Kumamon leads Japan's mascot craze, but don't mention Pluto-kun
guardian.co.uk -- May 13
They help collect taxes, promote tourism and save the environment, but Japan's mascots cannot escape controversy

He is a genuine household name in a country where celebrities are ten a penny. His rosy cheeks and unreadable expression appear on hundreds of products, from sweets and snacks to bags of rice, stationery and toys - part of a commercial portfolio worth almost 30bn yen last year. That's not bad for a cuddly black bear with a mischievous streak, who has risen from humble beginnings promoting a new bullet train station in southern Japan to become the country's pre-eminent mascot. Kumamon - a combination of the words Kumamoto, his home prefecture, and the local pronunciation of mon, or "things" - has built up a following to rival that of fellow bears Pooh and Paddington since being named Japan's most popular mascot two years ago. He is the undisputed king of the yuru kyara, or loose characters - a nationwide fraternity of about 1,000 different mascots who provide a touch of whimsy to the serious business of collecting taxes and saving the environment, to promoting tourist spots and regional cuisine.

Source: guardian.co.uk
Sep 02
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has installed devices in a park in downtown Tokyo to catch mosquitoes and check whether they are carrying the dengue virus. (NHK)
Sep 02
Indian PM Narendra Modi and Japan's Shinzo Abe have agreed at a summit in Tokyo to accelerate talks on a nuclear energy pact. (BBC)
Sep 02
NHK has learned that sirens set up to alert residents against possible disasters were not used in key areas when massive rain hit Hiroshima City last month and triggered deadly mudslides. (NHK)
Sep 02
Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force said Monday that a crewman of a destroyer killed himself after being bullied by his superior, a 42-year-old petty officer first class, since October 2013. (Jiji Press)
Sep 01
Nineteen more people were confirmed by the health ministry on Monday to have contracted dengue fever in Tokyo, following three last week and bringing the total number to 22 in the first cases of domestic infection in Japan since 1945. (Nikkei)
Sep 02
The controversial six-month dolphin hunting season began on Monday in the infamous town of Taiji, but bad weather would delay any killing, a local official told AFP. (The Guardian)
Sep 02
Hokkaido Prefectural Police on Monday accused a restaurant in Chuo Ward of violating labor laws by attiring waitresses under the age of 18 in bikinis, reports the Hokkaido Shimbun (Sept. 2). (Tokyo Reporter)
Sep 02
The best thing about the World Air Guitar Championship - now in it's 19th year - is that it seems to thoroughly appreciate its own absurdity. (akihabaranews.com)
Sep 02
A 20-year-old man went on trial Monday for killing his mother and chopping her body into pieces. (Japan Today)
Sep 02
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on Monday decided not to indict Torao Tokuda, former head of hospital group Tokushukai, over a high-profile election fraud case, because he is seriously ill. (The Japan News)
Sep 02
Police in Tamamura, Gunma Prefecture, said Monday they have arrested a 32-year-old woman over the death of her 3-year-old son. (Japan Today)
Sep 01
Police in Osaka said Monday they have arrested a 53-year-old man on suspicion of killing his neighbor in an apartment building in Higashinari Ward. (Japan Today)
Sep 01
Media reports that Sanrio Co.'s popular character Hello Kitty is "not a cat" have swirled across the globe, following a U.S. newspaper story. (Jiji Press)
Aug 31
The Hiroshima city government on Sunday lifted evacuation advisories and orders issued for about 106,000 people in the mudslide-hit city. (Kyodo)
Aug 31
A group of Japanese porn actresses raised tens of thousands of dollars at the weekend by having their breasts squeezed by fans at a "Boob Aid" charity event for Aids prevention. (straitstimes.com)