• Kyodo


Sales of products featuring Kumamoto Prefecture’s popular Kumamon black bear mascot surpassed ¥100 billion in 2015 for the first time, the prefectural government has said.

The figure, released Wednesday, represented the fifth straight year of record sales for such products since the local government began keeping track of sales after the mascot was created in 2011.

The record sales were attributed to a sharp increase in sales of farm products bearing the character’s image, which won a 2011 online popularity contest among some 350 local mascots from across the country.

Last year, sales of Kumamon products at retailers reached at least ¥100.7 billion, up 56.6 percent from the previous year, according to the survey. Sales of food products, including tomatoes and strawberries packaged in containers bearing the character’s image, roughly doubled to about ¥78.1 billion.

Overseas sales of goods featuring Kumamon, mainly in Asia, came to about ¥2.1 billion, after the prefectural government lifted a sales ban on Kumamon products overseas in June 2014.

“Kumamon’s greatly contributing to the economic wealth of the prefecture,” Gov. Ikuo Kabashima said. “I’m surprised they sold this much overseas.”

The local government has pinned its hopes on the prospect of Kumamon catching on in China and driving up sales of related products in the future.

Kumamon is one of the best-known local mascots, or yuru-kyara, which literally means “loose characters” to signify their laid-back image. They were created by local governments or businesses to attract tourists and invigorate communities.

The Kumamoto government sent questionnaires to 5,160 sellers handling Kumamon goods, with responses obtained from 3,380.

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