Archive for the ‘Japan’ category

30 Jun

mascots

Fuzz and Fur my new book on fur-suit mascots is now available to buy from amazon. To give people a better idea of what they can expect from the book I thought I’d pick some of my favourites which might help explain why I love this unusual brand of Japanese characters. The fur suit costumes or kigurumi as they’re known in Japan are created to promote anything from bridges, castles, roads, towers, the police, water purification plants and most notably prefectures. A new word, Yuru-kyara was coined by illustrator Jun Miura to categorize this new breed of character. Yuru means loose or weak and when combined with the word ‘character’ refers to mascots that are somewhat imperfect or unserious. Find out more below and click the mascot names to go to their official site.

Hikone kigurumi

Hikonyan
The mascot for Hikone Castle is probably the most famous yuru-kyara EVER. People travel to the castle not to see the beautiful grounds or explore the castle, but to meet the samurai cat Hikonyan, who visits the castle four times a week. His name combines Hikone and nyan, the Japanese onomatopoeia for a cat’s meow. The cute cat wears a kabuto (samurai helmet) with huge horns similar to the one Ii Naokatsu wore in battle. Ii Naokatsu was a Japanese daimyo during the Edo period who completed the construction of the castle and also said to have escaped being struck by lightning thanks to a beckoning cat.

Yaoi-chan

801-chan
Furry, green, wide-eyed and modelled on a local vegetable, 801-chan also has a strange connection to homosexual comics. Pronounced Yaoi-chan he’s the mascot for Misonobashi 801 Shopping Centre. The green monster adopts the same trademark color as the shopping centre while the shape is based on Kyoto’s famous short and round eggplant. The character’s name comes from the individual pronunciation of the numbers 8-0-1 Ya-o-i. The character quickly became an internet sensation after fans of ‘boy love’ comics called yaoi discovered the character. Yaoi is mostly used to describe manga featuring homosexual male relationships, usually created by female authors. As a result the shopping district has seen a surge of unexpected publicity.

Bear kigurumi

Arukuma
A kigurumi into kigurumi, this green bear loves to collect hats. Each one reflects one of Nagano’s many specialities, his collection includes a chestnut, persimmon, mushroom, lettuce, soba and wine. Arukuma, quite possibly the cutest kigurumi is the mascot for East Japan Railway and wants tourists to explore the beautiful outdoors of Nagano. His name combines the words aruku (walk) and kuma (bear).

aomori mascot

 

Ikubee
Ikubee is ‘lets go’ in the dialect of Aomori and the name of The Aomori Destination Campaign’s mascot. The large blue fairy supposedly travelled all over Japan before finally settling down in his favorite prefecture. He’s modelled on the letter ‘A’ which of course stands for Aomori. He’s the colour blue because the first kanji in Aomori means blue and on his head is an apple blossom illustrating the flower symbol of the prefecture.

voting mascot

Ippyou
They’re not all well designed and cute, some are incredible cheap. Promoting the elections in Kagawa, Ippyou; a voting slip (Ippyou) with the kanji for ballot on his front dreams of a 100% turn out by the voters. He’s friends with Meisui-kun the mascot for promoting fair elections for the whole of Japan.

Aichi kigurumi

Toyoki
A collection of Japanese mascots wouldn’t be complete without at least one robot. Toyoki is not just a robot though, he’s a red demon robot. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the city the mascot was created. Toyohashi is known for its import and export of cars, it’s many computer companies based in the city and also for its oni matsuri (demon festival). The mascot combines all these elements including the first kanji in Toyohashi 豊 which inspired the design.

Hokkaido mascot

Marimokkori
Originally from Hokkaido, Marimokkori’s merchandise can be found all over Japan. When first introduced in 2005 the character was considered too vulgar and many local shops refused to stock the goods. But after a number of celebrities were seen with Marimokkori keychains his popularity skyrocketed. Marimokkori’s name combines marimo, the green algae balls found in Hokkaido’s Lake Akan, and mokkori the sound for something sticking out. The closest word we have is probably ‘Schwing’ which explains the bulge in Marimokkori’s pants. Marimokkori souvenirs such as phone straps are particularly popular however one item where Marimokkori was dressed as a daibutsu (large Buddha) angered people so much it was eventually discontinued.

burger fur isuit

Sasebo Burger Boy
After WWII the American Navy took over parts of the base in Sasebo, Nagasaki. Soon after, enterprising Sasebo citizens started making and selling burgers to cater to the appetites of the American sailors stationed there. With its long tradition of homemade burgers Sasebo has become famous all over Japan. Takashi Yanase the king of characters famed for creating Anpanman designed the mascot. Find out more here.

Aomori mascot

Takamaru-kun
To celebrate its 400th anniversary Hirosaki Castle created the badass Takamaru-kun. The area was once called Takaoka because of the falcons (taka) that live there but renamed to Hirosaki in 1603. Takamaru-kun is wearing a kabuto, which combines the shape of the castle and the helmet worn by Tsugaru Tamenobu. Tamenobu was the first lord of area and drafted the design for the castle.

Narita mascot

Unari-kun
Narita is well known for it’s International Airport but it’s also famous for it’s large number of eel restaurants in the small city. In the past Narita had a flourishing eel (unagi) trade where they were caught locally. Now however the busiest air freight hub in Japan is more likely to have the slippery creatures flown in from either Taiwan or China. Unarikun is said to be from Unari planet, he flew to earth and searched for the best airport in world. After discovering Narita he decided to settle there and as way of thanks to the friendly citizens he now promotes the city.

ETC mascot

Mr. ETC & Ms. Karejo
Mr. Etc and his girlfriend Ms Karejo are the two mascots for the Metropolitan Expressway Company. ETC stands for Electronic Toll Collection system and is used extensively in Japan. The system allows drivers to quickly pass through tolls by automatically deducting money from their cards. Karejo, the daughter of a rich man, was born into a privileged life and has a taste for expensive things which I guess Mr ETC isn’t worrying about too much, he must be loaded from the expensive tolls people pay.

Nara kigurumi

Sento-kun
1,300 years ago Nara became the capital of Japan so to celebrate they did what any other city would do….they had a mascot created. Sento-kun combines a young Buddha with a pair of antlers (the city is famous for it’s many temples and tame deer). Sento-kun drew criticism from local residents and Buddhist groups who objected to the design and the amount of money spent on the character. The controversy propelled the character into the media which only helped increase his notoriety across the country. As a result the kimo-kawaii (scary but cute) character is probably the second most well known kigurumi in Japan. Find out more about him here.

ski mascot

Kunio
Even the ski resorts in Japan get in on the kigurumi action. Kunio a seasoned skier is the mascot for Kunizakai Kougen snow park a resort in Takashima, Shiga. Kunio started working in one of the restaurants but was quickly promoted to become the mascot for the resort. His interests include, snowboarding, ice cream and girls (in that order). Find out about more ski mascots in Japan here

Nakatsu castle kigurumi mascot

A!kanbe
Yet another castle mascot this time for Nakatsu castle in Kyushu. He might look like a slightly mental upside down miso bowl but he is in fact modelled on a kabuto. Specifically the kabuto worn by Kanbei Kuroda who first started building the castle. His expression and name also come from the word ‘akanbe‘ which is a childish gesture in Japan. To do it, use one finger to press just below your eye and pull down while sticking out your tongue and making the sound ‘behhhhhhh.’

plum mascot

Umeppi
Mascot for the Wakayama branch of Japanese Agriculture, Umeppi is a plum, one of the prefecture’s speciality fruit. He loves playing the drums and spinning around. He also has a twin sister called Mikappi who strangely isn’t a plum but a satsuma, I guess they’re non-identical.

kigurumi book

Fuzz and Fur Profiles over 100 kigurumi from across Japan with photographs and text that explains their origins, as well as their likes and dislikes. The new book is now out and available to buy from Amazon.

24 Jun

I’ve recently spotted a number of posters with eight different kigurumi in support of Japan and Tohoku. From left to right we have Ikubee from Aomori, Sento-kun from Nara, Guripuu from Kagoshima, Hachimaru from Nagoya, Nyanyo from Ehime and finally Yubarifusai from Hokkaido.

17 May

kigurumi for snow resorts in Japan

At many of the ski resorts in Japan you’ll find people dressed in Kigurumi but you might also be lucky enough to see the official ski resort mascot that some of the resorts have. Here are six from various places around Japan. If you know of any more let me know in the comments.

Nasuki-kun

Nasuki-kun
To start with heres Nozawa Onsen’s Nasuki-kun. Nozawa Onsen a small town in Nagano is famous for its skiing, onsen and Nozawana. The last is its speciality vegetable which provides the design inspiration for their character. Nozawana is a leaf vegetable which is often pickled. Nozawaonsen hosted the biathlon for the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Photo via Mew Mew factory.

egg mascot

Hantama-kun
On Hunter Mountain Shiobara in Tochigi you might see half a boiled egg whizzing down the slopes on skis, a snowboard or an inflatable ring. Hantama-kun the mascot for the ski resort came to life when someone cut a boiled egg in half and drew eyes with sauce. His name comes from Hunter Mountain but it also combines the words han meaning “half” and tamago meaning “egg.” Hantama-kun often has a salt shaker in his hand and sprinkles salt while shaking his yolk.

ski mascot

Kunio
Kunio is the mascot for Kunizakai Kougen snow park, a resort in Takashima, Shiga. Kunio apparently started working in a restaurant but was promoted to become the mascot for the resort. He’s very good at skiing and is improving his snowboarding skills every day. He also has a girlfriend. Photo via Kunizakai Kougen snow park’s official site.

Nigata mascot

Reruhi-san
Nigata honoured the man who is said to have introduced skiing to Japan by creating a kigurumi based on his image. Theodor von Lerch Edler was Born in 1869 in what is now Slovakia and was a Major General of the Austrian Habsburg Army and a skiing pioneer. He came to Japan as an exchange officer with the Imperial Japanese Army 100 years ago but left as an ambassador to winter leisure sports. There are a number of monuments dedicated to the man, a museum and now finally a mascot. Find out more about the man here.

Happy Hako-chan
Happy Hako-chan is the mascot for Hakoteyama in Shiga. The Square box character comes from the Hako in Hakote which means box. He likes sweet food and his favourite word is happy. Photo via the Yuru-chara organisation

Makino Kougen

Sarasa-chan
Makino Highland is a ski resort, onsen, golf course and onsen. Their mascot Sarasa-chan takes her name and look from Sarasadoudan Tsutsuji or Enkianthus a shrub with bell shaped pink tinged flowers that are found on Akasaka mountain. She’s currently on a diet and says her rival is Hikonyan. Photo via Yuru-chara organisation

08 Apr

hanami kigurumi 2

The season for cherry blossom viewing or hanami has finally hit Tokyo and although some parks have been reluctant to encourage the festivities people were out in full force at Yoyogi park which I visited last weekend. I met Rilakkuma (relaxed bear) doing a great job of collecting money for the survivors of the tsunami and earthquake. There were a number of kigurumin too including Stitch, a squirrel, Eeyore and Tigger. It was a little bit cold on Sunday so I’m sure the kigurumi kept them warm.

hanami kigurumi 3

hanami kigurumi 1

29 Mar

Gyoda mascots

From Gyoda in Saitama come two of the ugliest mascots I’ve seen. Gyoda is famed for its fried jelly. It’s not really jelly its basically a mashed ball of fried stuff including bean curd, carrots, onion, and potato. After frying it’s dipped into takoyaki sauce and apparently tastes pretty good.

15 Mar

Dazaifu mascot

Dazaifu character mascot

Dazaifu is a city located in Fukuoka Prefecture. Their mascot Chiume-chan is a young girl who wants to be a popular singer so that she can find her estranged parents. She is currently trying to help the people affected by the recent disaster in Japan by collecting messages of support to send them. Her name combines the word ‘ume’ because the city flower is the ume (plum) blossom. She’s openminded, mischevious, and likes Renka-chan who is shown on the top right picture. Photo via.

13 Mar

Hyogo earthquake mascot

lots of Haba-tans

Hyogo mascot

It’s been a shocking few days experiencing my first major earthquake and watching the harrowing news from the more affected parts of Japan. It seems slightly inappropriate to post about mascots with all the sad news but I wanted to mention one relevant character which will hopefully give people some encouragement. Meet Haba-tan mascot for Hyogo. In January 1995 an earthquake struck Hyogo prefecture resulting in the loss of life of more than 6,000 people. Although it was not as strong as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake which measured 9.0 the Great Hanshin Earthquake (6.8) caused expressways to topple over, buildings crumbled and fires raged through the city. Haba-tan is a phoenix and represents the city’s re-birth. My thoughts are with the people in the affected areas in North Japan. Like Hyogo I hope the people and cities can recover from this huge disaster and when the towns are re-built and the people return maybe they’ll create a mascot to inspire the people and encourage tourism. I hope to see them soon. Photos via here and here.

illustration Haba-tan

06 Mar

Maruyama zoo sapporo mascot

maruyama zoo mascot

The furry animals zoo’s use for their drills aren’t the only kigurumi they have. Maruyama Zoo in Sapporo has an unusual green suited 50 year old man for their mascot. He’s called Maruyaman although his real name is Mitsuru Tsuburuya. He’s a quite and shy zookeeper who enjoys a can of cofee after work. Some creative bento box maker used his face in their delicious design and here’s his official site where you can watch him do a funky dance. Photo via originalprint-sou

01 Mar

Tama zoo recently held a drill to simulate what would happen if a Siberian Tiger escaped. The safest and of course cutest way to do this is get a smiling fur-suit costume and a theatrically starved zookeper volunteer. Ueno and Tama zoo have held similar drills in the past with different animals including a zebra, monkey, lion, rhino and bear. The drills give zoo staff the experience in dealing with first aid, protecting visitors and working with the emergency services. They almost always include a melodramatic stun dart scene too. Pink tentacle has many of the past drills collected together.

zoo costume drill

27 Feb

Just got back from watching the Tokyo Marathon. I mainly went to watch Joseph Tame do his amazing run with his funny irun contraption but also saw some fantastic costumes. Lots of pandas I guess because Ueno zoo has just received two new ones from China. Also many Gachapins and Pickachus. Pink Tentacle has many more photos from the day including an awesome Alien Baltan and a persevering Jesus.