Most travellers who have been to Osaka would have probably seen and taken photos of the famous Glico man sign board at Dotonbori, a popular tourist destination.
Singapore’s Prime Minister is no exception.
In a Facebook post on Sunday (June 30), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared a picture of himself and his wife, Ho Ching, posing with the Glico man, a LED sign board featuring a running man with his arms raised in a sign of victory.
“We found the Glico man and had a bit of fun! The Glico man sign board has evolved over the years, and the current one is the sixth generation,” PM Lee said.
The Glico man is the mascot of major Japanese confectionery maker Glico, the maker of Pocky, a globally loved snack.
Singapore’s premier, who was in Japan for the G20 Summit from June 28 to June 29, said in a separate post that he had made use of his free time on Saturday evening to go and “#jalanjalan at Dotonbori”, which he described as “the famed entertainment and food haven of Osaka”.
It may seem odd that tourists, no matter how famous, make it a point to see the Glico man billboard when they are in Osaka, but the iconic ad’s running man actually has close to 100 years of history.
According to Glico’s official website, the Glico man was featured on the company’s first product, “Glico Caramel”, a heart-shaped caramel sweet launched in 1922.
The Glico man was used as a mascot because the candy was marketed as a source of energy, with each one reportedly containing enough calories for a person to run 300 meters, travel website Culture Trip reported.
Unsurprisingly, Osaka is also the home of Ezaki Glico Co., the official name of the company.
Generations of Glico man sign boards
According to Japan Info, the first neon Glico man sign board was built all the way back in 1935 along Dotonbori canal, but was taken down in 1943 because of World War II.
After the war, four more Glico man sign boards were built, each with a slightly different design than before.
— Glico PR Japan (@GlicoPRJP) June 2, 2017
The sixth and latest Glico Man sign board was unveiled in October 2014, and according to The Japan Times, images of popular tourist spots in Japan and other parts of the world such as Mount Fuji and the Statue of Liberty in New York are also displayed behind the Glico man.
Over the years (84, to be exact) the giant sign board has become Osaka’s most famous icon, and remains a popular meeting place for locals and tourists going to the canal for drinks, food and entertainment.
Other than the iconic ad, PM Lee also captured on camera other encounters on his short trip to Dotonbori, including eating roasted chestnuts, coming across takoyaki stalls and bumping into Singaporeans on holiday.