Shopping Spotlight: Heso Production

Osaka spirit – there’s nothing like it in the world.

This city’s home to thousands of companies. (Including ones we don’t talk about so much.) There are businesses out here doing amazing, crazy, wonderful things. Take Heso Production as an example.

From the heart – we mean, stomach

‘Heso’ means ‘belly button’ in Japanese. Interesting, huh?

And it’s part of the word ‘naruheso!’ – the Osaka way to say ‘naruhodo’, ‘I see’ or ‘ah, I get it!’. You can see it in Heso Production’s logo, where a big exclamation mark sticks out the top.

Heso Production’s company mission statement reads like:

We do stupid things in a serious way. We do weird, incredible things in a serious way.

And if we could boil the world, we’d use that heat as ‘warmth’, to warm up all the people of this world.

Don’t let us forget the line about ‘boiling tea in your belly button’. It’s a Japanese saying – of course it is – about doing something crazy. Guess that can’t be an outie belly button, then.

When you need a ‘hesolution’, Heso Pro’s on the case. Their 2018 brand concept is ‘give people a feeling of strangeness’. Somehow, we don’t think they’ve found that too hard to achieve.

Understanding our feelings, and hunger level

But let’s go back to 2017 for a second.

Heso Pro makes ‘sontaku’ manjuu buns and chocolate – the kanji (忖度) are printed on the box (and the buns). It means ‘guessing how someone else feels… then doing what you think they want, without asking’.

And it was Japan’s ‘word of the year’ for 2017. Why? The prime minister.

In an issue involving the Abe family, that word kept coming up. People who’d ‘followed’ orders they weren’t given. Things that happened without anyone ‘approving’ them. It got a lot of attention.

Before this, ‘sontaku’ wasn’t a popular Japanese word. It’s got a good meaning, about understanding people on a deeper level… maybe that’s why we don’t use it much. With news channels reporting nothing but Abe for weeks, ‘sontaku’ rocketed into common speech.

You’d think Heso Production would’ve jumped straight on it – but they were asked to make ‘sontaku’ a thing. Someone emailed them like ‘c’mon, you can totally do something with this politics stuff, right?’.

What started as a joke gift making fun of political news is now a phenomenon. Turns out business people are legit using the snacks as ice-breakers in meetings. Sold 100,000 boxes in half a year. That’s how you understand customers on a deep level.

Tokyo what now?

As we try to always explain, there is more to Japan than Tokyo (and politics). Famous, traditional Osaka influences a lot of Heso Production merch. When we say ‘famous, traditional Osaka’… we mean takoyaki.

You name it, they’ve created an octopus dough ball version. Your whole life and wardrobe can be blessed with octopi, from hats to socks. And if – gulp – if you wanna take it further, and pretend you’ve got tentacles, get the extendable ‘octopus hand’.

What do you mean, octopi don’t have hands? This toy can reach out a long way, just like an octopus. It’ll scare the hell outta your friends, just like an octopus. Same difference.

Our faves from the Kansai range are the Osaka snowglobes. Spot the non-octopus odd one out.

They didn’t put the English on the castle one, either. But if you can’t get to Osaka to see the real snow-topped thing in person, it’s a souvenir-sized alternative.

And as if you’ll ever see snowflakes land on an edible takoyaki ball. Nobody eats that slow.

All aboard the Hello Kitty merch train

In 2018, Heso Pro turned their attention to the new Hello Kitty shinkansen. It runs between Shin-Osaka and Hakata stations, once a day in each direction. (Kitty-chan replaced the Neon Genesis Evangelion bullet train – we’re still gutted about that.)

So it’s easy to miss, if you don’t wake up early enough – but it’s also hard to miss that pink design.

Bright white and vivid pink cover all the Kitty train items, to match. A fork and spoon… bottle cap opener… Kitty-chan face paperclips…  rubber duckies… and more. Some genius at Heso Production made sure those ideas became real. And we’re so happy they did.

Everything’s official Sanrio merch and official JR West merch – so the quality’s in zero doubt, too.

For Japanese bullet train fans, and for train fans in general, the item range gets pretty wide. Pens, rulers, hand towels, and shiny storage tins can all be yours.

Go local with goods based on the Tokyo-Kanazawa ‘Kagayaki’ bullet train, the ‘Komachi’ from the Akita Shinkansen line, and the ‘Doctor Yellow’ test trains. They’ve also made cookie tins inspired by Osaka’s central Loop Line train carriages.

You don’t have to be crazy to live here… but it helps

And then… there’s the other stuff. Things you can do with Heso Production items:

  • Sprinkle flavoured rice toppings from inside a marker pen
  • Warn away evil spirits through the power of karate belts
  • Wear famous Japanese comedians on your feet
  • Hang your clothes on plastic train tracks
  • Carry around a toy parrot that’s dressed like a geisha
  • Practice your sword-swinging technique

And that wouldn’t even take you 1 hour.

You’ve gotta love the creativity level. Kawaii and weird can mix in so many cool ways.

A taste of Osaka (and not just octopus)

We’re pretty proud to have a kickass company like Heso Production in our neighbourhood. Can’t wait to see what octopus-themed merch they put out next.

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