Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I don’t care much for or about cute cartoonish mascots that are supposed to be appealing and entertaining. There is a fetish mania for such mascots in Japan, especially as Public Relations tools that simultaneously demonstrate and contribute to the infantilism of Japanese culture. My imagination is good enough that I don’t need a mascot to show me the way, and so I think mascots - especially the uncomfortably unctuous ones that Japanese prefer - are a dodgy way to promote something: a business, a sports franchise, an Olympic Games, a municipality’s tourism aspirations, etc. I usually find them ugly and annoying to the point of rancor. And yet, deciding on a mascot seems to be one of the first missions of any new venture. Ugh!
“Cheap shot: Mascot Totto-chan’s lewd radio comments may be its last chirps” (Japan Times, Wednesday, November 13, 2013) demonstrates what seems like a common confusion about mascots. The staff writer who wrote the article seems to think that the Totto-chan mascot of Tosu, Saga Prefecture is real. “The green bird character, modeled after a white-eye, made several comments suggestive of female genitalia.” No, the mascot did no such thing. The actor playing the mascot did it. Similarly, “Kumamon ... danced in front of the Emperor and Empress on Oct. 28.” Once again, no, the mascot did not. The mascot is just a costume.
The government uses a host of anime-like mascots to internationalize Cool Japan culture and various overseas Japanese cultural events. But don’t such symbols simultaneously undermine respect for Japanese culture while promoting it? They make Japan look like a silly, cartoonish place.
I hate being the one to tell Japanese Disney fans the truth, but Mickey Mouse is not real. Personally I find the squeaky-voiced rodent repelling and a main reason why I hate Disneyland.