April 11, 2010

Who's My Buddy?

It's time to admit it: I kinda have a thing for Kewpie dolls. Not a big thing, but a thing.

They're cute and they've always been there in the  pop culture background. 

If you don't know what they are, start here.

My first Kewpie (probably a Kewpie knockoff) was a tiny bisque doll that I found while digging in the back yard.

My second was found in our house, shortly after we moved in. When I looked into one of the door chimes to see why one of them sounded muffled when the doorbell rang, I found a small Kewpie stuck inside of it.

Then came Tarako. A group of us fell in love with a Kewpie prize in an arcade game in Kobe, and spent an unreasonable amount of cash trying to win what I dubbed "the clip-on baby". I proudly wore mine in my hair that night. Our host told me that she was called Tarako-chan. She was currently starring in television commercials for Kewpie Brand tarako (cod roe) pasta sauce.

At Tokyu Hands that week I bought a Tarako head costume and wore it on the subway. Everywhere I went, people sang the commercial jingle to me.

On my last day in Kobe I had an urgent need from the pharmacy. I remembered that there was a grocery store a few floors below our hotel, so I went downstairs in search of it. I ended up finding an antiques mall, and one of the vendors had an entire display of vintage Kewpies. I had the money, but couldn't find anyone in the entire mall to sell any to me. My original need was urgent, so I left. I still dream about that antique mall.
You know the rest. Kaohsiung was awash in Kewpies. My Sonny Angel Kewpie in a mahjongg tile and Kewpie with a bonnet made of corn bring the current count of Kewpies to three. I have a few more mystery boxes of Sonny Angel Vegetable Series Kewpies from Kaohsiung, but can't bring myself to open them just yet.

Just as I was thinking of writing this the other day, mrguy and I watched the end of Kurasawa's Stray Dog the other night. In one scene, Inspector Sato sees a Kewpie sitting on a banister in an apartment house he's about to leave. He picks it up, smiles, and sets it back down.

Where will Kewpie be next?

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