Just leave it to the WSJ to come up with a head-shaking tale about fungal life in Japan.
It appears that there's a new sensation in the Japanese gaming world... at least, it's new to us! And would you believe that it's a small mushroom with yellowish flesh, amber-brown gills, and a slightly gelatinous coating (reminiscent of okra) that is frequently used as an ingredient in miso soup and stir-fried dishes? Yes, this entirely pedestrian mushroom, one of Japan's most popular cultivated mushrooms, appreciated for its slightly nutty, somewhat cashewy flavor, is the star of an addictively simple game.
Ordinary, Nameko is not; certainly not any more. It's been elevated to the status of rock star, featured in a trilogy of smartphone games called 'Nameko Saibai kit.' In the gaming world, this mushroom has become a sensation with more than 32 million downloads since its debut in June of 2011.
But, wait, there's more. WSJ reports that "The nameko song—which begins with the bulb-shaped mushrooms dancing under what appears to be Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night—has been watched on YouTube over 10 million times in less than a year. A promotional video for the game cracked YouTube's top 10 most-watched videos in Japan for 2012. An illustrated encyclopedia of the different nameko characters—of which there are more than 200—was Japan's second best-selling book in the last week of April, trailing only acclaimed author Haruki Murakami's latest novel." Wow, nameko has made the big time!
Who would have thought that Pholiota nameko, or the butterscotch mushroom, as it's sometimes called here in the states, would become the character of a wildly popular game?