Otaku USA Magazine
Narita Airport’s Unari-kun is Japan’s Mascot of the Year

unari-kun, mascot of the yearCities, prefectures, public facilities—name a place, and it’s more than likely Japan has a mascot for it.

There are a reported 1,157 of these mascots, known in Japan as “yuru-kyara,” and they’ve just faced off in a yearly competition. After a hard struggle, Unari-kun, who represents Narita Airport emerged as 2017’s mascot of the year.

Unari-kun’s name combines “unagi” (eel) with “Narita,” because Narita is famous for its unagi dishes. His body is a combination of a plane, representing Narita Airport, and, you guessed it, an eel.

Though Unari-kun represents Narita, he is originally from the planet of Unari, but decided to stay in Narita after visiting because of the city’s “ fantastic places, great food and hospitable people.”

Coming in second and third place in the competition were Chiba’s Chiryuppi and Higashi-Osaka’s Torai-kun.

Back in 2014, we reported that Japan’s Ministry of Finance had determined that mascot characters are, by and large, a waste of money. Over three years later, though, and it doesn’t seem like the obsession with yuru-kyara is ending anytime soon.

Source: Japan Times

Matt Schley

Matt Schley (rhymes with "guy") lives in Tokyo, and has been OUSA's "man in Japan" since 2012. He's also written about anime and Japanese film for the Japan Times, Screen Daily and more.