Boy, Japan looooves its mascots. You’ll find them everywhere, from sporting events to corporate ads, city events to supermarket openings. Every city and prefecture boasts its own kawaii characters used to promote their local regions. Some of these Yura-chara have soared to celebrity status and need no introduction: Domo-kun, Kumamon, Hikonyan, Sanomaru, Gunman-chan, and, of course, the self-made Funassyi – to name but a few.
Akemi’s brush with celebrity!
Perhaps rivaling mascots in popularity is the Japanese obsession with ranking things. So it should come as surprise that, every year, the Yuru-Chara Grand Prix rates 200 (out of some 1400 annual entrants) mascots representing local governments and companies across Japan. Looking back on 2017’s list, my Top 13 would have broken down a little differently:
#13. Zokirin (Saitama)
A cross between an elephant and giraffe, I like Zook’s inclusive spirit.
#12. Kiko (Hokkaiko)
The love child of Chicago’s Benny the Bull and Nintendo’s Mario.
I like the hair, his laid-back look, and the fact he goes by three different aliases.
#10. Sosejin (Kagoshima-ken)
I feel Sosejin is one tragedy away from turning B-grade super villain.
#9. Hiyawan (Miyake-ken)
That Where-Are-They-Know? special finds Snoopy enjoying a comfortable retirement.
#8. Kuruppa (Fukuoka Prefecture)
Rosy-cheeked, cleary concerned, unsteady on his feet – the drunkenest mascot on this list!
#7. Shimabaran (Nagasaki Prefecture)
A ghost with a great attitude.
#6. Konyudoukun (Mie Prefecture)
He’s like that kid from Ju-On’s more sociable less killy brother.
#5. Kamisukoko-kun (Ibaraki Prefecture)
I’m drawn to his smugness.
#4. Komoshika (Mie Prefecture)
Literally – like a deer caught in the headlights.
#3. Shigako (Nagano Prefecture)
I can’t get enough of this lovable dimwit who seems to have suffered some sort of magic marker accident.
#2. Momoiro Usahi (Yamagata Prefecture)
It’s either PTSD or he missed the bus.
#1. Yumeizukin-chan (Nagasaki Prefecture)
Reminds me of Suji. In fact, I could see Suji in this outfit, complete with strawberry antler hat.
Check out all of last year’s official rankings here: http://www.yurugp.jp/ranking/?year=2017