Japan’s Creepiest Mascot Characters


It’s no secret that Japan has a bit of a thing for mascots. In a country where not only schools and sports teams but also museums, embassies, prisons, and the military have their own cute and cuddly mascot characters, it’s no exaggeration to say the place is now practically overrun with them (in fact, the Finance Ministry even launched a campaign back in 2015 to cut down on the number of mascots in order to reduce unnecessary spending).

Of course, not all mascots are necessarily cute or cuddly – indeed, there’s a handful or so that, intentionally or not, manage to be downright creepy. In a bid to gain attention when faced with stiff competition from hundreds of other mascots, several local governments have elected to go from kawaii to kimo-kawaii; from the traditionally sweet, innocent, and adorable kind of cute to the kind that’s surreal, disturbing, and sometimes just plain terrifying. And so, whether done entirely on purpose or else guided by the hand of fate, Japan has ended up with these mascot monstrosities…

Udon Nou

Kagawa, the smallest prefecture on Japan’s smallest main island, is probably best-known for its delicious udon noodles. So what better way to represent Kagawa’s specialty by designing a mascot whose name literally translates to “udon-brain”, right? … Right?? The story goes that Udon Nou used to be a normal human – until he ate so much of his beloved udon that his brain actually turned into it. Thanks to that, Udon Nou looks like a cross between depressed!Casper and a scalped zombie. Because yes, those are his actual brains you can see. Watch out kids, he’ll be coming for yours next.

801-chan

Ah yes, the famed mascot character of Kyoto’s Misono Bridge 801 shopping center. Designed in 2005 by a student at Kyoto Seika University, 801-chan is meant to resemble the eggplant that’s a traditional delicacy from Kyoto’s Kamo region. Of course, since 8-0-1 can be read as ya-o-i, the mascot was eventually altered by Japanese blogger Kojima Ajiko for his webcomic Tonari no 801-chan, featuring a twenty-two-year-old company employee/BL-fanatic. I have to say though, the actual scary part of 801-chan isn’t the (accidental?) pronunciation of his name, but rather the fact that he looks like his main hobby is conducting satanic rituals in the nearest graveyard.

Sento-kun

Created in 2010 by the Nara City Office to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of Japan’s ancient capital city, Sento-kun is designed to resemble (apparently) a friendly young boy with the antlers of a deer – an animal long been considered a divine guardian of the city, and which Nara has in abundance. While intended as a “personification of the energy” of Nara, teeming as it is with temples and shrines, Sento-kun has in fact been heavily criticized by the media, as well as many religious groups, for being disrespectful towards Buddha. Personally, I’m more concerned about that whole creepy-child-in-a-horror-movie vibe going on. Is that peaceful smile actually genuine, or is he just waiting until we fall asleep…?

Okazaemon

On April 1st, 2013, Aichi Prefecture’s Okazaki city chose their new mascot. And while he admittedly does seem awfully like something a Reddit user might think up for April Fool’s, Okazaemon is no joke. His purely black-and-white design, combined with that ominously cheerful yet dead-eyed expression, puts me in mind of a silent horror film, quite possibly featuring the world’s most obsessive would-be love interest. He’s not stalking. He’s just watching you. Always.

Reruhi-san

Skiing was first introduced to Japan in Niigata, and the very first skiing lesson was led in 1911 by Major Theodore Edler von Lerch, an officer of the Austro-Hungarian Army – now immortalized as Reruhi-san, who has come to be the mascot for skiing for the entire prefecture. Unfortunately for the Major as well as small children everywhere, Reruhi-san’s creepily elongated face and more than slightly villainous mustache gives him roughly the same amount of charm and appeal as The Burger King. In other words, both will probably be twirling their facial hair as they contemplate the best isolated snow field in which to dispose of your body when they’re done with you.

Marimokkori

It’s official – the coldest places in Japan have the creepiest mascots. A portmanteau between “marimo” (a species of green, ball-shaped algae that grow in colonies around lakes) and “mokkori” (slang for “bulge”, but specifically slang for an erection), Marimokkori is a character from Hokkaido that appears on a remarkable number of kid-friendly merchandise. Sure, that bulge could be construed as a bellybutton… but nope, it’s a boner. Bulging crotch aside, the eyes are what really get me. Get me to back away very, very slowly, that is. Nobody’s sure exactly what Marimokkoro is planning, but I think we can all agree it isn’t anything good.

Melon Kuma

What’s that? Kumamon is one of the most popular mascots in the entire country, you say? I think Japan’s other bear mascot has something to say about that. Right after he’s done dismembering you, that is. The Hokkaido city of Yubari might be known for both its cantaloupe melons and its brown bears, but Melon Kuma is known for brutally attacking other mascots (no, really), and quite possibly wearing their skins afterwards. Legend has it that he was once a regular bear who ate one too many stolen melons from a local farm and transformed into this terrifying creature, but frankly, I’m pretty sure Japanese Frankenstein had a hand in this particular creation. Either way, Melon Kuma seems to get a kind of sadistic pleasure in terrifying small children – and funnily enough, that doesn’t actually take a whole lot of effort on his part.

Question of the post: So which mascot is the best worst of the lot? Seen any others around that can match their knack for terror and/or bloodlust? Let me know in the comments.

21 thoughts on “Japan’s Creepiest Mascot Characters

  1. I find 801-chan the ick-iest, but only by a small margin. It’s the eyes most of all – they’re not looking at me, or *anyone* for that matter. Also – he seems to be butt-naked and has a big dong. On the matter of big dongs: I find Marimokkori rather cute, green boner and all. I hope lots of little children feel at liberty to give it a good squeeze.
    Finally – Reruhi-san: oh where to begin? First of all, an imperfect costume with visible (bad) sewing … It shows. And looks like crap. And breaks the illusion. And looks like crap. Because that needs to be said twice (Looking at you too, 801-chan!) And those eyes – fucking hell they’re awful. I’ve seen better eyes on a five-year-old’s artwork. Great concept, ruined by a shoddy finish. Why, Japanese People, why?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some of these are cute, but I’m trying to understand the appeal of Marimokkori. Is he happy because he can walk around with a boner and no one cares, or is he happy because he has a boner and that’s all that we can see? I don’t know, but I have so many questions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think Melon Kuma was definitely a reaction against the kawaii mainstream in Japan.
    Considering Japan’s capability to produce cute things like Rilakkuma and Tanuki to Kitsune, I wonder how the above freaks were approved to begin with (corruption)?

    On mascots, do you have any opinions on the Tokyo 2020 mascots?
    I understand most local children liked the approved choice as more typical-cute, although some Westerners did prefer the other 2 sets.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I assume that as far as local governments and businesses go, it’s up to them what gets approved and what doesn’t. Certain towns or villages may have surveys to check what their residents think, but if they have the funds to create a mascot in the first place, I guess it’s up to them how they use that money as far as the design goes.

      Of the three pairs of the Olympic mascots, my favorite was the one that was chosen. I’m not surprised it won by that high a margin either, although I personally didn’t have any very strong feelings about the other two pairs.

      Like

  4. I like every single one of those, especially Sento-kun. I’m very into ugly cute and creepy cute, so these appeal to me even more than the regularly cute mascots, for example Rilakkuma is so generic and uninteresting that I very rarely even notice it. Kumamon and Domo-kun are okay, as they are a little bit creepy. I remember I really liked both Kogepan and Afro Ken back when they had their anime. Chicchai Ossan is also something I find really nice.
    The worst this about these is that there’s probably tons of merchandise, so if I ever go to Japan I am going to starve. But at least I might get some cute plushie of that Marimokkori guy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like some of them because they’re just so random, and I have fun imagining the meeting that went down when they were deciding on a design. “Okay everyone, now put all your one-word ideas in a hat and we’ll go 3 rounds!”

      Like

  5. These are all ridiculously fabulous and creepy and I love that you wrote about it 🙂 I’ve always loved Japan’s mascot-culture and how normal it is to see them as you go about your day. There’s no mockery or judgement really, though perhaps in these cases there should be (j/k of course not). Of the ones you shared, I’m partial to Udon Nou since I love udon so much myself and actually find that design not only clever but charming in a morbid way.

    Like

    • I think there’s definitely something to be said for that very specific, morbid kind of charming you mention – similar perhaps in tone or very general style to The Nightmare Before Christmas and other things of that ilk. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As for Marimokkoro, who knows? Perhaps the codpiece will come back in to fashion?

    And Melon Kuma reminds me of Chupakabura from the anime Sakura Quest.

    Like

  7. Pingback: 801 e Dia do Yaoi – Blyme Yaoi

LEAVE A COMMENT

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s