Starbucks Coffee Japan Co., Ltd released five charms for the new year which are very special and very rare. Released in only three select stores in Kyoto, these five charms hearken back to an age-old tradition called Fukutama.
The Fukudama is usually a pink and white ‘lucky ball’ made from rice cakes in which gifts or charms are placed. They are presented as part of the New Year celebration to wish the recipient good fortune. The Starbucks version for this special release are plastic balls filled with the ceramic charms made by Shimada Kouen, a generations old doll making company in Kyoto.
As stated in an enclosed brochure with each doll, Shimada Kouen was founded in Kyoto in 1859 and are well known as a long-established store for Gosho dolls. A “Gosho doll” is a doll with a plump flesh, pure white skin, symbolizing it is healthy, cute, and having dignity. During the Edo period, Gosho dolls were presented as a gift in return for the Daimyo, powerful feudal Lords, who gave a gift to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Each was carefully crafted by hand.
Not all five Fukutama were available at all three stores and the balls were not marked as to which charm it contained. Additionally, the charms had a limited release so completing the set was very difficult.
The five Starbucks New Year charms are traditional mascots of fortune and luck in Japan. Each is ceramic figurine is painted by hand. The four animal charms are designed as bells, with small cut outs in the bottom and an enclosed ball inside.
2020 Lucky Charm Crawling Gosho Doll: Gosho, or palace, dolls are very traditional figurines in Japan. The plump appearance is healthy, and the red mizuhiki pattern on the head is a symbol representing good luck. This doll is wearing a Starbucks Green Apron of actual applied fabric and is praying for happiness.
2020 Lucky Charm Guardian Dog: Known as Komainu, these ‘lion-dog’ guardians are meant to ward off evil spirits. He is wearing a Starbucks green waistcoat decorated with plums, and is praying for happiness.
2020 Lucky Charm Beckoning Black Cat, 2020 Lucky Charm Beckoning Calico Cat, 2020 Lucky Charm Beckoning White Cat: The Maneki-neko, or ’beckoning cat’ is a common Japanese figurine believed to bring good luck to the owner. The figurine depicts a cat, traditionally a calico, inviting by sign of a raised paw ‘business prosperity to the owner. The additional colors white, is for good luck and overall good fortune, while black, is to ward off evil. Each is wearing a Starbucks Green Apron and praying for blessings and happiness.
The original price was 2,300 yen ($21.50 USD) each when sales originally started on February 3, 2020. Of course, to get them in oversees markets or in the future would be considerably more expensive. It is unknown at this time how many were originally released.
For more reading: the Starbucks Press Release, and an article of how Starbucks has teamed up with the doll making company for other products. View them in the full catalog.