It’s not just Hello Kitty: Japan’s character craze


We just did a story on “Hello Kitty” not being a cat. Along comes a follow up on Japan”s “Character Craze”

There are thousands, and they are ubiquitous: Long-time favorite Doraemon (who really is a cat) has a daily quiz in a national newspaper. Little monster Pikachu hosted a theme cafe in Tokyo this summer. Stress-relieving Rilakkuma (“relaxed bear”) dangles from teenage girls’ school bags.

Characters are not just for kids in Japan, but a part of business and social life. Some see Japan’s cute-craze, known as “kawaii,” as a sign of immaturity, but others say it’s rooted in a harmony-centered way of life that goes back to ancient animist traditions.

Japanese used to worship many gods, and portrayed ghosts as comical characters. In what is seen as the origin of Japanese manga, or comics, a set of 12th-century scroll paintings humorously portray frogs, rabbits and other animals in human activities, from sumo wrestling to temple worshipping.

The  Kumamon goofy “Black Bear” character originated in Japan’s Kumamoto prefecture, or state.

Kumamon the goofy black bear
Kumamon the goofy black bear

 

Funassyi appears regularly on TV and is releasing a CD from Universal Music Japan. The character reportedly earned 200 million yen ($2 million) last year. unofficially representing the city of Funabashi

funassi unofficially representing the city of Funabashi
funassi unofficially representing the city of Funabashi

 

Doraemon is NOT a third grade girl

Doraemon
Doraemon

 

Rilakkuma is very popular

Rilakkuma
Rilakkuma

 

See more pictures in the Albany Times Union

Hello Kitty and Doraemon now face hordes of newcomers, many launched by municipal governments to promote tourism and local products. Regular “character summits” choose a national favorite.

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