Two months ago at an event near Koyo-tei, one by the oldest soba restaurants in Sapporo, temporary tattoos were handed out to foreign tourists visiting the region. But these weren’t any old temporary tattoos. Incorporating traditional Japanese motifs and designs, they were developed in collaboration with a dermatologist to detect soba (buckwheat noodle) allergies.
“When it comes to food allergies, soba is the peanut of Japan,” says ad agency J. Walter Thompson, who partnered with Hokkaido’s soba association to develop the allergy-detecting stickers. “About 0.03% of people are allergic to the buckwheat noodle.” It’s one of the most common allergies among kids in Japan and is well-telegraphed throughout the country. However, foreign tourists often aren’t familiar with the allergy, which can cause anaphylaxis shock just like the peanut and potentially ruin an otherwise great trip to Japan.
The series of temporary tattoos were developed with a dermatologist in hopes of raising awareness about the soba allergy. At the event last month, 200 temporary tattoos were handed out. Testers applied the tattoo using soba-yu, the broth from boiling soba, instead of plain water. “If you are allergic, your skin will turn red and the color will be visible through the clear plastic sections of the tattoo motif.”
The soba association that initiated the fun campaign hopes to broaden the effort and eventually distribute the temporary tattoos throughout Japan.