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.
About 38 miles inland from the plant lies the commercial city of Koriyama, where some of the smallest children barely know what it is like to play outside - fear of radiation has kept them indoors for much of their short lives. (telegraph.co.uk )
The Fisheries Agency on Monday announced plans to slash Japan's catches of immature bluefin tuna around the country by half from the average level in 2002-2004 for the time being from 2015, in an effort to help recover shrinking tuna stocks in the Pacific. (Jiji Press )
University of Yamanashi Prof. Teruhiko Wakayama who coauthored articles about stimulus-triggered acquisition pluripotency (STAP) cells with RIKEN researcher Haruko Obokata and others proposed on Monday that all the researchers involved withdraw the articles, saying there are many questionable points. (The Japan News )
Police in Niihama, Ehime Prefecture, are investigating the mutilation deaths of three cats whose bodies were left in a park. Two were found dead in February, and the third was found on Saturday. (Japan Today )
Banging on drums and waving "Sayonara nukes" signs, thousands of people rallied in a Tokyo park and marched to Parliament on Sunday to demand an end to nuclear power ahead of the third anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. (scmp.com )
Fewer than 40 pct of residents and commuters in Tokyo take specific measures to prepare for a possible huge earthquake beneath the Japanese capital, despite high awareness on disaster prevention, a Metropolitan Police Department survey showed Friday. (Jiji Press )
The man under arrest for fatally stabbing one man and wounding three others during a 10-minute rampage in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, on Monday night, told police on Thursday that he wanted to hijack a plane at Haneda airport and fly it into Tokyo Skytree to take revenge on society. (Japan Today )
The man lauded as "Japan's Beethoven," who has admitted he never wrote his compositions, appeared before cameras for the first time since the scandal surfaced - clean-shaven and minus his trademark sunglasses. (abcnews.go.com )