Yuru-chara Mascots in Japan Help to Promote Local Areas | FAST JAPAN
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Yuru-chara Mascots in Japan Help to Promote Local Areas

Yuru-chara are mascots in Japan promoting a region, business, or government. The characters are cute and a piece of local history or culture is included in the design.

What is Yuru-chara?

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Photo Credit: Takashi Nishimura@flickr 

Yuru-chara is a Japanese term for a mascot that is created to promote a place, region, organization, or business. The designs are cute and sometimes unsophisticated, designers try to incorporate local culture, history, or produces into the designs. Sometimes they are created by the government to stimulate the local economy and attempt to attract tourist. Recently the Yuru-character business has been expanding, with character driven sales making $16 billion dollars in Japan in 2012. Yuru-chara mean yurui mascot character. Yurui means loose, gentle, or weak. The term gotochi-chara has also become popular, referring to local mascots.

 

Yuru-chara Grand Prix

Yuru-chara Mascots In Japan
Photo Credit: kumamon-official.jp 

In 2010 the Yuru-chara Grand Prix started and became an annual event. The most popular design is decided by public voting. In the 2015 Grand Prix there was 1,727 entries which was over ten times the amount in the first contest. 1,092 entries were local character and 635 were corporate or other characters. 50.57 million people voted on the internet and that was double the amount compare to 2014. Almost seven million votes went to Shusse Daimyō Ieyasu-kun. There was an award event in Hamamatsu and over 77,000 people attended.

 

Kumamon

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Photo Credit: othree@flickr

Kumamon from Kumamoto Prefecture was created by the government to attract tourist to the region after the Kyushu Shinkansen line opened. The character was so successful that Kumamoto earned 11.8 billion yen in merchandising revenue for the first half of 2012. Kumamon is a large black bear with big red cheeks.

 

Funassyi

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Funassyi was created to promote Funabashi City in Chiba Prefecture. Funassyi is a pear wearing a blue shirt with a red ribbon, and one the top of it’s head is a pear steam. Funassyi like peaches and heavy metal music. The number 274 appears on it’s clothes because it is said that there is 274 siblings. Because of Japanese number puns, it can be read “fu-na-shi.”

 

Hikonyan

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Photo Credit: Takashi Nishimura@flickr.com

Hikonyan was created by the government of Hikone to promote the 400th anniversary of Hikone Castle. The designed came from a legend concerning Ii Naokata, the 3rd Lord of Hikone. The legend says that the Daimyo adopted a cat that was found in the temple on a stormy night. In Japanese “nyan” is an onomatopoeia for a cat’s meow. The character’s helmet design resembles a Ii family members helmet. Hikonyan boosted the popularity of Hikone and now there is over 200,000 annual visitors.

 

Barysan

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Photo Credit: Takashi Nishimura@flickr

Barysan from Imabari in Ehime Prefecture was created to promote Ehime Prefecture. The character is a round pluck yellow chick wearing a stomach warmer and a crown. There is towels, plushies, sweets, and more with Barysan on the package.

 

Gunma-chan

Gunma-chan
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Gunma-chan from Gunma Prefecture was created to promote various events within the prefecture. Gunma-chan is a pony wearing a green hat, and sometimes Gunma-chan wears a green vest. Gunma-chan is kind but not too competitive. He has been around since 1983 but he has had a drastic makeover. Before he was a four legged horse that looked a little scary, now he is very cute and lovable.

 

Sento-kun

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Photo Credit: Guilhem Vellut@flickr

Sento-kun was created to promote Nara Prefecture. Nara is famous for deer and the large Buddha. Sento-kun looked like a young Buddha with deer antlers. The character was named after the word “sento” meaning transfer of the capital. After Sento-kun appeared on many television shows and many events his popularity rose and there was 22.5 billion yen in free publicity for the city. Visitors to Kyoto sometimes forget to visit near by areas and Sento-kun helped bring in more tourists. Even though Nara does have some ancient temples that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

 

Chicchai Ossan

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Photo Credit: Takashi Nishimura@flickr

Chicchai Ossan was created as a local character for Amagasaki City in Hyogo Prefecture. Funassyi and Chicchai Ossan are friends. Chicchai Ossan has almost no hair, wears a stomach warmer, and sandals. He comes from a small town in a small country. There lived a small man in a small town with a small heart and body.

 

Chi-ba+kun

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Photo Credit: Yasunobu HIRAOKA@flickr

Chi-ba+kun was created to promote Chiba prefecture. Chi-ba+kun is a big red dog with a pointy nose. From the side, Chi-ba+kun is the exact shape of the prefecture. Chi-ba+kun’s birthday is November 1, 2007. He is full of curiosity and loves to try new things. He gets passionate towards things so that’s why he is bright red. He is a big eater and likes to play tricks on his friends.

 

Melon Kuma

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Photo Credit: Satoshi KINOKUNI@flickr

Melon Kuma was created to promote Yubari City in Hokkaido Prefecture. It is a bear with a melon on it’s head. Yubari is famous for the Yubari King cantaloupe, its a hybrid between an Earl’s Favorite and Burpee’s “Spicy” Cantaloupe. It is said that this bear ate a Yubari Melon and turned into a fruit animal. Some melons for sale have a bear face, hands, and tail attached.

 

Okazaemon

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Okazaemon was created to promote Okazaki City in Aichi Prefecture. The character is a man, the mouth on hair combined read “oka” and “zaki” is on the chest. Some say it’s creepy and cute character. It is said that he was born July 1, 1972 and his real name is Okazaki Emonnokai. He has a child named Okazaemon Jr.

 

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