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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogThe Plushie in Japan: A Modern History

The Plushie in Japan: A Modern History

By Sophia Wasylinko
February 21, 2024
A bunch of Pikachu plushies.

Everyone loves a plushie! Whether it’s cute animals or a chibi version of your favorite anime character, this stuffed toy has fans worldwide, especially in Japan. Today, we’ll look at how plushies became popular in this country!

We’ll also check out some bestselling brands and their most beloved items and where you can buy one of these toys for yourself or your loved ones. Join us as we look at the modern history of the plushies in Japan!

What is a plushie? 

All plushies are stuffed toys, but not all stuffed toys are plushies. Stuffies are usually made of durable materials like polyester. Their eyes and noses might also be made of plastic. Plushies, conversely, are made with softer fabrics like cotton, making them much more squishy.

A Totoro stuffed animal.
Plushies first became popular during the Meiji era. Image via Shutterstock

The first stuffed animals were mass-produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Years later, stuffies like Beanie Babies and Squishmallows are still given to kids as presents. Even adults are collecting them, especially if they’re limited edition items.

How did they make it to Japan? 

During the Meiji Period, Japanese people became more interested in Western ideas and products like the teddy bear. Then, in the 1970s and 1980s, Japan went through a kawaii (cute) revolution. Suddenly, girls were into everything cute, including clothes, stationery, and toys. And with this new trend, the world of toys also changed.

A couple of Dnoki penguin plushies.
Some store mascots also have their won plushie! Image via Shutterstock

Hello Kitty appeared on Japanese store shelves in 1975 and quickly spread outside the country. More companies started making plushies of animals, objects, and anime and video game characters. People everywhere buy these plushies, whether in person or online.

What are the most popular plushies in Japan? 

Let’s start with animals: poodles, hedgehogs, Shiba Inu, and, of course, cats. Poteusa Loppy, Rilakkuma, and Okaeri Sonoda-Kun are some brands that come to mind. Then there are video games and anime plushies like Pokémon Pikachu, Nintendo Kirby, and Spy x Family’s Anya Forger. There are even plushies of older manga and anime characters like Doraemon and Crayon Shin-Chan. 

A pair of Rilakkuma and Korillakkuma stuffed animals.
Even mascots have their own plushie! Image via Shutterstock

And if you’re looking for a weird plushie, Japan has many options. Get yourself a blood-stained Gloomy Bear, the Nen beast from Hunter x Hunter, or even a Nyantama with a pair of cat balls. (You read that right.) The world’s your oyster when it comes to Japanese plushies. Now, let’s check out a few websites to get one of your own!

Are you looking for some amazing merchandise that’s super cute? Check out YumeTwins! YumeTwins sends kawaii character goods from Japanese plushies and figurines, to accessories and home goods straight from Japan right to your door!

Mochi Shiba 

This adorable stuffed Shiba Inu loves dango (sticky mochi, or rice cakes, on a skewer). One day, four of these dogs came to a rice shop. They decided to stay and help run the store! Okaka, Tuna, Sesame, and Plum are the main characters, but there are other puppies, birds, and even a pig. 

A bunch of Mochi Shiba plushies.
Mochi shiba inu plushies are especially popular in Japan! Image via Shutterstock

The animals come as plushies, capsule toys, and keychain accessories. But Mochi Shiba also makes other merch, including souvenir bags, chopsticks, and even tissue pouches. These plushies are so cute and cuddly, like real dogs (without the extra mess!). They’re the perfect gift if you’re unable to have pets.


Pokémon is still capturing the hearts of fans years after the first game’s release. And that’s partly thanks to the merch, with plushies being some of the most popular products. While Pikachu is iconic, you can find other creatures, including Charmander, Clefairy, and Golbat.

A Lapras plushie on top of a bunch of Pikachu plushies.
Each Pokemon has its own special plushie! Image via Shutterstock

Many of these plushies are made sitting down (Sitting Cuties), but some toys, like Pikachu’s costume, can stand. There are even jumbo and Squishmallow versions if you want maximum snuggles. If stuffed toys aren’t your thing, snag a plush keychain, backpack, hat, or cape instead. It’s so hard to pick one—you gotta get ‘em all!


Finally, we have Sanrio. For over 60 years, it’s brought smiles to many children with adorable characters that have stood the test of time. Hello Kitty is it’s most recognizable, but there are others we have to mention: Cinnamoroll, Kuromi, Pompomurin, and the first Sanrio critter, Coro Chan. From stars to puppies to eggs, Sanrio has something for everyone.

A bunch of Sanrio Hello Kitty plushies.
Sanrio has come of the most iconic characters in Japan! Image via Shutterstock

When it comes to plushies, the sky’s the limit for Sanrio. They come in various themes, including cute Baby Bear and elegant Winter Tweed. You can get 2-in-1 reversible plushies and even plush sets. If you’re looking for something kawaii, go with Sanrio.

Why is the plushie so important in Japan? 


When you think of plushies, you think “kawaii.” An Evee doll or Sailor Moon plush will make you smile. Wearing a plushie headband or bag charm is the next best thing if you’re not used to the kawaii aesthetic.

A row of polar bear stuffed animals.
Which Japanese plushie is your favorite? Image via Shutterstock


People of all ages love collecting plushies. It’s always exciting when you find every character in a set. And some companies have special or themed editions. Looking for these toys is like going on a treasure hunt—for plushies.


We’ve all had bad days where we curled up with our stuffed toys. Plushies are there to hug your worries or fears away, no matter how old you are. They’re just what you need to make you feel better! Do you own any of these plushies? Which plushie is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below.

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