I’m sure you have probably seen or heard of Funasshi, the popular pear mascot from Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture. Or even Kumamon, the mascot representing Kumamoto Prefecture.
With 47 prefectures in Japan and each one having a mascot to represent it, there is surely a popularity contest between the mascots.
If you have been to Shiga Prefecture, the Hikone Castle is one of the top popular sites to visit. Also, Hikonyan is a popular mascot there making quite the appearance and showing cuteness to the Castle’s visitors.
In 2007, Hikonyan was created by the city government of Hikone in Shiga Prefecture to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Hikone Castle. The name of Hikonyan is a combination of Hiko and Nyan – Hiko is from Hikone and Nyan is the sound a cat makes.
Hikonyan is a white cat wearing a kabuto helmet with horns which is similar to what Ii Naokatsu wore to battle. Ii Naokatsu was a Japanese Daimyo who completed the construction of the castle. The usage of a cat as Hikonyan’s image came from the legend that a cat once saved the Daimyo from being struck by lightning.
Hikonyan makes a daily appearance at the Hikone Castle and performs three 30 minute shows. Aside from the Hikone Castle that the tourists come to visit, Hikonyan has also become popular amongst visitors with the cat’s cuteness and adorable poses which can be seen in many photos as well.
With the popularity of Hikonyan, the sales of Hikonyan merchandise has is now greater than the cost of designing the character mascot, which was less than one million yen. Hikonyan merchandise range from cellphone straps, fans, toys and many more popular items.
Mascots have become a vital part of changing the approach in promoting the different prefectures of Japan. They not only represent their prefecture, but they also bring smiles to the people who see them with their cuteness. Do you have a favorite mascot in Japan? Or are you familiar with the mascot of the prefecture you’re living in?