Mascots, or Yuru-chara in Japanese, are (mostly!) cute characters who help to promote a place, organisation, business or service. They help to educate people about the region or service they represent and make it more recognisable and lovable. There are thousands of different mascots in Japan and they even have an annual competition, the Yuru-chara Grand Prix, to determine the most popular mascot! Popular kawaii characters are often made into mascots as well, for promotions and events.
I love meeting mascots – they’re just so cute and when I’m meeting a mascot I don’t think that there’s a person inside but that a huge cuddly toy has come to life and that’s awesome.
Famous Kawaii Mascots
Kumamon, a loveable bear character, helped to put Kumamoto prefecture on the map when he won the mascot Grand Prix in 2011. He’s now one of the most recognisable and popular mascots in Japan. Follow Kumamon on YouTube and Instagram.
Funassyi is an unofficial mascot, for Funabashi City. This hyperactive pear fairy sings and dances, has released 4 albums and also performs with a mascot band called Charamel! Follow Funassyi on YouTube and Twitter.
Chiitan is a cute otter character with a turtle for a hat. She is the mascot for Susaki City along with fellow otter Shinjokun and has become popular for her funny slapstick videos. Follow Chiitan on YouTube and Instagram.
My favourite mascots
My all-time fave is Mochi Usagi who is sadly now retired. We saw this pink bouncy bunny at Design Festa in Tokyo and after seeing him perform we had to get our photos taken with him! I also have a soft spot for Domo-kun (the mascot for NHK TV station) as I’ve met him so many times!
My favourite mascot experience was Japan Matsuri 2014 in Trafalgar Square, London with lots of mascots on stage including Gunma-chan, Sanomaru and Kumamon. It was so adorable seeing them all dancing together!
Mascots I’d like to meet
I’m hoping to meet as many different kawaii mascots as possible during our Japan trip but top of my list for this trip is Chef Pikachu. I would love to see the Pikachu Outbreak they have in Yokohama with lots of giant Pikachus but even to meet one would be a dream come true!
How do you meet mascots?
Mascots can be found outside Japan at events like comic cons, shop/cafe openings and Japan-themed events. In London, I’ve met mascots at Hyper Japan, MCM Comic Con, the ARTBOX shop and a Powerpuff Girls pop up event.
In Japan, they can appear anywhere, but often at shop events, character cafes, festivals and local town events, plus theme parks like Sanrio Puroland. If you want to know more about Japanese mascots, Mondo Mascots is a great blog and they’re on Twitter too.
Who’s your favourite mascot? Have you met any?