The 円山動物園 Sapporo Maruyama Zoo in Hokkaido is a place where you can see polar bears and other animals unique to the colder regions of the Earth.

It's a popular spot where visitors can walk around and see a variety of animals.

Recently, a particular line of original goods sold at the zoo's official store is being praised online as "Genius!" "You could even say they're works of art!" and eliciting comments such as: "I want one so bad!"

These アニマルご祝儀袋 (animaru goshūgi-bukuro | "Animal Gift Envelopes") have been selling since March 2021 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Sapporo Maruyama Zoo.

The envelopes are variations of 祝儀袋 (shūgi-bukuro | literally, "celebratory gift bag"), special envelopes in which money is offered as a celebratory gift at weddings or other auspicious occasions. They are decorated with colorful cord made of hardened washi and twisted into beautiful decorative patterns, in an art form known as 水引 mizuhiki

Estimated to have been around from as early as the 9th century, mizuhiki has functioned as a visual way to represent human benevolence in gift-giving, with patterns conveying different meanings. A renewed interest in the art form has put it back in the spotlight in recent years. You can learn more about mizuhiki and how to make your own patterns in our article here.

For these shūgi-bukuro envelopes, however, the mizuhiki portion is cleverly designed to ressemble the faces of the most popular residents of Sapporo Maruyama Zoo!

As of July 2022, one year after its release, these envelopes with their cute designs are still frequently talked about online, and sales continue to be brisk.

The secrets behind the popular animal gift envelopes

A writer at our sister site Grape has a chance to ask a shop representative a few questions...

Q: How did the product come about?

"First of all, as Sapporo Maruyama Zoo was celebrating its 70th anniversary, we wondered if we could create a product to celebrate the occasion.

While thinking about various goods, we came up with the idea of mizuhiki, which was beginning to attract attention for its various expressions and uses, and we came up with the idea that it would be interesting to make animals with mizuhiki...

In the end, we decided to go with a proposal from 水引工作所 (mizuhiki kōsakusho | "mizuhiki workshop")."

The Animal Gift Envelope series is made by Mizuhiki Kōsakusho, whose artisans carefully handcraft each product in their workshop.

There are three types: wolf, polar bear, and red panda.


Polar Bear

Red Panda

They all have different charms, and it's hard to decide when to buy one!

Q: Why did you pick these three animals out of so many potential choices?

"To be honest, it was very difficult to choose the animals, as they all have their own unique charms.

However, since this was a project to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Sapporo Maruyama Zoo, we decided to go with these three popular animals after much discussion among the employees.

Furthermore, since this was unknown territory for us, we tried to chose animals that would be accepted by everyone."

Q: So, what is the most popular design?

"They are all really very popular.

However, when the envelopes were first released, polar bears, which are also the most popular animals at Sapporo Maruyama Zoo, seemed to be slightly ahead of the rest.

Now that more than a year has passed, wolves have gained renewed attention and are now even more popular.

Unfortunately, however, a wolf died during this year's Golden Week holidays, and now wolves can no longer be seen at Sapporo Maruyama Zoo.

Nevertheless, we can still feel the love from die-hard wolf fans."

Q: Were any animal proposals rejected?

"Although not rejected, there are some that were not commercialized at the time and are still being considered.

Finally, the shop representative had a message for our readers:

"We hope that these Animal Gift Envelopes will make people interested in visiting the zoo and wonder what kind of place it is.

Although our store is not operated by the zoo, we believe that it's one element that could make visitors leave with as many pleasant memories as possible.

We'd like to continue to create interesting goods and products that are unique and provide an opportunity for people to become interested in our zoo as well as the real habitats where animals live.

The reason why this product has succeeded in attracting so many people may be because of the creators' love for animals and their passionate desire to please visitors to Sapporo Maruyama Zoo.

If you'd like to buy one (or more) for yourself, the アニマルご祝儀袋 animaru goshūgi-bukuro are available here at the 水引工作所 mizuhiki kōsakusho online store.

Although in Japan, they're intended to be used to offer monetary gifts, you don't have to use them for that purpose. They're also great for enclosing a special letter, for example.

Please note that if you'd like to have your purchases delivered outside of Japan, you may need to use a forwarding service such as Buyee or White Rabbit Express.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.