If you’ve been wanting to eat Funassyi, here’s your chance!
Kumamon is the official mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture in southern Japan. Since his debut in 2010, he’s become wildly popular, appearing in all kinds of media and lending his face to uncountable products. By some estimates, he’s pulling down hundreds of billions of yen a year. He’s given a guest lecture at Harvard, despite being mute, and has even met the imperial couple.
But despite this blessed existence, even mascots have bad days. And being in the public eye, those bad days are immortalized on film.
If you went to your town council meeting in your country and told them you wanted to make a cutesy mascot to represent your city, you’d probably get a few smirks from the council members. If you further told them that the character would be androgynous and hardly recognizable as any particular animal, you’d get a few laughs. Then, if you told them it didn’t even need to have a mouth, that it could be frumpy and clutsy, and that this could be a main draw to your town, you’d have been laughed out of the town hall right then and there.
But this is Japan, where characters are biiiig business. The Japanese have taken the concept of Mickey Mouse, Snoopy and The Muppets to a whole new level. With huge success. And now, one junior high school student is hoping to tap into the power of the mascot character to achieve something far more noble trying to get rich: reviving her community and bringing much-needed tourism to the tiny island on which she lives. But she needs your help.
This, RocketNews24 reader, is your chance to get involved in Japan’s mascot frenzy! Submit a character idea to represent this small Japanese island–and who knows, maybe your idea will be chosen! Interested? Read on!
There just doesn’t seem to be any stopping Funasshi, the anthropomorphic pear who serves as unofficial mascot for the city of Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture. Funasshi’s mix of cute looks and hyperactive gyrations have won over fans both in Japan and abroad, and now Japan’s hottest piece of fruit is ready to capitalize on its popularity with a new café in Tokyo’s fashionable Shibuya district.
We decided to pay a visit to the Funa Café on opening day, and couldn’t think of a better RocketNews24 delegate than our very own Mr. Sato, who it turn couldn’t think of a more appropriate outfit than his very own freaky Funasshi cosplay getup.
Anyone who has ever visited Japan or spent any amount of time browsing our pages will know that the country is home to literally hundreds of mascot characters, or yurukyara, each weirder than the last. From developmentally challenged sushi to the nightmarish Okazaemon, there’s certainly no lack of originality and quirk to be had.
But one small Ibrakai town has a new mascot character that, according to Japanese net users and our own Japanese staff, “even a mother couldn’t love.” This, ladies and gentlemen of the internet, is Araippe, a creature with bird-like feet, a shell for a nose, and dangling locks of hair that are actually fish fry.
On June 1, a gathering was held to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the municipalization of Takasago City, Hyogo Prefecture. Dubbed the Gotoji Expo, it brought out those lovable civic-minded mascots called yuru-kyara.
And for such as auspicious anniversary the town called in a major mascot from each of the 47 prefectures of Japan such as the former Yurukyara Gran Prix winner Kumamon of Kumamoto Prefecture. An invitation was also sent out to Funasshi, the unofficial yet hugely popular mascot of Funabashi, but it had to decline because of scheduling issues.
So you can imagine the organizers’ surprise when the highly animated pear had actually turned up at Gotoji Expo?
At first glance, Gunma may not seem to have a whole lot going for it. It’s one of Japan’s few landlocked prefectures, which means less access to Japan’s legendarily fresh seafood. The lack of a coastline also means Gunma doesn’t have a vibrant urban heart like Japan’s largest cities which grew out of its busiest ports, so economic and modern entertainment opportunities are limited compared to Tokyo, Osaka, or Fukuoka.
What Gunma does have is mountains, hot springs, and shrines, though. It’s also got Gunma-chan, its lovable horse mascot who shows off the prefecture’s attractions and some adorable dance moves in this new video.
Last November, residents of Hokuto City in Hokkaido elected Zuuushiiihokkiii, the somewhat malformed anthropomorphic piece of surf clam sushi. His limited motor skills and cries of “Hokihokihokihokiii!” seemed to have plucked a particular heart-string among the locals.
Even beyond the northern city, this ball of rice and clam is shaping up to be Japan’s breakout yurukyara (regional mascot) of 2014. While development on the official Zuuushiiihokkiii costume is still underway, some exciting news has emerged from the new mascot’s PR team.
Every once in a while we report on the bustling mascot business in Japan, especially regarding the regional cute mascots known as yuru-kyara. Often these characters are chosen to represent a city, prefecture or even neighborhood by way of election.
This was also the case in Hokkaido’s Hokuto City as they took votes for their new representative character. Thousands of citizens cast their votes for whom they felt best represented Hokuto life and culture, ultimately choosing… that thing above.
Japan’s mascot obsession is known by those even marginally familiar with the country’s culture. Characters like Hello Kitty and her signature silhouette are recognized in countries across the globe, and thanks to the wonders of the internet we’re able to learn more about other cultures than ever before. But something I find that many people don’t realize about Japan is the sheer breadth of things that get their own mascots. Take, for instance, Japanese prefectures.