In a recent episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the British comedian dove into the weird and excessive world of Japan’s yuru-kyara. During his on-air explanation of the nation’s many mascots, Oliver highlighted Funassyi, the giant yellow pear who is the unofficial mascot of Funabashi in Chiba, and included one of his more explosive moments on TV.
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At first Funnasyi was rejected as the official mascot of his hometown but unlike other successful official mascots, such as Kumamon of Kumamoto Prefecture, Funassyi has come to symbolize Funabashi despite its lack of government sponsorship and become just as popular as any yuru-kyara.
Funnasyi has appeared in national commercials for the Asahi, released a CD single, and been crowned the Grand-Prix winner at an international trade show for character and brand businesses best license in Japan in 2014 as he traveled across Japan and the world to spread his pear-y special brand of energy.
Here are just a few of highlights from 2014:
Funassyi’s popularity hit a milestone last year when, as he was being featured on CNN in June, the news reporter couldn’t help but laugh throughout the broadcast when she saw the mascot flapping his arms around.
In July, Funassyi tried to kickstart a fashion trend by donning a black cap with a “274” logo (a play on the numbers 2-7-4 with can sound like “fu-na-shi”) and appeared in a TV commercial for Shimamura, a fashion shopping center. The fast-running pear with non-stop squealing had fans wondering how he survived the summer heat in his suit.
In September, FUNAcafe, a collaboration event of Funassyi and Shibuya Parco’s The Guest Cafe & Diner, served a special Funassyi-inspired menu including the “funa” burger (with his face on the burger), nashi pear cake, nashi pear tea and even dandan noodles.
The character’s popularity went international when he visited Hong Kong in October, attending a local shopping mall event and bringing Japanese yuru-kyara culture with him. Judging by this video, Funassyi’s fans in Hong Kong are just as passionate as those in Tokyo.
In December, the toy company “Kitan Club” released a Funnasyi-style version of its famous Cup-no-Fuchiko cup-straddling toys. The brands are literally embracing each other as the tiny figurines can cling to each other in three different kinds of positions and as expected of Cup-no-Fuchiko both can sit on the edge of the cup. The announcement climbed to the top of Fuji Television’s weekly Twitter rankings, beating out the hot issue of Japan’s strict state secrets law.
— めざましテレビ (@cx_mezamashi) December 11, 2014
Funassyi is expanding his brand aggressively by creating Funassyi stories everywhere in Japan. Funassyiland, a Funaasyi goods store, opened in Fukuoka in December. According to Asahi Digital News, Funassyi devotees from as far as Tokyo were making the trek.
Funassyi’s naturally fragile yet good-natured personality seems to be a starting point.
The pear rounded out 2014 on Nippon TV by rocking out with his hero, Ozzy Osbourne, performing a headbanging rendition of Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Funassyi got a little wet and wild when Osbourne dumped a bucket of water on him before pushing him into a swimming pool.
In the same month, whilst making a cameo during a commemorative concert for The Alfee, Funassyi took an untimely tumble but nothing went pear-shaped: the resilient character sprung back into action minutes later.
Without a doubt, Funassyi was a hit in 2014 but only time will tell if the rest of 2015 will keep rewarding the fruits of his labor.