Kaparu from Shiki, a city in Saitama Prefecture, won the 2018 Yuru-kyara Grand Prix (Soft Character Grand Prix) title in the regional division on Sunday.

With the motif of the mythical kappa, or water goblin, the mascot for the city’s public corporation to promote culture and sports garnered 889,346 votes to beat two municipal mascots that were supported by organized votes in the poll.

The results of the vote were announced at Hanazono Central Park in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture.

It was discovered that the first runner-up, Ja-Bo, from Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, and the third pick, Konyudo-kun, from Yokkaichi in Mie Prefecture, were supported by municipal workers and others who voted many times using a huge number of multiple voting IDs. Ja-Bo garnered 843,682 votes and Konyudo-kun 807,592 received votes.

Yokkaichi’s mascot came first in a preliminary tally, after the municipal government distributed over 10,000 IDs to its 4,000 workers. But after stopping accepting ballots, the event organizing committee deleted what appeared to be organized votes and announced the final results.

Yokkaichi Mayor Tomohiro Mori told reporters that the surviving 800,000 ballots were full of citizens’ wishes for Konyudo-kun’s victory.

Shuichiro Nishi, chairman of the committee, pointed out that organized votes are seen every time. “Achieving top rankings should not be set as an ultimate goal,” Nishi said. “Regional revitalization is a product of constant efforts after the contest.”

“Only five staff members and some part-timers took charge (of Kaparu’s election campaign),” said Hanako Gondawara of the Shiki Culture and Sports Promotion Corp.

“Because we could not rely on organized votes, I never imagined we could win,” she said.

This year’s contest saw participation by 909 mascots from across the country.

Besides online voting, 38,348 visitors to the contest venue at the park cast ballots, each of which was equivalent to three online votes.

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