A rice cracker notable for its banana-like shape, bakauke is a very popular snack in Japan, which comes in various flavors such as soy sauce with seaweed, sesame, curry, wasabi, edamame, shrimp, and even sea urchin.
The cracker was introduced in 1990 by Befco, then known as Kuriyama Beika Co. It quickly became the company’s biggest success, and despite being a product of Niigata Prefecture—its name means “super hit” or “well received” in the local dialect—it can be found all across the country today.
In 2002, the company opened its factory to the public, branding it as an interactive museum called the Rice Cracker Kingdom. Here, visitors could watch the process of making rice crackers and learn their history. Six years later, the company renovated and expanded the space, renaming it the Niigata Rice Cracker Museum.
At its entrance stands an unusual mini-shrine called Bakauke Inari. The doors are flanked by the company’s mascot characters, Barin and Borin, which are anthropomorphic Bakauke rice crackers with asymmetrical features. They can also be found on the roof, along with the snack’s official logo.
While it may seem odd, this Bakauke Inari shrine is not just a prop structure but an actual shrine—well, sort of. Shortly after Kuriyama Beika Co. was founded in 1947, its founder established a small hokora-type shrine on the company grounds. The small shrine has stood through the course of the company’s history, watching over its growth over the decades.
Following the success of the Bakauke snacks, the shrine gained the nickname of “Bakauke Inari” and the number of visitors increased. In 2005, the company decided to give it a fitting makeover, creating the unique rice cracker shrine that stands today.