• Kyodo

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Kumamon, the black bear-like mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, made a surprise visit to a local nursery school Friday to encourage children to be proactive in reducing the spread of the coronavirus — the character’s first public appearance in more than two months.

Around 40 preschool children, who stood spaced out in lines in the playground of Wakakusa nursery in Kosa, waved in delight when they saw Kumamon appear in front of them.

With accompanying gestures, the cuddly mascot made the children promise they would stick to rules such as regularly washing their hands and keeping a safe distance from each other.

“I was happy I got to see Kumamon for the first time. I want to keep my promise,” said 6-year-old Yutaro Tanaka, one of the older kids at the nursery.

Friday’s visit marks the first time Kumamon has appeared in public since April 1, when the popular mascot began refraining from participating in events due to the pandemic.

Kumamon will continue to hold off on making physical contact, such as giving high-fives or hugs, for the time being to reduce infection risks, the prefecture said.

The mascot was created in March 2010 to promote Kumamoto ahead of the launch of the Kyushu shinkansen bullet train service the following year.

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