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
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