Barbie First Launched in Japan

In the world of toys and dolls, few have achieved the iconic status and enduring popularity of Barbie. As Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated “Barbie” movie sparks excitement and captivates audiences worldwide, did you know that Barbie first launched in Japan, and this seemingly unexpected beginning led to a series of intriguing events?

Barbie First Launched in Japan: The Unveiling of an Amusing Anecdote

In a fascinating revelation brought to light by the “LA Made” podcast’s second season, hosts Antonia Cereijido and M.G. Lord unearth the captivating story behind the production of the original Barbie dolls by toy designer Jack Ryan at Mattel. Ryan’s venture into the world of Barbie began with a request to a Japanese toy company to create a modified version of the German Lilli doll (a detail worth exploring in the podcast).

The Unexpected Detail from Japan

As the collaboration between Ryan and the Japanese toy company took shape, a peculiar detail emerged—a feature that would later spark laughter and surprise. The Japanese company decided to add nipples onto Barbie’s breasts, a gesture that raised eyebrows within Mattel’s marketing team. Naturally, the idea of selling children’s toys with such a provocative element was met with reluctance.

Barbie First Launched in Japan
Credit: IMDb

A Swiss Solution to a Delicate Dilemma

Faced with the challenge of addressing the nipples on the dolls, Ryan took matters into his own hands and devised a creative solution. Drawing inspiration from Swiss craftsmanship, he utilized a specialized file primarily designed for wristwatches to gently remove the nipples from the dolls. The image of Ryan delicately “filing off” Barbie’s nipples became an amusing memory shared by Cereijido and a moment that defined the doll’s early development.

A Repeated Process and the Final Resolution

Despite Ryan’s efforts to return the modified Barbies with the nipples removed, the dolls kept reappearing with the risqué detail intact, leading to several iterations. However, persistence and clarity eventually prevailed, and the Japanese company understood the subtle hint. They finally removed the nipples, aligning the dolls with Mattel’s vision for a more modest children’s toy.

The Marketing Team’s Reaction

One can only imagine the expressions of bewilderment and surprise that adorned the faces of Mattel’s marketing team when they laid eyes on the first iterations of the dolls. After all, we’re talking about the conservative 1950s, a time when societal norms and sensitivities were quite different from today.

Exploring Barbie’s Rich History

Beyond the amusing anecdote about Barbie’s early days, “LA Made: The Barbie Tapes” offers a treasure trove of insights into the doll’s captivating history. In various episodes, the podcast delves into the intricate details surrounding Barbie, including discussions about the challenges faced by Mattel in deciding whether Barbie’s male companion, Ken, should possess certain features.

A Fascinating Journey into Barbie’s Origins

The “LA Made: The Barbie Tapes” season commenced earlier this July, presenting three episodes brimming with captivating information. Listeners can immerse themselves in the world of Barbie through archived audio files featuring interviews with key figures like Jack Ryan and Barbie’s inventor, Ruth Handler. A standout contributor to the discussions is M.G. Lord, the author of “Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll,” who brings an unparalleled depth of knowledge to the exploration.

The enthralling history of Barbie’s creation is filled with surprising connections between diverse cultures and design influences. From the unexpected addition of nipples by a Japanese toy company to the innovative use of a Swiss file to resolve the matter, Barbie’s journey into the hearts of millions is a testament to the ingenuity and adaptability of its creators. The “LA Made” podcast’s captivating insights into Barbie’s past offer an engaging narrative that enriches our appreciation for this enduring cultural icon.


You see, my love for Japan is not only based on personal experience; it's based on a deep admiration for Japanese culture, history, and traditions. Thank you, Japan, for being a constant source of inspiration, joy, and wonder in my life. I may never be able to express my love for Japan in person, but I hope that through my blog and my writing, I can share a small piece of my admiration and devotion with the world.

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