Foam shaped into hiragana word reacts to massaging, stroking, and poking with eye-raising exclamations.

The Japanese hiragana character あ (pronounced as “ah”) is the first alphabet that everyone encounters when learning the Japanese language. Aside from apparently being the cutest character among its brethren, it’s also used in various expressions throughout daily life in Japan.

A group of six talented individuals working under the name of Team Panai have created an object that embodies this flexible character: a foam あ. What’s fascinating is that the character responds to physical contact by emitting the sound “ah.” Depending on the manner in which it’s touched, it can range from a startled “ah!” to a moaning “ahhhhh.”

▼ Children playing with “ah” at an exhibit.

Poking the limbs of the character elicits an amusing “ah?” while firm squeezing or massaging produces a relaxed “ahhhh” sound. Giving it a hard smack causes the offended alphabet to emit a startled “ah!” or an annoyed “ah!?” and a gentle rub makes it purr a satisfying “ahhhh.” Stop giving it attention and you’ll even hear a wistful sigh from the lonesome character.

▼ This might have been the favorite exhibit for kids.

Team Panai hopes to raise awareness of the complexity of such expressions through their exhibits, making it an interesting way to teach kids the nuances of emotion through a single character.

Japanese netizens were quite amused, though some had their minds on something entirely different:

“I love it when people make such silly things.”
“Every guy will react if it’s a girl’s voice.”
“Aw man, it’s a man’s voice.”
“Please make a ん (“n”) version please.”
“Is there a female version of this?”

If only they made English versions or included other hiragana characters like the confused/astonished え (“eh”). Here’s to hoping for more!

Silly and crazy it might be to some, Team Panai’s fascinating art piece can also be considered a brilliant spin to learning languages, much like how someone thought it a great idea to transform hiragana into handsome anime men.

Source: Team Panai, Non-classic via Twitter/@rin1024, Twitter/@vjroba
Images: Vimeo/Yuki Anai