Local Mascots

Japan loves cute things. Hello Kitty? Yeah, that’s Japanese. Cute cartoon characters, both imported and homegrown, are really popular over here. Japan loves cute, and their term for cute – kawaii – is high praise. But because kawaii is so popular, it is sometimes applied to multiple things.

One of the things it is applied to is depictions of devils. Here, for example, is a local icon. There are actually three of these located in the area. This one is in the train station. It’s title is “Oningyousama” which roughly translated means, “Mr. Doll.”

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Personally, I find the thing to be downright creepy, like a gargoyle or something.

Mascots are huge in Japan. Not just for sports teams. Cities and prefectures have their own mascots as well. A few decades ago a nearby town decided to build a tourist area around the stag beetles that are so common in this area. Not only did they build a park to see the beetles, but a hotel and a set of roller coasters as well. And, of course, they came up with a cute mascot: a giant stag beetle.

Last weekend I went and cheered at a local road race. To my utter surprise, the mascot was there, running the 3 kilometer race. How that person managed to go the whole way in such a gangly costume I’ll never know. But there it was, running along. Smiling, as always.

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