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The Weird (& Cute) World of San-X

The Weird (& Cute) World of San-X

Rilakkuma bus in Japan.   Rilakkuma is EVERYWHERE in Japan!

Rilakkuma bus in Japan.   Rilakkuma is EVERYWHERE in Japan!

San-X is one of the largest kawaii character-oriented product companies in Japan.  Its biggest hits have been Tarepanda (best described as an "unenergetic panda") and Rilakkuma (this bear is almost as ubiquitous as Hello Kitty in Japan).  San-X has been around since 1932, but in the beginning it had nothing to do with characters!  It produced pretty-but-boring stationary and letter sets.   After successfully testing a few characters from overseas, the company decided to start designing its own characters.  In 1987, San-X created Pinny-Mu, its biggest character...until Tarepanda was invented in 1995.  Tarepanda was such a massive success that San-X transformed into a full-on character company in 1998.   Rilakkuma was introduced in 2003.

Left to right:  woodland resident Pinny-Mu, floppy Tarepanda, and uber popular Rilakkuma.

Left to right:  woodland resident Pinny-Mu, floppy Tarepanda, and uber popular Rilakkuma.

Since the 1980s, San-X has created almost 800 characters! For context, Sanrio has created about 400.  The company has slowed down a bit in recent years, only introducing one or two new characters each year.  Still, not every character can be a hit.  And some of the San-X creations are particularly niche...or straight up WEIRD!  Here are some of my super strange favorites:

Tissue-san, aka "Mr. Tissue"

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Tissue-san is, well... a box of tissues.  He was created to remind children to cover their noses when they sneeze.  He is secretly in love with Hanachan, a pink box of women's tissues.  She lives in another part of the house, so he doesn't get to see her often.  Fortunately he has an entire family of other paper products to keep him company.  Wetsan is a canister of wet wipes. His ability to clean just about anything has filled him with an almost annoying level of confidence.  Pocket Tissuesan are actually *two* aspiring comedians who perform standup when they aren't busy wiping someone's nose.  Their biggest fan is Rollchan, a tomboyish roll of toilet paper.  Ekokun, a box of recycled tissue, spends most of his free time reading books.  I'm totally ready for a Netflix series about this crew!

Cheese Ikka (Cheese Family)

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Cheese is awesome so I'm not mad about any characters inspired by it.  The family has grown into an entire village of more than 30 dairy-related characters.  Once again, when is this being turned into a Netflix series?  The pillar of the Cheese Family/Society is the father, Chichi.  Not only is he a well-aged Emmental, he's also an architect.  His wife is a clumsy and carefree melting cheese.  They have six children.  One of the grandfather's is a gorgonzola, while the other is a pre-wrapped slice of cheese.    The most beautiful woman in the village is Wine Jousan (Miss Wine), while the wealthiest residents are the Parmesan Brothers.   Don't worry, there are also some string cheese characters and even a pair of hot sauce twins! Also:  cream cheese, yogurt, cubed cheeses.  Perhaps a shredded character or a Gogurt will be added soon.



Kogepan struggles with low self esteem, depression and a drinking (milk) problem.    He was left in the oven too long and as a result, he was slightly burned.  Even though the other non-burned baked goods have tried to befriend him, he prefers to get drunk on milk with his other overcooked pastry friends, including a french bread, mayonnaise roll, and breadstick.  I like to think of him as the proto-Gudetama.



Okay, this section is going to be educational.  Marimo (translates as "ball seaweed") are balls of algae.  That sounds gross, but they are beautiful, velvety spherical plants.  They form in only a few lakes, all found in the Northern Hemisphere.  In Japan they flourish in Lake Akun in Hokkaido.   Marimo has been a protected species in Japan since the 1920s.  They are often likened to the earth, because they are round and need light on all sides in order to survive.   Caring for them is said to bring good luck.  The Marimokochan family ranges in age from 20 years (the baby) to 900 years (the grandfather).




Sumikkogurashi translates literally as "corner living."  This group of characters is shy and prefers to hang out in corners.  It makes them feel calmer!  I relate! It's an eclectic crew, comprised of animals (cat, penguin bear) and uh, other things (a pork cutlet crumb, a weed that hopes to be included in a flower arrangement someday, some leftover tapioca balls).  There's also a slug masquerading as a snail!  

And lastly, Jinbe-san (our favorite)

I could watch this video all day...

See more San-X characters on the official site, or check out wikipedia for a more comprehensive list. 

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