The Glico running man is one of the most well known landmarks in Osaka. This huge brightly lit sign has glowed over the Dotombori canal in Osaka’s premier shopping and entertainment district for more than 80 years.
Dating back to 1935, the sign has had several overhauls and been altered to celebrate various sporting triumphs through the years. Temporary alterations include when Japan hosted Soccer World Cup and supporting the mighty Hanshin Tigers; Osaka’s baseball team. The current sign is recognized as the 6th generation and the first to use LED technology, where the previous versions were all neon. This new technology will allow even more special events celebrated via the huge billboard.
The running man advertises Glico, the manufacturer of one of Asia’s most famous confectionery companies. Glico’s most popular product is Pocky, which is the confectionery coated pretzel sticks which are very popular in Japan and abroad. The product is known as Mikado in some parts of the world and comes in a number of tasty flavours. Other confectionery products by Glico include names like Pretz, Caplico, Bisco and Karujaga. Glico also makes ice-cream products and a few processed foods and curry roux blocks.
The back story (the Japanese love a backstory) to why the running man was chosen to be Glico’s mascot is said to derived from Gilco’s first product, a candy caramel. Company founder Ri-ichi Ezaki created the snack in 1922 as an energy product by adding glycogen from oysters to the snack. It was said each treat could give you energy to run 300 metres, so a running man has been used to this day as the companies mascot and logo.
Since 1972 the huge neon has show the running man on a running track with some of Osaka’s best known landmarks like the Osaka Castle and the Tsutenkaku tower added to the background in 1998. The 2015 LED version follows a similar theme with the landmarks taking a more dynamic role.
The Ebisu Bridge below the Glico Running Man is a popular meeting place for both locals and tourists. In the evening and especially at weekends, the bridge is jam packed with people entering the Dotombori entertainment area or the huge tunnel of the Shinsaibashi shopping mall.
Osaka is the home of Glico and as such they have a museum at their headquarters, featuring all sorts of nostalgic packaging and a collection of the free toys that were given away with each box. A selection of diorama’s of Dotombori and the Running Man billboard are part of a special exhibition that is currently on display.
Glico Museum Website: (Japanese Only)