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Century-Old Maker Of Japan's Iconic Sakuma Candies To Close Down

The Japanese maker of the vibrant, fruit-flavored hard candies famously depicted in the celebrated anti-war anime “Grave of the Fireflies” is putting an end to its 114 years of history.

Photo Insert: The already-struggling company said sales of the product have been pushed further down by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Sakumaseika Co., a confectioner based in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward, said Nov. 9 it will close its doors on Jan. 20 after it makes its last shipment of hard candies, called Sakuma-style Drops, in December, Kazumi Tako reported for the Asahi Shimbun.

The company said sales of the product have been pushed further down by the novel coronavirus pandemic. It was already struggling to survive and woo customers amid intensifying competition with rivals offering cheaper products.

A steep rise in material and energy prices, as well as the difficulty of securing labor to produce the candies, has weighed down its operations, leading to the decision to discontinue its business, according to the company.

Sakuma candies date back to 1908, when Sojiro Sakuma, a native of Chiba Prefecture, succeeded in producing a domestic version of hard candies based on those imported from Britain. The drop candies, which come in a distinctive tin box, have been popular across generations ever since.

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Another company, Sakuma Confectionery Co., based in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward, shares its roots with Sakumaseika. It also makes hard candies, which come in distinct green tin boxes.

In the 1988 anime directed by Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli, the candy became symbolic of the extreme suffering of two war orphans in the closing days of World War II.

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In a heart-wrenching scene, a 4-year-old starving girl named Setsuko is asked by her older brother what she wants to eat when the pair is left alone with no food after an air raid in Kobe.

She replies, “the drops,” referring to Sakuma’s hard candies, one of her favorite treats. After the film was released, Sakuma’s hard candies became associated with the movie.

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