All About Japan

'Yurukyara' 101

Video Deeper Japan Gunma Shiga

Yurukyara (a portmanteau of yurui, meaning gentle in this case, and kyara, short for character) are adorable mascots created to represent a specific region, city or business.

These characters are not only bringing warm hugs to locals, they're also a great source of revenue thanks to product merchandising! Some of the more famous yurukyara include the adorable Kumamon from Kumamoto Prefecture, and Funassyi, who unofficially represents the city of Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture.

The city of Hikone, in Shiga Prefecture, is considered the pioneer of the modern yurukyara boom. When first introduced in 2007, the local mascot, Hikonyan, brought a surge of visitors to Hikone Castle and sales of branded goods greatly helped the city's economy. Other cities and regions took note, and soon created, redesigned or re-emphasized their own yurukyara mascots.

Take a look at how Hikone decided to create its cuddly champion, and get a bit of the history of Japan's love for anthropomorphic animals in the video above.

Of course, if you want to see yurukyara at their most action-packed, take a look here! And if you want to get tons more detail, you might want to take a look at Edward and John Harrison's Fuzz & Fur on Amazon.