Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Rurouni Kenshin, Doraemon, Studio Ghibli anime. These are definitely very popular to the rest of the world not only for the kids but us adults as well. But there’s only one anime that young Japanese children from aged 0 to 12 would yell when asked what their favorite is – ANPANMAN!
Created by Takashi Yanase, Anpanman started out as a manga (comic book) in 1968 and was adapted as a television series from 1988. The anime was hailed as a Guinness World Record Holder for having the most number of characters in an animation series with 1,768 characters as of June 2009. The main character Anpanman has anpan/red bean bun for a head. The main villain of the series, Baikinman (baikin means bacteria in Japanese), who loves to play tricks and mischief (or steal food) in the community most often aims for Anpanman’s head using water or dirt to make Anpanman weak. Word is then sent out to Uncle Jam (Jam Ojisan) for him to make a new head for Anpanman which then revives Anpanman’s strength and power.
The characters are simply drawn and are representations of food. The series started out with bread-associated characters: Curry Pan Man (head filled with red hot curry), Shoku Pan Man (Shoku means white loaf bread in Japanese), Melon Panna-chan (Melon Pan). But the characters are so varied and diversified that there’s even Yakisoba Man, Hamburger Kid, Omusubi Man (Rice Ball Man, or to be technically correct, Rice Triangle Man). Where at times most parents find it very difficult to make their kids eat, the adorable Anpanman characters were actually a brilliant idea, to make the kids be more passionate for food.
There are several Anpanman Museums scattered around Japan. For the Kanto region, the Anpanman Museum and Children’s Mall is located in Minato Mirai, Yokohama which is accessible either from Tobe Station (Keikyu), Takashimacho Station (Subway), Minato Mirai Station (Minato Mirai Line) or Sakuragicho Station (JR Line – farthest station among the four).
True to the name, the place has a mall where you can find practically any imaginable kiddie merchandise you can think of. The place has a salon/barber shop too as well as a bookstore (selling nothing else but Anpanman books of course) and an Uncle Jam Bakery selling uber cute pan.
Stairway to Uncle Jam’s 2nd floor café. See the long queue? That’s not long enough considering the usual queue they have.
Dokinchan and Baikinman. They are antagonists sure, but they also look so adorable! Not adorable in real life though, especially when they refuse to leave your bathroom floor and wall. Dokinchan (pink one) is strawberry cream-filled whilst Baikinman is chocolate with blueberry filling.
Uncle Jam’s café has a special anko (red bean) café latte. A must-taste. The cheese soft biscuits (bone-shaped) comes as “sah-bisu” (service), meaning “on the house” and for free.
The 3-floored museum per se do have paintings of some of the most famous Anpanman characters on one section of the 2nd level. However for the most part, the museum offers different yet fun sensory experience for young kids to be “with” Anpanman and the other characters. Entrance fees are at 1500yen each, child or adult and comes with a seasonal memorabilia for each kid.
Yet the mall itself though is already much of a sensory experience just by freely roaming around and watching out for these interesting tileworks.
Looking for the Anpanman Museum in Yokohama can take quite a walk (8 minutes from nearest Tobe Station or Takashimacho Station) and you’d probably be daunted with all the train structures and parking lots in the vicinity. But do go and look for it. As there’s a guaranteed treasure chest for your young kid in here.