear it expressed so strongly by intelligent 16 year olds.

    Interesting stuff.

    • Wow, I had no idea there was such a strong anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea. I (naively) assumed both countries were fairly cool with each other these days. It’s amazing characters like Rilakkuma and Hello Kitty are doing business over there then.

      There’s a lot of acceptance of Korean things in Japan it seems. A lot of Korean singers release albums in Japanese and go on Japanese TV shows. Middle school girls are obsessed with K-POP singers. There are whole stores selling Korean-idol goods in major shopping areas, and Korean Dramas are fairly well regarded. At one of the local restaurants here the proprietor always has on a Korean-only channel which usually shows dramas, though sometimes talk shows too.

      So how about the other side of the coin then? Are Japanese dramas or J-POP singers popular in Korea, at least where you are?

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