furoku & zen'in presents

Furoku (付録) are little extras that come with all shōjo manga magazines like Ribon and Nakayoshi. These days, they can be anything from handbags and lunch boxes to gel pens and hand-held mechanical fans, but back in the day when Tokimeki was being serialized in Ribon magazine, furoku were usually made out of paper, cardstock, or cardboard, with the rare item in PVC or plastic. This was because up until 2001, the Japanese National Railways prohibited or restricted the use of many materials (such as plastic or fabric) in magazine furoku.

And yet, fans of Ribon (and Nakayoshi) from this period look back on these paper furoku with great fondness. The draw is the art and the design: imagine receiving a notebook, or a letter set, or a binder, or a little cardboard box, all with beautiful and adorable color art by your favorite manga artists, every time you buy a magazine. Since the late 70s and through the 90s, Ribon was famous for its well-designed, cute furoku that captured the hearts of millions of Japanese girls. At a time when young girls couldn't afford many luxuries, furoku from magazines such as Ribon fulfilled their desires for "kawaii", fashionable items, and furoku was as important an aspect of shōjo magazines as the actual manga. So, of course, as Japan became more and more affluent and children gained easier access to more material things, it was only natural that paper furoku was replaced by more extravagant items such as fabric bags, wrist watches, and more.

In the 80s and 90s, furoku started following a pattern year after year: the January issue would include a calendar with all-new color art by all the Ribon artists of the time; the April or May issues would include notebooks for the beginning of the new school year in Japan; the July issue would include a plastic bag to carry swimsuits; the December issue (or, later, the August issue) would include a set of playing cards with all-new color art by the four most popular artists at the time, and so on. Ribon readers would know these rules, and each year look forward to these specific furoku. Other popular, recurring items include letter sets, binders, diaries, paper bags, stickers, and various boxes and baskets, as well as small volumes of extra manga.

Just like the number of color pages allotted the various manga in the magazine, furoku would work as a measure of how popular a certain series or artist was. As I already mentioned, the top four series would be featured in the yearly furoku playing cards, and only the most popular series of the magazine would be featured as the "main" big furoku of a given issue, while the less popular ones were shoved aside or only featured on small stickers or cards.

I own a few pieces of Narumi and Aira furoku from back when I was reading Ribon magazine, as well as furoku with art by Ikeno for Ririka SOS. After opening this site, I've also slowly started collecting 80s furoku from the Ranze era. On this page I've included photographs and scans of every piece of furoku I own so you can have a look at these quite rare items. You will also find a few "zen'in presents", which are items Ribon gave out to all its readers for only the price of shipping. These items weren't constricted by Japan Raiways, and would often be much more extravagant than the usual furoku. At the height of Ribon magazine's popularity, literally millions of girls would send stamps to Ribon's editorial staff to receive these exclusive items.

For a more comprehensive (but probably not complete) list of Tokimeki furoku and zen'in presents, please check the furoku list.

If you are interested in the history of furoku or you want to see images of furoku from a wider variety of artists and series, I recommend the following books: