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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogSan-X: What’s the History Behind It?

San-X: What’s the History Behind It?

By Thuy Fang
June 26, 2024
Rilakkuma of San-X on his own wallpaper.

While not as widely broadcast as the renowned Sanrio, San-X still gained a lot of love from fans who adore its cuteness. There are numerous themed cafes, pop-up shops, and even special events! So, let’s explore this super adorable manufacturer further!

What’s San-X?

San-X is a famous Japanese company that loves to spread happiness with its adorable and unique things. It was established in April 1932 and was originally named Chida Handler. In 1973, the company rebranded to San-X, inspired by a logo featuring three X. The X in the logo usually resembles a lucky four-leaf clover. Over the years, the company evolved from creating simple stationery items to becoming a beloved brand known for its kawaii characters.

Rilakkuma and Korilakkuma on beach-themed wallpaper.
They even have limited-edition water bottle covers in the summer! Image via Get Wallpapers

San-X’s characters, like Rilakkuma, Momobuta, Sentimental Circus, and Sumikko Gurashi, are well-known for their charm and distinct personalities. Most of them are animals, food, or objects with cute expressions designed to be relatable and lovable. This attention to detail and personality has helped this brand create a massive fan base worldwide. They are so popular that you can often find them in McDonald’s Happy Meal toys in Japan.

Sumikko Gurashi on a torii-themed San-X wallpaper.
San-X has a more simplistic art style. Image via Get Wallpapers

One of the highlights of San-X’s offerings is their diverse range of character goods. You can find them on everything from pencils and notebooks to stuffed animals and collectibles. This company also hosts fun festivals and events where fans celebrate their favorite mascot and enjoy exclusive merchandise. 

Are Sanrio and San-X the same?

Even though these brands might have “San” in their names, they are two companies with distinctive histories and characters. San-X, based in Tokyo, was founded in 1932. Initially, it focused on creating stationery with scenic designs. On the other hand, Sanrio started in 1960 and was founded by Shintaro Tsuji. Initially called the Yamanashi Silk Company, it made silk products before switching to rubber goods and later added kawaii figures to boost sales.

A fan illusrtration against a pink background. On one side are all the San-X characters, and on the other side are the Sanrio characters. Each side's characters are standing on each other's shoulders.
There are quite a few differences between Sanrio and San=X! Image via Facebook, Art by LMP

Both companies create lovely mascots, yet they have different styles. Sanrio’s characters, like Hello Kitty, are typically cheerful and lovely inside and out. Meanwhile, San-X’s ones often have quirky features that make them unique and relatable. 

In addition, Sanrio also has theme parks in Japan, such as Sanrio Puroland and Harmonyland, which are big draws for fans. San-X characters appear in exciting and festive events, and their merchandise is widely available in stores and online. Both companies continue to add a lot of happiness and cuteness to the world!

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Who are some notable characters from San-X?

Sumikko Gurashi

Sumikko Gurashi, translated to “life in the corner,” is a charming collection of characters. The name perfectly captures the essence of these shy and endearing creatures. They love to hide in the corners of rooms, feeling safest and happiest there.

Each has a unique story and personality that makes them incredibly appealing. The main characters, or Sumikkos, include Shirokuma, the polar bear, Tonkatsu the pork cutlet; Neko, the timid cat; and Tokage, the dinosaur, with side characters such as Furoshiki, the cloth; Zassou, the weed, and Tapioca pearls.

A bunch of Sumikko Gurashi characters singing.
The characters range from animals to food! Image via Gematsu

Sumikko Gurashi first appeared in 2012 and was created by designer Yuri Yokomizo. Inspired by her doodles during her student days, these characters bring comfort and joy to many people. Sumikko Gurashi now has a variety of products, namely paper goods, books, clothes, plushies, and even video games.

Moreover, fans can enjoy themed merchandise that changes with the seasons, like Sumikkos wearing hats in winter or playing on the beach in summer. Plus, their animated films also capture the hearts of audiences with their cute and touching stories.


Rilakkuma is a kawaii (cute) and lazy bear character who debuted in 2003. Created by San-X and Aki Kondo, Rilakkuma’s name combines “relax” and “bear”, perfectly capturing his laid-back personality. This lovable bear unexpectedly showed up at Kaoru’s house and decided to stay, bringing along his playful white bear friend Korilakkuma and the responsible yellow bird Kiiroitori.

Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori standing in a room together.
These teddy bears have taken the world by storm! Image via IMBd

Together, they share heartwarming and funny moments that remind us all to slow down and enjoy life! You can easily find Rilakkuma-themed items in various shops and even visit unique Rilakkuma cafes. The characters’ adventures have been featured in picture books, comics, and a stop-motion animation series called Rilakkuma and Kaoru

Sentimental Circus

Sentimental Circus is a magical world where abandoned stuffed animals come to life and form a secret circus under the cover of night. Led by Shappo, an adventurous plush that always keeps going despite challenges, this enchanting group includes characters like Mouton, known for his graceful acrobatics, and Kuro, a skilled performer on the rolling globe. 

Stuffed animals from an imaginary circus swirling around shooting stars.
They’re a group of stuffed animals who come alive at night to put on a show! Image via Rakuten Shijo

Founded in September 2010, Sentimental Circus continues to delight with its exciting stories and adorable plushies. The circus unfolds in hidden corners and forgotten places, where each plushie brings unique talents to the stage. From Mr. Bear balancing on his bicycle to the three Piyo ballerina sisters performing ballet, every show is a blend of wonder and fun.

Why is San-X important?

San-X is cherished for its delightful and distinctive creations that bring happiness worldwide. People love San-X’s kawaii characters, such as Rilakkuma, Sumikko Gurashi, and Sentimental Circus, because they’re the cutest and have such exceptional personalities.

A Sentimental Circus wallpaper by San-X.
Many San-X characters are featured on stationery! Image via Get Wallpapers

Additionally, they represent lovely designs and embody relatable traits people connect with. They genuinely hold a significant place in Japan’s unique mascot culture and won over fans from around the world! Do you have a favorite San-X character? Share with us in the comments below!

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