Month: December 2017

Public-Spirited Japanese Mascots Shovel Snow

When it snows in Japan, the local mascots can sometimes be seen supporting their communities by helping to clear the snow from roads and pathways. Perhaps this is because the costumes are the warmest clothes available. Here are a selection of cute characters shifting snow.

1. Yabee Bear
2. Otocky

3 . Cup Noodle

4. Kumamon

5. Happy-Ryu

6. Gensan

7. Togoshi Ginjiro

8. Jigen-kun and Shironyan

9. Hikonyan

10. Koakkuma

Japanese Mascots: The Year in Review 2017

2017 was an eventful year for mascots in Japan. Let’s look back at some of the highlights.

Chiba Lotte Marines’ Mysterious Fish

This spring, the Chiba Lotte Marines baseball team introduced a highly original new mascot to the world. Surely the first mascot to evolve before the audience’s eyes, The “Mysterious Fish” is an angler fish that vomits out its own skeleton, which then runs off on two legs.

Grulla Morioka FC Mascot, Kizuru

Another striking sporting mascot to debut this year was Morioka Grulla Football Club’s giant paper crane, Kizuru. Funds for Kizuru’s costume were raised by crowdsourcing. The Kizuru costume was an impressive sight, but his head fell off during his first ever performance.

Gunkanjima Mascot, Gansho-kun

A new mascot for Nagasaki’s spooky abandoned mining island, Gunkanjima was unveiled in July. Looking like Jabba the Hut, Gansho-kun’s lumpy brown body was inspired by the brown rock of the island. The island has a dark history (Korean immigrants were forced to work in the mines unpaid) so there were complaints that Gansho-kun was inappropriate, and he has kept a low profile since then.

Tarao-kun, mascot of the Babel art exhibition.

Throughout the year an exhibition of 16th Century paintings, titled Babel, toured the country, and a mascot was made to promote it. Yes, even an exhibition of renaissance art has a goofy mascot in Japan. Tarao is a fish with hairy human legs and is inspired by a Bruegel etching.

The drone version of Yukimaru-kun

Meanwhile, the locals of Oji City, Nara Prefecture, were wowed by a drone version of the city’s popular dog mascot, Yukimaru. The flying pooch waggles its legs as it glides through the air.

Tokunoshima mascot, Mabooru-kun.

The tropical island of Tokunoshima also introduced a marvelous new mascot in 2017. Mabooru-kun is a bull who looks decidedly grumpy about being slowly devoured by a massive snake. The Tokunoshima government are hoping to attract tourists to the island with their new PR mascot. Highlighting the threat of being killed by the snakes that live on the island is certainly a novel approach.

Kan-chan, mascot of Ichijiku Pharmaceuticals

Another new character who made a splash this year was Kan-chan, mascot for Ichijiku Pharmaceuticals, purveyors of enemas and fig-based laxatives. Accordingly, Kan-chan is part-fig and part-enema, with a bit of penguin mixed in for cuteness. Making a colon-cleansing device adorable is quite an achievement.

Sugitchi retires.

While we said hello to so many new faces in 2017, we also bid farewell to a veteran mascot. Sugitchi, the cedar tree mascot of Akita Prefecture, retired in November after a decade of hard service. Apparently, the Akita government had only licensed the character from its creator for 10 years.

Yuruchara Grand Prix champion, Unari-kun, is celebrated with a parade in Narita City.

The dream of every Japanese mascot is to win the annual Yuruchara Grand Prix. Winning this popularity contest, in which members of the public vote online for their favourite local character, is the pinnacle of mascotting achievement. This year’s champion, announced in November, was Narita City’s Unari-kun, who polled 805,328 votes and beat 1,158 rivals to the top spot. He’s a hybrid of an eel and a plane, but is more often mistaken for a penguin. Narita City held a parade for the returning hero a week after his victory.

Candidates to be the 2020 Olympic mascots

And finally, in November, the shortlist of potential mascots for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was released to the public. Elementary school students throughout Japan will be voting for their preferred candidates, and the winning pair will be announced on February 28th.
The country waits with baited breath, and next year looks set to be another vintage year for Japanese mascots.

Minamo and Kitokito-kun

Last weekend I ran into a couple of regional mascots by chance in Sangenjaya, Tokyo. Minamo, the mascot of Gifu Prefecture, and Kitokito-kun, the mascot of Toyama Prefecture, were both there at a joint promotional event for their hometowns.



Kumamon Exhibition in Matsuya Ginza Deparment Store

An exhibition of pictures and memorabilia related to Kumamoto Prefecture’s beloved bear mascot, Kumamon, is currently being held in Tokyo’s Matsuya Ginza Department Store. The exhibition is free and will be held until December 28th. Items on display include illustrations and life-size models of Kumamon, photographs from his recent tour of France, and several costumes worn by the photogenic bear. I went along today and enjoyed it immensely.

World Mascot Summit 2017

Koakkuma, Funassyi, and Akkuma rock out on stage.

The annual “World Character Summit” took place last weekend, in Hanyu City, Saitama. It’s Japan’s biggest gathering of mascots, attracting 360 assorted yuruchara from all over the country. Kumamon was absent this year, as was the newly-crowned Yuruchara Grand Prix champion, Unari-kun, but most of the other well-known characters were there, posing for pictures with fans and performing on stage.  It was a nice sunny day and I had a ton of fun. Here are a few of the mascots I encountered:

Sanuki, the udon noodle fairy.

Kure City’s dance-loving mascot, Kure-shi.

Gatagoro, a fish from Saga Prefecture’s Ariake Sea, and mascot-loving pop-idol, Yufu Terashima.

Teletama-kun, the cracked-egg mascot of Television Saitama, poses next to a sweet set of wheels (a Ferrarri 308 GTS).

Kamagaya City’s mascot, Kamatan, shows off a fancy classic car.

Akasaka Man strikes a pose.

Kaparu feeds Inanosuke his cucumber.

Hii-kun, Muu-chan, and Kaa-kun, the three dancing dogs from Miyazaki.

Huge party goods store mascot, Pier Nishiki, meets tiny kimono-clad safflower, Oke-chan.

Riku, Umi, and Sora, the self-defence force mascots for Saitama Prefecture, look like an awesome rhino version of the Village People.

Jepilie is the mascot for Japan Property Returns.

Ryuouh Sakura-chan in traditional dress.

Chip-kun, dabbing.

Bonsai-kun, a rhino with a bonsai tree instead of a horn.

Kumokkuro the cloud child (mascot of the Shibuya Flower Project, who plant flowers in the city) meets Peccary (mascot of both Japan’s Ecuadorean embassy and the city of Bizen, in Okayama).

Honda mascot, Kurutam.

Oyamakuma, the pink-cheeked bear from Oyama City, Tochigi.

Funyassi, Isa-King, Funassyi, Chicchai-Ossan, and Funagoro put on a show.

Spanky, Shinjou-kun, Osaki Ichibataro, and Nonko act out a sketch.

Tsurugon (with Shimaneko behind him).

Nakanon: a giant, waddling lotus flower fairy from Nagaoka, Niigata.

Mandarin-orange-headed Ehime Prefecture mascot, Mikyan, and his evil nemesis, Dark Mikyan.

Looking like an indecisive person’s Halloween costume, Francoise Biwa (mascot of Minamichita, Aichi) is a loquat tree fairy, and self-proclaimed princess of the fruit kingdom.

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