Japan loves mascots. I suspect that it might be Disney where the phenomenon started, but I have nothing to back that up. The only places that I see mascots where I’m from, Boston, Mass., is for sports teams and Disney. You take pictures with the mascot because you want to remember your association with the team or the character. You see Minnie Mouse at a parade, you take a pic.
It seems different here in Japan, though. I live in Chiba prefecture. We have a mascot. Its name is Chiba-kun. He shows up a local festivals. We even had him come to Family Day at my company. Kids love to take pictures with Chiba-kun. Unlike so many other mascots, Chiba-kun is nearly perfectly Chiba shaped.
Only Chiba ain’t Disney, or the Red Sox. Hey, it’s great that people get into their home prefecture. I really like Chiba. I’m glad to live here. It’s got plenty of ocean and is just outside of Tokyo. I chose to live here. I just find it hard to imagine a Massachusetts teddy bear showing up at local parades, or maybe it would be a snake (don’t tread on me).
-image from Kyle Mullen’s website
Below is pretty notorious bit of mascot PR. I should note, in the Japanese language “Fukuppy” has no negative connotations whatsoever. In fact, it sounds really kind of cute. You add the ending “-ppy” to a person’s name and it sounds endearing, friendly, like your best friend from kindergarten who you remember fondly and still play baseball with on the weekends. The unfortunate thing is that Fukushima Instustries, which has nothing to do with the nuclear power plant, announced their corporate mascot after the disaster. They make refrigerators, ovens, and autoclaves. AND they’re based in Osaka, not Fukushima. So what does a winged egg with clown shoes have to do with an industrial fridge? Nothing, it’s just cute. And now… famous. Maybe what they say is true, all PR is good PR.
-image from Fukushima Industries’ website
OK, so I should explain that the picture you see below is not a mascot, per se. As far as I can tell, the “character” below does not have a name. It doesn’t speak in a squeaky voice. Nor does it represent a sports organization, company, prefecture, or a girl band. It’s just the front cover to Health Graphic Magazine. I am going to call the below a mascot because, well, the editors at the magazine decided to give a face to hives. And I saw it as I passed the pharmacy on the way to work last week.
The article itself is mildly informative, trying to explain the mysterious causes of rashes (70% of diagnoses have no clear root cause; I didn’t know that). What I find interesting and weird is that the editors wanted to give a face to it. I mean, just looking at hives gives me the heebie-jeebies. Giving it an eye and a creepy mouth makes my skin crawl and gives me nightmares. Maybe some people would call it cute. I guess. Maybe.