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Beloved Japan mascot loses smile over scandal

Beloved Japanese cake confectioner's mascot "Peko-chan" loses her smile after Fujiya Co. Lt. admits using stale ingredients.
/ Source: Reuters

Poor “Peko-chan.”

That’s what customers and executives at Japan’s Fujiya Co. Ltd. are saying after the confectioner confessed to selling cream puffs and other pastries made from stale ingredients.

“Peko-chan,” a round-eyed mannequin with a lip-licking grin, has been hawking sweets for the Japanese cake maker since the firm adopted the eternal 6-year-old girl as its mascot after World War II.

“‘Peko-chan’ is a mascot who has been loved by consumers for more than 50 years. In that sense, she is our biggest asset and has played a role of bringing happiness to consumers,” Fujiya President Rintaro Fujii told a news conference this week at which he said he would resign over the scandal.

“That mascot has been hurt by Fujiya,” Fujii added.

“Now we want to try to build a Fujiya that can support ’Peko-chan’ who is standing firm.”

Last week, a message bearing an apology from Fujii was posted next to a “Peko-chan” doll at the firm’s store in Tokyo’s downtown Ginza shopping district.

For now, most “Peko-chan” dolls are secluded inside the 751 retail stores that Fujiya -- founded in 1910 to sell Western-style cakes to foreigners -- has closed due to the scandal, a company spokesman said. Its restaurants remain open.

Some loyal customers have called to offer their support, the spokesman added.

Three years ago, “Peko-chan” grabbed a different sort of headline when the dolls were targeted by kidnappers apparently hoping to sell them on Internet auctions.