Mascot Characters Hit a Popularity High

All over Japan, mascot characters are commonly used by local communities to lend a symbolic presence to a major event: Japanese people being lovers of anime and cartoon characters, these mascots are highly popular everywhere. Furthermore, the characters often adopt the instantly recognizable form of a region’s special product, culture, history or other outstanding feature, and they’re considered familiar figures and widely loved. Whenever these characters appear live (with people wearing full-size character costumes to animate them) at tourist sites or special events, they’re instantly surrounded by crowds surging forward and exclaiming “kawaii!” (how cute!) and vying to have their pictures taken with the characters. The mascot characters also decorate a wide range of products for sale, from stationery items to souvenir cookies, which make popular gifts. The mascot character that set off the boom is Hiko-nyan, created in 2007 to act as tourism “ambassador” for the 400th anniversary festivities in connection with the building of Hikone Castle, a National Treasure. Other mascot characters in the spotlight this year are Aru-kuma, the Shinshu Destination Campaign’s mascot, Cheeba-kun, the mascot for the 65th National Sports Festival held in Chiba Prefecture in September and October 2010, Shizuoka Prefecture’s Mount Fuji-shaped Fujippi, and Kobaton from Saitama Prefecture, northern neighbor to Tokyo. Visitors might also have the good fortune to meet Gunma-chan, the character mascot for Gunma Prefecture, at the prefecture’s specialty product shop in Tokyo’s Higashi-Ginza district.

Hiko-nyan, official mascot character of Hikone city, Shiga Prefecture Hiko-nyan Hikone City permit (free) No.1020101

Aru-kuma, mascot character for “Shinshu Destination Campaign,” Nagano Prefecture

Cheeba-kun, mascot character for the
65th National Sports Festival, Chiba Prefecture

Mount Fuji-shaped Fujippi,
mascot character for Shizuoka Prefecture
(c)Shizuoka ken

Gunma Prefecture mascot character Gunma-chan

Kobaton, mascot character for Saitama Prefecture