Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are unique mascots the trump card to boost local economies?

In Japan, new unique cartoon characters are frequently created for promotional purposes. Because of our Anime and Manga culture, these characters are more likely to play an important role in promotion. As a result, our society is overflowing with cartoon characters. I even wonder if people are fed up with them. Nonetheless, new ones pop up one after another. Can you guess why?

In 2007, the mascot, "Hiko-nyan", appeared to promote events for the 400th anniversary of Hikone Castle in Hikone city, Shiga prefecture (click here). This unique character gained great attention and became very popular. At the very least, it helped make the castle and city better known. Since this great success, more and more towns, cites and prefectures have been willing to have their own unique mascots. They have been jumping on the bandwagon in hope that their own mascots will help boost their local economies because they have been struggling to do that for many years.

On top of that, the cute black bear mascot, "Kuma-mon (click here)", which was created for the promotion of Kumamoto prefecture /熊本県, has proved for the last few years that mascots can be an effective way to attract more tourists. Surprisingly, the incurable popularity of Kuma-mon still shows no sign of slowing down.

Because of this boom, for the last five years, countless unique mascots have begun to promote local economies. Then, the coined Japanese word, "Yuru-kyara /ゆるキャラ (the literal translation into English is loose characters)", has become very popular as a word indicating these mascots which are distinguished from major cartoon characters like Hello Kitty (Note #1).

Chiba-kun, which is the mascot of
Chiba prefecture. With a side view,
it is shaped like Chiba prefecture.  
Needless to say, outstanding Yuru-kyara always have good gimmicks. This year, the jiggly yellow pear mascot, "Funassyi", brought fresh gimmicks to the competitive mascot world. I plant to talk about Funassyi later.

Note #1:
According to Wikipedia, a person who coined the word "Yuru-kyara" insists that Yuru kyara should have the following three features (Although I don't understand exactly what these three indicate even if I read them in Japanese, I'll try to translate them into English):
-"Yuru-kyara" are designed to delivery a strong message filled with love for the hometown.
- "Yuru-kyara"have quickly and unique behaviors and acts.
-"Yuru-kyara" have the element of being adorable loose.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Can that popular dog, "that Father dog", help stamp out frauds??

It's been quite a while since I posted my last article. I hope I'll be able to post an article frequently.

Anyway, today, I'll talk about fraud schemes which the police have been having a hard time stamping out for many years in Japan ( I guess this kind of fraud is similar to phone or billing frauds in other countries). The victims are mostly elderly mothers whose sons live away from home. In Japan, there are a lot of healthy and elderly mothers living alone since Japanese women have the longest life expectancy in the world and live about seven years longer than Japanese men on average. Also, sons generally don't have as many opportunities to communicate with their mothers as daughters do. Because of this, women with sons tend to be the first target for the frauds.

As to how the scammer gains the women's trust, he calls and says something like this:-Hi. it's me, it's me, it's me. I need some money because I have a big problem. Please go to a bank and put money (usually, several million yen) into the following account to help me
-Hello, is this XX? It's XX company (where is the mother's son works). I'm your son's boss. Your son has an accident. To help him, please go to a bank and put money into the following account.

You may wonder why elderly mothers fall for such a simple trick. As a matter of fact, those who haven't had that experience are even surprised at the fact that the number of victims has been increasing, although both the police and the government frequently warn about the fraud schemes. Also, many of the victims wonder why they fell for the frauds, saying that they thought they would never become the victims. As the schemes have been growing in sophistication and diversity, the police have been struggling to find an effective way to reduce the victims.

Under these circumstances, the police have used many kinds of cards to protect elderly mothers from the frauds. One of them is very interesting to me. The police decided that popular white dog, "that father dog", would take up the post of an adviser to stamp out the fraud schemes. Then, the poster (please see the attached picture which I took at Tokyo station) appeared. When I first saw it, I really realized how popular the dog was. I wondered how many Japanese people thought of the dog when they heard of "white dogs" or "fathers".

As for this white dog, please click here.