Cute. In Japan, there's cuteness wherever you look -- Hello Kitty, Tare Panda, The Dog, etc., etc. But from next month to September 2003, Japanese people will be able to glimpse the creativity behind the cuteness of that cuddliest of all cuddlies -- the teddy bear -- when Germany-based Margarete Steiff GmbH celebrates the 100th birthday of its first teddy with an exhibition opening in Tokyo then touring the nation.

Since it first introduced its bears to Japan, Steiff has sold 300,000 of its products here -- making it less surprising that it is throwing such a big birthday party so far away from home. As well, though, Steiff has a special "present" made exclusively for Japan in the shape of "PB28," the oldest surviving antique design, of which just 2,002 will be sold to exhibitiongoers with 35,000 yen to spare.

Steiff's teddy bears, loved by children of all ages the world over, are distinctive, says Toyohiko Sato, a member of the exhibition committee. "First, the material used is mohair, the expensive fur of Angora goats. Second, the teddy bears are jointed, with movable arms and legs. Finally, the shape is quite human, with especially long arms, making it something that fits between pets and family members."