Japan knows how to do cute, from character cafes to Totoro-shaped cream puffs, so it’s no surprise that prefectures, governments and even companies want something adorable and cartoonish to represent them.
Known in Japanese as yuru-chara, Japan's mascots are dopey and hilarious creatures that are all-round charming. In Japan, mascots promote tourism, brands and even just good behaviour, like Quaran the quarantine fairy and Shinjuku’s hand-washing soap bubble superhero. Here are some of our favourite mascots, from famous black bear Kumamon to a busty anthropomorphic sea lion – all of which straddle the line between cute and strange.
Recommended: Our favourite Japanese children’s books in English