If there’s an important issue that people need to know about, you can pretty much guarantee that Japan has come up with a colorful mascot to help spread the word. One Japanese website estimates that there are about 3,500 mascots across the island nation. The mascots typically feature elements inspired by creatures from Japanese folklore, called yōkai, mixed with a dose of anime, manga, and video games.
One of the mascots carrying a heavy load over the past year has been a bright pink cat named Koronon that roams the city’s business districts, handing out masks and reminding residents to wash their hands and social distance in order to defeat Covid-19. Koronon, whose name translates loosely to “no corona,” will join other mascots in educating the public at this summer’s Olympic Games.
Koronon and mascot culture:
- Koronon’s regalia includes a purple heart-shaped shield with “Koronon” etched on it, a transparent face shield that says, “stay healthy & safe,” and a face mask. “Covid-19” is scrawled on its body, and crossed out with a red X.
- Event promoter Taizo Hayashi, designer and manager of Koronon, says he hopes the mascot will help make “the world peaceful” by providing a dose of light-heartedness amid the dire reality of the pandemic.
- “People tend to take pride in their local mascots,” says Chris Carlier, who has been documenting the mascot phenomenon in Japan for years. “A sign with a striking, colorful mascot is likely to grab citizens’ attention, but I’ve no idea how effective they are.”