Japan's New Era 'lighty Salted': Rush Begins To Cash In On Reiwa

Japan's new era 'lighty salted': Rush begins to cash in on Reiwa

The start of the new era is still a month away, but businesses are already jumping aboard the "Reiwa" bandwagon with new products, including candies, potato chips, chopsticks and a board game, to capitalize on consumers' celebratory mood.

Within minutes after the April 1 announcement of a new era name, confectioners started kneading and pulling sugary dough to hand-craft a commemorative version of "Kintaro ame" candies at Kintaroame Honten in Tokyo's Taito Ward.

"We created the candies to celebrate and welcome the new era," said Akio Watanabe, 50, sixth-generation president of the traditional confectioner established in the early Meiji Era (1868-1912). "I hope Reiwa becomes an era filled with a lot of positive news."

Kintaro ame is a traditional hard candy, shaped in cylinders first and cut into pieces. Each slice of the candy shows the face of Kintaro, a heroic boy from a Japanese folk tale, or other figures and imagery.

The commemorative candies show, instead, the two kanji characters that read Reiwa.

The veteran confectioners, looking at a drawing for the design made immediately after the announcement, assembled 50 parts colored in brown and white to sculpt the kanji. They then wrapped the kanji in auspicious red-and-white candy dough, and rolled it out long and thin to produce the gently textured sweets.

The size of the kanji varies piece by piece.

"Our candies are kneaded by hand, so every candy’s section looks slightly different. I hope people enjoy that, too," Watanabe said of the new product, which is on sale starting at 230 yen ($2.06) without tax for 10 candies.

Tomy Co., a leading toy manufacturer, unveiled the board game Jinsei Game Plus Reiwa Version in Tokyo’s Shibuya district just three hours after the announcement of the new era name.

The company immediately printed Reiwa stickers, put them on packages prepared ahead of time, and gave them away to 100 pre-selected lucky winners of a lottery.

In the conventional rules of the board game, players are ranked by the amount of money they possess. In the Reiwa version, however, players compete over the number of "followers" that each has on social networking sites.

The game will be available for general sale in June with a suggested retail price of 3,980 yen, not including tax.

Jinsei Game, a Japanese version of the U.S.-born Game of Life, has incorporated changes reflecting the times over the years, and this feature has become a part of the popular board game’s big appeal.

Activities such as "Stock up with my favorite sake bottles before the consumption tax is adopted" were part of the version created to usher in the Heisei Era in 1989.

Phrases such as "Artificial intelligence (AI) idols are extremely popular" are included in the Reiwa version, which will be the 64th installment of the game.

Major flea market app Mercari made 500 T-shirts bearing the freshly printed kanji for Reiwa drawn by calligrapher Ryo Fuuka. The simple shirts were quickly snatched up from a tent Mercari set up near the capital’s Shibuya Station.

"We wanted to celebrate the new era instantaneously at a real place," said a Mercari marketing representative.

Cutlery manufacturer Kai Corp. started accepting online orders on April 1 for a new commemorative model of the regular kitchen knife, which features the new era name on the blade.

The Shinjuku Takashimaya department store launched a pair of matching chopsticks with chopstick stands with Reiwa engraved on them. They are packaged in a special box made of paulownia wood and sell for 5,400 yen, including tax.

Calbee Inc. will introduce a new flavor of potato chips it says are, "The first potato chips of the new era, lightly salted," which features Reiwa in a large font on the bag.

The snack will hit Lawson Inc. convenience stores nationwide, starting on May 1, when the new era begins. The price of an 88-gram package is set at 151 yen, tax included, to commemorate the launch date in year one of Reiwa.

The era change has had an impact on many other businesses, forcing them to engage in less glamorous but necessary work to make adjustments.

Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co., which uses the Japanese calendar for contract documents and notices for clients, started preparations about a year and a half ago to revamp the system that manages the data of its 7 million clients.

The company had used a made-up name each time it ran a test. Now, with the new era name established, the employees conducted their first test typing in Reiwa.

Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), offered high praise for Reiwa, saying, "It is a fitting name for an era in which Japan embarks on a new path."