Big eyes and a gentle smile... and the bigger and gentler, the better. That's what designers of Namisuke, Suginami City's dinosaur-like mascot, had in mind when bringing their advertising and merchandising campaign to life. Namisuke personifies Japan's mascot-mania, or as some say, characters gone wild!
What's a Namisuke and why would anyone want one to represent their town? Well, in Japan so-called "mascots" are necessary to promote a kind and welcoming image for whatever a governmental, non-governmental or corporate entity might want to promote. In essence, if you don't have a mascot, you're nowhere.
The expectation that everyone, everywhere needs a mascot to represent anything, anytime has begat a sort of "mascot industry" - with the general public convinced to collaborate via contests and votes designed to choose the most appealing, least controversial mascot.
Case in point: Namisuke. Selected by a public vote to represent the Tokyo ward of Suginami, Namisuke (pronounced "na-MISS-keh") is a sort of dinosaur/caterpillar with a moon face. He has a girlfriend who wears a red hair bow ala Hello Kitty. Hired humans wearing larger than life Namisuke suits appear at local festivals and fairs to the delight of kids and adults alike.
Namisuke has his own ready-made biography: He comes from a far-away island of sea-going dinosaurs that can clean the air using the raised crest that runs down their backs. Namisuke's personality is a combination of ebullience and curiosity, and his hobbies are walking, people-watching, and eating apples. His favorite things are clean air and finding new friends... just like us!
Of course, Namisuke can now be found all over the internet, giving a friendly face to governmental announcements and the usual mild chidings Japan seems to love to give its citizens. You know, "turn off the lights", "take an eco-bag", and so on. Let's not forget Namisuke's very own blog.
A limited look online revealed a HUGE range of Namisuke-themed items for sale, a good portion of them on one page of the Suginami government website. There are plush toys, cell phone charms, sticker sheets, tote bags, filled pastries, gingerbreads, coffee mugs, towels, notebook covers, notepads, postcards, and undoubtedly more. It's a full blown Namisuke-pocalypse!
Where did it all begin? There were mascots before hello Kitty and the roots of the phenomenon may not even be Japanese - I'm looking at you, Michelin Man and Smokey the Bear. What can't be denied is that mascot-mania has never been so strong, and so concentrated in one nation. Japan may have character, but it also has characters... in abundance! (via Gigazine)