Saturday, November 13, 2010

Anpanman Japanese Superheroes

After Halloween, I got a lot of questions about Hazel's costume.  It only occurred to me then that I knew who she was, but really didn't know "what" she was.  As promised in my post from Halloween, I was going to write about her and her Anpanman friends.

When we first moved to Japan, I started noticing that cutesy little cartoon characters appeared in ads for everything from kids' toys to karaoke rooms for adults. There was one character in particular that kept showing up everywhere, he had a big round brown head and HUGE red nose, and cheeks- he was Anpanman.  At first, I thought he was ugly and annoying and never paid enough attention to find out who and what he was.  One day, one of my kids must have been reading a book in a store or something and I started looking through it at all of the bizarre characters.  I instantly became intrigued.  

Anpanman's name literally translates to "bean filled bread guy".  An is a red sweet bean paste, the cinnamon of Japan if you will, and Japanese people love it.  I have never acquired a taste for it however.  Anpan is sold at most bakeries here, it looks almost like a jelly donut, except it's not filled with sugary jelly.  In fact, a lot of bakeries actually take extra dough and garnish the bread with it so it looks like the actual Anpanman:

Anpanman was created during World War II by a Japanese writer named Takashi Yanase.  He was hungry and kept dreaming of eating anpan.  He created the superhero Anpanman, whose main superpower is to feed the hungry.  They can bite his head and eat his anpan and then his head regenerates itself.  The bad guy, baikinman (bacteria man) of course tries to infect him and make the food dirty and unfit to be eaten.  In this show, there are many many other characters- in fact, I found out from, that there are over 1700 characters that have appeared in the cartoons and books.  A few of my kids' favorites are Currypanman, Shokupanman, Melonpannachan (see above Halloween photo), and of course Dokinchan.

Dokinchan was called "Sparkles" on wikipedia, which surprised me. The only information I could find about her is that she is sneaky (sounds like Hazel) and her name comes from the Japanese word for beating heart.  She appears in a lot of the cartoons with hearts in her eyes  because she is in love with one of the good guys, Shokupanman (sandwich bread head man).   For some reason, Hazel just loves her.  

These characters have taken a piece of my kids' hearts.  We have had two specific vacations here in Japan, just to find some famous Anpanman things.  In April 2009, we rode the Shinkansen to Okayama, where we boarded the Anpanman train.

We rode the train in the front car with pictures of the characters on the seats.  We literally rode it for an hour and a half, got off, then got back on another train to come home.  The things you do for your kids!

There is a museum on the island that it runs on, near the writer's home town, but it is not really for kids.  We were going to go, but I think it was more prints from the show and not a "fun" children's museum.  Of course, I found another Anpanman children's museum near Tokyo, in Yokohama, so in August 2009, we took a trip to Tokyo, mainly to go to that museum.

Check out our hot chocolate:

Here's a whole store full of Anpanman themed craft supplies!:

The walls inside the museum were all brightly colored:

There were displays set up with scenes from different movies, I love this one where the characters were disguised as pyramids:

This should give you an idea of the number of different characters:

There were statues of a lot of the characters:

They had the characters' cars for the kids to play in:

There was a playground:

There were balls:

And of course, there was a gift shop:

It was a fun and tiring day:

We have read books, watched movies, played toys, worn clothes, eaten food, had candy, drank water, used lockers, rode trains, used tissues, made cakes and much more, all based on these characters.  So far, three of my kids (and soon to be four) have asked me to make them birthday cakes themed from the show.  Stay tuned for the next post for the fourth :)

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