By Rod Walters
After understanding more with regards to the fascination of Japan's mascot characters obsession, I started to research more on the individual characters. Regrettably, after many visits to Japan, I have never taken notice of the cute characters. My only encounter was with Kumamon, whose presence was prevalent throughout Kumamoto prefecture. My next Japan visit may well be Mie prefecture this November, where the Mascot Grand Prix will be held. It is an annual event whereby thousands of mascots come together, and the public can vote for the most popular ones. What is surprising is that these mascots often take part in competitions, with the Mascot Grand Prix being one of the bigger events.
Let us take a look at the 2016 Grand Prix. Held in Matsuyama city, Ehime prefecture, a whooping 1421 characters made an entry to participate. The entire list of entries can be viewed on the website from the 1st all the way to the 1421st. Online voting started as early as July, and only the top 100 characters made it to the final round in November. Here are the top three winners.
1. Shinjou-kun from Susaki City in Kochi Prefecture
An otter, Shinjou-kun was named after the city’s Shinjou River, after the last otters were spotted in that river. He removes his nabeyaki ramen hat whenever he meets a new friend and puts it on the person’s head. His belly button brings good luck to the person who touches it.
2. Hanipon from Honjo City in Saitama Prefecture
Always smiling with big ears and pink cheeks, Hanipon has a dream of making everyone in Honjo city smile. He even visited Paris for a business trip in 2013.
3. Chuppy from Soja City in Okayama Prefecture
Chuppy has a limited presence as the city government has some copyright issue. As such, his merchandise is quite limited compared to other characters. Chuppy was ranked 15th in 2015’s Grand Prix and has managed to climb to 3rd in 2016.
So what are you waiting for? Plan a trip to Mie this November!
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I still clearly remember the day I first landed in Japan, and since then it has been my goal to set foot in all 47 prefectures. I try to look for less touristy areas, preferring the countryside to the city. I'm always amazed by the many Haagen Dazs and ice cream flavors available only in Japan.