Meet Katakkuri-chan, the official mascot of Japan's far-northern Asahikawa Prison! The cute, cheerful, smiling character is spearheading the jail's efforts to warm up their chill and forbidding image. Maybe this is an idea other prisons can try, such as designing a canary wearing a striped jumpsuit to represent Alcatraz.
Asahikawa Prison's administrators asked a local female artists from the city of Asahikawa to design a character and in no time at all, Katakkuri-chan was born. The mascot is named after the Katakuri, or Dogtooth Violet, a flower of the lily family that grows profusely on mountain meadows near the prison in Hokkaido prefecture but is relatively rare elsewhere. As such, the new character sports an oversized purple flower in place of hair.
There are two versions of Katakkuri-chan: a male who wears a prison warden's uniform and sports a stern expression, and a female who wears a lavender dress. Both are to be called Katakkuri-chan regardless of their gender.
The character, in the form of a human-sized walking mascot of the type often seen at any Disneyland, was introduced on September 8th, 2013 at the annual Asahikawa Correction Exhibition (above) alongside an actual Asahikawa Prison guard.
Perhaps an inmate volunteered to animate the mascot and the guard was there to keep an eye on him, who can say?
Besides giving Asahikawa Prison a more attractive public face, Katakkuri-chan will be appearing on the facility's educational recidivism prevention awareness posters as well as bookmarks and coasters made by prison inmates which can be bought at the aforementioned Asahikawa Correction Exhibition.
Next time you're relaxing in the warm comfort of your home with a copy of Stephen King's Shawshank Redemption and a bottle of beer, you'll just wish you had a Katakkuri-chan bookmark and coaster to complement them! (via 3yen, Doshin Web, Kamefuku Diary, and MOJ.go.jp)