condoms have a long history in Japan, beginning with the earliest versions which were made from leather (!), tortoise shells (!!) or even horns (!!!)... is this where the expression "are you horny?" came from?
Thankfully, condom technology has advanced to the point where 580 million condoms are sold each year in Japan and competition within the industry is, er, stiff. Indeed, Japan boasts more condoms used per person per year than any other country. To get ahead in the race for safe sex supremacy, Japanese consumers are being treated to innovative market thrusts that are by turns interesting, unusual and downright weird. So, leave that poor turtle alone and come with us (ahem), as we count down The Top 10 Weirdest Japanese
1) Super Big Boy Condoms... to Win, Place or Show!
You know, there is a sort of endearing innocence to the Japanese sensibility that comes through from time to time, and this is one of those times. The earnest marketers at Okamoto seized upon a single, archetypal image to illustrate the boxes of their largest condoms. Yes, it's a horse. A horse, people! Slap a pack of these babies down on the nightstand and you've got yourself a no-win situation: she either runs from the room screaming, or - minutes later - sighs with disappointment. According to Okamoto, "Exceptional cutting of Okamoto condom with absolutely more liberation, this condom is designed for you." Mr. Ed, maybe, but not Mr. Steve. Oh, but there's more: "It also employ a new odour masker technology to cut the irritating smell of condom." Yeah, don't you just hate that? Actually I never get close enough to notice, but I'll take their word for it. For those who want to pony up for a dozen before they saddle up, that'll be $18.40, pardner.
2) "We are all brack people", so can't we all get a wrong?
"I have a (wet) dream!"
What can I say... the "Power BLACK Color Rubber" is so wrong on so many levels, I'm speechless. Heck, the Reverend Jesse Jackson would be left speechless, and that takes some doing. If he sees these condoms he just might cancel Operation PUSH! Seeing this condom package reminded me that Japan is a very strange place indeed. The image of a very black panther and his "you go girlfriend" is enough to make Eldridge Cleaver weep, but it's nothing compared to the copy on the package. On the left we have "Keep it real. Keep on faith. Keep on going. Piece! So cool. Respect!" You tell 'em, Aretha! Then on the right there's "Stay real! WE are all brack people"... Hallelujah! It's like they locked up the package designer in a room with some bad rap records and some bad acid for a week and this was the result.
3) When it comes to Nuts, ask a Squirrel
What would Bullwinkle think?
OK, the fur-bearin' varmints may know about nuts but does that qualify them to advertise condoms? Evidently it does, but the poor critters seem a mite confused: they're using them as rain hats! Or, pardon the phrase, Pith Helmets (I slay me). We assume human users will know better. What I'd like to know is, do the actual condoms really display a smiling squirrel's face?
4) Skins Mobile... for Safe Phone Sex
Over half a billion condoms are sold in Japan each year but it seems the manufacturers still have extra capacity and are looking for new markets to, umm, penetrate. Witness "Skins Mobile", basically condoms for your cell phone. No, they aren't lubricated, so don't get any "hey, guess where I'm calling from!" ideas. Skins Mobile are sold in 3-packs for $6.99 and are thin enough to let sound waves - but not hot-tub waves - pass right through.
5) Grace Condoms, for when Company comes...
Nothing says "Elegance" like latex
Advertisers have tried to give an upscale aura to condoms before, but are we really ready to see a box of them displayed alongside lamps, plants and other household brick-a-brack? Will the boss and his wife (or her hubby) be impressed with your good taste when they arrive for dinner & drinks? If not, could it lead to your dis-grace?
6) I thought Anime Otaku don't get Dates...
But on the off chance a fateful meeting of obsessed otaku-tachi turns into something romantic, whip out your Gundam condoms! Available in 4 different package designs, each featuring a different "condomonster". Gundam condoms (try saying that six times quickly) show that when nerds eventually do it, they do it in style!
7) Designer Condoms by Radical Suzuki
Designer wrappers for wrappers
Is that a Suzuki in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? In the bedroom or in your wallet, count on Tokyo Art Condoms by Radical Suzuki to make a good impression - and not just a circular one. These look so good it seems a shame to rip them open. Not only are the packages appealing, the condoms themselves are attractively tinted and pleasingly flavored in peach, melon and plain. plain?
8) Fe+Male Condoms, for the Gender-ambivalent or the Iron-poor
Okamoto is one of Japan's leading condom manufacturers, so you'd think they'd invest in an English-speaking copyeditor to proofread their new products. These "Fe+Male" condoms are a case in point... are they for males, females, or what?? My wife's multivitamins have "Fe+" on the bottle, so are these condoms iron-enriched as well? And if so, is there a problem with rusting?
9) Candy is Dandy, but Condoms are a Girl's Best Friend
The obvious thing to do, then, is to combine the best attributes of both... but maybe it's best to get your legal department's OK before running off thousands of "Kit Sacks". Sure, have a break... wait a minute, these are condoms! And no, I refuse to make any "Hershey Highway" references, so let's not even go there.
10) Astrology Condoms, for those with Crystal Balls
This cute condom package evokes traditional Japanese themes to create a modern day version of the Floating World. No telling if the actual condoms are styled to resemble the pair of piscine prophylactics on the package - or, for that matter, if they're fish-flavored. Hopefully not, on both counts.