Japanese mascots 日本のマスコット
Mascot of Kumamoto, Kumamon.
Mascot of Hikone, Hikonyan.
Mascot of the Asahikawa prison Katakkuri-Chan.
The mascot of the Tokyo police.
Melon Kuma, the mascot of Yubari
The Japanese are crazy about mascots. Cities, companies, brands, sports teams, all proudly display their emblem. So much that we sometimes forget what's what and who's who...
If Pikachu was a team mascot for the Japanese football team in the 2014 World Cup, it would be far from unique.
In Japan, mascots, or yurukyara, have become the essential recipe for tourist or commercial success. At least this could explain their numbers. They enjoy great popularity among Japanese people - to the point that each year there is a national competition - and this, companies take to heart. According to the France press, the turnover generated by these small figures is estimated at nearly 25 billion euros per year (all products included).
The stars ...
Among the slew of kawaii "cute" stars, they're some more adored than others.
One of the favorites: Kumamon. Initially a symbol of Kumamoto prefecture, it is now a national phenomenon. By itself, the nice black bear with red cheeks generated 223 million euros in revenue in 2012. It is found everywhere, from the Shinkansen (the Japanese bullet train) to drinks, manga, and various advertisements. Kumamon obviously has a Facebook page, and he even gave a "press conference".
On the podium, there are also Sento-kun, the Nara stag; Hikonyan from Hikone, a cat wearing a samurai helmet; or the very famous Doraemon, Miffy and of course Hello Kitty.
Historical figures are fair game as well, especially when they are part of the identity of a region or the entire country. This is the case for samurai Saigo Takamori for example, a symbol of the city of Kagoshima, which can be found on shochu bottles or packages of various delicacies.
... And the other
Most mascots display a benevolent smile that earns them the sympathy of the population.
Others, however, give rise to a sense of wonder or worry ...
In Hokkaido, the Asahikawa prison recently unveiled its new mascot, "Katakkuri-Chan", a nice prison guard with flower cap, created to give a positive image to the prison ... Not so surprising when you know that the police in Tokyo also has its Pipo-kun, a kind of orange mouse with an antenna, allowing it to be always well informed. A good way to identify Koban !
The appearance of regional mascots is often determined by local specialties, sometimes unveiling rather curious characters: like Melon Kuma, a terrifying bear wearing a melon. It takes from the two characteristics of the islands of Hokkaido, wild bears and cantaloupe.Or, even more surprising, the tori bugyō honetsu jūjū, a chicken leg shaped samurai head waving a fan!
Parade of mascots in Hikone in 2013.