I’ve noticed that mascots are very popular in Japanese culture. You can see mascots for all kinds of things: TV shows, companies, even apartment-complexes.
It’s a huge industry too. Some people will make a career out of it by being “private” mascots for events and such. I once watched a fascinating tv documentary about one man who was trying to get famous as a mascot. He made his own costume, organized his own website, Youtube videos, and worked hard to get jobs and visibility. It seems like a pretty competitive field too.
One of the most famous mascots though is an adorable character named Funasshii (ふなっしー), shown above with the American mascot for the Miami Marlins, Billy. Funasshii is an unofficial mascot for the city of Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture, and is famous for his/her high-energy, positive attitude, and for saying “nasshii” (なっしー) at the end of sentences.
Funasshi is supposed to be a pear (nashi 梨). Funasshi’s Twitter account, which I follow, can be found here.
Also, Funasshi makes a lot of appearances in Japanese TV shows. Here, Funasshi appears in an episode of Kimura Ken’s “Bakatono” sketch (バカ殿), which is a famous character that is supposed to be a childish, stupid, effeminate nobleman. Normally I don’t like Kimura’s show because it’s crude and sexist, but this sketch is really fun to watch:
Anyhow, mascots are something you will see a lot in Japan. As I learned from the documentary, mascots work very hard. It is a physically demanding job, and success is not guaranteed, but they deserve a lot of credit for their enthusiasm and making kids (and adults) smile. :)