Say goodbye to (some of) these guys. Eugene Hoshiko/AP

The country is cracking down on these cute and cuddly characters.

The brief and colorful reign of the Japanese mascot may be coming to an end. These cuddly, life-size characters, known as yuru-kyara, are ubiquitous in Japan, and have been used to promote everything from smartphone apps and soy sauce to nuclear energy and public transportation. Some—like Kumamon, the huggable bear of Kumamoto prefecture—have risen to superstardom. Most, however, are D-list shills for local governments, and it's these "regional characters" that are now getting the axe.

Mascots for Japan Self Defense Force Saitama Provincial Cooperation Office, at the World Character Summit in Hanyu, November 2014. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

Last year the Japanese government announced a nationwide crackdown on yuru-kyara, citing waste of public funds. One mascot reportedly cost its owners 1 million yen a year (that's about $8,300), despite only making five public appearances.

Officials argue the tremendous proliferation of yuru-kyara has diminished their appeal. The race to anoint the next Kumamon yielded a vast underclass of also-rans even locals didn't recognize. Last year, almost 1,700 mascots competed in the nation's annual Yuru-Kyara Grand Prix, and 1,168 of these were regional characters. In Rumoi, a city of 35,000, there is roughly one mascot for every 6,500 people. Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui put it simply: "The prefecture has too many mascots. People do not know what they are promoting or what policy they are trying to raise awareness of.”

According to the Japan Times, Osaka has already reduced its yuru-kyara roster from 92 to 69, with "no plan to create any new ones." Instead, the prefectural government has trotted out Mozuyan, an old mascot modeled on the shrike, as a replacement. In Rumoi, local officials have created a Franken-mascot from the head, limbs, and torso of eight existing yuru-kyara.

Mozuyan, the last Osaka yuru-kyara. (.osaka)

The new policies are sure to disappoint yuru-kyara fans the world over, not to mention graduates of Japan's (and possibly the world's) only mascot school. But as long as Pikachu continues to rep Japan at international sporting events, we're square.

[h/t Japan Times]

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A woman walks down a city street across from a new apartment and condominium building.
    Design

    How Housing Supply Became the Most Controversial Issue in Urbanism

    New research has kicked off a war of words among urban scholars over the push for upzoning to increase cities’ housing supply.

  2. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  3. A photo of police officers sealing off trash bins prior to the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo in 2015.
    Life

    Carefully, Japan Reconsiders the Trash Can

    The near-absence of public garbage bins in cities like Tokyo is both a security measure and a reflection of a cultural aversion to littering.

  4. Design

    Bringing New Life to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lost Designs

    “I would love to model all of Wright's work, but it is immense,” says architect David Romero. “I do not know if during all my life I will have time.”

  5. Design

    Paris Will Create the City's Largest Gardens Around the Eiffel Tower

    The most famous space in the city is set to get a pedestrian-friendly redesign that will create the city’s largest garden by 2024.