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I love food with personality. And I have the feeling it loves me back-- especially in Japan.

Working as a character designer, I’m a junkie for Japanese packaging which more than usual sports a happy face, a friendly helper or just an enormous surplus of humour and fun which we boring, sad people of the West never have the nerve or imagination to design or experience.

And it’s a total loss because there are so many more possibilities in Japan to find your own look and identity when launching a new food product-- the borders are so much wider and it’s actually ok to have fun and laugh WITH the food.

Kinoko no Yama (mushroom mountain), Kikori no Kirikabu (tree logger’s turnips/tree stumps) and Every Burger all have this in common. They’re fun, silly and carry the resemblance of chocolate but look like something else than a normal Snickers. And they all come in boxes with silver-foil cases inside to "protect" the contents even further. The Japanese love stuff in boxes-- it’s an opportunity to wrap the food in even more layers of packaging (sorry, Earth).

KINOKO NO YAMA
(Meiji, Japan)

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This is a classic Japanese chocolate brand which you see in most convenience stores. It comes in other flavours like green tea or strawberry (both super artificially tasting), and it even has a sister product shaped as fresh bamboo shots, but this is the original mofo, and it’s actually pretty good.

The box design itself is close to perfect-- it’s how this kind of candy should be presented-- delicious product shot, clear playful text and a perfectly stylized landscape with a storytelling setting that sucks you in and invites you to climb the Mushroom Mountain, visit the small rural houses and go inside for a mushroom feast. I love the colours and the Japanese mountain atmosphere which conveys the actual thing you experience when walking around in the Japanese countryside-- the light, the lush greens and the cuteness of roadsigns.

The mushrooms inside the box are totally adorable with a biscuit stem and a chocolate hat which go well together. The sweetness is slightly over the top (the chocolate is not of highest quality-- probably tons of sugar in there), but it has a crispy crunch and most important of all: they look great on other food!

I sometimes use them for making ice cream dessert mountains which always make the guests laugh.

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Check out the cute little Kinoko website.

KIKORI NO KIRIKABU
(Bourbon, Japan)

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This is funny because you’d clearly think "Oh this is from the same series as Kinoko no Yama"... but ha, its not!! I would actually go so far as to call this a copy product: 1) It consists of chocolate and biscuit; 2) it’s shaped like a plant object; 3) it has hills in the background 4) it even has the ”no” in the title. Shame on you, Bourbon-- dark enemy of Japanese candy factory Meiji!

The packaging is ok, but clearly not as perfect as Kinoko’s. It’s sort of a mess with too many different styles-- shapes with and without outline, hand drawn characters, too much messy text, 3D tree stumps and a general lack of a consistent colour scheme.

But the tree stumps must have tasted ok since the box is empty... I’ve found some pics online to give an impression.

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Kinda cute but a bit grainy... Blah!

EVERY BURGER
(Bourbon, Japan)

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Aha, a brother of the tree stump copy cat!

I like this box though, it reminds me of an American 1970’s burger commercial including a disco soundtrack and a free vinyl 7-inch single for every purchase. The burger itself is completely oblivious to the lack of any greens at all-- it’s white bread, yellow plastic cheese and scorched ground beef - and off we go!

The flip inside shows a pictogram of how the burger is built:

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Biscuit bun, small Goma-seeds on top, semi-sweet chocolate and a cream layer instead of cheese.

Of all three boxes, this is the only one which is still full.

The reason why is when I opened it up I just wasn’t very intrigued by its contents. The outside is so flashy, but the snacks themselves are pretty skanky looking.

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Check them out-- they look really really wrong. And they taste gross.

When living in Japan I noticed never seeing any handicapped people in the streets-- supposedly this is still a taboo in the country so they're hidden away. Yet now I know where they might be: at the Every Burger factory where they fired all the part-time housewives and hired some armless kids instead. I see no other explanation.

Conclusion: Kinoko No Yama for the win. I will keep buying them in the future especially for dessert accessories, and leave the rest alone. And because of its popularity it is available at most Japanese food stores across Earth. Oh, while you’re there, get some real Japanese mushrooms too. They are all delicious!

*Anders is based in Copenhagen where he runs his art studio Venom Yum. He refuses to cook unless he has guests.
Column: Packaging Whore
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4 comments

  • OMG, that kinoko rock band website is hilarious. Damn, the Japanese always think of these types of things first. Your ice-cream landscape is genius. God, if you have a kid, it’s gonna be so into you.

    yoko on

  • Oh, I love kinoko no yama. But I love apollo even more. Last time I went to Japan I spent 3,000 yen in a convenience store just buying chocs and junk food.

    sakura on

  • @Yoko: Yeah if I get a mushroom loving kid like myself it will be a breeze. But what if it likes natto? Talk about generation gap.

    @Kayoko: yes, unfortunately it is true about the handicapped peeps. Another spot on the perfect national Japanese kimono… It will probably change over the next century due to Western influence I hope.

    Anders on

  • Anders- Best line in the post:
    “When living in Japan I noticed never seeing any handicapped people in the streets– supposedly this is still a taboo in the country so they’re hidden away.”

    Hilarious and totally true.

    I actually love Every Burger! Very nostalgic.

    Yoko- It is so appropriate that you refer to Anders’ child as “it”. HAHA.

    kayoko on

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