Any outsider who has ever scratched the surface of Japan and it’s culture, particularly modern pop culture, will no doubt have come across some kind of bizarre, unusual or unique facet that has left them wondering WTF???
The other day I had to catch a train from Matsuyama to Uwajima and as we were running ahead of time, we arrived at the station 2 hours before the train we were due to catch was scheduled in the hope we could get an earlier train. We were in luck – not only could we get an earlier train, it was a SPECIAL train. It was ANPANMAN’s Train!! WTF??? And who the hell is Anpanman? Well I was about to find out as Anpanman’s train, with “Creampanda GO!” written across the front end pulled into the station.
Japan is big on Anime, a stylised from of animated cartoons, and Anpanman, apparently, is a hugely popular Anime character. Japan seems to have a cartoon character for everything. Cartoon characters appear on public service notices about smoking or at pedestrian crossings. Museums and other public spaces have cartoon characters on their signs giving directions. So why not have a train dedicated to one of the most popular of all – Anpanman! The train was fully decorated with cartoon depictions of Anpanman and friends; such as CurryPanMan (yep believe it), Melonpana, and wait for it, BreadHeadMan! Filipinos and others reading this will have recognised “pan” as a type of bread roll, and in Japan “Anpan” is a bread roll filled with sweet bean paste. So CurryPanMan and Melonpana are Curry and Melon filled bread respectively. And good old BreadHeadMan? Well he’s just a slice of boring old white bread. As well as these pictorial depictions, the announcements on the train were recorded in Anpanman’s voice, so Anpanman himself announced the next station and told us to have a nice day. Hell, I wouldn't have been surprised if I went up to the drivers compartment and found a giant Ampanman was actually driving the bloody train!
Anpanman’s Arch Nemesis: Baikinman, which literally translates as Germ Man, but in English versions he was called MeanyMan! He has a weakness to soap, which shrinks him to the size of a fly. He constructs machines and thinks of intricate plans to counteract Anpanman's strength.
You could in fact dedicate a whole blog to Weird Japan (there are several out there), and when it comes to weird Japanese food once again you could dedicate the whole blog to that subject alone. Today I came across something I had never seen before and to me sums up Japanese weirdness – chocolate coated potato chips. The premier manufacturer of this strange combination of foods is Japanese chocolatier Royce’ Confect of Hokkaido. Now at the moment I am at the almost opposite end of the country to where these chocolate potato chips are made, but do to a centuries old trade relationship, due to Shogun Lords from Hokkaido and the the Uwajima area once being related, Royce’ products are heavily marketed and sold here in Uwajima.
I have to say they were an interesting flavour combination. I won’t be racing back to buy another packet, but it was a positive flavour experience none the less.
IT seems every part of modern Japanese society has some kind of little quirky thing to remind us outsiders to go WTF????
When it comes to Bizarre Japan, this barely even opens the can of worms………
View Anpanman Express Matsuyama to Uwajima in a larger map
Anpanman Train Route from Matsuyama to Uwajima (the Blue Line)