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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogRilakkuma: Too Cute to Bear

Rilakkuma: Too Cute to Bear

By Adam Labriny
September 02, 2022
The cute brown bear Rilakkuma sitting on a pink park bench.

Bears like Rilakkuma have always been beloved for their round, cute features. From their full moon ears to their soft fluffy fur, what’s not to love about these sleepy creatures? So it’s not surprising that some of the most famous cute characters in Japan are kawaii bears. While bear mascots like Kumamon and Arukuma are a dime a dozen, one adorable bear has stolen our hearts: Rilakkuma!

Rilakkuma is one of the most popular San-X characters, and it’s no wonder why. This big adorable brown bear is the perfect mix of lazy and cuddly. They’re always there whenever you need them to remind you to slow down and go at your own pace. 

If you’re like us, you might be wondering about the history of this famous kawaii bear. So let’s take a look at the story behind our favorite cute bear, Rilakkuma!

San-X and the Origin of Rilakkuma

Rilakkuma sitting with his friends Kiiroitori and Korilakkuma.
San-X is famous for its kawaii characters, and Rilakkuma and his friends are no exceptions! Image via Shutterstock

The story of Rilakkuma begins with San-X, a Japanese stationery company famous for creating cute characters. You can find kawaii San-X characters adorning stationery sets, pencils, collectibles, plushies, and much more. 

Do you love San-X characters like Rilakkuma? YumeTwins sends kawaii character goods straight from Japan, like Japanese plushies, stationery,  figures, home goods, and so much more right to your door!

In 2003, a San-X employee named Aki Kondo was challenged to create a charming character that could be used as the company’s mascot. She was working long hours at the office, and her days were becoming more and more stressful. Aki decided she wanted to make a stress free character that would help her relax. And what’s more relaxing than something cute?

This led her to combine the Japanese words rilakkusu (relax) and kuma (bear), and poof! Just like that the iconic cute bear Rilakkuma was born.

Rilakkuma, a cute brown bear, sitting in a blooming sakura cherry blossom tree.
An iconic photo of the popular bear character Rilakkuma, standing in cherry blossom tree. Image via Shutterstock

Not only are they absolutely adorable, but Rilakkuma is also known for being stress-free, carefree and a little lazy. But what was the inspiration behind their lazy personality?

You might be surprised to learn that this cute bear’s personality was actually inspired by a chihuahua. One day, Aki was watching a TV program featuring a spoiled chihuahua that had absolutely everything it needed in life. It had the yummiest food, the coziest cuddle spots, and the cutest accessories a dog could dream of. 

This chihuahua’s stress free life was totally opposite to Aki’s life as an overworked office worker. As a result, she imagined trading long nights working overtime for luxurious baths, delicious food, and fluffy beds. 

This got her thinking, “What if I could become a pet?” That left her with a new problem. How does someone become a pet?

By dressing up, of course! That’s why Rilakkuma has a zipper on his back. You see, they’re not actually a real bear. They’re someone in a kawaii bear costume, which means that dressing up can help anyone become stress free. (We love dressing up in cute costumes, too!)

Introducing: Rilakkuma and Friends

Rilakkuma and his friends each have very distinct personalities. As we mentioned above, Rilakkuma– true to their name– enjoys anything relaxing. They love sleeping in, lazing around, listening to music, watching TV, and taking hot baths with their friends. 

Rilakkuma, Kiiroitori, and Korilakkuma taking a relaxing bath together.
From left to right: stress free bear Rilakkuma, neat and tidy canary Kiiroitori, and fun-loving baby bear Korilakkuma. Who knew bath time could be so kawaii? Image via Shutterstock

Rilakkuma

Rilakkuma also loves eating pancakes, pudding, and omurice (Japanese omelet rice). However, there are a few things that this kawaii bear doesn’t like very much. These are mostly things that involve a lot of effort, like going outside during the hot summer and eating spicy food.

Rilakkuma also has two adorable best friends. In true Rilakkuma style, both characters have cute Japanese names derived from their appearance. 

Kiiroitori

The yellow canary’s name is Kiiroitori. In Japanese, kiiroi (yellow) and tori (bird) are combined, literally meaning “Yellow Bird”. 

Kiiroitori is a bit of a neat freak, so they love cleaning. Often donning their adorable headscarf and feather duster, they always make sure everything is clean and tidy. Even though they sometimes get a little irritated at Rilakkuma’s laziness, Kiiroitori is a very dependable friend. 

Rilakkuma, the stress free brown bear, and his friends are climbing a pile of giant colorful sweets.
These cute characters love eating colorful sweets. Rilakkuma and his friends are so kawaii! Image via Shutterstock

Korilakkuma

The small white bear’s name is Korilakkuma. In Japanese, Ko (little) is combined with Rilakkuma’s name, so their name literally means “Little Rilakkuma”. Since Korilakkuma always copies everything that Rilakkuma does, Kiiroitori decided this name was a good fit for the little white bear. 

Look at how fun-loving Korilakkuma is. Image via Instagram

Korilakkuma has a cute red button on their chest, and doesn’t appear to have a zipper on their back. Their playful personality is similar to that of a mischievous yet lovable little kid. For this reason, they’re the most energetic of the bunch, always running around and playing with their toys. 

Korilakkuma is a bit of a prankster and loves making a mess. They like to draw anywhere and everywhere– even on Rilakkuma’s face! Because they’re so young and innocent, maybe they don’t know better yet. Despite their pranks, we just can’t get mad at this unbearably cute bear. 

We hope you enjoyed getting to know more about Rilakkuma and his friends. What’s your favorite Rilakkuma character? Which cute character do you relate to the most? Please let us know in the comments.

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