Funassyi Fantasy World: Funassyi’s first exhibition, at Shibuya Parco Museum

Written by: William on April 15, 2015 at 9:23 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Everything you ever wanted to know and see about Funassyi in one place? Then head to the Parco Museum at Shibuya Parco Part 1 from April 24th for “Funassyi Fantasy World”, the first exhibition by the insanely popular unofficial Funabashi City mascot.

funassyi fantasy world parco shibuya exhibition

The hyperactive yellow pear now has its own TV anime series and came out as a pacifist in front of the world press. Shibuya Parco also previously hosted a temporary Funassyi cafe last year.

“Funassyi Fantasy World” promises archive videos, photographs, toys, merchandise and more.

funassyi fantasy world parco shibuya exhibition

There is an interactive augmented reality booth where you can have fun with the giant yellow fruit, though that might freak some visitors out. Are we the only ones who sometimes find the mad jumping antics a bit scary?

funassyi fantasy world parco shibuya exhibition

This being a Funnassyi event, the organizers’ eyes are on the coffers, so there are plenty of tie-in products and merchandise for sale too, including Funnassyi gacha gacha vending machines with magnets and badges.

funassyi fantasy world parco shibuya exhibition

The exhibition is resident at Parco Museum until May 17th, before touring to Sapporo Parco (May 22nd — June 8th).

Entry costs ¥500 for adults but is free for kids of elementary school age or younger.

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Hello Kitty does regional cosplay for Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance exhibition

Written by: William on April 7, 2015 at 8:56 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Hello Kitty is no stranger to spin-offs and tie-ups. But this one is pretty innovative.

Sanrio’s iconic cat character has teamed up with Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Company for an exhibition in central Tokyo featuring Kitty-chan in a series of different cosplay outfits, each representing the area or city where Fukoku has a regional branch.

There are 62 illustrations of Hello Kitty in various regional garb.

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

This is very much old Japan meets new Japan. There are large noren traditional split curtains hanging over the entrance.

The exhibits themselves hang from the ceiling on plain white panels against a chic white floor with an abstract map of Japan. The space is designed by Naoya Iwama.

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Each regional Hello Kitty character features a costume, props or other motifs representative of the respective area or city in Japan.

Here is Hello Kitty Hakodate with its famous squid.

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Kagoshima and a black pig

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Kobe

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Maebashi and a daruma doll

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Nagoya and its castle

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Oita

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

North Osaka and takoyaki

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

South Osaka

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Sapporo and skiing

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

The event is part of a general campaign by Fukoku using Hello Kitty as brand spokesperson. The insurance firm ran a poll contest to see which Hello Kitty regional character was the most popular. Surprisingly, the owl-themed Ikebukuro Hello Kitty came out top from the nearly 150,000 votes.

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

You can visit the show at the Fukoku Seimei Building (the Fukoku headquarters) at 2-2-2 Uchisaiwaicho, Chiyoda-ku in Tokyo. The exhibition runs until June 30th.

Images via Animal Cafes, Design Boom and Fashion Headline

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Funassyi TV anime series, starts March 30th

Written by: William on March 10, 2015 at 8:42 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

It was surely just the next logical step: Funassyi the anime is here.

A series of animated shorts will premiere on March 30th on Nippon TV’s Sukkiri starring the yellow pear mascot.

funassyi anime tv series nippon mascot character sukkiri

Funassyi no funafunafuna hiyori (Funassyi’s Aimless Days) will be broadcast every weekday and feature Funassyi, as well as Guressyi (voiced by Lynn) and Nashigami-sama (voiced by Naoki Tatsuta). Funassyi will be voiced by, well, Funassyi.

The rise, rise and rise of Funassyi is the most incredible story of Japan’s regional mascots (yuru-kyara), not least because the pear character is such an oddity but because it is not the official mascot of Funabashi. It was created by people power alone and its subsequent popularity laughs in the face of the bureaucrats of the city in Chiba who wanted a tamer mascot.

funassyi anime tv series nippon mascot character sukkiri

The hyperactive Funassyi even recently made a lively appearance at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (imagine trying to be the interpreter for that press conference!), where it lent its support to Japan’s pacifist Constitution.

funassyi anime tv series nippon mascot character sukkiri japan foreign correspondents club japan

So far the Funassyi Industry includes manga, games, music releases, food, toys, clothes, and so much more. Now anime has been added to that long list, what can be next? Politics?!

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R/C Tractor Kumamon: Mascot farmer bear does wheelies

Written by: Japan Trends on November 26, 2014 at 8:26 am | In COOL PRODUCTS | No Comments

If you like unusual RC toys and if you like yuru-kyaru (Japanese mascots), then these two things are about to come crashing together in amazing style with this R/C Tractor Kumamon from Tamiya.

rc tractor kumamon macot bear tamiya toy

The tractor sees arguably Japan’s most popular mascot, the bear from Kumamoto Prefecture, driving a tractor while he goes about farming his region’s favorite offerings — water melons and tomatoes.

rc tractor kumamon macot bear tamiya toy

Stickers of Kumamon’s fruit crops decorate the chassis. The tractor also has two sizes of wheels so with some skill you can make Kumamon do wheelies. That’s something you don’t see every day.

We’ve seen some novel Japanese RC toys over the years, from cockroaches to cleaning mops and more, but Kumamon on a large tractor is certainly a new advance for the medium.

rc tractor kumamon macot bear tamiya toy

The R/C Tractor Kumamon is available in the full assembled and painted version with the controller on pre-order from JapanTrendShop.

Our previous favorite Kumamon toy had been the Soccer Robot Kumamon.

kumamonsoccer robot player football rc toy mascot bear

As the name suggests, it is a mini robot that can play football using an infrared controller. The robot is surprisingly agile and can move in eight different way.

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Funassyi has a kid brother: Chiba pear mascot gets a sibling called Funagoro

Written by: William on October 15, 2014 at 6:33 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

Yes, Japan’s most famous unofficial mascot, that lovable jumping yellow pear Funassyi now has a kid brother.

If you believed Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture already had enough mascots with just one, others thought otherwise. The unstoppable industry that is Funnassyi has been joined by a sibling, Funagoro.

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

Funagoro is half-pear, half-caterpillar. While he is a similar color to Funassyi, if a bit smaller, there is one major difference: he has a tail. And he can squirt pear juice out of it.

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

It’s not the first time that Funassyi’s family members have been mentioned but this is the first public appearance. Apparently the pear mascot has a whopping 274 brothers and sisters. Funagoro is the 56th brother, just in case you are counting.

What next for Funagoro? It depends on whether the world can cope with two Funassyis.

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

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Roboko: Shinjuku Kabukicho Robot Restaurant gets its own mascot character

Written by: William on September 4, 2014 at 8:08 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

It generated enough headlines when it opened and now it will surely get some more.

The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku Kabukicho launched in late 2012 on a wave of publicity, not least for its enormous budget and advertising campaign featuring the eponymous robot vehicles been driven. Even if it wasn’t your thing, admit it — you were curious too, right?

And now the Robot Restaurant has its own mascot character, Roboko. (Strictly speaking, they have simply rebranded their robotic vehicles that star in the show as a mascot.)

Roboko is taking part in Japan’s “battle of the mascots”, last year won by Sanomaru. The robotic vixen is entry #55 in the corporate character competition in the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix, which is decided by public voting.

roboko robot restaurant kabukicho shinjuku mascot character yuru-kyara grand prix competition

We’re not sure about Roboko’s chances against the likes of Kumamon and Funassyi, but you can’t knock them for trying. Last year there were 1,245 regional mascots and 335 corporate characters in the running. The top two regional mascots (the corporate ones get a separate ranking) had over 1 million votes each! (In other words, entering the competition is great for getting more exposure.) The 2013 Grand Prix’s top corporate mascot was Kosuke, the character for the Japanese Cooperative Insurance Association.

The restaurant has made over 10 of its “robots”, with the first ones on display in the entrance as they were apparently actually too big to fit in the final space. They reckon this makes Roboko perhaps the largest yuru-kyara in Japan!

shinjuku kabukicho robot restaurant tokyo

As we wrote in a review last year, we found the Robot Restaurant a bit half-baked. There aren’t any genuine “robots” in the show, more like vehicles that that the dancers ride around on. And despite the risque outfits, it’s not really an adult show nor a regular idol event — something that sits oddly in between. And the staff at the reception were just like you’d expect from a venue located in Tokyo’s most notoriously sleazy district, i.e., pretty unwelcoming.

It also felt significant that around half the clientele were foreign (the restaurant ranked 16th on a recent list of most popular sightseeing spots in Japan for overseas visitors). Anyway, we don’t want to sound too snarky, we are sure that the show must have some appeal and we wish Roboko all the best in the competition. We would say “break a leg” but we doubt that’s physically possible for her.

Voting continues until October 20th, with the winners announced in November.

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Funassyi fans! Head down to Funa Cafe in Shibuya Parco for dishes dedicated to the pear mascot

Written by: William on August 21, 2014 at 12:10 am | In CULTURE | 3 Comments

Funassyi just can’t be stopped. The pear (nashi) character that famously started off as an unofficial yuru-kyara mascot for Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture has become so popular that he now has his own cafe, the Funa Cafe.

He came out of nowhere in 2012, ranking a mere 506 out of 865 regional mascots from around Japan in one major “mascot contest”.

Funassyi is now on TV regularly, he has launched a veritable industry of DVDs, CDs, magazines, photo books, toys, games… everything.

Why is he so successful? Well, he can jump very high and pretend to play the guitar. And that’s about it as far as his special skills go. But perhaps it’s because he started off as an unofficial city mascot and people embraced the yellow underdog.

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

In September you can get a taste of Funassyi at the Funa Cafe in Shibuya Parco Part 1. Opening at The Guest Cafe & Diner on September 2nd and running for a limited time only until September 30th, customers can enjoy drinks, food, sweets and more, all with a Funassyi twist.

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

Take a look at these pictures and you’ll get an idea about how inventive the Funassyi-themed menu is!

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

The organizers have gone to a real effort here, creating a host of pear dishes and drinks, everything from pear juice soda to noodles. There will also be around 30 special items on sale, including aprons, mirrors, and more.

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

It’s actually the third themed cafe of its kind at the venue, following the wildly popular My Melody Cafe and Kiki and Lala Cafe which saw lines three hours long. It’s also a recreation of the Funa Cafe that appears in a picture book published by Parco.

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US Embassy Tokyo creates “Noriko’s Study Abroad” drama series with yuru-kyara TOM

Written by: William on April 11, 2014 at 11:44 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Tears. Tantrums. And a yuru-kyara mascot character.

The Public Affairs Section/Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo has produced a very original video promoting studying abroad in America. Noriko’s Study Abroad Story Episode 1 “I want to study in the U.S.” promises to be the first in a series of a drama episodes documenting the travails of a girl with her sights set on going overseas to learn more.

noriko study abroad us embassy

But rather than simply focussing on the “amazing experience” young Japanese men and women can have in the States, the approach is more domestic and realistic. It starts by showing the difficulties of persuading your father about the benefits of spending a year in the New World.

Here’s how they write it up:

Noriko is a Japanese college student who is thinking about studying abroad in the U.S. But when she tells her friends and family about her idea, their response is not quite what she was expecting…

But the biggest surprise is the yuru-kyara (mascot) who appears at the end to comfort the troubled girl and offer her some life lessons.

noriko study abroad us embassy

Noriko first announces her intention to study abroad in America to her parents but gets an obstinately negative response from her father. She then asks an older peer for help. But it’s not until TOM (“the U.S. Embassy Tokyo social media friendship ambassador”, a caption tell us) turns up that she gets some decent advice.

We don’t want to spoilt it too much. Take a look at the five-minute first episode for yourselves…

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5 “Wacky Japan” myths we don’t agree with (and why)

Written by: Japan Trends on February 19, 2014 at 12:25 pm | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | 2 Comments

Japan is a country that seems to inspire more than its far share of stereotypes and myths. The overseas media is also complicit in perpetuating many of the images of Japan that make it seem weird, exotic and unfathomable. What irk the most are the ones that mold Japan as a nation of wackos with bizarre tastes in fashion, beauty, sex and entertainment. This isn’t just Japan; the western media continually likes to mock and belittle Asian countries. Would Psy have been such a hit if there hadn’t been a “weird dance” (actually originally very tongue-in-cheek)?

Here are five we particularly dislike and feel are wrong (in whole or in part), and also harmful and patronizing.

Mascot obsession

Yes, there are mascots — lots of them.

The Self-Defense Force has them, as does the police and even the Japanese Communist Party. Some days it feels like you can’t get away from mascot characters, on TV, advertising or merchandise. But that doesn’t mean people are stupid or only interested in something because of a mascot.

funassyi yuru kyara japan mascots

Mascot culture has been a big success story for regional tourism, hence why it has become something of a phenomenon in recent years. This is a fascinating social development and offers lessons in tourism. But also don’t confuse it with the idea that everyone in Japan walks around with mascot toys in their bags.

A nation of geeks

This links in with the mascot thing. Sure, manga and anime are popular here. hHwever, one of the biggest mistranslations and inaccurate use of language concerns the idea of “subcultures”. If we had a yen for every time we saw the words “anime subculture” in Japanese or English. More often than not, it’s being used incorrectly. What’s important here is how manga and anime are indeed mainstream — but in the sense that cartoons and comics are part of popular culture in America too. No one calls American geeks because of how successful “The Avengers” was, right? But the movie was seen by thousands of non-fans too.

What has changed in recent years is that certain types of manga and anime have risen in status — by which we mean subcultural content previously associated mostly with hardcore fans, especially science fiction. However, manga and anime itself is not a subculture. Quite the opposite: they are part of pop culture. So just because they are a visible element in Japan, it cannot be correlated solely with “geeky” culture.

he Idolmaster Movie: Kagayaki no Mukogawa e! The Idolmaster Movie: To the Other Side of the Light

The difference is that there is a whole wealth of anime and manga that can be enjoyed by adults too, not to mention the tens of thousands of titles specifically meant for older audiences (and we don’t mean “adult content” either). This is like how there are graphic novels and the likes of Robert Crumb in America, plus a quality Pixar animation is entertaining for all ages.

That’s what’s interesting; not that everyone in Japan is an otaku because they read comics even after the age of 18, but that there are comics that cater to predilections that go way beyond superheroes. If you look at the annual list of bestsellers, Japan has some of most varied reading tastes. What was the biggest box office hit recently in Japan? Yes, it was an anime. But it was Studio Ghibli’s “The Wind Rises”, which frankly is as mainstream as any Disney picture.

What makes us doubly angry is that “Cool Japan” is also getting it wrong, promoting a subculture — something for a select taste — as representative of all that’s good about Japan. And so we have embarrassments like AKB48 (not even a true example of genuine otaku culture anymore) performing at the ASEAN gala banquet.

Weird beauty

We have been guilty of helping with this myth ourselves. Sure, there are some bizarre beauty gadgets in Japan. But they are genuine skincare and health tools, no matter how odd the pictures sometimes look. From electric nose-lifters to face sliming mouthpieces, there is a whole pantheon of frankly visually alarming gadgets out there. But we actually think these are pretty amazing and not just to be scoffed at.

japan wacky beauty gadget crazy bizarre cosmetics tool

Either way, they are unusual items that are used by a minority of people. It’s not the case that everyone women is walking around with wacky mouthpieces jutting out of their jaws in a quest to retain their youthful beauty.

And at the end of the day, the beauty trends that should really be grabbing the headlines are the amazing quality of Japanese cosmetics and make-up, from Shiseido to Kanebo and shu uemura.

Sexual disfunction

The catalog of articles here would be notorious and too long to list, but the perennial claim is one of two extremes or even both at the same time: the Japanese are not interested in sex anymore, and/or they are super kinky and like to get their kicks at strange fetish clubs or through 2D characters.

There are extremes in every culture and we love how Japan, free of the notion of original sin and other moral hangups in the monotheistic world, is able to find a way for more unusual sexual customs to exist alongside the so-called mainstream. But they are just that: fringe elements. As healthy and often refreshing (if mind-boggling) as they are, the majority of men in Japan are not interested in pursuing anime girls or even Akihabara “idols”.

japan sexual disfunction dysfunction no romance moteki film

And we find it laughable this image that young people are not interested in sexual relations (any reporter who writes an article on this should go and visit a college campus or nightclub).

Japan is prohibitively expensive

Not so “wacky” this one but we still hate it always gets rolled out as a stereotype to explain how “opaque” and formiddable the lifestyle in Japan — especially Tokyo — is. Japan is not expensive. Sure, if you take the average apartment in America and Europe and compare it to a similar size in Tokyo, it will seem crazy. But no one lives like that. Things are compact in Japan (not small, compact) and you have to adjust your scale a little. In fact, it is far more affordable to live alone in Tokyo and go out for meals on a very regular basis than other cities.

tokyo most expensive city world

What is expensive? Up-front fees for apartments, though this has improved recently. Some fruit and vegetables. Hostess clubs. Shinkansen bullet train tickets.

Everything else is pretty reasonable, not least because consumption tax is relatively low (it’s going up this spring, though) and prices have hardly changed in over ten years (the up side of the “Lost Decade”). You can shop at UNIQLO et al if you are on a budget and there is a host of great eating-out options for as little as ¥1,000-¥2,000 yen for a nice meal. Try getting an apartment for one, paying for daily transport costs, utility bills and going out half a dozen times a week in New York or a major European city… and then you’ll see what we mean.

And if don’t believe us, head over to Tokyo Cheapo for some tips on enjoying yourself in Japan on a budget.

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