How Inflation Has Ended An Iconic Japanese Candy's 100-Year Reign

It comes in eight flavors and is protected from the elements by a distinctive red can, whose lid you can pop open with a small coin. Those of us who might have access to Japanese confectionery are likely to know of Sakuma's Drops — colorful pieces of hard candy which gained an even wider following after it played a key role in Studio Ghibli's 1988 animated film "Grave of the Fireflies," per SoraNews 24.

But even anime-generated fame didn't keep Sakuma's Drops' century-old candymaker Sakuma Seika from becoming a victim of the inflation surge seen globally, and in early November, the Tokyo-based company said it would shut its doors on January 20, 2023, per The Japan Times.

The candy company was established by Japanese entrepreneur Sojira Sakuma in 1908, who dreamt of creating a Japanese version of the fruit-flavored confection imported from other countries, per CBR. And for more than a hundred years, the fruit juice-flavored hard candy, which came in grape, apple, lemon, strawberry, pineapple, peppermint, chocolate, and orange drops, was a mainstay in many Japanese households. One sweet shop owner told Reuters he recalls always having a can when he was in grade school, which he pried open with a 10 yen coin.

Sakuma's Drops' maker hadn't raised prices in years

The more business-inclined may feel the writing was on the wall for Sakuma Seika, particularly since, as Reuters reported, the candy's price hadn't been raised in years. However, Japanese companies keep their prices steady because they are afraid they will drive customers away if a hike is spotted. A combination of this, lower demand and higher operating costs, per SoraNews24, saw the candy company report a net loss of 151 million yen, or a bit over $1 million, in the fiscal year 2021, Reuters notes.

The candy company has not revealed what will become of the firm's 100 employees, but what is known is that the candy will be missed by those that grew up with it. "It's very sad to see something disappear that's been around for so long," an older candy store owner said.

Fans appear to be hanging on to the hope that the candy isn't going to disappear entirely because there is another type of Sakuma Drops on the market — the clone in a similarly-shaped green can is currently being manufactured by another company also called Sakuma Seika but written out with different Japanese characters, and it seems to be faring better. But there will be those hoping that the candy company will make a comeback, as it did in 1948 after its pre-war facilities in Japan and China were destroyed during World War II.