Japan’s most lovable anime character, el gato cosmico (the cosmic cat) has been chosen to be Japan’s ambassador in Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games. It’s the first time Japan has chosen an anime character for an Olympic ambassadorship. Congratulations Doraemon!
I know what you’re thinking: That’s a cat? He doesn’t look like a cat. His tongue is too smooth. He has no fur. And he’s blue! Well, he’s a cat of the future. A robotic feline of the 22nd century, to be exact. With the ability to travel back in time, which is why he is here now.
But just because Doraemon is a cat of the future doesn’t mean he doesn’t have experience in the past. He first appeared in Japan of 1969. In 2008 he was appointed by the Foreign Ministry to be their “anime ambassador.” No one really remembers exactly what Doraemon did while in office at that time, which at least means he did nothing scandalous.
If you’re still wondering why Tokyo should even want the 2020 Summer Olympics, and why the international business community and companies like Toyota, and a debt-ridden government would be in favor of such a financial endeavor, consider this. We all know that Japan is suffering from a shrinking population. If you can’t increase your population on your own, the next best thing is to invite a few hundred thousand people to come and spend their money. It’s called “population borrowing.”
With all this country has at risk, picking an Olympic mascot must be a terrifying task. The competition is stiff and what if the Tokyo 2020 team makes the wrong choice, and loses the bid? Think of all the candidates they had to choose from to find the one mostly likely to help Tokyo win the 2020 Summer Olympics. Surely Hello Kitty would have been a candidate. She has previous experience too, as the United States’s ambassador for UNICEF (since 1983) and as Japan’s tourism ambassador to China and Hong Kong, in 2008.
Japan’s other weird, more esoteric manga characters may have also been considered, such as Burnt Bread (Kogepan), Afro Ken (the dog with the rainbow afro), and some other Sanrio characters such as Badtz-Maru (a penguin), Two Little Stars or My Melody (a rabbit). I think we’re all feeling luckier by the minute that Doraemon was chosen.
But I suspect it was a close feline race and that we narrowly missed having to endure a Hello Kitty Olympics. With Kitty-chan’s worldwide appeal, with over 50,000 of her products sold in more than 60 countries, it would have been tough for this entrepreneurial feline to lose out to Doraemon. Hello Kitty is more worldly, and more instantly recognizable. But she appeals largely to women and girls because she represents innocence and childhood. She cashes in on nostalgia by older women and mothers who want a safe, trusting and loving childhood for their own children. Furthermore, Hello Kitty has both English and Japanese parentage and actually lives in London. And she is not very sporty either. Her hobbies are reading, music, traveling and eating homemade cookies. Not exactly an Olympic image.
Besides, she has no smile.
Despite the economic power of Kitty-chan mania to spur the country on to more material wealth and gluttony via sales of Olympic toasters, Olympic red hair ribbons and Olympic steering wheel covers, the country has decided to forgo the bling and pass the torch on to the cuddly Doraemon.
Doraemon’s official residence is Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, which also houses the Fujiko F Fujio museum honoring his creator. Doraemon is cute, he smiles a lot and he’s not real, all which make him the perfect representative.
Face it. If we’d appointed a human ambassador, they would have screwed it up. We can all relax knowing that no one will uncover any Doraemon secret trysts, prostitution rings, gambling habits or abusive conduct in sports. He has no on-again off-again relationships for the gossip magazines to cover like Kitty-chan does.
Hello Kitty would have been a logistical nightmare with having to look after all her clothing and accessories. Doreamon needs none of that. Nor will he need expenses paid for transportation (he has chopper blades affixed to his head so he can fly away anytime he wants), food or entertainment. This public figure needs no security guards since no one can assassinate him, nor can he fall ill. Deep kitty bows of admiration.
What else represents Japan better than an anime character understood by children and adults alike, and represents Japanese core values of respect and friendship, which are also two of the three Olympic qualities. The third Olympic quality is excellence, and in this area Doraemon can deliver too. He has a magic pocket in which he has gadgets, tools, medicines and all the ingredients to make your wishes come true.
We have been truly saved by Doraemon! For a cosmic cat, he’s pretty down to earth.
Can Doraemon help win the Olympic bid? I think he can. I also think he should run for prime minister.
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