What is a yuru-kyara?
ゆるキャラ (hence forth written as yuru-kyara) are mascots for places and business in Japan.
Yuru, is short for 緩い, which means “loose” or “laid-back”. Kyara is short for character. The term seems to have originated with manga illustrator, Miura Jun in the early 2000s. He states that yuru-kyara must have three points. The first, is they must love their hometown, or place of representation. Secondly, they must be unique either in behavior or movements. Lastly, they must be lovable.
The most famous yuru-kyara is perhaps, Kumamon, who represents the city of Kumamoto in Kyushuu.
Kumamon has benefited Kumamoto greatly by promoting tourism and through merchandise sales.
In just two years, Kumamon has generated ¥123 billion in economic benefits for his region, including tourism and product sales, and more than ¥9 billion worth of publicity, according to a recent Bank of Japan study.
Originally, yuru-kyara were representatives for regions and towns, mainly for tourism promotion purposes. However, even stores and local businesses have recently jumped on the yuru-kyara craze.
On the yuru-kyara Grand Prix website, it has this to say about yuru-kyara:
It is said that there are 8 million kami (spirits/gods) in Japan. They lodge in the mountains, the seas, the rivers, the forests, the trees, the flowers and other places. Yuru-kyara, like kami, live throughout Japanese coming alive from everyone’s region. Even if they don’t win the grand prix, they still try their best to become the star of their region.
My personal favorite is:Melonguma, who comes from Hokkaido. He combines cute and creepy!
Grand Prix- Past Winners
The Grand Prix takes place in Hikone, Shiga, Japan on a yearly basis for the last four years.
Here are the winners for the last four years:
Tabo-kun (cell phone vote), and Hikonyan (written ballot vote). Both of these mascots represent Shiga, Japan. Since this was the first year there were only 169 entries.
Barie-san, from Imabarishi, Ehime.
Sanomaru, from Sanoshi, Tochigi. And Kousuke, who represents the Co-Op group in Japan.
Gunmachan, who represents Gunma Prefecture…and Baabaa-kun, who represents the national Barber Union association.
Personally, I think Baabaa-kun is not an interesting character.
The Worst Yuru-Kyara:
Going to the yuru-kyara Grand Prix website, we can order the winners by the number of votes they received.
He represents the Attack on Titan TV show. This is just ridiculous. Why does a TV show need a mascot? (Ranked 1,518/ 1,698)
This one is pretty shitty (sorry for the bad pun).
This is from Yokohama’s Resource and Waste Recycling Bureau’s North Office. He was born on November 10th, toilet day.
When he encounters something he hates, he forgives and forgets [literally pour water over it], because, after all he is a toilet. (Ranked 1,599/ 1,698)
Kouri-kun and Uriko-chan
These are mascots for an elementary school in Osaka. I guess if they were made by kids then it isn’t that bad. (Ranked 1,637/1,698)
From Giant Salamander Life? He’s an unofficial character of Gifu. (Ranked 1,643/1,698)
He’s the ambassador for a resort in Hokkaido.
He likes skiing, rafting, kayaking, and rafting. (Ranked 1,660/1,698)
She comes from the Digital Hollywood University in Tokyo.
She was the pet of Amatersu, the sun goddess. After the Great Tohoku Earthquake, she descended from the heavens in order to bring joy and hope back to people. She likes practical jokes, but hates bugs. Even in times of trouble or sadness, she believes going forward with a smile. Seriously, I can’t make this up. (Ranked 1,688/1,698)
Ikikko-chan is on the look out for a boyfriend! She represents a liquor company. So she likes heavy drinkers, naturally. (Ranked 1,697/1,698)
Below is the worst character of 2014, by the number of votes out of a total of 1,698 entries.
Minori-chan!…with 26 points.
He represents the business Harvest Hill in Osaka. According to his profile on the yuru-kyara Grand Prix, he likes having fun and is very popular with little children because of his cute, smiling face. Better luck next year! (Ranked 1,698/1,698)
I’m honestly surprised Onigirimauko isn’t the worst. She’s downright creepy, and not creep-cute like MelonGuma.