Licca-chan, aka ‘Japan’s Barbie’, is casting a spell on adults

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Ryuko Baba, a 33-year-old graphic designer, speaks in front of her Licca-chan collection.  The doll's appeal spans all ages.
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Ryuko Baba, a 33-year-old graphic designer, speaks in front of her Licca-chan collection. The appeal of dolls is spreading across all ages Photo credit: AFP

With her wide eyes and slow smile, Licca-chan is known as “Japan’s Barbie”. And its appeal spans all ages, with adults turning the doll into a social media superstar.

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One fan posts videos of plastic puppets to more than a million Instagram followers, while others painstakingly create tiny outfits and share photos from their fashion shoots.

Minami Murayama, a 34-year-old housewife who once aspired to become a fashion designer, said AFP that his “dream has come true a sixth of the size” thanks to Licca-chan.

“If I see a stylish woman wearing something that I couldn’t wear because of my age or body size, Licca-chan can still wear it and look good,” said Murayama, who is approx. Owns 40 dolls and over 1000 handmade. dress for them.

Licca-chan has been a favorite of Japanese children since appearing in toy stores in 1967, and manufacturer Takara Tomy has sold more than 60 million of them. The company’s official biography shows her as an 11-year-old girl with a Japanese designer mother and a French musician father.

At 22 cm (8.5 in) tall, she is shorter and less glamorous than Barbie, described by Murayama as “a supermodel” compared to Licca-chan’s more “identifiable” appearance.

Mariama spends hours making clothes for her dolls and backing denim, which her husband helps her bleach and tear to achieve a “distressed” look. He has created a series of intricate sets using small props to decorate small cafes and fashion studios.

“I would like to do many different things, like running a cafe or bakery or becoming a fashion designer,” she said. “Of course, there’s no way I can do it all in real life, but I can do it all in the doll world.”

‘she makes mistakes’

Murayama is a fan of a popular social media channel whose name translates to “The Real Life of Lika Chan”.

It features spoken-word videos of the doll and images of the doll in situations from around the world, such as struggling with an overfilled garbage bag or relaxing at home in pajamas.

The channel offers an antidote to the idealized lives people present online, said its creator, who has more than a million followers on Instagram but prefers to remain anonymous so his videos can get him in trouble at work. Do not put

“In Licca-chan’s real life, Licca-chan doesn’t live a glamorous life – she lives a real life in a dirty room and she makes mistakes,” he explained. AFP.

“If you show people that even someone like Laka Chan lives like that, it gives them the courage to be comfortable with themselves.”

Takara Tomy isn’t keen on “Licca-chan’s Real Life”, saying that the doll in the videos has “a different worldview” than her very conservative official image.

But the channel has struck a chord with Licca-chan’s adult fans, who form an online community and swap home clothes and accessories.

Ryoko Baba, a 33-year-old graphic designer, used to play with Licca-chan as a child and rekindled her interest about two years ago to relieve stress. She believes that the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have given people more time to spend at home with their hobbies and less opportunity to go out.

“When you want to go out but you can’t, you have very few opportunities to buy new clothes,” she said. Many people have “fulfilled that desire by making dolls instead,” said Baba, who often recreates clothes from her own wardrobe to dress dozens of her dolls.

Takara Tomy is aware of its growing adult fan base and has launched a “stylish doll collection” aimed at older consumers.

Maruyama said that in Japan there are “a lot of grown-up people who play with children’s toys” where there is “really no separation” between the two, train set collectors being one example.

Baba, who describes Licca-chan as a “national icon,” believes the doll’s appeal will only grow.

“Recently I’ve seen a lot of comments from people who say they didn’t know this world existed.” “I hope I can help spread the word.”

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