Persevering pear mascot ‘Funassyi’ hopes to be positive symbol of Japan



The popular “pear fairy” cartoon mascot Funassyi held its first press conference with the foreign media in Tokyo on Thursday, saying its unlikely path to success is a symbol of the country’s admiration of perseverance in the face of adversity.

The unofficial mascot of the city of Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, vowed to expand its activities overseas and said it hopes it can be a positive symbol of Japan.

Cities and towns nationwide have created yuru-chara mascots to give their areas a unique, cute face to present to the world. The mascots, which tend to amalgamate symbols of the area’s history or star product, are usually thought up by local authorities. Critics say there are way too many of them.

But Funassyi had no official backing when it “fell from a pear tree” in March 2012. It became a considerable success, winning popularity for its frenetic movements and shrieking, in contrast to other yuru-chara that were mostly laid-back and calm.

“I started with no fans at all, and they built up one by one,” Funassyi said. “Japanese people have always rooted for the underdog, and I think seeing a solitary pear working hard all by itself really made an impression on people and they empathized with me.”

Funassyi won a nationwide regional mascot contest in 2013 and is now a household name, along with mascot colleague Kumamon, the dancing black bear from Kumamoto Prefecture with a much calmer demeanor.

The genderless pear’s first grilling by the foreign press included a request for its opinion on the reinterpretation of the pacifist Constitution and the possibility of the Self-Defense Forces moving into a more assertive role.

“I want everything to be peaceful,” Funassyi demurred.

The pear also said it has a strong motivation to help the country through “Funanomics” — a riff on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” economic policies — whereby the influence of mascots can stimulate Japan’s rural economies.

The news conference came on the heels of Funassyi’s New York debut last month. It walked the runway at a Japanese fashion event during New York Fashion Week, and held a summit with Birdie, the mascot of a New York City environmental policy initiative.

Having enjoyed making New Yorkers smile, Funassyi said it wants to travel all over the world. It said its next overseas trip will be to Antarctica later this month.

Funassyi’s future dream is to help carry the Olympic flame at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“I want to be a torch runner so much that I would even sacrifice the flower on top of my head in the flame,” it said.