Yes, it’s that time of year again, when strangely cute and downright bizarre mascots – known as yuru-kyara – thought up by towns, local governments, companies and other organizations vie for the hearts and votes of the nation in the annual Yuru-kyara Grand Prix.
The yuru-kyaraa craze which shows no signs of abating, can seem somewhat bewildering to the uninitiated, but, make no mistake, a successful yuru-kyara can mean big business. Kumamoto’s Kumamon is probably the most well known yuru-kyara. According to a Bank of Japan report, the rosy-cheeked bear with nearly 350,000 Twitter followers was responsible for some 120 billion yen in sales and garnered around 90 billion yen’s worth of publicity for Kumamoto in the two years after winning the 2011 Grand Prix. Last year’s big hit was the little, yellow “pear fairy” Funasshii which won a regional mascot contest despite being something of a renegade, not endorsed by any official body in the town of Funabashi which Funashii represents.
Hiroshima’s past performance in the Grand Prix record has not been particularly stella, though local yuru-kyara have been rising through the ranks.
In 2011 Hiroshima’s top finisher was Yokogawa’s Tomaton in 147th place.
In 2012, Kaguya Panda was 120th.
Hiroshima’s best showing so far has been Kumano’s calligraphy brush inspired Fuderin who cracked the top 100 last year, coming in 93rd.
All three are in the running again this year along with 23 other local hopefuls. Competition, however, is tough with a total of 1696 candidates, including 8 from overseas such as US state of Illinois’ “Big Lincoln” and Israeli peace mascot “Shalom-chan”.
Perhaps Fuderin and the like have just too cute. Perhaps what we really need is a mascot that looks like it has just stepped out of a TV studio after battling Ultraman. Perhaps what we need is giant walking fish in a Hiroshima Carp outfit. According to his (her?) bio, Koisshii [コイっしー] was born of the wishes of pining koi carp desperate to be reunited with their brethren after the separation of the waters of the Ota-gawa River and the moat of Hiroshima Castle.
Perhaps Koisshii can take Hiroshima to the top in 2014, but the scaly mascot needs YOUR help. Voting is open now and you can vote once a day until October 20. Democracy is a privilege, and a rare one for the non-naturalised foreigner in Japan, so make your vote count. The voting instructions may look a little intimidating, but the next generation will surely thank you.
Meet the candidates
URL: http://www.yurugp.jp/ [ja]