Japanese Mascots: Kawaii 5-0

Kawaii means “cute” in Japanese. If cuteness were a crime, this post would be going straight to the big house. As a quick refresher go here where in my first post about yuru kyara I wrote about how America should adopt the Japanese system of regional representatives and included my own take on a yuru kyara for California.

An artist's rendering

PoppyHat Quail-san – An artist’s rendering

Recently the “Yuru Kyara Grand Prix Executive Committee” (the cuteness police of Japan) released new rankings based on the collected votes of Japanese people. You can go here for the full ranking. New to 2013 is a commercial division as well, allowing different commercial enterprises to put their mascot up against other capital ventures.

First off, the committee needs to include a search function on their webpage. This endless clicking is bullshit.

2011 and 2012 winners (Kumamon and Mr. Baryi) were excluded from the contest because they are just so damn cute they would always win. Their cuteness is transcendent. Also I wouldn’t be surprised that if they were allowed to compete, Japan would end up with a Lance Armstrong like scandal of cuteness enhanced doping.

I am also completely ignorant of whatever, if any, are the criteria for the voting. Is it simply personal preference, a mathematical blending of polls and computerized rankings, can you pickle it? I have no idea. I also don’t care… Since I have absolutely no clue, I appointed my self Cuteness Police in Chief and did my own rankings. Here are the top 10-ish yuru kyara based on cuteness alone!

On to the LIST!

Honorable Mentions:

55_650_This is Sanomaru (さのまる) He’s from Tochigi. According to the Committee he is now the top ranked mascot in Japan so I had to include him in my list, mainly out of respect. His PR charm is unmistakeable because you see his name, its written in Roman letters, so you can’t miss it. Sanomaru also carries a potato sword, because potato sword. If that isn’t enough for you, his hat happens to be an empty bowl of ramen and ramen is delicious.

actual hoya

9_650_On the right is Hoya Boya (ホヤぼーや) or Child of the Sea Squirts (which sounds like an oceanic diarrhea but is actually the name of the sea cucumber that is referred to as a hoya here in Japan). Hoya Boya is the city representative of Kesennuma, a small coastal town in Miyagi prefecture. Kesennuma is famous for it’s sea food. Hoya Boya is the cute invertebrate face of all that tasty seafood. The hoya has the remarkable property of changing the way other food tastes when eaten with it. A fresh hoya will turn a glass of water into a sugary sweet drink on your tongue. I was told that hoya makes terrible sake taste better as well. I am highlighting Hoya Boya because, well, wouldn’t you? He placed 36th in the yuru kyara contest but I think he should have been higher.

783_650_Next up is the yuru kyara that is nearest and dearest to my heart. The lovable samurai representative of Sendai, Musubimaru (むすび丸). I referred to him as Mr. Miyagi when I first came to Japan but since “he” is the representative of the area that I live in, I came to know him well. He is a chimera of the famous samurai Date Masumune mixed with a large rice ball. Musubimaru ranked 88th overall. Some might argue that a rice ball wearing a samurai helmet isn’t cute and they would be wrong. Despite his some what vacant stare he is clearly the most adorable rice ball in all of Japan.

561_650_Next up is Fukka-chan (ふっかちゃん). Fukka was previously mentioned as having one of my favorite bad translations of PR copy in my original post about yuru kyara.

“It does if you win fluoride:

Features of “do if you win fluoride” is angle exciting supple local products of “Fukaya leek” to mask well-bitch! The ♪ Summers to get Negishi also this year the vote for “do if you win fluoride” Because Ru Gamba steadily aiming at the highest point of the podium this year”

Regardless of the poor translation, this… umm onion? deer? is probably one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen. Also hailing from the Saitama area of Japan, Fukka-chan is a vegetarian and ranked 4th. Likely Fukka-chan didn’t win due to it being impossible to have it over for dinner without having to make special arrangements. Not to mention, its hat has a big “FU” on it’s hat.

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 9.44.52 AMTo the left is an outlier that didn’t make the Grandprix. I think the Committee should attach a lot of shame to that. Meet, Ginger-chan (しょうがちゃん). This humanoid ginger root is the representative of Kochi prefecture. It made an appearance here in Iwanuma during their fall festival which is surprising because Iwanuma is very small and reeeeeaalllly far from Kochi. Kochi is apparently very famous for ginger. As far roots go, I would be hard pressed to find a cuter version of one. Also according to the @wiki entry for Ginger-chan, it has no criminal record. Not only is this particular character very tasty but it is an upstanding citizen. Ginger-chan is rated as being a 3 star difficulty to capture, FYI.


1588_650_10: Kururin. This is Kururin (くるりん). Kururin is the hedgehog representative of AXA Life Insurance. If you’re not convinced life insurance is a good idea, Kururin will cry. Don’t make Kururin cry. Meanie. Whatever your opinion of AXA one thing that is not in doubt is just how stinkin’ cute this guy is. I dare you not to buy life insurance from him. I dare you. However, there has also been some controversy surrounding Kururin that I just made up for the purposes of this article. Tachikawa City also has a Kururin mascot. Will they fight to the death for the mantle of Kururin or can they live in harmony? Legends say, there can be only one.

315_650_9: Kirarin. Kirarin (キラリン) is the representative of Namerikawa City in the Toyama prefecture. According to it’s facebook (which is has an adorable picture of adorable Japanese children wearing adorable squid hats) Kirarin is a firefly squid from an offshore depth of 333 meters, exactly. Every year the firefly squid invade the local bay and hail the coming of spring. Besides being the cutest squid in all of Japan Kirarin’s main talent is the “Shinkawa ancient god dance.” Squid maybe a little too chewy for my for sushi and sashimi but that makes him perfect for hugs.

1160_650_8: Toba & Topati. If you thought the competition was cutely fierce just wait to you see the next one. This matched pair of dugongs absolutely love hamburgers. Toba and Topati (トーバ・トパティ) not only represent Toba City in the Mie prefecture but they also represent the local hamburger specialty the “Toba’rger.” They are part hamburger bun and part dugong. Let me repeat that, part hamburger bun and part dugong. Have you ever thought of cuddling up to a large dugong/hamburger bun? Well, now you have.

1401_650_7: Keikyun. Keikyun (けいきゅん) is another member of the commercial class of yuru kyara. Keikyun represents the Keikyu Railway that runs from Haneda Airport all around Tokyo, North to Daiba and south to Miura. In 2010 Keihin Electric Railway changed their name to Keikyu Railway and announced Keikyun shortly after. Despite the fact that it’s a train, Keikyun loves walks and is a bit of a rebel. Keikyun is the bad boy of the yuru kyara world but you’d never know from that cute façade he puts up. Here he is being led away by police for questioning after a recent altercation with the mascot from Sendai Airport Access railways.

Keikyun being led away by police for questioning.

1124_650_6: Namapon. Another sea cucumber to make the list Namapon (ナマポン)  is the pink representative from Aomori city in Aomori prefecture. Despite his all pink attire, Aomori city PR is very clear that Nampon is boy, so don’t get confused. Namapon is cute in more ways than one. First off look at that face. Second, he is very in touch with his feelings. When Namapon has feels, his back lights up to let you know he is nervous or upset. While you may have to be careful about you say around Nampon he is so cute that its worth dealing with all the extra emotional baggage. Even if Namapon goes off to his “dark place” just bring him back around with one of his favorite foods, “bits of the sea floor.” Being the youngest of many children it’s not hard to imagine he was babied a little bit growing up.

Twirling Namapon

1577_650_5: Natchoru-kun (ナッチョルくん), this social media expert is always on twitter showing off just how cute an anthropomorphic persimmon can be. Natchoru-kun is a comfort beast from Yamagata city in the Gifu prefecture. His daily life is solely focused on twitter, sleeping, persimmons and making other people happy.

Fall is his favorite time of the year because that is when persimmons are in season. Persimmon maybe one of the best fruits of all time so I could have included Natchoru-kun for that alone but he went ahead and decided to be one of the most adorbs fruit in Japan making him an easy choice for a top ten cute yuru kyara.

462_650_4: Ama’chi.  Practically a tie here but at Ama’chi (あまっち) from Fukuoka edges Natchoru-kun for the 4th spot on the list. It was a tough call, but after a careful side by side comparison I had to go with Ama’chi. First, Strawberries > Persimmons. As much as I like persimmons, strawberries will always be better. Second there is the matter of overall cuteness. A side by side reveals that red is a stronger color than orange. Red > Orange. Where Natchoru-kun is solely focused on sleeping, fall weather and touching others, Ama’chi is seeking to promote sustainable agriculture around Japan. However, Ama’chi could a take lesson from Natchoru-kun about using twitter to further his goals. Finally, Ama’chi is a born leader. The Hakata Jomon’s All-Stars are a collection of various fairy like creatures and Ama’chi is their leader. Something Natchuro-kun can’t touch.

Now the top 3 cutest yuru kyara in ALL OF JAPAN.

300_650_3: Yae-tan (八重たん). Yae-tan is awesome because not only is she cute as a button but she is actually based on a real person rather than some made up cross breed of food and water born mammal. Yae-tan represents the Fukushima prefecture and the woman she is based on is also the main protagonist of a popular TV drama here in Japan, Yae no Sakura. So, who was this woman that has earned such adoration? Her name was Yamamoto Yaeko and she was the first woman to be awarded for service to her country outside of the imperial house in Japan. Yaeko was a tremendous bad ass, a crack shot, and helped defend Aizu’s castle from Meiji forces. She was an expert in Japanese tea ceremony, helped establish Doshisha University, fought for women’s rights in Japan, became a nurse in her later years and joined the Japanese Red Cross for which was awarded TWO “Orders of the Precious Crown.” A pretty righteous woman indeed.

well more hot than cute… but still.

651_650_2: Nejisaurus (ウルスくん). What can I say, I am a sucker for dinosaurs. Nejisaurus or Mr. Urs is the saurian mascot for Engineer Inc – Good Professional Tools and the name sake for the high end needle nose pliers that Engineer Inc manufactures. Neji means screw in Japanese. Screw Saurus’ name maybe a little rough around the edges but he is most certainly not. He even has his own anime origin story / marketing page. Not to mention a whole series of animated Youtube stories IN ENGLISH!!!


Regardless of how you feel about tools, I think we can all agree that the little Nejisaurus is one of the cutest and most helpful creatures to ever walk the face of the earth. Never has uttering, “screw this,” been so cute.


1: Mr. Octopus (オクトパス君)

Let those just sink in for a moment. I had the pleasure of making Mr. Octopus’ acquaintance on a recent trip to Minamisanriku. Octopus-kun is a junior high school aged tako (octopus in Japanese) that loves abalone and is obviously a staunch supporter of education. Also, his twitter handle is @tacolog, which is wonderful. He is the representative for that area and Mr. Octopus is doing a fantastic job. Octopus-kun holds two very important roles here in Japan. One he is the patron yuru kyara of test takers and exams. Due to a play on words with his name, Octo-PASS-kun, students have been known to put small figurines of Mr. Octopus on their desk for good luck during tests. Second Mr. Octopus is here to lift up the spirit of the people in Minamisanriku which was obliterated in 2011 after the earthquake and tsunamis. Octopus-kun goods are made in a old junior high school in the hills surrounding Minamisanriku. Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 2.16.52 PMWhy is he the cutest yuru kyara in all of Japan? Eight arm hugs, bright red color, pleasant demeanor and a constant state of surprised enjoyment. Further more, he just is.

So there you have it. The cuteness is overwhelming and I have to stop, open the door, turn on the fan and let some of the cuteness out of the room. It is reaching dangerously high levels of cute in my apartment. Check back soon for the Top 10 scariest yuru kyara in Japan.

Nearly all of these pictures are property of someone else.

4 comments on “Japanese Mascots: Kawaii 5-0

  1. […] Update 2: I was able to restore some of the links to other places but unfortunately some of the better ones form yurugp.jp have been updated and based on the new rankings the old translations have been replaced by new PR copy. HOWEVER – New rankings = New reason to talk about Yuru Kyara! Check out my second installment here, now with more CUTE! […]

  2. lmjapan says:

    Mr. Octopus is so cute, he makes me think of takoyaki lol!

  3. […] that I like yuru kyara. Japanese mascots are great. No really. They are fascinating. […]

  4. […] with happy customers, a packed central dining hall (even during a typhoon), Japanese mascots like Octopus-kun and live music on a regular basis. There are some great handmade crafts as well that are great for […]

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