Month: May 2017

The Sumida Gotouchi-Chara Festival 2017 – Day 2

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.

Funassyi takes centre stage.

Osaki’s Thom Yorke lookalike, Spanky, is the guitarist for the yuruchara band, GCB47.

The bedraggled, trippy Psyche-Deli-san is a fitting mascot for Tokyo’s counter-culture enclave, Koenji.

The entertaining Goya-Sensei, a bitter melon from Fukuchiyama City in Kyoto, talks out of his forehead.

The winking “green spirit” Inappi comes from Inazawa City, Aichi.

Shirakawan is a white dog from Shirakawa City, Fukushima.

Sanomaru, official mascot of Sano City in Tochigi Prefecture, was voted best mascot at the Yuruchara Grand Prix in 2013. He wears traditional attire except for a noodle bowl for a hat.

Coroton, the spherical pig, must surely be an easy target in his hometown of Maebashi in Gunma, a city celebrated for its pork dishes.

Sanada Yukimaru is the mascot of Ueda Haramachi in Nagano.

Fukka-chan, the beloved mascot of Fukaya City, in Saitama, a prefecture with seemingly hundreds of mascots.

Talking into his forehead is Chosei Tonyu-Kun, a soy milk mascot whose face occasionally fall off.

The citrus fruit-headed water imp, Yuzu Gappa, of Tokushima Prefecture, reclines in the park. Is he aware that someone has drawn spectacles on his face?

Keisei Panda, corporate mascot for Keisei Electric Railway, looks like he needs more sleep.

Kato Denosuke of Kato City, Hyogo. Cool hairstyle!

Jirokids, from Sumida, is a mouse in Edo-era garb.

Gatagoro, from Saga Prefecture’s Ariake Sea, draws portraits for his fans.

Iga Gurio is the tourism ambassador for Iga City, Mie. He’s a young ninja with a large belly from bingeing on local delicacies.

Kinshicho’s Kinbori looks like an escapee from South Park.

A mascot with a human face- Yamada Ruma, the friendly walking Daruma doll.

This slovenly middle-aged man, Chicchai Ossan, is the surprisingly popular mascot of Amagasaki City, and one of the first talking yuru-chara.

This old hustler is Hustle Komon, the mascot for Ibaraki Prefecture, and a character inspired by the long-running TV period drama, Mito Komon.

The Sumida Gotouchi-Chara Festival 2017 – Day 1

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.

Tosakenpi, winking. Tosakenpi is a Tosa dog from Harimaya Bridge in Kochi. He likes sweet potato “kenpi” snacks.

2012 Yuruchara Grand Prix winner, Bari-san, is a giant baby chicken and the mascot of Imabari City in Ehime. Ehime is famous for chicken dishes, so he should consider relocating.

Cable internet company JCOM’s bouncy mascot ZAQ meets noodle-brained Udon Nou from Kagawa Prefecture.

The slick and streetwise squid, Black Bancho, is the mascot for Itoigawa City in Niigata.

Konyudo-Kun, the mascot for Mie Prefecture’s Yokkaichi City, pulls out his tongue.

Yoichi-kun, mascot of Otawara City, Tochigi, sells his wares.

Chiryuppi of Chiryu City, Aichi.

Mikke-Chan is a ballet dancing calico cat and the mascot for a shopping street in Hirakata City, Osaka.

Todorocky is the mascot for Todoroki, in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. He’s a musclebound sea lion who likes boxing and sweet buns.

Chiba mascot, CHI-BA+KUN, takes his shape from the outline of the prefecture.

The ubiquitous Kumamon, of Kumamoto Prefecture, busts some moves on the stage.

Sugamon the duck is a hit with the older women- he’s the mascot for Sugamo shopping district, the fashion Mecca for Tokyo’s elderly ladies.

Zombear entertains the crowd with a string of intestines.

2UYakisoban, a superhero with a bowl of yakisoba noodle soup for a head, hails from Kuroishi City in Aomori.

Tochigi mascot, Tochi-suke, is a warehouse fairy.

Melon-haired, onsen-eyebrowed Kikuchi-kun is the unauthorised mascot for Kikuchi, Kumamoto. He loves his town but scares local children.

The adorable Ebecchan is the sightseeing ambassador of Sanda City in Hyogo. His special skill is catching rice balls.

Hamamatsu’s Ieyasu-kun was the winner of the 2015 Yuruchara Grand Prix.

Shimabaran is the guardian deity of Shimabara, Nagasaki. This character was designed by the creator of Yokai Watch, Noriyuki Konishi.

Sumidile is the mascot of Fugador Sumida, the local futsal team.

Big-eared Hanipon (left) is the mascot of Honjo City in Saitama and came second in last year’s Yuruchara Grand Prix. Here he meets the regal Isa King (right) who hails from Isa City, Kagoshima.

Kiriko-chan looks like the fog that rolls in from the sea in her hometown of Miyoshi City, Hiroshima.

Tokoron, of Tokorozawa in Saitama, doesn’t usually have those eyebrows.

Obuse Kuri-chan of Obuse, Nagano is surely the world’s biggest chestnut.

Hokkaido’s Jingisukan No Jinkun is a sheep named after a grilled mutton dish. No wonder he’s brandishing a sword.

Japanese Sewer Mascots

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 Prison Mascots

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.

Ginza Willow Festival 2017

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.

Gunma-chan (left) meets Mito-chan (right)

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