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While consumers may take ownership of certain products for granted, there’s something reaffirming about acquiring a product that’s been designated a hit, and my experiences over the years tell me Japanese aren’t especially different from other nationalities in this regard.

The origin of Japan’s own hit products, however, can be attributed to a specific publication that began ranking them 48 years ago. In 1971, the Nikkei Ryutsu Shimbun, a newly launched thrice-weekly trade publication covering the retail sector and distribution, was looking for a promotional gimmick. Why not, someone suggested, recognize the year’s hit items and rank them using the same type of stylized, hierarchical banzuke (formal list) used in sumo?

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