Transplanting yourself into another country can help you learn the language, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll absorb every bit of the culture. This image is a perfect example of that: Your understanding will depend entirely on how familiar you are with Japanese culture and history. So, we’ve broken this package down into five degrees of cultural awareness! And don’t feel bad if you don’t “get it,” because quite a few Japanese people were lost as well.

The image was tweeted by David Shimamoto after he found it on the Facebook page of an American who had returned from a trip to Japan. They asked if anyone could decipher the apparent instructions written on this package and got little useful knowledge in return.

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Anyone who has spent even a brief time in Japan will probably recognize what the first picture is at least.


Printed at the top next to the number 1 is two pieces of castella. This is plain sponge cake introduced by the Portuguese about 500 years ago, hence the exotic sounding name. As far as snacks go it’s hardly mind-blowing but it is a firmly established sweet in Japanese culture and can be found nearly everywhere.


Let’s pass over number 2 for the moment because that is by far the most difficult. At the end of this rebus is a clock pointing to 3:00. Although its an old-fashioned custom that’s not really adhered to any more, this time was – for a while – widely regarded snack time in Japan, and a perfect time for Castella if there ever was one.


Even if not familiar with the company, those versed in kanji can read Bunmeido in the bottom corner of the package. This cake maker has been serving castella for over 100 years, with their first shop in Nagasaki City.

More than a few older Japanese people would be familiar with the name thanks to their television commercials famous for their cute and catchy jingles. Among those people, the ones truly in-the-know will remember exactly what the images on this package represent.


Perhaps the most famous of the Bunmeido commercials was one from 1962 in which five puppets dance the can-can to the overture from Orpheus in the Underworld. The lyrics of this version of the song in both Japanese and English go a little something like this.

Knowing that, this pack of cake should be very clear: It’s a pictorial representation of the lyrics! However, there still remains the mystery of why the telephone is number 2.


This one stumped all but a few Japanese people as well. There are a few hints though. That telephone on the package looks awfully old with its rotary dial and we already told you that this company goes back over a century.

Have you ever heard the old joke, “Your mama’s so old, her social security number is ‘5?'” Well, Bunmeido is so old, their phone number is “2.” Or at least it was as, thanks to improvements to infrastructure and technology, the number has since expanded, but that first shop in Nagasaki still managed to hang onto their original digit.

“It really was 2!!!”
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And so ends the puzzle of the package of castella. If you somehow managed to make it to the fifth degree, congratulations you’re a beast. Unfortunately we don’t have any reward but we hope you enjoyed playing along and we’ll leave you with an updated version of the Bunmeido commercial featuring the puppeteering talents of the one and only Norman Burg.

Source: Twitter/@gyokimae (Japanese)
Video: YouTube/autoxp018, YouTube/moheji360