Japanese Mascots and Cannibalism: Where Does it Cross the Line?

The Japanese mascot Kawabe, from Kawajima Town in Saitama Prefecture, says "NO!" to mascot cannibalism.
It's no secret that Japanese mascots can have... unusual taste.

The world of Japanese mascots, or "Yuru-chara," is a whimsical one, filled with charming, quirky, and downright peculiar characters designed to promote everything from towns to public safety messages. But every so often, in this seemingly innocent realm, a darker, more cannibalistic side emerges. Yes, you read that right. In the picturesque, fig-laden town of Kawajima in Saitama Prefecture, we find ourselves in a fig-eat-fig world, confronted with the disconcertingly adorable duo, Kawamin and Kawabe. 

 The unassuming, cannibalistic fig mascots of Kawajima Town... Kawamin and her grandfather Kawabe!


Kawamin, a sprightly fig girl, and her grandfather Kawabe, a fig of more mature years, are the beloved mascots of Kawajima, a town renowned for its scrumptious figs. In a rather ironic twist, however, these figgy mascots are frequently depicted indulging in their town's celebrated fruit. Yes, folks, figs eating figs. One cannot help but think of this as the yuru-chara version of a surreal Salvador Dali painting.

 Kawamin and Kawabe, the official mascots of Kawajima Town in Japan's Saitama prefecture, stand beneath a small bridge in Kawajima Town. They are of course figs. It is noon, and Kawamin is biting into a delicious fig. Her grandfather, Kawabe, stares at her with crazed eyes as he eats something off of a fork.


Now, while one might argue that it's all in good fun – a harmless bit of cheeky marketing – it does raise a brow (or two). After all, isn't it just a smidge unnerving that Kawamin and Kawabe, the fig representatives of Kawajima, are munching away on their own kind? It's a rather existential dilemma. Where do we draw the line between promoting local produce and the subtle promotion of mascot cannibalism?


A japanese farmer smiles as he presents his tray of freshly picked figs.


On the one hand, it's a brilliant marketing strategy. It's hard to forget the image of these adorable figs chowing down on, well, figs. It's as if they're saying, "Our figs are so good, even we figs can't resist them!" But on the other hand, it's akin to Colonel Sanders feasting on a bucket of Fried Colonel Kernels, or Ronald McDonald tucking into a McRib (and not the pork kind) – a somewhat unsettling scenario, to say the least.


A close-up photo of a chicken mascot biting into a plastic chicken leg.


The issue here, if one can call it an issue, is that the line between the mascot and the thing it represents has been blurred. Does that make it wrong? Not necessarily. After all, we live in a world where pocket monsters are captured, forced to battle, and still treated like loving pets, and where a tire manufacturer's mascot is not only a marshmallow-like man, but one that recommends the best places to eat. In the grand scheme of things, figs consuming figs seems relatively benign.


 A picture of a juicy, cut fig. The white/green of it's outer flesh shines deliciously against the red of it's inner meat.


Kawamin and Kawabe, keep on enjoying those figs. You’re a testament to Kawajima's fig-loving spirit, even if it does raise a few questions about yuru-chara dietary habits. In the grand opera of mascot life, you've hit a note that's as strange as it is memorable. And let's face it, in the end, isn't that what all great mascots strive to do?