The memorable Yuru-kyara the Japanese mascots
The original Japanese mascots, or as they are called in the rising sun, Yuru-kyara (contraction of yurui masukotto kyarakutā) ゆ る い マ ス コ ッ ト キ ャ ラ ク タ ー are among the popular culture phenomena that most passionate the Japanese and beyond.
The term was coined by the illustrator and cultural critic Jun Miura in 2009, who didn't stop at the name alone, he was the one who helped to determine the fundamental components of the mascots.
The term has undergone evolutions over the years like as Gotōchi-kyara ご 当地 キ ャ ラ, meaning "local character", a specific reference to local mascots, which have assumed increasing importance becoming the most conspicuous component of the Yuru-kyara.
Mascots have become an integral part of the social and economic fabric of Japanese realities and often represent the sustenance of entire cities, businesses and events, as well as values and ideals of Japanese culture and history.
Their existence dates back to before the 1980s, but it was only after the creation of Hikonyan, a mascot conceived by the government to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Hikone Castle in Shiga prefecture in 2007, that was the way to the current growing popularity of mascots.
Some Yuru-kyara have become so famous that have gained worldwide fame by helping the Japanese economy, opening various websites, YouTube channels and Instagram accounts. Thanks to this interest, since 2010 every year in Japan there is the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix ゆ る キ ャ ラ グ ラ ン プ リ, a competition where the best mascots are awarded.
There are many other mascots that have become famous and acclaimed, but the one I would like to illustrate to start is the famous Kumamon created in 2010. One year after its creation it won the well-known Yuru-kyara Grand Prix, such is its fame that it was opened a store in Ginza in Kumamoto prefecture, Kumamoto-kan.
Continuing with the most famous mascots we cannot forget the Suica penguin, the Super Urban Intelligent Card, with which you can travel on the Japan Railway trains; or Domo-kun the mascot of the NHK television broadcaster.
For many the little Pichon-kun is famous, the drop of humidity present in air conditioner advertisements.
Among the most recent mascots is Chiitan who in 2017 participated in videos and events with government officials; or Susaki's official town mascot, Shinjo-kun, who gained popularity thanks to his unusual YouTube videos and social media posts in which he performed various awkward stunts. Funassyi, represents the city of Funabashi, Chiba, and has appeared at events and festivals, as well as in numerous TV programs and commercials, has starred in her own anime series and in a special live drama, has titled her concert after Budokan and opened "his" shop, gaining popularity all over Japan.
Getting closer to the present day we have the Olympic Yuru-kyara, Miraitowa and Someity.
Miraitowa is based on the combination of the words "mirai" which means "future" and "towa" which means "eternity". He represented the wish for the Tokyo Olympic Games. While for Someity, the name derives from the resemblance to cherry blossoms.
The world of Japanese mascots is always growing and new characters are always registered. To get an idea, you can take a look at the mondo-mascots website (https://mondomascots.com/index.php/category/mascots), you will be amazed by how many types there are.
A cura di Juliana S. H.