Granny and the real doll

Older Japanese women with a hankering for grandchildren get their own adorable, stuffed companions.

Published July 2, 2008 3:05PM (EDT)

There's only one thing mothers want more than happiness for their children: actual grandchildren. Nagging may be the not-so-secret weapon of prospective American grandmothers, but their Japanese counterparts are more resourceful. When you can't have the real thing, a fluffy, big-eyed, pink and green toy comes in at a close, cuddly second. Japan's Purimopueru, the singing, Teletubby-like doll that whispers sweet nothings when you hug it, is wildly popular among grannies coping with little children withdrawal, according to the Los Angeles Times. Purimopueru is the most successful doll for the company Bandai, which has sold more than 1 million, mostly to women in their 50s and 60s, who, in five years, will outnumber their grandchildren by 2-to-1. A Broadsheet reader who knows a thing or two about Japanese culture recently pointed out in the comments section an important social pattern that doesn't quite translate across hemispheres: A doll as a stand-in for a grandchild may seem strange to us, but in Japan, inanimate substitutes for actual companionship is normal -- not deviant. (And hey, these little darlings don't come with the pressure to buy $800 strollers, either.) Maybe wannabe American grannies should adopt an Asian import more useful and lovable than Hello Kitty.

By Logan Scherer

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