Japanese pop culture is all about mascots and cute characters created to promote a place, an event, an organization or business. Here’s a list of some of the most popular mascots in Japan.
Domo-kun (どーもくん, Dōmo-kun) was initially introduced in December 1998 as the official mascot of Japanese television station NHK. He first appeared in a series of stop-motion sketches and started rapidly to get known overseas in 2001. He is a small brown furry monster with an always-open mouth and sharp teeth, which caused negative reactions when it was introduced for the first time as viewers claimed that he was rather creepy and scary. In 2008, NHK teamed up with American kids network Nickelodeon to bring Domo to American audiences and was made the department store Target’s mascot for Halloween the same year. This somehow made him the international superstar he is now.
2. HELLO KITTY
Hello Kitty (ハローキティ, Harō Kiti) is the most famous fictional character created by Sanrio. She was introduced in 1975 and has been since then marketed in the U.S. She was simply drawn with a trademark red ribbon. Born in the suburbs of London, she is a perpetual 3rd-grade student who is as tall as five apples and as heavy as three, loves making cookies and dreams of being a pianist and a poet. She has become the icon of Japanese pop culture and lots of Hello Kitty themed products are released for children, as well as teenagers and adults. Her worth reached $42 billion in 2018. The Sanrio company has been producing all sorts of merchandise, goodies, storybook collections and an animation series since 1974.
Kumamon (くまモン) is a mascot created by the government of Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. He was designed by the Kumamoto government and unveiled to the public in March 2010 in an effort to promote tourism in the region. He was soon voted in Novembre 2011 the most popular mascot in Japan with over 280 000 votes in an online poll for the annual Yuru-Kyara Grand Prix. He earned more than ¥11.8 billion for merchandising revenue in early 2012 and has been enjoying enormous popularity all over the world.
4. MELON BEAR
One of the most popular regional mascots is Melon Kuma, a bear from Yubari City in Hokkaido. Originally a bear with a melon face, « Melon Kuma » is supposed to have suddenly transformed into the fantastical creature that he is after eating some of Yubari’s locally-grown melons, according to Ousai Wakasa, the creator of the bear. People consider him to be the scariest mascot in Japan as the designers gave him all of a beast’s most savage and terrifying traits. He is known to go around chasing little children and tourists and doing his best to frighten them. Besides scaring people, he even fights with other mascots, trying to « eat » their heads.
You have certainly heard about the weirdest and laziest egg that has ever existed. Back in 2013, the Sanrio company created Gudetama after holding a competition in Japan for a new food based character.
« Gudetama » literally means « lazy egg, » whose laziness is extremely weird and cute at the same time. He thinks everything is mendokusai (a pain) and never has any motivation for anything. He quickly rose to fame and even has Gudetama themed cafés pretty much everywhere in Japan.
Sirine Ben Mlouka
JET Press Team