If you've been paying attention, Japan is very big on regional mascots, so much that they even have an annual contest to determine the best yuuru-kyara (gentle character) mascot of the year. With many under-explored regions of Japan now hoping to revitalize tourism in their area through old man-musical acts and viral promises to build amusement parks, why not combine those efforts with the allure of a cuddly mascot to really get things going? Kure City of Hiroshima Prefecture is doing just that, with perhaps the most ambitious and full press effort yet.

The mascot's name is Kure-shi, a pun that can translate to "Kure-city" or his actual name, "Mr. Kure". "Kure" is also a way of saying "please" or asking someone to do something in Japanese, so he will no doubt have many tag lines asking for help in cute ways. As many Japanese mascots feature physical traits that are an homage to famous specialties in their region, Mr. Kure is modeled after the Seto Inland Sea, even sporting waves as a hairdo. He also comes with a guide of how to read his name on his back, as even some Japanese read the city's name incorrectly (it's not uncommon for people to mistake it as "go").

Hoping to make an impact in his debut, Mr. Kure has ridden a viral wave of success in Japan due to his music video, which shows an almost obscene amount of production quality considering its for a city mascot. The song is a spoof of popular 90's pop group TRF's hit "Crazy Gonna Crazy" (Kure-shi Gonna Kure-shi--get it?), and the video explores the famous sights and personality of Kure City. What once was a major port for the Japanese Imperial Navy becomes a dance stage for a very animated mascot, whose dance moves you can learn in a short version of the video.

Japanese response to the video has been very warm, welcoming both the skill of production and dancing, as well as the comedic value of taking a mascot character this seriously. Hopefully Kure City can ride the train of "crazy/kure-ji" into some extra tourism for an area that has loads of delicious okonomiyaki to eat!

By - grape Japan editorial staff.