The family above plays into one of my favorite Peanuts stories. They are the Okazaki family of Kobe, Japan.
I remember some 25 years ago seeing some cute childrens’ clothing come through as samples to be approved. Evelyn Ellison, who was monitoring the approvals at that time, told me the story of the founding of the company, Familiar.
During the war and after there was a dearth of manufacturing in Japan, and four women began working together to make clothes for their own children, and then began making them for others.
A company was founded under the leadership of Atsuko Banno, and was given the name Familiar because they were like family and because they asked a French family who said the word for good fortune was a similar word. This is all a long lost explanation, but essentially the name revolved around family.
Following Atsuko, her husband, Michio Banno, became the company’s second CEO.
Fast forward 20 years and Teruko Banno (she used the nickname Terry at that time) was a graduate student studying in New York. She bought and brought home to Japan with her a plush Snoopy doll. She told her father, Michio, then the head of the company, that they should import the plush dolls into Japan.
There was no licensing company for Peanuts in Japan in those days in the late 1960s, so Mr. Banno contacted the State Department to begin his search. I have always credited Terry with starting the love of Snoopy in Japan. This story has always symbolized to me what a great ambassador Snoopy has become. Little did Sparky know when he created that wonderful and protean character what it would lead to.
Terry married Haruhiko Okazaki, and he became the third CEO of Familiar (perhaps in 1992 after Michio Banno passed away).
Terry’s children are seen above on opening night at a reunion at Snoopy Museum Tokyo. Masa (aka Mark) Banno (left), Misa Okazaki Anders (second from left), and Tadahiko Okazaki (right), Terry’s elder son, the fourth CEO of Familiar.
We are very fortunate to be associated with such a respected family and respected company in Japan. I wish I could show some of the wonderful programs they have done over the years that I have known them. One great program was to have a contest among school children to design art work for tee shirts. The “winning” 10 designs were actually made up into clothing for sale, with an assortment of cards and pins and other accessories to go with them. The designs were always delightful and I was so proud to be a part of this clever and creative campaign.