If your elementary school was anything like mine, you were probably encouraged by your teachers to bring in box tops. Box tops help raise funds for school supplies and other educational costs. They’re mostly found on cereal boxes (General Mills, ahem) but also on non-edible products as well. I don’t remember bringing many box tops to school, mostly because I was too engrossed in eating my bowl(s) of cereal to bother cutting them out.

Turns out, Japan also has something similar to the USA box top called the ベルマーク (Bellmark) or simply マーク. My partner told me how he used to cut them out and give them to his mom’s friends for their children to bring to school.

Japan actually hopped on the box top train long before the USA. The Bellmark Education Grant Foundation (ベルマーク教育助成財団) was founded in 1960, compared to the Box Tops for Education program in 1996. Like America, their box tops appear on food packaging and non-edibles, although they’re a lot smaller than the American counterpart. They’re easy to identify by the little bell.

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What, only one point?!?

American box tops are worth 10 cents. Japanese box tops are generally valued by points. These points translate to yen, the Japanese currency, so 1 point is equivalent to 1 yen, 2 points to 2 yen, and so on.

Companies affiliated with the Bellmark Education Grant Foundation are assigned a number (ベルマーク番号). Box tops need to be organized by company number before they are sent off. For example, the box top above has the number 25, which is the Meiji company. Not all Meiji products have a box top, but on the Bellmark site, there’s a directory where you can look up which specific products have box tops. Pretty handy!

Like in America, you need to cut the box tops out of the packaging. The Bellmark site even has directions on the proper way to cut the box tops out. No cutting corners, literally!

Japan is known for creating mascots (キャラクター) for just about anything, so it’s no surprise that the Bellmark site is peppered with cute hermit crab characters with bells for shells. There’s a whole family of them!


From left to right: Bellma-kun, Rin-chan, Papa Bell, and Mama Bell!

Now that you know what that little bell is all about, look for it next time you buy some yummy Japanese snacks!

Until next time,
Alyssa / アリッサ