Fukkachan of Fukaya City! Image courtesy of Fukaya City, Fukkachan.com

Japanese mascots, known as yuru-kyara ( ゆるキャラ ), are cute and quirky characters that are popular throughout Japan! Mascots are a lot like us; they come in all sorts of sizes and colors, have ages and genders, likes and dislikes, and even hometowns that they love very much! Many mascots also have ridiculous talents, such as being able to speak every language on Earth, or being a 0-year old fairy baby!

Official and unofficial mascots exist for all sorts of things in Japan, from brands and businesses, to events and activities, and even places; with the most popular mascots being treated like celebrities!

Amabie of the Sea, an unofficial mascot from Kumamoto Prefecture!

Similar to robots, there are 3 laws that mascot characters must follow in order to exist:

#1: The mascot must convey a message of love for something.

#2: The character's movements or behavior must be unique, in that they are unstable or awkward.

#3: The character should be laid-back (the yuru in yuru-kyara) and lovable.

Are you surprised? We hope so! Mascots are full of wonderful surprises and they are here to spread joy and happiness... a job which they take very seriously! Mascot characters can also exist to spread awareness about whatever it is they represent. They often do so by incorporate certain motifs into their design, such as local customs or unique patterns.

The mascot Taimee of Minami Ise, looking out towards the heart-shaped lake near his home! Picture courtesy of Minami Ise Town.

When mascot characters make an appearance in public, it is known as Kigurumi (きぐりみ), and they can often be found attending events and festivals. Especially around their hometown! If you ever see a mascot character out and about, we strongly encourage you to interact with them --they will almost always be friendly because they are already your friend! However, should you encounter a mascot in the wild please report it to someone, as they are most likely lost.

The mascot Fukkachan, frolics in the tulip fields.

Most communities in Japan have an official local mascot, and at least a few unofficial mascots. In both cases, their hometowns are often adorned with mascot-related designs, including banners, cutouts, and official merchandise. Some mascots are lucky enough to have their own theme songs!