I must admit I'm not very much into soft toys. They look cute and feel cuddly, but somehow I just don't feel like going "kawaiiii!!" and hyperventilate everytime I see a Hello Kitty or Mashimaro. I'm sure I had some soft toys as a kid, but I don't remember growing up with lots of them.
I have friends who have glass cabinets stacked with teddy bears of all sizes and fur colour, or those who received huge cuddlies with bows as birthday presents. I even know a guy who melts at the sight of teddy bears and has a huge collection of them in a row at the foot of his bed. So maybe that's an extreme case, since most boys would proudly show off their plastic toy soldiers or a He-Man battery-operated lighted saber.
The only toys I remembered having were 2 Barbie dolls given as Christmas presents from my aunt who at that time didn't have a daughter of her own. In fact, I always looked forward to receiving presents from her as she seemed to know what kind of grrly gifts to get for her nieces. By the time I entered my pre-teen years, she had already given birth to one of my youngest cousin daughter who would then be showered with grrly gifts.
And by then, the friends I had were into birthdays and giving presents. That somehow sparked the love of gift-giving in me as well. I slowly began to appreciate soft toys and learnt how to choose appropriate ones as presents. I guess the other side of me questions the practicality of soft toys as gifts since they just sit there and collect dust. But it's always a joy to see someone gasp in delight as they unwrap the box and discover a toy that is to their liking.
Since I came to Tokyo, I've had to re-start my own collection of soft toys. Someone did ask me why I didn't bring them from home, but I see no point in doing that. I have a new life here, so my collection will start afresh as well. Besides, this gives others a reason to give me one since my room seem to be void of cuddly soft toys. :D
Actually, the point of this post is to write about Monokuro Boo, a made-in-Japan soft toy which is my latest addition to my collection. Unlike most of the ones which are given as gifts or souvenirs, someone won this for me in the UFO Catcher. For those unfamiliar with this term, the UFO Catcher, found in amusement parks/stores, is also called the "claw vending machine" where you put in some coins and try to push a toy into the hole below using a pair of gigantic plastic claw in 3 tries. Some allow you to grab the toy, but the claws are ridiculously weak, and usually people practice a few times and develop a technique to get the toy they want.
These UFO Catchers are everywhere in Japan, and seem to be a big hit with teens and even young adults. I actually wanted a smaller fluffy looking bear, but they were arranged in such a way that it was almost impossible to grab at them. So my friend aimed for Monokuro Boo instead. It wasn't my first choice since I didn't even know what Monokuro Boo was! At first glance, it was huge, black and square. Later did I realise it was supposed to be a piggy. A black piggy, shaped into a cube!
Yes, it is that huge. So huge I can't quite hug it like a bolster, and so black I don't know if it should be a soft toy, and so square I'm almost tempted to sit on it! Oh well, I'm not complaining, it is quite a unique soft toy and certainly is different from the usual furry little bears. Apparently it also carries a wide range of merchandise, just like other Japanese anime characters - they're quite cute eh? So much for trying not to be Japanised!