We seem to love mascot characters in Japan.
We pretty much have a mascot for everything. The most popular ones of late are the mascots of various cities throughout Japan called Yuru-kyara, which means something like loose characters in Japanese. Not sure whether they are called that because they aren't official city mascots or because the characters are quite casual and quirky, but they are popular.
There's even a Yuru-kyara Grand Prix every year, where people can vote for their favorite mascot. Last year, 880 mascots entered the contest. Told ya. I wasn't kidding when I said we really love our mascots.
Imabari City, where my parents live, also has their own mascot character. His name is Bary-san (his profile in Japanese is here). He's a pretty cute mascot, in my opinion.
Imabari is known for their yakitori (skewered chicken), so the mascot is a bird. His crown is the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge, which is a bridge that connects the main land to the Shikoku Island (which is where Imabari City is located). It's also apparently the longest suspension bridge in the world.
It doesn't stop there. He is wearing a haramaki, which is a cloth that wraps around and warms your stomach, because Imabari is famous for their towels. I hear they make about 60% of the towels in Japan. Also, the little ship he's carrying is a wallet, representing Imabari's shipping industry.
Don't you love the details and the story behind the character? I love it. Probably because I'm Japanese. Ha.
Anyways, Bary-san is not only my favorite...(drum roll please)...he was the winner of last year's Yuru-kyara Grand Prix! Whoop! It's pretty huge considering a lot of Japanese people don't even know where Imabari City is.
But they are taking this chance to promote their city and Bary-san has even made his way into convenience stores all over Tokyo. He has his own Chiroru Chocolate (pictured), which are bite sized chocolates that come in many flavors. The Bary-san chocolates are orange flavored because the whole prefecture of Ehime, where Imabari City is located, is famous for producing oranges called Iyokan.
I found this chocolate at my local convenience store and had to get it. I loved the packaging with Bary-san saying different things in the local dialect. Too cute.
Doesn't he grow on you? :D
You can get Bary-san PC backgrounds for free here!