Here's the Secret Special Bread Message from Tomte:

Hokkaido is one of my favorite places in Japan, but there's a bakery chain
there with take-out bags containing the funniest example of bad English I've
ever seen (and I've seen plenty). The first time I saw one of these was in
1990, and to this day the bags remain unchanged. Perhaps little Tomte needs
to bake less, and study more.

Gambatte ne, Tomte!

(Runner-up [Sign on building]: "Hair Make Technology Great")

August 2007: The Bags Have Been Changed!

While in Sapporo again this summer, I went to Hokuo one morning (the bakery chain
with these bags) -- and was shocked to see that the bags have changed! That terrible,
hilarious English has been replaced with almost-normal English! (There are a few
mistakes, but they are easily forgiven -- unlike the horrible English of the old
bags). The design, color, and fonts have remained the same, but the text now reads
(typed in exactly):

  "We are Tomte." The Scandinavian region of northern Europe is the fabled home of gnomes called Tomte.
  Tomte love children. At night, when everyone is sound asleep, Tomte go about casting magical spells to
  ensure the next morning's freshly baked bread will be especially delicious for the children. Cherishing the
  spirit of the Tomte, we at "Hokuo" take a highly skilled and gentle-natured approach to bread making.

On one level, I should give the company kudos for finally changing their bags to fix the
horrible English (which they left unchanged for years) -- obviously word got to them of
people making fun of it. Yet another part of me is sad to see such a funny part of Japan
go into the sunset. It needs to be noted however that as of August 2007, only the larger
size bags had the corrected English on them. The small and extra-small bags still had the
old, terrible English... so either the change is new and they haven't gone through the old
stock of small bags yet (quite possible) or they only changed the text on the larger bags.

At any rate, I guess Tomte finally passed his exams...

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