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
Dec 22
The Japan Coast Guard says a Chinese captain has been arrested on suspicion of coral poaching in Japan's territorial waters. (NHK)
Dec 21
Tokyo Electric Power Co. finished on Saturday removing all nuclear fuel assemblies from the cooling pool at the No. 4 reactor building at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Jiji Press)
Dec 20
The Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases said Friday that an influenza epidemic is spreading across Japan. (Japan Today)
Dec 20
The government has decided to levy consumption tax on e-books, digital music and other electronic media sold online by overseas vendors from October, according to sources. (The Japan News)
Dec 20
The probability for the Kanto region to be hit by a powerful earthquake - lower 6 or higher on the Japanese intensity scale of 7 - within 30 years has risen, the government panel's latest quake probability map showed Friday. (The Japan News)
Dec 22
Fifty-four workers suffered food poisoning at a Nippon Ham meat-processing plant in Kawatana, Nagasaki Prefecture, company officials said Sunday. (Japan Today)
Dec 21
Sales of special Suica cards to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of Tokyo Station were canceled soon after they began Saturday, as a large crowd of people flooded the area. (The Japan News)
Dec 21
Buddhist monks and believers have come together in an annual year-end event to clean up two major temples in Kyoto. (NHK)
Dec 20
The Niigata prefectural government started clearing a section of National Highway Route 405 in Tsunan in the prefecture on Friday, after a landslide mixed with snow blocked off about 50 meters of the road the night before. (The Japan News)
Dec 19
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police plan to limit pedestrian access to Shibuya's famous scramble crossing to avoid trouble from rowdy revelers on New Year's Eve. (Japan Today)
Dec 18
The Osaka District Court has ruled that Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's order to check whether municipal office workers had tattoos was illegal and constituted an invasion of privacy. (Japan Today)
Dec 18
The Chiba Public Safety Commission has banned a 29-year-old man from Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, from riding a bicycle for 90 days, after he was found guilty of cycling under the influence of "kiken" quasi-legal drugs. (Japan Times)
Dec 18
Police in Nara said Wednesday they have arrested a public school teacher for intruding into the bedroom of a woman who lives in the same apartment building as he does. (Japan Today)
Dec 18
Police in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, said Wednesday that a 37-year-old woman was found dead with knife wounds to her neck in her apartment on Tuesday night. (Japan Today)
Dec 17
A Dallas-bound American Airlines jet coming from South Korea made an emergency landing in Japan early Wednesday after encountering turbulence. At least 12 people on board the plane were injured. (NHK)