Say Sayonara to the Skin Colour Pencil

The Disappearance of the ‘Skin Colour Pencil’

If you have a look at the different colours from a set of crayons in Japan, you can no longer find the skin colour pencil. What was known as ‘skin colour’ has now been changed to ‘pale orange’ due to concerns about discrimination.

“From when did the skin colour pencil become ‘pale orange’, I wonder?” – was a tweet from one mother.

The tweet soon got replies such as:

“I’ve been using the term ‘skin colour’ without any thought behind it, so I was quite shocked.”

“If you actually go to a kindergarten, you’ll see many people who don’t fall under the ‘skin colour’.”


Stationery Stores, Too

After a quick visit to a stationery store, there really are no skin colour pencils or crayons any more. They are all ‘pale orange’ or ‘weak orange’.

We asked around town to see if other people had noticed the change.


“You don’t call it skin colour? My parents and teachers always taught it as skin colour in kindergarten.” – A 20-year-old female student.

“I had no idea. I have a lot of skin colour underwear – I wonder what colour I am supposed to call them?” – A 70-year-old housewife.


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The Origins of the Skin Colour

The Japanese Colour Research Facility stated as such:

“If you look into it, the origin of skin colour is based on a colour known as ‘flesh colour’ that was around in the 8th-century. During the Meiji period (1869-1912), Japan started to interact with many different countries, so people started to become aware of a ‘skin colour’, and so it was named so.”


Comments From the Manufacturers

“In accordance to the wishes of customers, the ‘skin colour’ pencils and crayons were replaced with ‘pale orange’ in 2013. It’s important to be aware of such things as Japan becomes more and more diverse.”- Penteru Crayons


“We rode the changing wind and renamed the crayon in 2014, along with most other manufacturers. There are a lot of opinions about it, so it’s quite a difficult problem.”- Tonbo Pencils


It appears the reason for this change was because many customers considered it discrimination, so they took the matter to the unions. It was decided that the skin colour does not represent actual skin colour, but was customary of Japanese characteristics. Furthermore, it is had to unify the colour of the skin, so it was decided that the name would be changed to pale orange.



A Skin Colour Set?

One Italian manufacturer has collected 12 skin colour pencils from around the world. The pencils have proved popular and are selling well among teachers.


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Was it Necessary?

While it may be difficult to say having a skin colour pencil lead to discrimination – I’m sure for some people, it leads to uncomfortable or awkward situations. Either way, I’m all for Japan becoming more aware and tolerant.


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