My last stop before leaving Kochi City was a visit to the Anpanman Museum.
In retrospect, I don't know exactly why I visited. I can't call myself a fan of Anpanman. I also can't call myself eight years old. Perhaps it was my love of popular culture that brought me there.
For those unfamiliar, Anpanman is a fictional children's superhero here in Japan. He is unique in that his head is made from "anpan", a baked roll filled with red bean jam. He has various friends and enemies, almost all of whom sport heads modeled after Japanese baked goods.
Here's a quick Japanese lesson. 90% of the characters are named using the following structure; ____ + pan ("bread") + man ("man"). Now you can create names of your own.
Like, "kabi+pan+man", which means Moldy Bread Man. HA!
Anpanman began as a comic, before being adapted into a cartoon for children. The television show is still immensely popular and has been broadcast continually for over 20 years now. In fact, Anpanman is reported to be the most popular fictional character in Japan with children aged 0 ~ 12.
In case you're wondering about the Shikoku connection, Anpanman's creator, Takashi Yanase, was born here in Kochi Prefecture. There is also a special Anpanman themed JR train that runs here in Matsuyama. I unintentionally rode it once. It was maddeningly cute.
We rode to the museum in a special Anpanman bus (why not?). Given the age demographic, the seats were understandably packed with googly eyed Japanese toddlers and their parents or legal guardians.
The grandmother to my left enjoyed repeating the word "Anpanman" ad nauseam. Since the interior of the bus was decorated head-to-toe with images of the hero, she had no shortage of things to point at and say, "looooook Anpanpan!" as her oblivious grandson dribbled spit on his shirt.
The museum itself was definitely geared towards the younger crowd. There was an Anpanman play place, as well as various computer terminals with games for children. Most of the exhibit space was dedicated to original art and wall hangings from Yanase.
I felt that the museum gift shop lacked one crucial item. They need to start baking actual edible anpan decorated like the character. I mean, what kid wouldn't love devouring the face of their hero?