Uncle Tory’s Yokohama Connection

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Many people living in Japan are familiar with Suntory’s famous mascot, Uncle Tory, but few may know that its creator called Yokohama home. Ryohei Yanagihara (1931- 2015), a long-time Yokohama resident, came up with the original design for the character in 1958, and it has since been featured in extensive marketing campaigns and on every can of Tory’s Highball and spin-off products. He also worked on the illustrations for some extremely popular Suntory marketing campaigns like “I want to be more human” and “Let’s drink Torys and go to Hawaii”.

Yokohama residents have many more reasons to be proud of Yanagihara. He went on to become a renowned and award-winning figure in Japanese independent animation in the 1960s, as well as becoming the main illustrator for Japanese shipping company, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines. Yanagihara also designed the packaging for Yokohama’s Ariake Harbour sweets. There was recently an exhibition featuring his works held at the Nippon Maru Museum in Minatomirai and there is an ongoing virtual museum on the Mitsui O.S.K. Lines website (http://www.mol.co.jp).

A local company that has recognized the legacy of Yanagihara and the charm of Uncle Tory, AREACODE, Inc., has launched the brand “We Love Locohama.” The brand targets a younger and more international market by retailing iPhone cases and smartphone accessories featuring Suntory’s iconic mascot. The items can be purchased on the We Love Locohama website (https://wll.buyshop.jp/), at well-known electronics retail stores, and on Suntory’s online store.

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