Unpopular Yuru Kyara Face Early Retirement

It’s not always sunny for some of Japan’s not-so-beloved “yuru kyara” characters. Unlike Kumamoto Prefecture’s success with Kumamon the rosy-cheeked bear, many other prefectural mascots have yet to get their time in the spotlight.

The Osaka prefectural government says it has decided to give less popular mascots the ax in a overhaul of its brand promotion.

“The prefecture has too many mascots,” Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui told a news conference in April. “People do not know what they are promoting or what policy they are trying to raise awareness of.”

The prefecture introduced a total of 45 mascots but none have had much success. In fact, 13 of the crew did not appear at any event or on any novelty items in the last fiscal year.

Officials said they are planning to consolidate some of the yuru kyara into core characters to increase name recognition.

“I would like you to integrate similar substitutable mascots into one character,” says Keiko Oe, the director of Osaka Prefecture’s cultural department in charge of mascot promotion management in an executive meeting with prefectural authorities.

She recommended Moppie, a bird clad in sportswear created for the 1997 National Athletic Meet, to promote the prefecture. Moppie is a bullheaded shrike, the prefecture’s symbolic bird.

A senior official said the local government’s mascots failed to attract public attention because its citizens see different characters in every event and bulletin.

“If we had named Moppie as our core mascot earlier, we would not have introduced so many characters,” an Osaka official said. “We will bring Moppie to the forefront to allow it to catch up with Kumamon and Funassyi.”

In contrast, Kumamon, the clumsy black bear from Kyushu, shot to superstardom after being voted as the cutest mascot in the 2011 Yuru kyara Grand Prix. Kumamon has raked in 123 billion yen for his region, including tourism and product sales, and more than 9 billion yen worth of publicity, according to a recent Bank of Japan study.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: “DSC_0360_047” by Takashi Nishimura/Flickr

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