When I first visited Osaka (大阪) in 2014, I admit that I wasn’t aware of the famous landmark located in Dotonbori-Ebisubashi (道頓堀戎橋) in Osaka’s south district. When I went there the first time and saw the crowd taking pictures with the huge Running Man signboard, I was amazed how popular the landmark seemed, particularly to travelers. With its popularity, I got curious about its history and why it became one of Osaka’s famous landmarks. My curiosity, along with some research, took me five generations back to its current 6th generation signboard.
The company’s founder, Mr. Riichi Ezaki (江崎利一), started experimenting on extracting glycogen in oysters to produce healthy food, particularly in confectionery, to help improve the health of the children.
The company launched its first product, a caramel containing glycogen found in oysters, a substance that serves as a form of energy storage in human and animals. The brand name, “Glico”, was derived from its product’s source nutrients, glycogen, and featured a running man on its candy boxes with the successful sales campaign “300 Meters on a Single Piece”.
As part of their campaign and marketing, they enclosed miniature toys in every Glico caramel box.
Another marketing strategy in attracting customers was when Glico developed and installed vending machines in malls with a built-in projector that would play a 20-second film with five parts, so when someone purchased five candies, they would be able to watch the entire film.
Their campaigns and marketing strategy proved to be successful with the unveiling of the first Glico signboard at Ebisubashi in 1937 that has become Osaka’s landmark.
When traveling to Japan, it is noticeable that food is a big part of Japanese culture with numerous restaurants on almost every corner. From their main dish to snacks and drinks, they love healthy yet delicious food. In Osaka, which is known as the country’s food capital, it is no wonder that Glico’s products were embraced by people. With its healthy and delicious sweet-filled little boxes, it became popular not only to locals but to international consumers as well.
With healthy, delicious sweets that originate in the city itself, plus the successful campaigns and the maintained creative signboard towering along the city’s shopping district and offering a colorful and lovely view at night, who’s not going to love Glico’s Running Man?
— Glico PR Japan (@GlicoPRJP) June 2, 2017
The first generation neon signboard installed in Dotonbori-Ebisubashi from 1935 until 1943 was the tallest among the other generation’s signboards at 33 meters in height. The signboard was taken down during the war. After World War II, the Neon Signboard was reinstalled with its new design. It had a stage below where concerts and other events were held during that time. This Glico neon signboard lasted from 1955 until 1963.
Installed from 1963 until 1972, the third generation was one-of-a-kind amongst other Glico neon signboards. The Running Man was surrounded by 412 colored neon lights and at the center was a fountain that blew twelve tons of water, resulting in beautiful rainbow effects. This was considered the most innovative design in Glico’s history.
The fourth generation signboard is a design that many people nowadays are familiar of. The new design featured the Running Man with a blue track background and lasted from 1972 to 1996. The signboard design lasted 24 years, so far the longest one compared to other Glico Man’s designs.
Fifth Generation (1998-2014)
This design includes the important buildings and destinations in Osaka such as the Osaka Castle (大阪城), Osaka Aquarium (海遊館), Kyocera Dome (京セラドーム) and Tsutenkaku Tower (通天閣).
Sixth Generation (2014-present)
On October 23, 2014, the sixth generation Glico Running Man signboard was presented to the public. Its newest design includes the sun with what looks like a cloud in the background with the Running Man still on a blue track. At night, its background displays the famous tourist spots in Japan, thus it looked like he’s running around the entire country.
Isn’t it fun to know his transformations in the past nine decades? Next time you’re in Osaka, be sure to pay a visit to one of Osaka’s most popular landmarks!