Last week’s post was about Matsuri (まつり / 祭り), so this week I need to start with り (ri). A big thank you to japanaustralia for making a suggestion this week (even though it’s a tough one) – he suggested (リス / squirrel) and リトルワールド (Little World) a theme park in Aichi, which I visited in 2010. They were both great suggestions but, due to a lack of time this week and ongoing computer problems (don’t ask!), I’ve decided to write a post about something I know well and love…
It’s been almost year since I last wrote a post dedicated to Rilakkuma, so I hope you’ll forgive me for writing about my beloved bear again.
The San-X Rilakkuma website describes Rilakkuma:
“Rilakkuma” means “Bear in relaxed mood”. At all time and everywhere he goes he is continuously lazy and relaxed. He is totally stress-free and also doing things on his own pace. He is someone impossible to be hated by others. You will be dragged into Rilakkuma’s world and become lazy and relaxed while watching what everything he does.
Questionable English, but you get the idea. Rilakkuma is a lazy bear, his name comes from the words “relax” and “kuma” (“bear” in Japanese), and he’s darn cute. The best thing is, you can get away with liking him even if you’re an adult. Admittedly, I do have a large cuddly Rilakkuma living on my sofa but, that aside, my Rilakkuma lunch set and teapot seem like perfectly acceptable items to own, even as a 30-year-old woman.
San-X (the maker of all that is cute in Japan) tend to release new series of character goods throughout the year. The latest Rilakkuma series was released this month, and is called “Rilakkuma, Rilakkuma”. It’s a very simple, not too over the top series, compared to some I’ve seen in the past, and I know if I was in Japan right now I would be stocking up!
One of the (many) things I would like to do next time I visit Japan is to go to the SkyTree in Tokyo, and now I have even more reason to go there – they have a Rilakkuma Store! There are only a few Rilakkuma Stores across Japan, and visiting them is a very special experience.
The stores sell goods that you can only buy in Rilakkuma Stores (i.e. not sold in Kiddy Land or other outlets) and when I visited the Rilakkuma Store in Kichijoji I really did feel like a kid in a candy store – at Christmas! 😉
I know everything I’ve said above is very materialistic and commercial, but that’s an unescapable side of Japan. Japan knows how to produce merchandise and collectable items, and I swear it’s a country that could turn even the most minimalistic person into a bit of a collector. I found I had to constantly ask myself “do I really need this?” when I saw new Rilakkuma goods as, usually, the answer was “no, I just want it because it’s so CUTE!”.
So, crazy shopping sprees aside, what is Rilakkuma really all about? Well, the character was created by (now ex-) San-X staff member Aki Kondo in 2003 as an embodiment of her dream of slowing down and relaxing (hmm… maybe that’s why I can relate to this character!). Rilakkuma is a soft toy bear who one day decided to take up residence in a female office worker’s apartment. He has a zipper on his back, but no one knows why. I love having a toy which opens up, and I’m sure if I was a kid I would hide all sorts of things inside him! (Does anyone remember Keypers? One of the best toys of the ’80s!) Rilakkuma often gets dressed up in various costumes for the different series he is in, or for the regions of Japan he is representing. Curiously, he is also often depicted next to washing lines full of bear suits, so who knows what he really looks like underneath all these costumes!
Being the lazy boy that he is, Rilakkuma loves food. In particular he loves dango (Japanese dumplings), mochi (Japanese rice cakes), hotcakes (pancakes), omurice (rice omelette), and custard pudding (again, I’m relating to him!). His hobbies include sleeping (you laugh, but many Japanese will class this as a hobby), lying around, watching TV, listening to music and soaking in onsen (hot springs).
Rilakkuma has two best friend which you will often see him with:
When I worked in Nagoya two of my colleagues were crazy about Rilakkuma and we always compared notes about the new collections and special offers. As there were three of us, and our shapes were strangely appropriate, we each took on one of the characters as our own. I was Rilakkuma, of course!
For those of you like me, stuck in the UK with no immediate access to Rilakkuma, you might want to check out this online Rilakkuma store: Rilakkuma UK. I can’t see anything on the site that says they are an “official” Rilakkuma store, but the goods all look genuine and they have a pretty good range (the prices aren’t bad either). Of course, there are lots of online shops selling Rilakkuma goods both in the UK and abroad. If you prefer something a little more quirky than cute, you might want to check out White Rabbit Press who sell something a little more unusual… Rilakkuma condoms!
I told you Rilakkuma wasn’t just for kids! 😉
Rilakkuma (リラックマ) ends with ま (ma), so next week I will be looking for a noun beginning with “ma” (AGAIN!). If you have any suggestions, please leave them below and I’ll give you a mention next week! And, don’t forget, no words ending in ん! (^_^)v