Niigata Rice Cracker Museum & Bakauke Inari in Niigata, Japan

The "Bakauke Inari" shrine.

A rice cracker notable for its banana-like shape, bakauke is a very popular snack in Japan. It comes in flavors like soy sauce with seaweed, soy sauce and sesame, and mild curry.

The cracker was introduced in 1990 by Befco, then known as Kuriyama Beika Co. It quickly became the company’s biggest success, and though a product of Niigata Prefecture—its name means “super hit” or “well received” in the local dialect—it now can be found all across the country.

In 2002, the company opened its factory to the public, branding it as an interactive museum called the Rice Cracker Kingdom. Here, visitors can watch the process of making the rice crackers and learn their history. In 2008, the company renovated and expanded the space, renaming it the Niigata Rice Cracker Museum.

There’s also an unusual shrine at the entrance to this snack-themed museum. The doors are flanked by the company’s mascots, which are anthropomorphic rice crackers. They can be also seen on the roof, along with the snack’s official logo.

While it may seem odd, this “Bakauke Inari” shrine is not just a prop but an actual shrine—sort of. Shortly after Kuriyama Beika Co. was founded in 1947, the 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.

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