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Understanding Japan’s Mascot Obsession

Japan is overrun with adorable yet sometimes crazy mascots. They are everywhere from chain stores to city councils, and during the past few years, they have increased in popularity immensely. It’s gotten to the point where the Japanese government has started to crack down on the numbers. You may have read our previous blog five popular Japanese mascots about one species of mascots called “yuru-kyara.” Local governments and the general public design them. Their amateurish nature is what makes them so loveable.

The primary purpose of Japanese mascot characters is to attract as much attention as possible because many local governments are underfunded and need to rely on grassroots methods on social media. Some mascots fight for sustainable energy and tax reductions. There is even a mascot whose life mission is to sell you yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), yum. There’s also the untamed otter mascot Chiitan that has created headline news and even got banned from Twitter.

Chiitan on a running machine

Cute characters are everywhere in Japan, especially Sanrio, San-x, and Ghibli characters who have their stores, and theme parks. But when it comes to promotional mascots, they may be lesser-known, but there are way more. In Osaka alone (where ZenPlus is located), over 40 mascots are representing their district within the prefecture. Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono even appointed Hello Kitty and Pikachu to be ambassadors for the upcoming 2025 World Expo in Osaka.

Hello Kitty and Pikachu appointed as expo 2025 ambassadors

Due to popularity and numbers of mascot characters, there is now an annual contest, the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix. The Yuru-kyara Grand Prix is where the Japanese public gets to vote for their favorite mascots. Some of the previous winners include Kumamon, Bariisan, and Shinjo-kun. 

Here at ZenPlus, we’re lucky enough to work directly with Shinjo-kun, Bariisan, Melonkuma, and Kyoto’s Tawawa-chan. You may recognize Shinko-kun from HBO’s show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver; then they came up with a plan to help Shinjo-kun from feeling so alone. You can watch it below.


If you can’t get enough of Shinjo-kun and other popular mascot characters, we recommend you check out their official stores on ZenPlus by clicking the banners below.

Browse Shinjokun goods on ZenPlusBrowse Melon Bear goods on ZenPlusBrowse Barii-san goods on ZenPlusBrowse Tawawa-chan goods on ZenPlus

Who is your favorite mascot character? Let us know on our SNS down below.

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Article| 18/07/2019 | Pop culturezenplus