Apr 22, 2013

Yuru-kyara: The hottest local mascot is Kumamon!

Do you know what Kumamon (くまモン) is? Almost all the prefectures and many cities and towns have created a mascot to promote tourism and local products. These mascots are generally calld "yuru-kyara," and a competition called Yuru-kyara Grand Prix is annually held to decide which one is the cutest and most appealing.

It is hard to translate "yuru-kyara." Kyara is a shorten form of character, and "yuru" comes from an adjective yurui, whose literal meaning is "loose" or "lax", but in this case it means something like "cute, humorous, a bit unsophisticated in design".

The hottest yuru-kharat now is definitely Kumamon from Kumamoto Prefecture. This bear character is nation-widely popular, and many Kumamon items, such as T-shirts, towels, bags, aprons and mugs, are available throughout the country.

The photo below is an instant ramen with Kumamon printed on the package. I found it today at a nearby supermarket. It is made by an uncommon local manufacturer in Kumamoto. If Kumamon was not printed on it, I would not have reached my hand to it. Seems like this type of promotional strategy works well.


Kumamon is enthusiastically welcomed almost like a rock star whenever he appears. Look at the photo taken when he was invited to an event held at a department store in Tokyo.  (The photo was borrowed from the official site of the Kumamoto Prefecture.)

By the way, my favorite yuru-kyara is にしこくん(nishiko-kun), an "unofficial" mascot of Nishi Kokubunji, Tokyo. How grotesque these legs in tights are! It is gross, but always makes me laugh.

Ok, today's useful expression is: くまもんの Tシャツは ありますか? Kumamon no T-shirt wa arimasuka? Do you have a Kumamon T-shirt?

I don't know whether you'll have a chance to use this expression, though...

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