Here are some photos from the second day of last weekend’s regional mascot event in Sumida, Tokyo. The star attraction on the second day was Funassyi, the hyperactive pear and unofficial mascot of Funabashi, Chiba. He and Kumamon never seem to appear on the same day at these events. They’re like the brothers from Oasis.
Month: May 2017
Last weekend was the annual Gotouchi-chara Festival in Sumida, Tokyo. One hundred different regional mascots gathered at three stages and a park near the base of Japan’s tallest structure, the Sky Tree. Here are some pictures from the first day of the event.
Japanese mascots are enthusiastic about all sorts of things, even underground rivers of fetid, stinking human waste. Here is a selection of my favourite regional sewage works mascots.
Earth-kun (or Ass-kun, depending on how you interpret the katakana) is a globe with a manhole cover for a hat. He’s the mascot character for the Tokyo sewage system. I don’t want to know what he does with that finger!
Suisui-kun, the mascot for the Japan Sewer Association, is a colourful chap. He is a fish with incongruous human legs, presumably for wading through excrement. Suisui-kun is a cheerful fellow, but even he has bad days from time to time:
Images of an anthropomorphic splash named Aquan adorn manhole covers in Yokosuka City, where he is a cheerleader for the local water supply and sewage system. Being enthusiastic about those sewers is no easy task- he has to deal with the floating aftermath of barracks of soldiers bingeing on Popeye’s Chicken and Pizza Hut at the city’s U.S. military base.
The kappa was once a fearsome beast of legend, instilling fear in the hearts of folk throughout Japan. Yattakun is a cutesy, infantilised shadow of that former glory. As if being de-clawed and neutered wasn’t indignity enough, Yattakun also has to spend his days worshipping rivers of poo.
Yattakun was voted the nation’s fourth best sewer mascot in 2014, a prestigious honour, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Japanese Yuru-chara can be found in the most unexpected of places. They bring joy to sporting events, schools, and tourist resorts, but they can also be spotted at less cheerful institutions. Prisons, for example. Correctional facilities looking to soften their image as grey and forbidding hell-holes sometimes adopt bright and happy mascots, more likely to give you a cuddle than shank you in the showers.
Wakayama Women’s Prison has housed many notorious inmates over the years, including Hisako Ishii – a senior member of the Aum Shinrikyo death cult; and Masumi Hayashi, who killed four people by poisoning a pot of curry at a summer festival.
The prison is also home to Waka-Pi – its adorable mascot. The “Waka” in her name comes from the prefecture, Wakayama, and “Pi” is the letter P, for “prison”. Her head is shaped like the mandarin oranges which are grown locally.
Abashiri is the most infamous prison in Japan’s history. Located in the desolate frozen wasteland of Northern Hokkaido, the maximum security facility long had a well-earned reputation for being the harshest prison in the country, as well as the most difficult to escape from. In the 1960s it inspired a series of yakuza movies starring Ken Takakuru. The original site was closed in 1984, and a new medium-security facility was opened not far from the city centre. That prison is home to Nipo-kun, a mascot modeled on a traditional toy made by the local Ainu tribes.
Katakkuri-chan is a prison warden with a giant purple flower for hair, and is the mascot of Ashikawa Prison. There are male and female incarnations of the character, both unveiled in 2013 to soften the grim and isolated image of the facility. Ashikawa has been in trouble for its harsh and inhumane treatment of inmates. One hopes Katakkuri-kun is not responsible.
While delinquent American teenagers spend their spring break partying in Cancun, the young delinquents of Japan get Nashikan-kun. He’s the mascot of the Nara Juvenile Detention Centre.
Yesterday various yuru-chara mascots from around Japan were to be found on Tokyo’s Nishi-Ginza Dori for the 11th annual Willow Festival, a festival named after the trees that line the street.
The best-known of the characters in attendance was the ubiquitous Kumamon, who soaked up most of the attention as he paraded around in a traditional robe.
Kumamon was joined by fellow bear, Arukuma, the official mascot of Nagano prefecture. He enjoys walking and has a variety of different hats.
Also at the event was the minimalistic Kitekero-kun, the “hospitalitiy section manager” of Yamagata prefecture, pictured here without his trademark rolling suitcase.
Gunma-chan and Mito-chan, pictured below, have a lot in common. They are both tiny and are named after their hometowns. Gunma-chan has been around since 1983 (since when he has evolved from a blue-maned horse into his current incarnation), and won the coveted Yuruchara Grand Prix prize in 2014. Mito-chan, of Mito City, Ibaraki, has only been around for four years and is modelled on the television period drama character, Mito Komon.