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As part of our quest to get paid for eating as many desserts as possible, we recently shared our impressions of the Suica Penguin cake, modeled after the popular mascot for JR East’s prepaid IC card train pass system, Suica.

But sometimes loveable mass transit mascots are like hardcore gangster rappers, and it turns out the Suica Penguin has a cross-country rival, in the form of Ico-chan, the spokes-platypus for JR West’s ICOCA train pass system. Not wanting to be shown up by the Suica Penguin’s foray into the world of cake, the only thing for Ico-chan to do was to transform himself into a tasty treat, too.

Ico-chan has a solid fan base, and aside from appearing on posters for JR trains and services, he’s got the standard plethora of stuffed animals, key chains, and other assorted merchandise befitting a cute character of his stature in Japan. As part of the 10th anniversary of the ICOCA service, the platypus’ handlers decided to do something special.

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Among the many ventures the JR group has beyond trains are a number of hotels, with its Granvia marque representing its luxury division. Like any upscale hotel in Japan, the Granvia Osaka has an on-site bakery, and in honor of Ico-chan’s decade on the job, they’ve created the Ico-chan bread you see here.

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There are only two places you can purchase the Ico-chan bread, and they’re both inside the Granvia Osaka. Its Lobby Lounge and Café Ripple offer the bread for 160 yen (US$1.60).

The bread itself is a cutely shaped version of the Japanese bakery staple called melon bread. It’s usually shaped in a half-sphere, with a fluffy core of soft bread and a sweet, ever so slightly crispy outer layer. Once you get over the initial disappointment that it neither contains nor tastes anything like melon, it’s undeniably delicious.

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The Ico-chan bread gets full marks for design. The tip of the beak is browned just enough to offset it from the rest of the face, and the two lines of chocolate used for his just barely open eyes perfectly capture the sleepy, innocent look of the character’s illustrations.

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Some lower quality melon bread can be a little dry, but that wasn’t a problem here. The Granvia’s was moist, with just the right amount of sugar dusted on top. While we can’t say we were floored by the flavor, it tasted just how melon bread is supposed to taste, and is of exactly the quality you’d expect from the bakery of a high-class hotel.

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We were a little disappointed our Ico-chan bread didn’t come in any kind of special package like these sorts of food/character crossover promotions in Japan usually do. Still, there’s something to be said for the surreal comedic effect of Ico-chan’s disarming, half-asleep expression wrapped in a bag featuring the logo of a fancy establishment like the Granvia.

▼ Plus the hotel logo makes it look like he’s wearing a little tiara.

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As expected, the perfect Japanese marketing storm of cuteness, sweets, and limited availability has made the bread a huge hit. On our reporter’s first attempt to pick up some of these treats, she rolled into the hotel one morning, only to find the entire batch for the day already sold out. Not wanting to repeat her mistake, she asked about reserving a few, and was told she could, but that there was a two-day backlog to fill orders.

Still, it was worth the wait to get our hands on the cute little guy. As a word of caution for anyone planning to wait until the hype dies down before trying to score some Ico-chan bread, it’s only available until August 31, so if you’re interested, act fast and fight those crowds. Otherwise you might be stuck waiting another 10 years for his 20th anniversary celebration.

Restaurant Information:
Lobby Lounge and Café Ripple
Hotel Granvia Osaka, 1st floor
3-1-1 Umeda, Kita-ku
Osaka 530-0001
Telephone: 06-6344-1235

Photos: RocketNews24
Related: Hotel Granvia Osaka
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