Japan is far away from Denmark.You can’t – almost – get any further away. As a child I always wondered why the Japanese didn’t fall of the face of the earth; I imagined that they must be standing with their heads down on the other side of earth – because clearly my head was up.
In many ways Japan is far away from Denmark and Danish culture. Just think about language, food, behavior etc. So do we have anything in common at all?
Well yes, we do! A girl called Irma!
For several years the Japanese has been in love with Irma. It has been reported how tourists ask for the local Irma-stores when visiting Copenhagen – and how they are buying stuff with her image on. Especially canvas totes.
Irma (called the Irma-girl or Irma-pigen in Danish) is an icon in Danish marketing and something that is regarded almost like national heritage i Denmark. She is the mascot of the supermarket chain Irma, that has anorganic focus and specializes in high quality products.
Irma is 108 years old and has been re-designed to her current look several times during her life.
And now here in November 2015 the Irma chain is making a promotion in Japan selling Irma and Irma-girl-accessories.
But if the Japanese are so different from us, why do they love our Irma?
When you visit Japan you can’t help noticing that they are crazy about characters – especially brand characters. Much more than we are used to in Denmark. It seems like every region, bigger city, tourist attraction has a mascot (which is a concept called yuru-chara) but also food brands, restaurants and many many products in general has a brand character.
The concept of kawaii (= cute) is japanese. They are experts in cuteness and are celebrating the childish and youthful.
A common image in Japanese anime culture and cosplay is the schoolgirl look.
And the Japanese love to wear these cute characters – so accessoires (teddy bears, prints, pins etc) are big business is Japan.
Japanese also celebrate classic minimalistic Scandinavian design – they for example adore Danish furniture design. Scandinavian design and classic Japanese design has very much in common in the formal style language.
Japanese love Irma because:
Irma is a young girl. She is innocent, a bit shy, and looking away from us.
Irma is stylish; she is simple, but elegant. She is classic in her colours and her clothes – without being old fashioned. Irma is Scandinavian in her style.
And you can buy totes, biscuit tins etc (japanese love sweet stuff) with her image on.
She is everything a Japanese girl could dream of.