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I’ll be honest. When I first saw pictures of the new key chain/cell phone strap that’s become a big seller in Aomori Prefecture, my first thought was, “Wow, that looks like a turd.” The truth is actually a few levels less disgusting, as that brown, lumpy cylinder isn’t a stool sample, but actually a sea cucumber.

However, the truth behind that truth takes things a step back towards gross. When I said the strap is “actually a sea cucumber,” I mean that literally, as that’s really the body of the slug-like marine animal.

The odd little trinket is available at souvenir shops throughout Aomori Prefecture, located at the northern tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu. The town of Yokohamamachi seems to be the epicenter of the sea cucumber strap boom, though. 1,000 yen (US$9.20) is the going rate, which makes the charms a little more expensive than the average strap, but still an attractive option if you’re looking to attach an unattractive ocean creature to your personal belongings.

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Sea cucumber straps are the brainchild of tourism merchandising organization Aspam. Each is made from the body of a sea cucumber which is first dried, shrinking it to about half its normal size. Next, it’s wrapped in a laminated coating, sometimes with coloring added.

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▼ If you’re truly fashion-conscious, you’ll want to get a variety of shades to coordinate with the rest of your accessories for the day.

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So why did Aspam choose this particular muse? Well, while it’s not the most common menu item in Japan, there are gourmands who feel sea cucumbers make for great eating. The squirmy echinoderms are especially prized by diners in Aomori, and with the line between weird and cute often being blurry in Japan, Aspam decided to take a chance on sea cucumber straps.

Due to their unorthodox materials, the straps range from two to four centimeters (0.8 to 1.6 inches) in length, and there’s also a lot of variation in shape from one to the next. Customers don’t seem to be too picky about the exact specifications, though, as they’ve been snapping up the straps as soon as stores get them in stock. Shops have even been posting when they’ll be receiving new shipments on their websites, and imposing limits as to how may any one customer can buy.

One word of caution, though: While sea cucumbers themselves are ordinarily edible, the sea cucumber straps are not. So don’t go unpeeling one for a snack, no matter how hungry you get, because they won’t supply you with usable nutrients.

They will, however, give you a very unique conversation starter and/or the ability to gross out everyone in arm’s length.

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Source: Naver Matome
Top image: Twitter
Insert images: Twitter, FC2, Goo, Twitter (2)