The Japanese have a long-standing infatuation with 3D characters that represent products, companies, civic organizations, towns and just about anything else you can imagine. If you’ve been anywhere in Japan you’re probably familiar with the Tanuki statue often found outside soba restaurants. You may even know Peko-chan the lip licking girl found standing in front the confectioner store Fujiya. But it’s outside pharmacies where you’re most likely to find one of these three dimensional characters. We’ll take a look at some of the most common.
This pair may be the most numerous mascot in Japan. Standing outside drug stores all over Japan the elephants are often dressed in different costumes depending on the time of year. Sato-chan the orange elephant first appeared outside stores in 1961 sitting astride a rocket. His sister Satoko-chan joined him in 1995. The siblings are modelled after the Indian elephant, which the creators believed to have a calm and gentle nature. Elephants also appealed to Sato Pharmaceuticals because they live long lives, something the company would like to emulate. A pharmacy in Ginza boasts a small museum dedicated to the pair where you can find hundreds of Sato-chan and Satoko-chan branded goods.
Dr. Akahige (left) or “Dr. Red Beard,” is the mascot for Akahige Pharmacy. Modelled on the pharmacy’s founder the name references Akahige Shinryoutan (Red Beard Medical Care Stories), written by Shugoro Yamamoto. In 1965 the book was adapted for film by Akira Kurosawa. The plot tells the tale of a dedicated and honourable doctor who helps a stubborn young intern become a compassionate doctor. The pharmacy no doubt employs the same standard of committed doctors. These doctors however specializes in treating impotence and sexual problems. On the door of a Yokohama store it states in English that they are an “energetic medicine speciality shop.”
On the right Higuchi Toshio stands atop a small elephant. The founder of Higuchi Pharmacy declares in an early commercial his goal of opening 1,327 stores. Unfortunately Mr.Higuchi has yet to reach his target.
This happy looking green frog often accompanies Sato-chan and Satoko-chan outside drugstores. The mascot for Kowa pharmaceuticals is commonly known as Kero-chan but Kowa states that the character has never officially been named. The green frog is gradually being replaced by two smaller frogs called Kero-chan and Koro-chan. Kowa claims that if you counted all mascots, dolls and finger puppets, there would be more of them than there are Japanese people.
Mother kangaroo Daio-chan (left) is Daio Pharmacy’s mascot. The company states that she is a symbol of the love shared by a mother and child and the harmony of family life. Daio-chan reflects the ideals of Daio Pharmacy, which pampers its customers like a mother her children.
Pyon-chan is the mascot for pharmaceutical company SSP Corporation (Science and Society Pharmacuticals). He was created in 1952 but remained unnamed until 1963 when the company held a competition to choose his name. Pyon-chan won the contest because it is a common name for rabbits: “pyon” is the onomatopoeia for the sound frogs and rabbits make when they hop. Pyon-chan is modelled on the hare in the legend “The White Hare of Inaba,” which comes from the Kojiki, one of Japan’s oldest books.