Blasting an early ’90s J-pop song on repeat for a week straight might sound like a dubious military tactic. But Dole is just doing it to give its bananas a little extra pep for the Tokyo Marathon.
A variety of banana called Lakatan will arrive green from the Philippines and then be ripened for eight days in a storage facility after arrival in the Tokyo area. Various companies in Japan have experimented with giving their foods and beverages a bit of culture by letting them mature to Mozart, with “Mozart bananas” getting the most attention. While the Mozart pieces were chosen for frequency profiles that are reported to increase taste quality, the music for the marathon bananas was chosen a bit less scientifically: Dole asked former marathon runners via Twitter what songs they’d most like to hear at different points in the race. The inspirational song “Makenaide! (Don’t Give Up!)” by Zard was the hands-down winner, so that’s what the bananas are being serenaded with, 24 hours a day, for the eight days leading up to the marathon.
Some 78,000 bananas will be given out throughout the race to the 32,000 marathon runners at four spots along the 42.2-km route. The soundness of the science behind the singing seems to be a minor point. The company alludes to it only by having a slightly skeptical “Chief Quality Officer Alberto” of the plantation say in the promotional video clip that he “heard somewhere that playing music for the fruit increases the sugar content . . . They’re nutritious either way, so why not give it a shot.”
With or without music, the Lakatan bananas have about twice the citric acid as the more commonly eaten Cavendish variety. Citric acid is popular as a diet and sports nutrition ingredient in Japan, and these little guys will continue to be sold as “sports bananas” once the race is over. They’re quite a bit smaller than the bananas usually sold in Japan, with a slightly tarter taste and denser, slightly orangey flesh. They’ll be available in grocery stores for about ¥300 a bunch, and sports shops will also be selling them experimentally for the month after the marathon.
Dentsu, Young & Rubicam is the PR company behind the marathon campaign, as well as those memorable spots with Shingo Katori sprouting bananas from his face. Just us, but we find the music thing a lot less disturbing.