Japanese firm’s mascot name earns ridicule

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

Osaka-based Fukushima Industries Corp. apologized Tuesday for the uproar over Fukuppy, its latest corporate mascot, saying it may change the name or its spelling in Roman characters.

Fukushima Industries is a major maker of industrial freezers and refrigerators, with offices in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, China and Malaysia. Its president is Yutaka Fukushima.

But its cutesy-looking character — an egg with wings and red feet — became the butt of countless satirical jokes over the weekend after English-language media erroneously reported that Fukuppy was somehow linked to a public relations campaign to shore up the image of the trouble-ridden power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, where residents, farmers and fishermen are still suffering from radiation leaks and disaster containment blunders at the crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant.

The mascot’s name is made up of the “fuku” part of the company’s name combined with a cheery-sounding “uppy,” and is pronounced “Foo-koo-pee.” In English, however, a different pronunciation of Fukuppy could conjure up a combination of an obscenity with “up,” in a misspelled rendering of a term denoting blunders or someone prone to blunders, and even the slang word for an amphetamine drug.

“This time, the name of our corporate character, because of the way it’s written, has been regarded as inappropriate, or has been misunderstood among English-speaking people,” the company said Tuesday. “We sincerely apologize for the fact that we have caused misunderstandings and concerns among many people.”

Earlier in the day, a Fukushima Industries spokeswoman said the firm was “aware of” international ridicule on the Web over Fukuppy, but said it has no link whatsoever to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant meltdown disaster.

  • pervertt

    No, no, please leave it alone. Fukuppy is a very appropriate name for anything associated with TEPCO and its disastrous response to radioactive leaks in Fukushima.

    • someguyoverthere

      But its not associated with TEPCO or the Fukushima power plant at all. Its a mascot for a refrigerator company from the other side of the country that happens to have the same name. That’s the point, and the uproar has less to do with the Japanese making a mistake and more to do with English speaking people being idiots.

  • StevenStreets

    Have you heard about the homeless abandoned “puppy” with one eye, no hair, three legs, a broken tail? Answers to the name of “Lucky”.

    • Christopher-trier

      It survived, didn’t it?

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Brilliant! And compounded by the Japan Times attempt to distance the correct pronunciation from that used by English speakers – the JT’s pronunciation is wildly off and the English speaker pronunciation must more accurate. Looks like everything to do with the name Fukushima, be it freezers or nuclear plants is a complete Fukuppy!!!

  • Andrew

    So because people don’t know how to properly pronunciate Japanese words this warrants an apology…ok then.

    • woden1809

      They have offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia – English speaking countries/cities. Maybe an apology isn’t warranted, but they certainly need to think about changing it for the company image’s sake.

      • expat88

        Yeah, when you talk about international recognition, or “showing the world Japan’s greatness,” as the Olympic committee in Tokyo has been going on about, yeah.

        Also, a major point: “Fukuppy” is NOT written in Japanese. It’s in Latin script, and there is no real reason for a non-Japanese person to assume that Latin script is supposed to be pronounced in Japanese.

        An apology? Perhaps not necessary, but the people in charge should have had some awareness that writing a Japanese word in Latin script and presenting it to the English-speaking world was a bad idea.

        Bear in mind that Japanese children are taught to use Latin script as an alternative to kana until around 5th and 6th grade when schools drop the bomb on them that, actually, no, Latin script is pronounced DIFFERENTLY in English. It’s pretty obvious that no one involved in making this character had any clue what they were really doing.

  • Glen Douglas Brügge

    I feel sorry for the company; they have nothing to do with Fukushima or TEPCO! They make freezers. But I must say, it is rather “humorous.” It would certainly be a good name for a TEPCO mascot though.

  • Mike Wyckoff

    This whole thing is turning into a Fukupp.

    But would it have been an issue if English Dailies hadn’t covered it?
    I mean, im sure we’ve all seen far worse butchering’s of English where companies purposely tried to write IN the English language.
    Here, though, English speakers are mispronouncing something clearly written with the Japanese consumer in mind.

    If you’ve ever been to the Tonkatsu restaurant on the second floor of Kansai Airport, and had the privilege of enjoying their “black pig” from “the source of the mountain foot” covered in “cut glass source” will truely know what a Fukuppy is….

  • Ain

    English speakers aren’t the only people on earth who use Romaji –but there are enough of them that do to warrant checking how they’d pronounce the word! A humorous-sounding menu item in an obscure restaurant is one thing, a mascot representing a multinational corporation that evokes images of a national tragedy and sounds like the mother-of-all-curse-words is another.

  • Rossjoe

    Congress should make Fukuppy its official mascot!