Japanese love for "Yurukyara" mascot characters
A festival bringing together 230 regional mascot characters and 73,000 visitors took place last weekend in Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture, a small city of 113,000 in the Kansai region of Japan.
The event was called "Gotouchi Kyarahaku in Hikone" and let fans mingle with their favorite characters from around Japan.
At the moment in Japan, a boom in these regional mascot characters - called "Yurukyara" (meaning "heartwarming mascot-like characters" in Japanese) - has been taking place for at least a few years, and one of them that is said to have help start this boom is "Hikonyan" the character that Hikone city created to make their tourism come alive. It turned out to be a very successful way to promote this non-famous city, and many other prefectures, cities and towns have started making their own mascot characters.
One of the most popular ones is "Kumamon" from Kumamoto prefecture. "Kumamon" has been bringing massive economic effects to this far west prefecture since it was created in 2010. His popularity has extended beyond Kumamoto and Japan, and now he has lots of fans outside of Japan.
Some of the most popular ones are treated like celebrities here. Once they show up, they get surrounded by a crowd of people right away. Their popularity might be more than even that of Micky Mouse in Disneyland.
Another interesting and typical example of a good Yurukyara is the chicken thigh samurai (とり奉行 骨付きじゅうじゅう) from Marugame, Kagawa Prefecture. This city is famous for grilled chicken and paper fan what better way to promote this city then to have a mascot which is a samurai that looks like a chicken thigh with the bone sticking out of his head holding a fan?
Main photo by Mynavi