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Japan’s mascot obsession: Why are there so many?!

Jojo MorscheJojo Morsche
Published Time
Posted on 
July 26, 2018

Modern Japanese pop culture is all about cute as well as unique or even crazy in the eyes of outsiders. In recent years Japan has been obsessed with… mascots! You’re right; people dressed up in costumes to promote events similar to the mascots you can see at American Football games. However, Japan’s mascots, known as Yuru-kyara, have more functions than promoting sports. So what’s the craze about?

The popularity of cute characters in Japan is undeniable, especially Sanrio characters who have their own cafés and even a theme park! In addition to those popular cute characters, there are also mascots. Not only do all the 43 prefectures have a ‘promotional’ mascot, but there are also way more: Osaka alone has over 40 mascots representing the prefecture!

Mascots in Japan are used to promote a place, region, event, organization, or business, and they make good money! Japanese mascots compete to be number one at the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix annual event.

People can vote for the character they find the cutest, funniest, or even creepiest. In 2012, character-driven sales reached nearly $16 billion, and some of these mascots have gained fame!


Most people who have visited an anime convention or Japan-related festival in their country have probably heard of Domo-kun! However, I’m sure that not everyone knew about Domo-kun’s roots!

He’s not a Sanrio character or anything; he is the mascot of Japan’s largest broadcasting organization: NHK. He appeared for the first time in 1998 in short stop-motion sketches on stations and on tv and has been popular ever since.


This black bear with red cheeks and protruding eyes has made quite a name for itself in recent years. Is he cute or creepy? I think I know my answer! Yet, Kumamon is a mascot that you won’t easily forget.

This bear is the main mascot for the prefecture Kumamoto, located in the south of Japan. Kumamon became a popular character in 2010 when promoting the Kyushu bullet train, the following year, Kumamon won the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix, and since then, he can be found everywhere!

Aside from the famous Domo-kun and Kumamon, there are way more mascots you have probably never seen before!

There are adorable animals.

Fukka-chan, the symbol of Fukaya city in Saitama, represents the city’s leek production.

The cute cat Yachinyan attracts tourists in Hikone, Shiga prefecture!

There are superheroes

Shirao Kamen is Saitama’s trash-collecting and children-helping superhero!

And there are ninjas.

Shinobi-chan is the pink ninja accountant who claims that accounting isn’t dull!

Not all mascots are meant to look cute or appealing. To make them stand out, some mascots belong to the category of kimo-kawaii, which means creepy-cute. This results in many strange or even creepy-looking mascots!

Like these creepy animals

Kanitori-kun is a three-eyed hybrid of a bird, a king crab, and the mascot of Kaike Grand Hotel in Tottori prefecture.

Chiba Lotte Marine’s mascot is a mysterious fish called Nazo no Sakana

It gets stranger…

Ao Oni is a horror video game mascot.

Jumbal III is the watermelon king and ruler of the Jumbo watermelons in Nyuzen city.

And strangest so far…

The mascot of Sanpoll toilet disinfectant: Benki-Shiroishi, a toilet-headed blues singer sitting on a toilet.

This list includes only a small selection of the many mascots in Japan. What is so interesting about them is the many roles that they take on. Such as promoting events, products, and prefectures but also raising awareness. These mascots teach people about natural disaster safety and caring for their environment.

What do you think of Japanese mascots? Are they crazy, cute, or creepy? Do you have a favorite mascot? Let us know in the comments!

Image source.

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