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An obscure, mythical mermaid-like being believed to prophesize harvests and epidemics became an unlikely symbol of national unity this year in the face of COVID-19.

Known as amabie and depicted as having long hair, a beak, three legs and scales from the neck down, the kai — supernatural monsters and apparitions popularized through Japanese legends and folklore — inundated social media with its likeness and has been featured on countless items of merchandise and advertisements, even being adopted as a mascot for the health ministry’s public safety campaign.

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