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On Oct. 25-26, 2008, the first Yuru-Kyara (Mascot Character) Matsuri was held on Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road in Hikone. This sign at Hikone Station points the way. Map
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Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road was closed off to traffic for this festival. First they were going to hold the festival at a shopping center, but switched to this place after realizing how popular the event would be.
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The road was lined with PR booths for each mascot. They promoted products or tourism. The event saw about 46,000 visitors during the two days. The festival's official Web site is here.
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About 46 mascots showed up during the two days. I went on the first day. They are called "yuru-kyara" (ゆるキャラ) in Japanese which means "loose characters." (Don't ask me what that means.)
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Namu-kun from Nara to celebrate the 1300th anniversary of Nara. "Namu" is based on "Namu Amida butsu" and "Namu Horengekyo." なーむくん (奈良 奈良市)
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Namu-kun is modeled after Shotoku Taishi who introduced Buddhism to Japan. Created by a Buddhist association in Nara in opposition to Sento-kun (see below). But Namu-kun and Sento-kun played together at this festival in peace.
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Otsu Hikaru-kun from Otsu, Shiga to promote the 1000th anniversary in 2008 of the novel Genji Monogatari written in Ishiyama-dera temple in Otsu. おおつ光ルくん (滋賀 大津市)
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Kamon-chan is a princess created by students at Shiga Univ. for Ii Naosuke and the 150th anniversary of Japan's opening to the world. カモンちゃん (滋賀 彦根市)
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Humanoid mascots were the most numerous. This is Chacha-hime, based on the eldest daughter Chacha (later Lady Yodo-dono) of Lord Azai Nagamasa and Oichi (sister of Oda Nobunaga) who lived in Odani Castle in Kohoku-cho. 茶々姫
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Yoemon-kun, the mascot for the 400th anniversary of the birth of Confucian scholar Nakae Toju from Takashima, Shiga Pref. よえもん君 (滋賀 高島市)
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Musubi-maru to promote tourism in Sendai, Miyagi Pref. Modeled after Lord Date Masamune. むすび丸 (宮城 仙台市)
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Toshinaga-kun to promote the 400th anniversary of Takaoka, Toyama Pref. Based on Lord Maeda Toshinaga. 利長くん (富山 高岡市)
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Who's this baby wandering around Yonbancho shopping center?
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A baby sumo wrestler?
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Tabi-maru. a traveler character from Kusatsu, Shiga. Kusatsu was a crossroads on the old Tokaido and Nakasendo Roads where many travelers lodged. "Tabi" means "travel." たび丸 (滋賀 草津市)
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Chikamon-kun from Sabae, Fukui Pref. Modeled on Chikamatsu Monzaemon for his 345th birthday. ちかもんくん (福井 鯖江市)
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A tall Tsunuga-kun from Tsuruga, Fukui Pref. To celebrate the Tsuruga's 100th anniversary of its port opening. The mascot is based on a Korean prince. Many ships plied between Tsuruga and the Korean Peninsula. ツヌガくん (福井 敦賀市)
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Yanana was the weirdest and least mascot-like. It's actually a mermaid and she danced around the place, shaking her hips. Promoted Yanagase Shopping Arcade in Gifu city. Her head is shaped like an arcade. やなな (岐阜 岐阜市柳ヶ瀬商店街
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The main draw by far was Sento-kun from Nara. The place had two small stages where they introduced each mascot. A huge crowd gathered to see Sento-kun appear on stage.
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Everyone snap away with their camera phones when Sento-kun got on stage.
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Introducing Sento-kun.
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Sento-kun, a boy priest with deer antlers to promote the 1300th anniversary of Nara. せんとくん (奈良 奈良市)
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Sento-kun was controversial because people thought the deer antlers were an insult to the Buddha. This controversy has ironically made this mascot the most popular and famous.
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PR booth for Sento-kun and Nara.
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After the stage appearance, Sento-kun appeared in front of his PR booth on the street. A huge crowd again formed to see him.
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Sento-kun in front of his PR booth ogled by a large crowd. We couldn't touch him.
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Sento-kun in his trademark pose. Also see my YouTube video here.
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"So what do you think of Sento-kun?" This event made news headlines on TV and in the newspapers.
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Hiko-nyan did not walk around the road. He only appeared on stage as an "escort" for the mascots being introduced every 15 min. all day.
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Hiko-nyan, the King of yuru-characters in Japan, and Tawawa-chan.
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Shimasako-nyan, a cat based on one of Ishida Mitsunari's retainers. しまさこにゃん、ひこね「街の駅」寺子屋 力石マスコットキャラクター
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Cat mascots were numerous.
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Saba-tora Nana-chan is a cat with stripes from mackerel (saba). See the fish in her pouch. Promote Obama in Fukui Pref. さばトラななちゃん (福井 小浜市)
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Tiger
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Dogs were fewer than cats. Kurawanko from Osaka. Based on the local dialectical word "Kurawanka" (Wanna eat?). くらわんこ (大阪 枚方宿鍵屋浦)
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Another dog, Karawan-kun to promote castle town Karatsu, Saga Pref. 唐ワンくん (佐賀 唐津市)
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Bird mascots were also numerous, like Unagappa from Tajimi, Gifu Pref. うながっぱ (岐阜 多治見市)
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Habatan is phoenix from Hyogo Pref. to promote a national sports meet. はばタン (兵庫)
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Trippy from Tottori Pref. トリピー (鳥取県)
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Zoom-in.
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Other animals included a racoon dog
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Vivace-kun is a beaver promoting Viva City shopping mall in Hikone, Shiga. ビバッチェくん (滋賀 彦根市)
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Hiko-chu from Hikone. A Koga ninja mouse. Notice the shuriken on his left. Its creator seems to have been influenced too much by Mickey. ひこちゅう (滋賀 彦根市)
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The crowd at its thickest.
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Caffy, mascot for Sports Recreation Shiga 2008. It was his final appearance, but he has been resurrected in March 2009 to serve as another official mascot of Shiga Prefecture. キャッフィー(滋賀)
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Two crab mascots to promote Kasumi, Hyogo Pref. On the left is Matsuba-kun (male, wearing a blue cap), and on the left is Kasumi-chan, a female crab with a yellow ribbon. Not sure if they're married. Crabs are a major product of Kasumi.松葉くん (1 comments
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Sagawan (little sister) is the cutest of the bunch, promoting the Sagawa Art Museum in Moriyama, Shiga. さがわん3兄弟(妹)(滋賀 守山市)
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Sagawan actually has two other siblings. she's the cute little sister.
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Another cutie is Mimi-chan from Minami-ku, Sakai, Osaka Pref. A female flower promoting Minami-ku. Notice the bee on her forehead. みみちゃん (大阪 堺市南区)
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Mimi-chan minus the body.
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Iga city PR booth passing out tourist pamphlets.
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Yanagase Shopping Arcade booth.
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Ogoton for promoting Ogoto Onsen Spa in Otsu, Shiga. His hairs represent the hot spring's steam. おごとん (滋賀 大津市雄琴温泉)
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Iga-gurio to promote Iga, Mie Pref. Surprised that's it's not a ninja character. いが☆グリオ(三重 伊賀市)
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Aoi-kun from Aoi-ku, Shizuoka. あおいくん (静岡 静岡市葵区)
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Local-chan from Takatsuki, Osaka. A giant chili pepper?? ロコちゃん (大阪 高槻市)
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Mamyu from the Kyoto International Manga Museum. He wears a pen on his head. About his name, "Ma" is manga, and "myu" is for museum. マミュー (京都 京都市)
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Pyuara promotes the waterworks bureau of Osaka city. Water droplet character. ぴゅあら (大阪 大阪市)
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Jiimo-kun from Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka. じーもくん (福岡 北九州市門司区)
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Yaoi-chan from a shopping arcade in Kita-ku, Kyoto. やおいちゃん(京都 京都市北区 御薗橋801商店街)
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Tanemaru looks like a seed sprouting two leaves while in a boat. Mascot for Yokohama Port's 150th anniversary of its opening in 2009. 横浜開港150周年記念事業「たねまる」
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He wasn't in the guide book.
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Wataru from Kobe, Hyogo promotes the three bridges crossing from Honshu to Shikoku. (Notice the car on the head.) I thought it was a piece of toast walking around. わたる (兵庫 神戸市)
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I thought this was another piece of toast walking around, and I think I was right. Name's Kawarakki to promote healthy meals for children, from Takahama, Aichi Pref. かわら食人 カワラッキー (愛知 高浜市)
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Jaguji, one of the more bizarre-looking mascots, is based on a water faucet. Promotes the Board of Water Supply in the Osaka city. じゃぐ爺 (大阪 大阪市)
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Another bizarre mascot was Papa-tako, an octopus from Akaishi, Hyogo Pref. パパたこ(兵庫 明石市)
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Kumokkuru was created by a flower project group in Shibuya, Tokyo. I thought it was a baby monster from a Godzilla movie. くもっくる (東京 渋谷)
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Tawawa-chan promoting Kyoto Tower probably wishes that she could also smile. Also see my YouTube video here. たわわちゃん (京都 京都市)
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Dotaku-kun from Yasu, Shiga. Modeled after Japan's largest ancient bronze bell discovered in Yasu. ドウタクくん (滋賀 野洲市)
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Dennosuke plugging the Nipponbashi electronics district in Naniwa-ku, Osaka. There's a power cord on his back too. でんのすけ (大阪 大阪市浪速区)
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Shiromochi-kun marks the 400th anniversary of Lord Todo Takatora entering Tsu Castle in Mie Pref. Obviously resembling a stack of mochi rice cakes. This character was actually an inflatable plastic balloon. シロモチくん (三重 津市)
 
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