Schau Essen gets surreal in its latest ad that’s triggering laughter and tears.

“This day has finally come,” intones the reverent master of ceremonies as a suit-clad guest ascends the dais at the front of a ballroom. After deeply bowing, he steps forward and accepts a pair of ceremonial scissors, offered to him by an elderly gentleman dressed in a splendid kimono.

“Schau Essen, delivering smiles to so many people in the 37 years since it made its debut, has shown us the heart of a champion,” the M.C. continues. Meanwhile, the man in the suit approaches a giant bag of sausages, leans in close, and makes a careful snip.

We’ve gotten used to seeing some pretty strange commercials from Japan, but even by those standards, this one is especially weird. So what’s going on? According to the sign hanging above the dais, this is the danpatsu, or hair-cutting, ceremony for Schau Essen, one of Japan’s best-selling sausage brands.

Now, it’s true that Japan is a nation of unabashed foodies, but still, most people don’t hold danpatsu ceremonies for their pork products, Really, danpatsu are supposed to be for sumo wrestlers. Once they go pro, sumo wrestlers are required to wear their hair in a traditional chonmage (topknot). The style requires them to grow their hair out, and when a wrestler eventually retires, his final withdrawal from competition comes in the form of his danpatsu ceremony, in which a series of colleagues and well-wishers take turns snipping away strands of hair until the topknot is completely removed.

Schau Essen’s maker Nipponham, naturally, ensures that the product is always 100-percent hair-free. Its iconic packaging, though, does resemble a topknot, what with how it flares out after being gathered at the top, and it’s that portion that’s being cut off in the video. “Schau’s supporters are now, one by one, taking the scissors in their hands,” says the M.C., as we see an emotional fan club and teary-eyed Nipponham executives take their turns.

Thankfully for the many people in Japan who’ve made Schau Essen a staple at their breakfast tables, Nipponham isn’t retiring the product. What the danpatsu ceremony is for, though, is to announce the retirement of the Schau Essen package, as it’s moving to a new design that ditches the topknot-like portion and reduces the amount of plastic used by 28 percent. “And now, Schau will be reborn as eco-friendly Schau…This will be its new, great challenge,” the M.C. explains.

▼ The new package

The video also makes sure to include someone biting into a Schau Essen with an audible snap, something that’s always included in the product’s marketing, to reassure longtime fans that the sausages themselves aren’t changing.

The atmosphere of the video is so solemn that it’s actually hard to tell just how serious you’re supposed to take it. On one hand, it’s people gathering to cut the “hair” of a bag of sausages, a concept that’s undeniably bizarre. At the same time, Japanese companies tend to have an earnest respect for their best-selling products, as symbols of the organization’s ideals and the efforts of their workers, so it’s safe to assume that Nipponham has genuine gratitude for the sales success and customer satisfaction that Schau Essen has achieved up until now through its combined qualities, including its packaging and brand image.

Because of that, the Schau Essen danpatsu video, which has racked up over 1.6 million views so far, has also generated a large number of different reactions online, such as:

“Everyone who appears in the video is so committed to the scene that I shed a few tears too.”
“What the…why am I feeling so emotional watching this?!? Thank you for the 37 years, original Schau package.”
“’Like I’m gonna get chocked up watching something this dumb’…is what I thought, but I ended up laughing AND crying.”
“So the bag I have in my fridge might be the last time I see one with its topknot. Gonna have to take a commemorative photo.”

All joking aside, it is nice to see a Japanese company rethinking its packaging. Products wrapped in excessive amounts of plastic aren’t at all uncommon in Japan, and taking some off the top for Schau Essen is a step in the right direction.

Sources: YouTube/NipponhamGroup, Twitter/@schauessen_nh
Top image: YouTube/NipponhamGroup
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[ Read in Japanese ]