Local businesses could have turned to Buddhism or Christianity to boost the profile of the western Tokyo city of Tachikawa, but instead they have taken a more demonic approach.
An animated adaptation of “Saint Young Men,” a popular manga series about Gautama Buddha and Jesus Christ living together as roommates in a cheap apartment in Tachikawa, hit cinemas nationwide in May.
Hoping to cash in on the opportunity, a Japanese confectionery shop is offering sweet pancakes branded with an “oni” demon character, which is based on the design of a playground slide in a city park that is featured in the manga. An oni-themed cellphone charm produced five years ago is also proving a consistent seller.
“Saint Young Men” follows how the founders of Buddhism and Christianity spend their daily lives as they make “miracles.”
The original manga series by Hikaru Nakamura has been running in Kodansha Ltd.’s Morning 2 comic magazine since 2007.
Toshio Ochiai, 51, who operates Yanase confectionery store in the city’s Nishikicho area, came up with the idea of making and selling “onidora” pancakes.
He created the sweet in tribute to Nishiki Daini Koen park, commonly known as Oni Koen, with its “oni” playground slide, which is located near the shop.
Ochiai decided to develop the new product when the production of the animated feature adaptation was announced.
“I wanted to draw more people to the shopping streets in the area,” he said.
It was around the end of last year when he chose the special pancakes because they can be kept a long time. He made a branding iron in the shape of an oni to burn the mark into “dorayaki” pancakes filled with bean paste with chestnuts–hot-selling items at Yanase–to sell them at 200 yen ($2) in March. He sells between 20 and 30 a day, according to Ochiai.
Ochiai, who is to become the president of the Nishiki shopping street promotion association, said, “I’d be pleased if other shops develop products with the oni motif.”
Ochiai’s design was also inspired in part by a previously successful oni-themed item. In 2008, the Tachikawa Bureau of Tourism, in collaboration with city officials, local business operators and other parties, produced 1,000 Oni Koen Strap cellphone charms. They distributed the phone charms at events and other occasions.
But even after the bureau ran out of stock, people continued asking for the charm, said Mitsuaki Iwashita, 55, who runs a real estate rental business on the shopping street. He requested that the manufacturer produce more.
The phone charms are now sold for 500 yen each at Yanase and elsewhere. About 100 are sold every month, according to Iwashita.
“With the release of the movie, I want to promote the city coupled with the Oni Koen,” he said.
The Cinema City cinema complex in the city’s Akebonocho area, which shows the animated movie, is also expecting an increase in audience numbers.