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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogSumikko Gurashi: Cute Japanese Characters That Are a Total Mood

Sumikko Gurashi: Cute Japanese Characters That Are a Total Mood

By Yen Radecki
January 12, 2021

When it comes to iconic kawaii characters, there’s no place like Japan! You’ll find cute Japanese characters everywhere, from Hello Kitty to My Melody. You’re bound to run into Sumikko Gurashi.

They’re a group of kawaii characters produced by San-X and created by designer Yuri Yokomizo. Compared to brands like Sanrio, San-X has a reputation for producing quirky, unusual cartoon characters, and Sumikko Gurashi is no exception.

What does “Sumikko Gurashi” mean?

Sumikko Gurashi, which literally means “life in the corner,” is a group of 15 cute characters united by their desire to relax in the corner of a room. This is both literal and figurative. These are characters who feel left out and uncertain of themselves.

At the end of the day, they just want to live a stress-free life. As such, they stick together and avoid the center of the room, and they’re always quick to rush back to the corner whenever they become overwhelmed. All of their names come from simple, fitting words in the Japanese language.

Sumikko Gurashi vs. The World

Since its release in 2012, Sumikko Gurashi has exploded in popularity. Today, alongside the usual merchandise, over 50 books, eight games, and two mobile apps are dedicated to these corner-loving characters. In 2019, Sumikko Gurashi was brought to the big screen in an animated movie that made over 12 million USD and won Best Animation at the Japanese Movie Critics Awards.

Local transport companies have also gotten in on the action! In 2017, the Yamanote Line in Tokyo ran a commemorative train decorated with Sumikko Gurashi. A similarly themed bus in Kawasaki has proved so popular it’s been extended for an extra year.

A Japanese bus themed with cute Japanese characters from Sumikkogurashi

But what makes Sumikko Gurashi so appealing? While they’re not the weirdest characters Japan has ever encountered, each character has an endearing twist that helps them stand out. Here’s a quick introduction to the main cast!

Sumikko: the main characters

Shirokuma is a shy Japanese cartoon character from San-x

One of the most popular of the main characters is Shirokuma. Shirokuma is a shy polar bear who ran away from the north to avoid the cold. As such, Shirokuma feels the calmest when drinking hot tea in the corner.

Penguin?, a kawaii Japanese cartoon character from San-x who is unsure of their true identity

Another popular character is Penguin?. Penguin? is a green-tinged animal so lacking in self-confidence they’re unsure of their own nature! Penguin? has memories of having a plate on their head, suggesting that they’re probably one of Japan’s mythological, turtle-like kappa.

Tonkatsu is a delicious Japanese food and now a kawaii Japanese cartoon character from San-x

This crispy brown ball is the last piece of Japanese tonkatsu, a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet. As the last piece, Tonkatsu is predominately fat with no meat and was therefore rejected by diners.

Neko is a shy, chubby cat from Japan's San-x cast of cute characters

Neko is a shy, anxious cat character. They like to use the corner of the room to hide, mainly when worried about their body shape.

Tokage is a cute lizard who just wants to live a stress free life

Finally, Tokage, another popular character, is an amphibious dinosaur and the last of their kind. They pretend to be a lizard or tokage to avoid detection and capture.

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Minikko: the side characters

Furoshiki is one of the famous cartoon characters from San-x

Furoshiki is a Japanese word describing traditional cloth for wrapping gifts and other items for transport. This little pink-and-white friend is shaped like a traditional furoshiki bundle and apparently contains Shirokuma’s luggage.

Obake is a cute Japanese cartoon character who prefers to avoid the center of the room

Named after the Japanese word for ghost, Obake enjoys cleaning more than spooking people. As such, this ghoulish character likes to linger quietly in the corner of attics to avoid attracting attention and giving anyone a fright!

Nisetsumuri is one of many Japanese characters from San-x's Sumikkogurashi line

Nisetsumuri is a little slug who carries a shell on its back and pretends to be a snail. Racked with guilt over this deception, they apologize frequently and unnecessarily to anyone who will listen.

Tapioca, a group of kawaii Japanese characters from San-x

This multicolored character is a group of small, pastel tapioca balls left at the bottom of a cup of milk tea. Like Tonkatsu, Tapioca is sick and tired of being discarded by drinkers.

Zassou from San-x's Summikogurashi group of characters is a happy little weed living a stress free life

Zassou, meaning “weed,” is a rare Sumikko Gurashi with a positive outlook. Always smiling, they greatly admire flowers and will be added to a bouquet one day.

Mogura is one of many Japanese characters from San-x who prefers to live life in the corner

Named after the Japanese word for a mole, Mogura only recently broke through to the surface after spending a long time in a corner underground mining. Curious and shy, Mogura is rarely seen without their beloved red boots.

Ebifurai no Shippo, a cute japanese cartoon character who thinks everyone should finish their food

Literally meaning “the tail of a fried shrimp,” Ebifurai no Shippo is another food-based character similar to Tonkatsu and Tapioca. After being discarded for being too hard to eat, they joined the corner and now advocate for diners to finish their meals!

Suzume, a cute Japanese character from Summikkogurashi

Otherwise, a regular sparrow, Suzume, bonds with their fellow Sumikko Gurashi over their shared love of the corner and their habit of pecking on Tonkatsu.

Hokori from Summikkogurashi lives a stress free life, away from the center of the room

Hokori is a little dust ball who likes to bunch up in room corners. Similar to Tapioca, this character is, in fact, multiple characters and can combine with other Hokori to form a cluster at will.

Kawaii Japanese cartoon character Yama from San-x loves to pose like Mt. Fuji, their idol

Last but not least, Yama is a small mountain who always wanted to be taller! Yama likes to appear at hot springs and often poses as Mt. Fuji, their idol.

Bursting with off-beat charm and personality, there’s no denying that Sumikko Gurashi is instant classics. From convenience stores to pop-up cafes, you’ll find posters, stationery, and plushies depicting these characters living a quiet and solitary life in the corner—and offering you the chance to brighten up yours!

Which of the Sumikko Gurashi crew do you find the most #relatable? Let us know in the comments below!

Images sourced via

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