Shop selling character squid goods debuts

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

A company in Hakodate, Hokkaido, that developed the squid character Ikaaru Seijin (Man from Planet Ikaaru) has opened an official shop selling related goods, including mobile phone straps and hats in the city.

Hakodate-based Simpleway Co. opened its first shop in the Hakodate Meijikan shopping mall on July 1. The company had been selling Ikaaru Seijin goods via the Internet.

Simpleway came up with the character — based on the idea of an alien squid that came to Earth to conquer it — in 2008, company President Akiko Sakaguchi said.

“Ika” is the Japanese word for squid, and Hakodate handles a large proportion of the nation’s squid catch.

“The character is very silly, so I want many people to laugh at it,” Sakaguchi said. “I hope I can help promote Hakodate in a funny way.”

The city of Hakodate welcomed the character.

“We recognize the official shop as a new Hakodate tourism site, and let (Simpleway) display Ikaaru Seijin at a tourism event. The shop is becoming a part of our tourism promotion,” a city official said.

Hakodate asked Simpleway to create a promotional video, and the company came up with the idea of using caricatures depicting Hakodate landmarks such as Seikan Renrakusen, a ferry connecting Hakodate and Aomori, as a hero, and Ikaaru Seijin as a villain, in 2008, Sakaguchi said.

The company uploaded the first “Ikaaru Seijin” movie in December 2008 onto the video-sharing website YouTube and Nico Nico Douga. The movie now has 15 parts and has logged a total of 1.3 million hits so far, Sakaguchi said.

Simpleway canceled plans to upload a segment on March 20 because footage showing Ikaaru Seijin destroying tourism sites in and around Hakodate was thought to be showing insensitivity toward people whose houses and livelihoods were destroyed by the March 11 tsunami, which hit the Tohoku region.

Simpleway later uploaded a new movie in June in which it toned down the scenes of destruction.