Freeday | Japanese Mascots
Whats up yall,
At some point during the Golden Week holiday, Yui and I came across the Mascots for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which is to be hosted at various cities all across the country. Since she loves the design of these characters, naturally, we snapped a picture, but the occassion got me thinking about Japan's affinity for mascots.
Since I am from America, the situations in which I may encounter a mascot are few and far between. Aside from sporting events or outside the storefront of a business, I can't imagine seeing them anywhere else and somehow thinking its normal. However, Japan takes the idea of mascots above and beyond. From prefectures to polic departments, these characters are literally everywhere. Just to prove that I'm not exaggerting, I'm going to show you all the mascots I encounter on my daily commute from home to work.
First of all, I live in a totally different prefecture just north of Tokyo called Saitama. There are 47 prefectures in Japan, so there are at least 47 different mascots. Saitama's mascots are "Kobaton and Satamachi"; two purple Eurasian doves. Why? I don't know.
Obviously, prefecture mascots use commonly found elements from the area they are intended to represent, but I can't recall ever seeing one of these birds in the 3 years I've lived here.
Scaling down our geographical scope even further, my tiny town of Warabi also has a mascot; a Wallaby named "Wallaby". Why? Because the pronunciation of the town name in Japanese is practically the same in English. I guess the town officials thought they were being clever.
I, like everyone and their grandma, ride trains to work and everywhere in-between. Therefore its obviously necessary to have a mascot branded to your train pass. Suica is a rechargeable IC card that can be used at a variety of locations to pay for a wide range of products and services. These business will usually display the suica penguin to encourage use of the payment system within their establishment.
In any case, most people use suica to ride the train in eastern Japan. Other regions have similar IC cards with totally different mascots. I think Japan is just bored at this point.
Anyway, since there are literally hundreds of thousands of people riding the train at any given time, its the best opportunity for businesses to advertise. So, what better way to do that, then to have a mascot? Of course real estate companies like Suumo need a big green ball of fur to tell you where the cheapest and most accessbile real estate in the city is.
But perhaps, the furball isn't trustworthy. Don't worry, maybe "Homes-kun" is more your pace. Homes-kun can find you a great home just as well as Sherlock Holmes himself.
Ok, so after riding the train for 45min to an hour, I reach my station; one of the largest and busiest in the city. If I hadn't seen them before I would definitely see Tokyo's mascots for the 2020 Olympics, Miraitowa and Someity, by now. These two are everywhere, and Yui hates them. The two designs were selected via a competition in which elementary schools across the nation voted for their favorites among 3 pairs of finalist. I'm not entirely sure what Miraitowa is supposed to be, but Someity's design is definitely inspired by cherry blossoms(you can see the petals adorning her head).
Lastly, every station has a few a police boxes near or/on the premises. Naturally, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has its own mascot, Pipo-kun, on display somewhere advising you to call the police at "110" should you see any suspicious activity. I'm not sure what animal Pipo-kun is supposed to be, maybe its an elf; but "pipo" is the sound sirens on patrol cars make.
Hopefully you guys found this post interesting. It was certainly fun to write and think about considering how fleeting these images can be in my daily life. Its certainly a use of character design that unqustionably goes overlooked at times. If you are interested in learning more about Japanese mascots, John Oliver's Last Week Tonight did a really funny piece a few months ago that I've linked below.
What do you think? Are mascots commonplace where you are from? What is the strangest mascot you've ever encountered? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. As always, don't forget to like and share this post.
Until next time,