At 40, Licca-chan still a dream doll

by Yo Nakai

Kyodo News

Move over Hello Kitty and Barbie.

Licca-chan the popular dress-up doll is celebrating her 40th anniversary, and at 53 million sold and counting, she is still the “dream and idol for girls.”

In early May, as many as 1,000 children gathered in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district to celebrate the icon’s birthday with their own My Licca-chan dolls.

“I love her big round eyes. Her hair is long, and I enjoy changing her hairstyle,” said a 10-year-old girl from Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture.

Licca-chan is an 11-year-old fifth-grader at Heart Hills Gakuen. Her father is a French musician, and her mother is a Japanese designer. She loves to dress up and is a bit goofy.

She was created in 1967 when Japan was enjoying high economic growth. Licca-chan’s world came with a set including a dining table, bed and other items that helped create a fantasy world for young girls. For many in that generation, it seemed like a lifestyle that only existed in movies.

Her looks and fashion have varied with the times, and Licca-chan is now in her fourth version. Compared with the first, her transformation is amazing.

At the Yokohama Doll Museum, about 1,000 Licca-chans are on special display, the Yokohama Motomachi Licca-chan doll is on limited sale. She carries a bag from the famous Kitamura shop that originated in Yokohama and a loaf of French bread from Yokohama’s Pompadour bakery.

The original shipment sold out within three days of being put on sale, and the museum had to hastily arrange an increase in production. The museum is still being flooded with inquiries and orders.

“When my daughters were small, I could not buy many spare clothes (for the dolls),” said a housewife from Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, who was visiting the museum. “So I made everything from skirts to vests and socks.”

Now that her two daughters are in their 20s, “I will buy a Motomachi Licca-chan for myself this time.”

According to Takaratomy Co., the doll’s maker, sales nowadays are half what they were during the peak of about 1 million a year due to the declining birthrate and the ascendancy of home video games.

But psychiatrist Rika Kayama, who has written a book titled “Licca-chan’s Complex,” said, “Even now, Licca-chan is continuing to express girls’ longings and desires.”