Translated by Greg
Lovable Mascots! Learn About Japan's Regions From Cute Characters
Written by MATCHA-PR
Many international visitors come to Japan out of their love for Japanese animation and characters. This article introduces popular regional mascots throughout Japan who work to promote local tourism. Meet the famous Kumamon from Kumamoto and other cute characters!
Regional Mascots as Ambassadors of Japan
Are you familiar with any characters or mascots from Japan?
From Hello Kitty to Doraemon, many characters are famous both within and outside Japan. Some of these are gotochi characters, or regional mascots, who are responsible for carrying out important promotional work. These mascots perform tasks related to public relations for Japan's prefectures and local municipalities.
There are countless regional mascots in Japan. Today, we'll introduce some of these official characters.
Kumamoto Prefecture: Kumamon
Picture courtesy of Kumamoto Prefecture
Since starting his duties some nine years ago, Kumamon's popularity shows no signs of declining. In addition to Japan, he travels many other countries and promotes Kumamoto's specialty products and natural wonders.
Though it's easy to be drawn to Kumamon's cute appearance, visit Kumamoto for yourself to experience what Kumamon is so passionate about sharing.
Narita City in Chiba: Unari-kun
Picture courtesy of Shochiku
Unari-kun is an official mascot who promotes Narita, a city in Chiba Prefecture. The symbol of Narita is, of course, Narita Airport. To showcase Narita's characteristic features, Unari-kun is shaped like an airplane.
This area is also home to Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, which has a history exceeding 1,000 years. Since ancient times, this region provided unagi (eel) dishes for temple worshippers. Even today, unagi cuisine is a famous specialty product of Narita.
Unari-kun's design combines the shape of an airplane with this famous local unagi eel. His stomach has a nametag that says "Narita," symbolizing his efforts to promote the city.
In particular, Unari-kun is especially active on YouTube (Japanese), announcing upcoming events and performing songs. Viewers can learn more about Narita while watching these videos.
Fukaya City in Saitama: Fukkachan
Picture courtesy of Fukaya City
Hailing from Saitama's Fukaya City, Fukkachan is another local mascot who appears regularly on YouTube (Japanese).
With green onions (Fukaya's specialty) as antlers, Fukkachan is part rabbit and part deer. A button in the shape of a tulip—Fukaya's official flower—embellishes Fukkachan's chest, adding to its charming appearance.
Fukkachan does not speak on YouTube. However, viewers can watch the mascot's adorable gestures supplemented with subtitles. See the videos for yourself to watch Fukkachan moving around enthusiastically!
Learn about Local Places and Products from Regional Mascots
An interesting characteristic of regional mascots is how their design is based on popular products from their respective regions.
On the other hand, Nara's mascot Shikamaro-kun is modeled after the deer (shika) that inhabit Nara Park and the surrounding area. In other words, not all characters are inspired by food.
How about looking for the mascots of the areas you're visiting in Japan? More than likely, you'll get to learn about local products thanks to these cute characters.
Regional Mascots Are Loved by Locals
Picture courtesy of Kumamoto Prefecture
Local mascots typically have a packed schedule promoting their respective regions. However, their role is not limited to public relations.
For example, following the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 14 and 16, Kumamon visited evacuation centers, doing his best to reassure and soothe disaster victims.
Afterward, Kumamon continued supporting these victims by attending events for rebuilding and engaging in support activities. To this day, he performs activities that help locals live safely.
Regional mascots are often known for their cute appearance. However, what truly captures the hearts of residents may be the sight of them selflessly performing good deeds.
When visiting Japan, try to take note of these official local mascots nearest you!
Written by Shuhei Yagishita
Sponsored by Kumamoto Prefecture
©2010 kumamoto pref. kumamon