Japan, with more than 1,500 mascots, probably has the highest ratio of mascots to people in the world. The Japanese love their mascots and the ones that catch the public imagination can make their creators billions of yen through merchandising.
Yuru-kyara (Laidback Characters), as they are affectionately called in Japan, are present everywhere. I mean, you have dog-like and donkey-like characters promoting local tax offices and public tenders. And then there’s Katakkuri-chan. This humanoid character does PR for the Asahikawa Prison in Hokkaido.
However, tough economic times have prompted the nation’s finance ministry to ask organizations to take out of public domain those mascots that are not doing well. Officials in Osaka have responded by bringing down the number of mascots from 92 to 69. They have also promised to not create any more mascots.
The “character assassination” has elicited a peculiar response in Rumoi, a district of Hokkaido. Authorities there have decided to “cull” the eight mascots representing different communities and combine these to form one entity – Ororon Robo Mebius. And yet, even after this pruning, the district of Rumoi has one mascot for every 6,500 residents.
Evidently, there’s a lot of work to be done before frivolously created mascots fade away.
Maybe the finance ministry could use a mascot to spread the message of fiscal prudence.