Why Nobody In Japan Knows Of Baskin Robbins Despite 1000 Stores

There is an ice cream mystery in Japan: Baskin Robbins (バスキンロビンス). The fact that it’s there and has ridiculous popularity is a mystery in itself but what I’m more interested in is what people call it. Basking Robbins is called サーティワン (thirty-one) in Japan.

It’s not a casual nickname. To 99.9% of Japanese people, that is its official company name (商号), despite the letters BR and Baskin Robbins appearing everywhere.

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So official that using the real store name, even in its Japanese pronunciation, will not convey it’s meaning to most people. What happened to get to this moment?

You might be thinking that it’s just a simple abbreviation (略), and Japan obsessed with abbreviations does this all the time. Look at マック (Mac for McDonalds) after all. But abbreviations take words and shorten them.

You would assume 31 would be taken from Baskin Robbins 31 Ice Cream, which was the original office logo (ロゴマーク) for the company.

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The 31 (which represents a different flavor for every day of the month) is even trademarked. However most Americans pay zero attention to the 31 part, and everyone just refers to it as Baskin Robbins. Say “let’s go to 31,” and you will get the same clueless look as if you said “let’s go to Baskin Robbins” to a Japanese person.

So why didn’t Japan take the Baskin Robbins part? And if they wanted an abbreviation, why not just call it BR (ビーアルー), which would be as easy (if not easier) as 31?

When Baskin Robbins came to Japan, it merged (合併) with the popular snack maker 不二家 (Fujiya), forming a new company.

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And what did they call that new company?

B-R サーティワン アイスクリーム株式会

Or in English

B-R 31 ICE CREAM CO.,LTD.

Baskin Robbins is nowhere to be found. Only the abbreviation. So still, why didn’t they just take the BR?

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Just a guess, but no one probably knew what it meant, so it was much easier to take the English most people can relate with, thirty-one.

So when the Japanese website was created, they chose the domain name:

http://www.31ice.co.jp

As opposed to the international version in most countries like:

http://baskinrobbins.co.kr (Korea’s website)

Go ahead and try it out

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Think this is an exaggeration? Ask some Japanese people (who have never lived abroad) if they want to go to “バスキンロビンス.” I promise you an interesting response and a へぇー in there somewhere.

And one final interesting fact: Japan and Taiwan are the only two countries in the world that call it 31.



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

Why Nobody In Japan Knows Of Baskin Robbins Despite 1000 Stores — 17 Comments

  1. 面白い!
    日本の7-Elevenの名前が吃驚した、セブン&アイ・ホールディングスって何!!? 名前の理由、意味がちょっと無くなすと思う… :P (株式会社の大分の店と本社は日本に有るですけど)

    • 確かに会社の正式名称はちょっと長いと思うけど俗にいう「セブン」は分かりやすい。

  2. My husband had a hard time believing 31 Ice Cream was Baskin Robins. I had to show him the pictures. (Yet, I’ve definitely seen Baskin Robins in Japan myself, ha.)

    So interesting!

    Likewise, I never noticed the number 31.

    • That’s so so funny…
      And just to make sure I’m getting this right, you’re implying that your husband knew of something called “31” in Japan and something called “Baskin Robbins” in the US, but just not that they were the same thing, right?

    • Haha that is pretty funny. But I agree, I think most people are completely oblivious of the 31 outside of Japan, so when I was first told that it’s called 31, it made no sense.

  3. Back in the day (in the U.S.), Baskin Robbins was special because they had so many flavors of ice cream. Now there are tons of flavors at the grocery store, but back in the day, there weren’t. My (American) mom still calls it 31 Flavors instead of Baskin Robbins. What annoyed me in Japan was that they didn’t have even close to 31 flavors – more like 10 flavors at the location I went to.

    • It’ll be a couple months yet before I’m ready to tackle it, but definitely looking forward to it as well :)

      • it’s great you’re voicing that though, that’s a big factor in whether Adam continues to provide decks like these! The more the merrier I think.

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