If a public entity wants to promote itself in Japan, one of the most effective ways may be to create a yuru-kyara — a lovable mascot that catches people’s hearts. And that’s exactly what the Afghanistan Embassy in Tokyo is doing.
A team of interns at the embassy have posted illustrations of four yuru-kyara candidates on its Twitter account, asking users to vote for the one it should use to promote the war-torn country.
The embassy has a serious goal in mind with these mascots: to give Afghanistan a more positive image.
The vast majority of topics and news stories on Afghanistan circulating in Japan are probably related to terrorism and war.
“We would like to present four Yurukyara characters to change the public image of Afghanistan in Japan!” the interns tweeted in English.
The four candidates are: Aazar, a snow leopard holding the Afghan national flag and flashing the peace sign; Pashu, a curious white turban; Bahar-chan the sheep; and Chai-kun, an Afghan boy riding on his horse.
When Japan’s municipal officials are serious about promoting a certain event or location, they often resort to deploying a new yuru-kyara. As a result, Japan has thousands of furry mascots deployed across the country, some of which are quite popular and even appear in TV shows.
Yuru-kyara is a term coined by illustrator Jun Miura and literally means flappy characters.