Ask John: Why are Mikan Boxes so Common in Anime?
Many otaku and students of Japanese culture may be aware that oranges and tangerines are widely considered symbols of good fortune and are thus commonly served during New Year celebrations. Oranges are also particularly associated with the One Piece character Nami who is always obsessed with collecting wealth.
Particularly observant otaku may also notice that roughly 75% of all cardboard boxes depicted in anime are leftover crates for delivering oranges (“mikan”). Oranges and tangerines are popular fruit in Japan because they’re easy to grow, requiring relatively little care and space to raise a single fruit-bearing tree. So especially in suburban and rural Japan, orange trees are fairly common.
“Mikan” crates are a nearly omnipresent characteristic of anime that very few viewers ever consciously notice. During the past few years I’ve been deliberately collecting screenshots of orange boxes that appear in anime.