Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Time to come clean

Pelican Soap

I love soap. It’s one of the easiest souvenirs: it’s relatively cheap, small and always useful. But more than that, the fragrance triggers strong memories. It’s getting cold here, but I recently opened a soap we had ‘souvenired’ from the Moana Surfrider hotel in Waikiki. Shaped like a leaf, it’s a pale green sliver of ‘green tea’ scented loveliness. As soon as I used it, I remembered our honeymoon and the sound of the sea. See? Your next holiday is just a shower away!

It's called Mutenka Sekken - additive free soap. It also says something like "Always healthy and lively!"

But when I’m not trying to re-live carefree holidays, I’m rather partial to this very ordinary soap. It’s just called “mutenka” or “additive free”, by Pelican Soap. It’s made in a factory in northern Saitama, so I'm going to count it as a 'hometown' meibutsu. It barely has any smell – just a slight ‘soapy’ scent, like clean skin. The bar itself has no branding; it’s just like a smooth, ivory pebble. The packaging is quite retro, with a Showa era typeface and a rosy-cheeked boy and girl; the boy has an old-school military-style cap in keeping with the times. If you want to enjoy a little of that “Showa” charm, I recommend the Ghibli animation, Kokuriko Zaka Kara – From Up on Poppy Hill, set 1960s Yokohama. It came out last year, but apparently, the English version won't be released till March 2013.

A scene from Kokuriko Zaka Kara

Pelican Soap has been around since 1947. The “Mutenka” soap costs about Y200, a little pricey for basic soap, but it lathers nicely and doesn’t crack, and I can find it at my local supermarket. Isn’t that the perfect souvenir of a moment? 


  1. I really want to see that movie!!! And yay for yet more Showa goodness, I am a huuuuuge fan

  2. I'll buy the soap just for the packaging!

    PS: Your post made me remember my grandmother's Lifebuoy soap. I don't like the soap, but whenever I smell it, memories come flooding back. Smell is such a powerful sense.

  3. smell is such an amazing sense, isn't it! And Ms Godzilla, I confess, I'm a big Showa fan too! If you haven't been to Shibamata yet, you should check it out - lots of little dagashiya and senbei shops and of course, Tora-san! I promise I'll upload some photos soon.

  4. So much more useful than another phone charm too.