1999 Zodiac Animal, Rabbits Are the Rage
May 28, 1999
Miffy decorates some of the hottest products of the year. (Dick Bruna Books; published in Japan by Fukuinkan Shoten.)
Japan, along with many other Asian countries, has long had a custom of assigning an animal to each year on a 12-year cycle. Perhaps because 1999 is the year of the rabbit, this long-eared creature has become the center of loving attention in Japan.
Bunny Characters Galore
Characters born in Japan are rising up to Miffy's challenge. My Melody, a bunny depicted as wearing a red hood shaped to fit its ears, was created by Japanese toy maker Sanrio Co. back in 1974. Its popularity has skyrocketed recently, especially among middle- and high-school girls. According to a bus company operating in Tokyo and Saitama Prefectures with several buses decorated with images of My Melody in its fleet, "there are high-schoolers who will wait for a later bus just to get on the My Melody bus." What is more, the company sold an amazing 20,000 prepaid fare cards with My Melody images in the first month they were available.
The British-born Peter Rabbit, a creation of Beatrix Potter, is also as popular as ever. All of these characters are depicted as friendly-looking creatures that warm people's hearts, and this seems to be the secret of their popularity.
The Real Stuff, Too
Shops selling only rabbit-related items and Websites set up by bunny lovers, where people can boast about their pets and exchange information, have also appeared. A commemorative postal stamp that went on sale in April 1999, moreover, featured a Japanese-style painting by celebrated artist Insho Domoto (1891-1975) titled "Usagi haruno ni asobu" (Rabbits Play in a Spring Field).
The bunny craze, it appears, will stay on a roll for some time to come.
Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.