Japan has a mascot for every product, agency, sports team, town, company, and public service campaign. The cute costumed characters draw attention and engender fan clubs, as each mascot has their own backstory and personality. Over the past year, a new masked superhero has joined their ranks- a pink cat called Koronon, who promotes health measures to fight COVID-19. Koronon walks the Ikebukuro and Shinjuku districts of Tokyo, handing out face masks and reminding people to keep a social distance.
The soft creatures can also be a balm. “Mascots help take the edge off when grim and serious matters are being discussed,” says Carlier. Kaila Imada, an editor at Time Out Tokyo who has previously reported on mascots, echoes that sentiment. “I think part of it is about bringing a bit of joy,” Imada says. Taizo Hayashi, designer and manager of Koronon (and Al-pha Co., an event promotion company), says he hopes the mascot helps make “the world peaceful” by providing a bit of light-heartedness against a backdrop of tough times.
While Koronon (whose name loosely translates to “no corona”), appears to be the only mascot created in response to the coronavirus in Japan, it isn’t alone in its fight against the pandemic. Throughout the country, mascots have been repurposed to educate the public on issues surrounding the virus.
Read more about Koronon and how other mascots are dealing with the pandemic at Atlas Obscura.