At the mention of Nagoya, what comes to your mind? There is much that the city has to offer depending on your interests and preferences. If you are into historical sights, look no further than Nagoya Castle (名古屋城). To know more about the automobile industry and its history, how about visiting the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology (トヨタ産業技術記念館)? For a nice night view with extensive dining, entertainment and shopping options, head to Oasis 21 (オアシス21) and its neighbouring Nagoya TV Tower (名古屋テレビ塔). As for the local delicacies, there are many choices to satisfy your palate including the unique breakfast sets called morning (モーニング), hitsumabushi aka grilled eel rice (ひつまぶし), miso katsu which are miso-flavoured pork cutlets (味噌カツ) or the signature wagashi uirou (ういろう).
Do you also know that Nagoya has its own fashion icon which is a popular meeting place for the locals? Read on to discover more about Nana-chan, the towering mannequin which is a must-see if you are in the city!
Nana-chan (ナナちゃん) is the name of a large female mannequin which has been placed outside the Young Building (ヤング館) of Meitetsu Department Store (名鉄百貨店) along the covered walkway since 1973. One year prior to that, the department store had opened a new extension named Seven Building targeted at young people which was later renamed Young Building. In order to commemorate the first anniversary of Seven Building, the person-in-charge at that time came up with the idea of creating a huge mannequin to be the building’s symbol after being inspired while attending a mannequin exhibition in Tokyo. The mannequin was then given the name “Nana-chan” which was selected through an open call to the public for suggestions and coincided with the name of the extension building (seven is called nana in Japanese while -chan is an affectionate term for a young girl).
At the time when Nana-chan was first set up, it attracted a lot of attention due to its size and gradually became a meeting place for the locals near the Nagoya train station. In the beginning, as Nana-chan was not designed to be a fashion icon, the very first set of clothes she wore was actually an apron worn by the department store’s staff during the summer and winter clearance sales called Seven Matsuri so there were only two periods within a year when she was wearing something. Other than in 2006 when renovation works were done at the entrance area of the extension building and 2007 when she was on loan to the Aichi Arts Centre in the Sakae area of the city, Nana-chan has remained standing in the city for the past 43 years.
On the official website of Nana-chan titled Nana-chan Collection, it is mentioned that the mannequin was “born” on 28 April 1973 while her height is 610cm and weight is 600kg. Due to the fact she was designed in Switzerland and assembled in Ina City, Nagano Prefecture, Nana-chan is listed on her profile as a kikoku shijou (帰国子女) i.e. a Japanese who was born in abroad and grew up overseas. Her past costumes since 2004 are all available for viewing on the website which shows the wide array of images she has sported over these years.
Depending on the season, Nana-chan goes through a costume change which would always make it to the news and attract locals and tourists alike to check out her new image. For example, she would be wearing a swimsuit or bikini in summer or a Santa costume for Christmas or the local baseball team’s uniform so as to show them support during the baseball season.
Besides fashionable costumes to coincide with the usual promotions held by the department store, Nana-chan’s influence has also extended to various areas in recent years such as awareness and promotional campaigns. There was a time when her slender waist was expanded from 180cm to 285cm for the campaign to prevent metabolic syndrome.
Nana-chan was also tapped on for government-related events such as the Nagoya mayor election in January 2015 and the campaign in February 2015 to remind people to file their taxes. Last but not least, there have been promotional collaborations with famous movies and animes such as Dragonball as featured in the photo below, Naruto, Godzilla and Iron Man. As you can see, Nana-chan is a barometer reflecting what’s hot and fashionable in Nagoya at the time.
In case you are wondering how many people it takes to create a new set of clothes for the huge Nana-chan, you might be surprised to know that there are only two female dressmakers doing this. Just in 2015 alone, Nana-chan sported a whopping 35 different images! With the increasing number of costume changes needed for Nana-chan each year, it is amazing how these dressmakers can create so many sets of large-sized clothing for her with such limited manpower and time.
In 2011, a mini version of Nana-chan was created as the mascot character for the department store’s Maison de Nana located in the main building. The new mannequin which is one-sixth of Nana-chan’s size, was aptly named as Mina-chan, short for mini Nana-chan, after a public call for name suggestions.
For those who are planning to see Nana-chan with your partners, do take note that there is this belief that a couple should not walk under Nana-chan together as this bodes ill for the relationship. Although there is no concrete proof as to whether this theory holds true, it’s still good to know this beforehand.
With the proliferation of social media in recent years, images of Nana-chan in her latest costumes can be seen more often online thus fueling interest in her and doing a lot to boost awareness in other parts of Japan and overseas. As such, it is normal to see many people taking pictures of or with Nana-chan who is becoming more of a must-see fashion icon for anyone who visits Nagoya.
A trip to Nagoya would be considered incomplete if you haven’t seen the hottest mannequin in town so how about swinging by the next time you are in the city?