It keeps getting harder and harder to market a pickled ginger snack these days.
Iwashita Corporation has long been proud of their various snacks as a nutritious alternative to junk food. And among the ones standing tall is their flagship product Iwashita New Ginger, a near 14-inch (35-centimeter) staff of girthy pickled ginger that just begs you to lick or nibble on it.
More so than other produce companies, Iwashita has also been aggressively marketing their line of foods by taking advantage of social networks and the Internet and so have put their name at the forefront of the pickled ginger market in Japan.
They previously ran a photo campaign where fans could place an Iwashita New Ginger on their heads to become Ginger-heads. Then there was the Iwashita New Ginger phone strap that would dangle freely from your smartphone and gingerly slap you in the face while talking on it.
▼ The strap can be used in conjunction with the phone case for double the pleasure.
Last year it was the Iwashita New Ginger penlight which appeared to really ruffle the feathers of the Japanese public. Modeled after a life-sized Iwashtia New Ginger, it also had the ability to light up. It was perfect for finding your keys or guiding children along dark streets at night.
Image: New Ginger Museum
However, even before its initial release, Iwashita received complaints that the pen light was “disgusting” and “should only be sold in adult stores.” In spite of the opposition and partly because it was too late to change the design, president Kazunori Iwashita stuck his guns and released the penlight as is, along with the statement:
“And so we will release it in this state. After all, this penlight is the ideal shape of an Iwashita New Ginger, so why shouldn’t we? If you see something else in these then that’s your own problem. It’s a piece of ginger, people.”
A little over a year later Iwashita has had a change of heart and announced that his company would no longer be selling the Iwashita New Ginger penlight. He explained his decision in a series of tweets.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought and determined that cases where it may be handled maliciously or to create an obscene impression may occur. And also we have become aware of a specific incident where it was used outside of our company as a form of harassment. I’m sorry this is sudden, but as of now consider it discontinued.”
The incident President Iwashita is referring to involved the self-proclaimed “underground sexy idol group” Bed In. It seemed their fans in particular have taken a liking to the Iwashita New Ginger penlight to show their excitement. It is unclear whether any actual allegations of harassment were made, but nevertheless, it was not the intended use of a glowing stick of pickled ginger.
▼ The connection between this racy idol group and ginger still isn’t fully understood.
President Iwashita also thanked those people who appreciated the Iwashita New Ginger penlight for what it is actually supposed to be. He also warned them to be careful when using them as even though they know it’s ginger, other people might misinterpret it as something else.
For those lovers of Iwashita New Ginger who missed the opportunity to buy a penlight of their own, it will still be on display at the New Ginger Museum located in Tochigi Prefecture.
Image: New Ginger Museum
▼ Actually, that’s strange. According to another tweet by President Iwashita, Bed In had previously performed at the New Ginger Museu… Hey, wait a minute. What’s going on in that bottom left picture?
岩下 和了 (@shinshoga) January 02, 2016
Anyway, for the company it’s back to square one in terms of promotion. What product could one possibly make out of a stick of pickled ginger that wouldn’t backfire? A toothpaste dispenser? Necktie?
It’s a difficult question, but one Iwashita will have to conquer to keep their rubbery wands of ginger in minds and mouths of men and women across Japan.