Pipo-kun; the mascot for the Tokyo police force has been hogging the lime light for too long. Most people don’t even know that there’s not one but more than forty police characters, one for each prefecture. Created in 1987 Pipo-kun was the first but year after year he was soon followed by a slew of friendly faced police mascots. Presently all 47 prefectures have their own character and even individual cities have got in on the act. The city of Saga in Yokohama, Kanagawa was the latest, they decided to ditch their prefectures mascot; pi-gull and created their own. This could be the start of even more police characters, perhaps one for every city in Japan.
The various mascots often take on the appearance of one of the symbols of the prefecture. Each prefecture usually has four symbols which include a flower, bird, tree and fish. Speciality food, famous animals, local legends and landmarks are also used.
I’ve recently assembled the most comprehensive look at all these characters from Hokkaido to Okinawa and everywhere in between. I’d like to shift some of the attention away from Pipo-kun and onto some of the other interesting prefectures and their characters. Below are a selection of my favourites.
My favourite is Miyagi-kun who is of course from Miyagi. The wild goose and the Miyagi bush clover are two symbols of the prefecture and are incorporated into their mascot. Miyagi-kun holds the clover in his hand which acts as an antenna for his radio.
Hikaru-kun & Hikari-chan
Koshihikari a popular variety of rice cultivated in Japan is the subject of Niigata’s pair of mascots. The Koshihikari produced in Niigata is considered by many to be the best rice in the world and has a suitably expensive price tag.
Designed by Fujiko Fujio (the pen name for two manga artists called Hiroshi Fujimoto and Moto Abiko). Most famous for creating Doraemon and Obake no Q-taro they both came from Toyama. The design and name of the character comes from Mount Tate one of the tallest peaks in Toyama.
Fukui prefecture is the location for Japans only dedicated dinosaur museum and considered one of the best in the world. Fukui is also the location for the Kitadani Dinosaur Quarry, where many interesting discoveries have been made. His name combines the word kyourue which means dinosaur and pi which stands for police and people.
The bird symbol of Aichi is of course an owl, a Eurasian scops-owl to be precise which is called ‘konohazuku’ in Japanese. Shinshiro in Aichi is a famous spot where the calls of the owls can be heard. So the first part of the name comes from the type of owl while the later, ‘keibu’ means police inspector.
Sento-kun isn’t Nara’s only deer inspired mascot. The city famous for the deer that roam through the town and park. Legend says the mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara riding a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country. Napo-kun’s name comes from abbreviating the two words Nara and police.
One of the prefecture symbols of Yamaguchi is the fugu. Shimonoseki a city in Yamaguchi is known as fugu city and supplies a large part of Japan with the toxic delicacy. It was also the first city to lift the ban on fugu sales during the Meiji period. The fugu can inflate its body several times it’s normal size and of course can poison it’s predators. In Yamaguchi they call the fish ‘fuku,’ which means ‘to blow’ or ‘happiness.’ ‘Maru’ the second part of Fukumaru’s name means circle.
‘Mutsugorou’ is the Japanese word for mudskipper and where Gorou-kun takes his name. The wide eyed mudskipper a creature common on the coast line of saga represents the friendliness of the police force, their sense of justice and cheerfulness.
To see them all check out idle idol.