Nintendo, Suntory, Mitsubishi… what do they all have in common? Well, they’re all companies established during the Meiji period (1868 – 1912) that are still thriving today. Call it nepotism if you like, but companies are often handed down from father to son, which is why Japan has more old companies than anywhere else in the world.

Confectionery company Asadaame is another one of these Meiji-era companies. Established in 1887, they’re still selling candy to this day. And recently an advertisement for their candy was discovered that dates back from those early days – and shows some very different attitudes towards physical standards of attractiveness

Here’s the ad, as discovered by a Twitter user. First, we’ll break down the squiggly, archaic text and describe what it says.

The gorgeous lady on the left is saying: “Thanks to Asadaame, my cough is better and my colour has improved!” The man on the right claims: “Thanks to Asadaame, I’ve gained so much weight I’m unrecognisable!”

…Wait, what?

As the poster of the pic points out, it looks like the Asadaame advertisers of the Meiji period were going for the “our candy makes you sexy” angle. Extra colour in the cheeks is always a good thing, and remember, way back before the days of Photoshop and thigh gaps, we used to WANT to get a little more meat on our bones. Check out these two Western weight-gain ads from around (roughly) the same period:

Aimed towards men – notice how “sex appeal” is the main focus of the ad.


And for women – notice the text that reads: “Gains 11 lbs. New Pep. Now has all the dates she wants.”

Lingnan University

There are clear parallels that can be drawn between the Japanese advert and these two Western ones – they both operate from the assumption that fuller figures = vivacity and attractiveness.

The fact that the guy in the Asadaame ad looks so happy to have gained enough weight to be “unrecognisable” tells us a lot about attitudes towards male attractiveness in the Meiji period. It’s especially interesting to see how this contrasts with currently weight-conscious Japan. Comments written online about the post are also very telling, with several people unable to understand why the lure of gaining weight is supposed to make anyone want to eat the candy:

“You can really tell the difference in the era with that weight-gain angle.”

“Nobody wants to gain weight. Why claim this?”

“You won’t be popular with girls if you get fat…”

“Great, eat this candy and you can be a fatty with nice red cheeks…”

However, some sharp commenters were able to pinpoint the reasoning behind the advertisement’s angle:

“Did fat = rich = popular with girls in those days? Because those guys could afford more food, or something?”

“Lots of people were malnourished and skinny in those days. They would wear baggy clothes to try to hide it. Being big was a sign of wealth.”

“If you had money in those days, you could eat. You could tell who was rich and who wasn’t by how skinny they were.”

Hmm, we guess this just goes to show that attitudes towards beauty and attractiveness have been gradually changing according to the times in Japan, too. With the recently growing appreciation in Japan for “marshmallow girls” and “sausage bread boys“, are we about to see a return to Meiji-era perceptions of attractiveness?

Source: Hamusoku
Image: Twitter @Matuda