Japanese people who are too shy to work up the courage to say "I Love You," or at least want a little surprise, have a new option: a bean plant that sprouts to read a special message.
Japan's second largest toymaker, Takara, will on Feb. 10 start nationwide marketing of the gift cans, which hold soil and the small plant bearing a message that sprouts up in about five days.
It offers six different messages, which are inscribed through a laser beam, with one side of the bean carrying words such as "I Love You" and "Good Luck!" and the other side a smiley face.
Known as "Ma Mail," a pun on the Japanese word for bean mame, the product can be used as "a new type of message card to convey your feelings to your loved ones," Takara said in a statement.
Another toymaker, Tomy, offers its own version of message beans set in a calcium-made white egg that "hatches" after being placed in water.
"You can have the fun of fortune telling as you don't know what message will come out until the bean sprouts," Tomy said, adding the egg would also be suitable for a gift as this is the Chinese zodiac year of the cock.
The bean cracks open through the egg and shows French-language messages such as Avec toi! (With you!) and C'est la vie! (That's life!) on one side and Japanese words of encouragement on the other.
The bean splits open to grow leaves which usually cling to the stem for about a month, Tomy said.
Both Takara and Tomy aim at sales of 1 million units for the initial year.
Sales company Senshukai started selling beans made by a South Korean firm on Jan. 7 at ?630 each, with healthy sales of 100,000 cans so far, a company official said.