If you are a big fan of the Kawaii culture of Japan, you must have seen the image of a chubby cute black bear named Kumamon. Kumamon is one of the most successful yuru-chara (mascot characters who promote a region, event, organization or business) in Japan. Let’s learn more about why this cute character has become Japan’s most favorite mascot and his huge influence in the Japanese community today!
This bear’s name is a combination of two words: “Kuma” stands for both Kumamoto and bear, and “Mon” stands for “mono” which means a person, object, or feature that belongs to a place.
This famous character is the official mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, and debuted in 2010 for a campaign to attract Kumamoto residents and tourists after the opening of the Kyushu Shinkansen bullet train. Nowadays, the mascot is all over Kumamoto, even having one of the cutest hotel rooms at the Mitsui Garden Hotel based around him.
Kumamon has the lovely appearance of a chubby black bear with round red cheeks and wide eyes. Like other mascots in Japan, this bear also has a specific profession and personality. He is actually appointed as the Sales Manager and Head of Happiness for Kumamoto Prefecture.
Kumamon’s job is to bring surprise and happiness to everyone, on top of spreading the culture of Kumamoto Prefecture all over Japan. People all over love this chubby bear for his mischievous but friendly nature. He likes sports, dancing, and bringing joy and excitement to any place he appears.
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Since his debut, Kumamon has gained huge commercial success as Kumamoto Prefecture grants free licensing to anyone, including foreign businesses, to use the mascot’s image as long as their products promote the goods and services from Kumamoto.
Far from being a simple PR mascot for Kumamoto Prefecture, this black bear’s popularity has never seen a decrease in his life as he is now beloved not only in Japan but also on a global scale.
A year later after his first public appearance, Kumamon was elected as the most popular character with 277,000 votes at the Yuru-Chara Grand Prix – a popular online vote featuring 349 mascot characters from Japan and abroad. So when we say that he’s one of the cutest Japanese mascots, we are not alone.
Also, in 2013, Kumamon led the largest group of mascots for synchronized dancing that set the Guinness Record in Nagasaki. The character even had a minor cameo in the video game Yo-kai Watch 2 and Yo-kai Watch: The Movie in 2014.
And who can forget the 2016 campaign called “Stay strong, Kumamon”? This campaign featured drawings of the beloved character accompanied by touching words of encouragement. These images spread all over social networking sites after the severe earthquake struck the southern island of Kyushu in which Kumamoto suffered extremely heavy damage.
Not only being famous in Japan, Kumamon is also warmly welcomed in many foreign countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, and France. Every time he appears in any events or programs, there’s always a long line of people waiting to take pictures with this cute mascot.
If you want to meet this beloved character in real life while visiting Kumamoto, don’t forget to visit Kumamon Square. This area is near Suidocho station or a 5 minute-walk southeast of Kumamoto castle.
Kumamon Square is a tourist information center of Kumamoto Prefecture. This place is not only the mascot’s workplace, but also has a cafe and souvenir shop specializing in selling items with cute images of the mascot.
You can also visit the Sales Manager’s Office even if he’s absent. His office holds lots of awards and certificates of merit on display. You can even try out the manager’s chair and take a commemorative photo if you want to!
On days where he’s there, Kumamon will introduce fun dances and sing for everyone. When it’s time to perform, the black bear will step out onto the stage of the exchange area to perform his dance. If you want to meet Kumamon at the exchange area, don’t forget to check the schedule in advance on the official “Kumamon Square” website because our Sales Manager is usually pretty busy!
The stall here is full of stationery products, tableware, and confections featuring the image of the bear mascot. There are also many limited edition products that you can only find here. It also sells Kumamoto prefectural specialties with illustrations of Kumamon, perfect for souvenirs.
The venue also has a small cafe in the back where you can enjoy sweet treats made with Kumamoto’s fruit and latte art featuring the mascot.
Is Kumamon a popular figure in your country like in Japan? Have you ever met the beloved bear in real life? Let us know in the comments below!
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