Kura Sushi Collaboration

Kura Sushi Collaboration

In 2018, I was in Japan with my partner, eating at a revolving sushi bar restaurant that offered gachapon prizes for plates of food you'd finish. I mean, what more can you ask for? Good food, make it in to a game, AND you get prizes?! 🙌

I remember sitting there, watching the animation play on the little tablet, triggered by the set amount of plates we slid in to the return slot, and saying out loud, "Maybe one day Puglie could be the prize for these restaurants... ionno how but... maybe one day."

That "one day" was February 20th, 2020.

My email that day says I have a "New customer message from Shopify." This can be anything - a kind comment, a customer asking for help, a question, or spam.

I open it to see a professionally written introduction from a Kura Sushi USA representative who expresses interest in collaborating with Puglie.

And I'm like, "...hwut?"
Is this real? 😱💦💦

It was real.

From the initial correspondence, we had meetings, plans set in place, pitched schedules for release dates, and so on, but as you can probably tell from the date, something no one would've expected was about to affect all of us - the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.

Amidst all the hiccups and upsets that pandemic shut downs caused, we continued to work hard through it all! I did what I do best - draw Puglie in food! Specifically, the fan favourite dishes at Kura Sushi.

Illustration of two Mini Puglies and one Mini Ollie in a Kura Sushi Tonkatsu Ramen bowl. One of the Puglies is eating the chashu, the other is laying belly up on the egg, and Ollie is face down in the ramen.
Illustration of Puglie dressed up in the Shrimp Avocado Roll.
Illustration of Puglie dressed up in the Spicy Tuna Crunchy Hand Roll.
Illustration of two Mini Puglies and one Mini Ollie in a Taiyaki Ice Cream. Ollie is eating the Taiyaki, a Puglie is eating a red bean underneath the taiyaki, and another Puglie is face down stuck in the ice cream underneath the taiyaki.

The fantastic team at Kura Sushi did what they did best, schedule the work flow, design the merchandise and promotional displays using my art, and setting up a blog dedicated to the collaboration!

Photo of five Kura Sushi Puglie Rubber Bookmarks.
Photo of three Kura Sushi Puglie mini note pads.
Photo of two Kura Sushi Puglie temporary tattoos.
Photo of three Kura Sushi Puglie rubber coasters.

I'm absolutely so grateful for the efficient, professional, and enthusiastic team of people I got to work with at Kura Sushi to make this journey such an amazing one!

With everything coming together, the launch date was getting ever closer.

In anticipation for the release, Kura Sushi interviewed me so people meeting Puglie for the first time could learn more about who, or what, this little pug was!

Now, since this was such a big milestone, I booked a ticket to Los Angeles for the campaign launch. I was so excited to meet someone from the Kura Sushi team so that I could sincerely thank them, and to also see this all come to life! I had even packed a handful of Asian themed Puglie stickers to bring with me in case anyone recognized me at the Little Tokyo location 👀💖

And yet, even as I was standing in front of the restaurant, I'm inside eating the food, and rolling my own prizes, it felt so surreal. Like this is actually happening???

Instagram Story featuring a circular panel of Taiyaki Ice Cream Mini Puglies artwork hung up on a Kura Sushi restaurant wall. Caption says “Thank you @Kurasushi_USA for this amazing opportunity.”

I got to say thanks to the Kura Sushi representative that initially reached out to me. We took some photos of me holding the prizes in an emptier part of the restaurant which I'm pretty sure was never used because omg I'm so awkward LOL.

I got to overhear some people gush about how cute Puglie was not knowing who he was, which really meant a lot to me 😭💖 And in the end, no one recognized me for the free stickers, and I felt too awkward going up to anyone who did express joy seeing Puglie to offer them a sticker and introduce myself, so I ended up giving them to the staff! I really hope they liked them!

Instagram Story showing the Puglie collaboration marketing material on a tissue dispenser. Caption says “my favorite pug and my favorite sushi”

I got to experience the joy from all of you going out to Kura Sushi and taking some Puglies home. I got to feel the pat on the back from so many longtime fans witnessing my lil pug reach a big dream 😭💖💖

Instagram Story showing a circular art panel of Mini Puglies in a tempura set hung up on a Kura Sushi restaurant wall, caption says “So proud of little puglie”

And I got to see the joy Puglie brought to people he's never met before 💖

Instagram story showing a plate of sushi, cup of melon soda, and an opened yellow gachapon ball showing a Kura Sushi Puglie rubber bookmark.
Instagram story showing a hand holding three Kura Sushi Puglie rubber bookmarks. Caption says, "Adorable!"

I'll be so honest with you all, none of this felt real. I sit here, writing all this out, posting photo evidence of its existence, and yet I still feel like I need to be pinched.

You know what was the wildest story in all this?

In my initial meeting with Kura Sushi's team, I had a burning question: How did you come across my little Puglie?

It turns out, one of the representative's friends went to a convention in LA, purchased some Puglie stickers, and gifted some to her. She put them on her water bottle, and one day at work, a coworker noticed Puglie on her bottle, thought he was cute, and asked who he was.

That was it. That's what started this whole thing.

Assortment of Puglie's Kura Sushi Prizes - Rubber Bookmarks, Temporary Tattoos, Mini Notepads - arranged amongst yellow and red gachapon capsules.

I don't think I'll ever find the words to truly express how amazing this whole experience was. My brain also doesn't have the vocabulary or eloquence to convey how grateful I am for Kura Sushi in reaching out to collaborate with a small business artist such as myself.

If in the future I manage to have another collaboration with Kura Sushi, it will continue to be a dream come true.

Until then, we can relive the surreal adventure via Instagram Highlights!

Back to blog

Leave a comment