National

Tokyo Skytree celebrates 60th anniversary of iconic fashion doll Barbie's debut

by Masumi Koizumi

Staff Writer

An event marking the 60th year since the debut of iconic fashion doll Barbie kicked off at Tokyo Skytree on Wednesday, showcasing the doll’s history and diversity.

The event, named Barbie Loves Tokyo Skytree Runway, will run through May 6.

At the tower’s Tembo Galleria, a series of colorful dioramas — featuring props such as a birthday cake and a closet — are set up for visitors to take photos. The wall of the Galleria’s Floor 445 corridor is adorned with images of Barbie in different professional uniforms dating back to 1959.

The Floor 450 corridor exhibits an array of Barbie dolls with a variety of hair and eye colors, body shapes and clothes. A limited edition 60th anniversary Barbie is also shown.

A pop-up store has opened in the corridor, selling Barbie products that also feature Tokyo Skytree, like a box of chocolates, plastic folders and hand towels.

Skytree Cafe at Tembo Deck Floor 340 is serving four kinds of Barbie-themed menus. A strawberry milk beverage costs ¥850.

Actress and talk show host Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, seen as the pioneer for women in Japan’s media, was invited to the event on Wednesday as a guest.

Asked for her message to women, she said, “The most important thing in life is to stay healthy.” “And… to stay confident in yourself,” she added.

A one-of-a-kind doll based on the image of Kuroyanagi is among the exhibits.

According to the U.S. toy-maker Mattel Inc.’s unit in Japan, Mattel International, Barbie debuted on March 9, 1959, wearing a black and white striped swimsuit. Sales in Japan began three years later.

The 30-centimeter-tall doll has since mirrored societal changes toward women, representing more diverse demographics.

Barbie has appeared in a variety of skin tones, professions and body shapes. She has had more than 200 careers, ranging from astronaut, journalist, engineer and entrepreneur to president of a country, according to the company.

There were scientist and athlete versions of Barbie even before the U.S. banned discrimination in education and other activities on the basis of sex in 1972. In 1980, the first black and Hispanic Barbies hit the market.

In 2016, Mattel released the doll in three body shapes — curvy, tall, and petite — to better reflect the world girls see around them.

Miho Kobayashi, Mattel International’s branding manager, said the curvy version sells the most. Kobayashi said the company believes “variation” is the key to the dolls’ popularity.

“This version shows better the differences in body shape than the other two,” she said.

Each year, 53 million Barbie dolls are sold. They are available in more than 150 countries.