Posts Tagged ‘yuru-chara’

Today’s J-blip: Name the Tokyu train mascot

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

He’s got a big, goofy grin and a funky headpiece, but one thing the Tokyu train line’s newest mascot doesn’t have is a name. The little guy’s purpose in life is to raise awareness — and “get children excited about” — the Tokyu-Toyoko line’s Fukutoshin extension, which is set to open in March of next year.

Word is that he’s a playful 10-year-old from Kanagawa Prefecture who is secretly on a diet. (What’s that all about? Every yurukyara needs a little bit of a backstory, and this one is a reference to the new trains running on less electricity.) The contest’s entry form has spots for writing the name in Japanese or English. The name should be accompanied by an explanation in Japanese. The winning entry, which will become the character’s official name, will get a ¥50,000 Tokyu gift certificate. Fifty runners-up will get Tokyu swag. The contest ends on Sept. 28. Think we’ve got a chance with “Stripey?”

Photo courtesy of J.L. Gatewood, aka @StarrWulfe.

Naive yuru kyara win hearts across Japan

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

He’s not cute, in fact many have dubbed him “creepy,” but finally after courting much controversy, the people of Japan have taken Sentou-kun, to their hearts as the official mascot of Nara’s 2010 celebrations. Sentou-kun, who looks like a young Buddha with deer antlers atop his head, is just one of many “yuru kyara” (literally “loose characters”) that have gained national fame in Japan over the last few years.

The phrase yuru kyara was coined by kitsch connoisseur Jun Miura to describe characters that have been rather naively created by non-professional artists to comic effect. While aiming to be cute, an odd concept or a badly executed design produces the opposite effect. Miura’s Web site is a treasure trove of rather odd yuru kyara, from concrete mixers making the peace sign to grinning 2-meter leeks.

But it’s the characters created by local government to attract tourism that have really set the imagination of the Japanese public on fire. In December 15,000 people gathered for a festival in the town of Ginan in Gifu Prefecture and according to a questionnaire, over half were there to catch a sight of Negicho, the popular aforementioned grinning leek character, or rather, a hapless civil servant shanghaied into wearing an uncomfortable leek suit.

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