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October-December 2001


She hates arithmetic, but she's good at language, music, and art. She loves eating ice cream. A lot of readers might be thinking, "Hey! That sounds just like me!" But this is actually a description of Licca-chan ("little Licca"), a doll that's very popular among young Japanese girls.

Licca-chan, a fashion doll made of plastic, arrived on the scene 35 years ago, in 1967. Although American Barbie dolls were available in Japan at the time, Licca-chan's cute little face stole the hearts of young Japanese girls. Like today's girls, the girls of 35 years ago must have dreamed of their own futures as they dressed their Licca-chan dolls in bridal gowns and said to themselves, "I'm going to be a bride just like Licca-chan."

Surely one of the secrets behind Licca-chan's popularity is the detailed profile her creators have developed for her.

Licca-chan's full name is Licca Kayama, and her birthday is May 3. She is 11 years old and attends Shirakaba Gakuen elementary school. Her father, Pierre, is a French musician, and her mother, Orie, is a Japanese fashion designer. Licca-chan is 142 centimeters (4 feet 8 inches) tall and weighs 34 kilograms (75 pounds; the actual height of the doll is 21 centimeters, or about 8.3 inches). Licca-chan's favorite books are Anne of Green Gables and A Little Princess, two classics that are popularly read by girls in Japan, and she's also crazy about Doraemon comics.

Licca-chan's hobbies and interests have changed over the years. In the beginning her favorite activity was singing and playing the piano, but later on she discovered window-shopping. And about 15 years ago she got into baking cakes and cookies and started playing tennis.

In 2001, 34 years after the arrival of the original Licca-chan, an adult version of Licca-chan came out. The new doll, which went on the market in November 2001, is an expectant mother dressed in maternity clothes. Known as Konnichiwa Akachan ("Hello Baby"), the mother-to-be has a swollen belly and comes with baby accessories, including a bib, a baby bottle, and a rattle. The doll also comes with a postcard, which the owner mails off. About two weeks later a bunting-wrapped baby doll arrives, accompanied by a mother-and-child health handbook and other items. One of the items is a secret key that the owner can use to detach the mother doll's big belly, instantly restoring Licca-chan to her prepregnancy shape. This mechanism allows the doll's owner to experience the fun of waiting for Licca-chan's baby and then to enjoy the baby after it arrives.

The creators of Licca-chan marked her thirty-fifth anniversary by holding a Licca-chan Festival in Osaka from January 1 to 14, 2002. Almost all of the girls in attendance had their mothers with them. Posing for a picture with her family alongside a life-size Licca-chan doll, one girl commented, "I enjoyed hearing my mother talk about playing with a Licca-chan dollhouse when she was a little girl."

The manufacturer reports having sold 48 million Licca-chan dolls over the past 35 years, and sales of the maternity Licca-chan doll have gotten off to a good start. According to a company spokesperson, "We had set a target of 100,000 units by March, but we reached that target in just a month. We're planning to expand production by 50,000 units."

Licca-chan will no doubt continue to be loved by mothers and daughters for generations to come.

Photo: Licca-chan has been a friend to many generations of Japanese girls. (© TAKARA CO., LTD. 2002)