Don't play doctor with your food

Behold what I found heavily discounted at the supermarket the other day:

A "write on the sweetened wafer and then eat it" kit from "Rakugakids". (Rakugaki (落書き) is Japanese for "writing in unapproved places", including everything from bombing the A-train to scribbling on the wall in your room.) This is a little strange to begin with, but the real oddity is the syringe. I'm not one of those folks who believes that touching a toy gun instantly turns kids into Trenchcoat Mafiosi, but even I think it might be unwise to encourage kids to play with syringes at all, let alone consume any unnaturally-coloured fluids they may contain. ("It becomes a water pistol after you've finished!" is also not something that needed to be written on the box. If there's one thing worse than a kid with a water pistol, it's a kid with a water pistol that's really a syringe.)

The mothers of Japan clearly agree, because this was down to almost half-price. So I thought I'd protect some innocent kids and snap it up.

The idea is to draw on the wafer and then eat it, thus symbolically rejecting the notion that art must be "consumed" by others to be valid. Even if I make art just for myself, it's still art!, this snack screams. I won't let The Man hold me back! I'm moving into a commune in Hamburg!

The back of the package has some example pictures that also express an anti-corporate spirit by blatantly ripping off well-known trademarks. For example, in America the DMCA would legally bar this kitty from saying "hello".

Out of the box and spread on a table, it looks like this:

For my first wafer, I decided to attempt the kanji 日, meaning "sun" or "day". It's easy to write, not too far evolved from its pictographic origins (a circle with a dot in the middle, representing the sun), and so it's one of the first Japanese characters most of us whiteys learn. How hard could it be to draw?

... Surprisingly hard. But stay positive, I told myself. It's only a practice run! Pretend it's an OS X widget and don't lose heart!

Wafer 2 was destined to receive the imprint of 飛, "to fly". Why 飛? Simple: I asked Butterflyblue what her favourite kanji was, and that was the answer she gave. I was trusting her to pick something hard, and she didn't disappoint. Anyway, it turned out like this....

Total disaster. Looks like one of the Blue Man Group sneezed on a cracker. Sorry if I just ruined your favourite character for you, BB.

I decided to retreat into the safety of my native character set, and indulge in a little self-promotion.

Hey, not bad! I should have spent more time pre-planning the letter sizing, though. That's why I'm a writer, not a designer.XXXX EDIT THIS SENTENCE LATER

Confidence thus embiggened, I was ready to push this product to the limits of its recommended usage patterns.

Time to draw a picture -- of Abraham Lincoln! I believe this proves once and for all that Lincoln was, indeed, the first US president to be drawn on a rice-based Japanese snack food.

Maybe it's the fumes from that synthetic blue liquid, but I don't think that's a bad Abe at all.

I'll admit it, I got cocky. Too cocky. And that's why I tried to write 川上弘美 (KAWAKAMI Hiromi), the name of one of my favourite authors. I, uh... I meant it as a compliment.

That 美 really turned out nasty. I'm sorry, Ms Kawakami.

Final result: five soiled wafers and fluid to spare! I will refrain from the obvious joke involving a certain branch of Christianity.

Rakugaki complete, it was time to move on to the eating phase. I decided to start with Abe, since he seemed the most trustworthy. Sadly, he tasted precisely the way you would expect gleaming blue artificial candy goo to taste, and I felt sick before I'd even finished his hat. Also, is there a word that means the same as "echo", but applies to flavours rather than sounds? Because that's what this stuff did inside me for hours afterwards.

Also, the syringe did not become a good water pistol at all, because it was impossible to remove all of the ultramarine residue within it. Nothing but disappointment.

Popularity factor: 6


Those "wafers" look like someone shaved disks off a log of packing foam. And there's some epoxy I've seen sold in syringes. Just not blue. Yum...


Finally, the OS X UI is literally lickable.

I'm just glad they didn't include a needle with that syringe.


The wafers, I should have mentioned, actually weren't bad! I mean, they were just wafers, but still. They didn't deserve that shabby treatment.

Oh, man, I totally forgot about that "lickable" thing. It's a good thing nobody knew how unpleasant licking shiny blue sugar-fluid actually is, or OS X's buzz would have suffered.


I'd say it's more aquamarine than ultramarine*. Anyway, whatever it's made of it's got to be water soluble. Can't you dissolve it out with hot water? Or is that just too much effort to obtain a poorly made syringe-shaped water pistol?

-- Tim May

* Incidentally, ultramarine blue doesn't have anything to do with the blueness of the sea. It's called that because the lapis lazuli from which the pigment was made was imported from "beyond the sea".


Now even my comments have footnotes! My fiendish plan is nearing fruition.

I did not know that etymology, either. I guess I always assumed it was ultramarine as in "even more ocean-coloured than the ocean".

Funny you should mention hot water -- right next to the sink I rinsed it out in was one of those perpetual kettle things that keeps a tank of water constantly about to boil. I filled a cup and drew a few syringe's worth from it, but the residue didn't seem to dissolve at all. Maybe if the water were sprayed in there with more force... but yeah, too much effort.


Speaking of toys, have you seen
this?The surprising thing is that there doesn't seem to be any equivalent English speaking doll for Japanese kids.

I love the review by the guy who got one for Hannukah.

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