When creating a local mascot in Japan, there are basically three styles to choose from. You can go the traditionally cute route, like Gunma Prefecture did with its adorable horse, national popularity contest champion, and confectionary model Gunma-chan. Option two is to make something so weird it puts a smile on peoples’ faces, like Funabashi City’s unofficial spokepear Funasshi.
Or, you can just draw a picture of an anime girl, like the town of Shima did. Yes, she of course has a nice smile and attractive proportions, and so far every picture that’s been released of the tourism ambassador has her posing in a swimsuit. But before you go blasting the designers for making that wardrobe choice before even giving her a name, bear in mind there’s a good reason for her attire.
Located on the coast in Mie Prefecture, Shima is often overshadowed by the neighboring town of Ise. Whereas Ise is home to Ise Shrine, one of the holiest sites in Shintoism, Shima’s claim to fame is a little more down-to-earth. Well, actually, it’s under the sea, as Shima is known for its shellfish, and the female freediving experts called ama who collect them.
Although the ama’s activities date back centuries, they’ve recently recaptured the public imagination, thanks to a 2013 morning TV drama about the divers, which led into them being regularly featured on travel and food programs. Ama apparel is a little hard to figure out, though. On the one hand, even after the end of World War II, some ama would dive topless. These days though, due to either changing cultural norms or the advanced age of most ama (young recruits are few and far between), they usually work in a fairly extensive body covering.
It’s this modest outfit that Shima’s anime mascot is clothed in.
The traditionally garbed lass even has a short bio, which unlike the profiles of many other anime girls tastefully refrains from revealing her measurements.
Height: 158 cm
Weight: 46 kg
Birthday: July 20
Blood type: O
Future goal: To be the best ama in Japan
Person she looks up to: Her grandmother (who was a famous ama)
Favorite colors: Red and white
In addition to being just two centimeters shorter and two kilograms lighter than Japan’s image of the ideal girl, the character’s personality seems to be aimed squarely at Japanese anime fans’ soft spot for earnest girls with traditional values. In addition to all kinds of candy, she loves tekonezushi, a specialty of Mie in which strips of sashimi are placed atop a bowl of rice. She’s described as cheerful and outgoing, but a little clumsy and still not the most talented diver. And, of course, her profile mentions that she’s single, but would like to find a boyfriend.
The designers didn’t just go down the checklist of anime archetypes, though. Since the character’s main purpose is to attract travelers to Shima, her favorite places are listed as the town’s Yokoyama Observation Platform and Tomoyama Park, from where she enjoys watching the sunset.
▼ We’ve gotta say, the girl’s got taste.
But while she has a full list of passions and dreams, what she doesn’t have yet is a name, so the designers are currently taking suggestions here through a special website for the character. Specifically, they’re looking for a first and last name, plus the reasons why you’re proposing the moniker. Your last chance to submit an entry is 5 p.m. on November 20, so if you’ve ever wanted to name an anime character, here’s your chance.