Following the initial earthquake that struck the island of Kyushu, continuous earthquakes, including a 7.3 magnitude quake in Kumamoto prefecture that killed 32 people and injured 900 (at the time of writing), Japan has been dealing with relief efforts to counter the extensive damage caused by continuing tremors and landslides. As the nation rushes to accommodate victims and search for the missing during a week expected to see further aftershocks, one of the most effective ways to show support is via donation to relief efforts, at sites such as AAR Japan. While those efforts continue to mobilize, many artists are showing their own way of support through a fitting image of solidarity: Kumamoto prefecture's famous mascot, Kumamon.

"Kumamon, protect the children.

While Kumamon is the designated mascot of Kumamoto prefecture, the area most strongly devastated by the multiple earthquakes, the affable bear character has transcended regional barriers in recent years and become a mascot beloved by the entire country, gaining international recognition to make him an iconic name among the likes of Hello Kitty and Pikachu. So on April 16th, manga author George (Joji) Morikawa, most known for his hit boxing manga, Hajime no Ippo, sparked a rallying cry for artists on social media to draw their support of Kyushu victims, saying, "Manga artists, and those of you who are not, let's draw Kumamon and cheer them on!"

In response, artists both professional and amateur have taken to drawing Kumamon as an emblem of solidarity with those affected by the earthquake, and attaching messages of encouragement. While charity and time to sort through the chaos, as expressed by Kumamoto prefecture, take priority, these displays of solidarity have held Japan strong through natural disaster before, and show that the whole country is in this together.

Morikawa even included a thoughtful message stating that after starting the hashtag movement "Fight on Kumamon pictures", he learned that it was inconsiderate to tell people already struggling to "fight on" or "hang in there", and instead wants people to say "let's fight together!"

Wishes for the displaced animals and their families in Kyushu, along Kumamon's protection.

I'm not gonna lose!

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Fight on Kumamon, you're strong Kyushu!

Fight on!

Hang in there, Kumamon!

"I've heard that Kumamoto men won't lose to anything as long as they have here you go!!"

"You don't need to fight, Kumamon, we'll support you!

"Fairy Tail's" Hiro Mashima.

Yoko Kamio, of "Hana Yori Dango" fame.

Children expressed their support as well.

There's even been support from abroad.

While the damage and suffering in Kyushu cannot be healed with pictures and messages alone, the response from artists in both Japan and around the globe is a touching show of support, as well as a reminder that so many people are in this together. Kumamon may be a mascot for Kumamoto prefecture, but today he represents all those affected and those praying for their safety.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.