Who is Kumamon?

Do you know the charming black bear with the big eyes and red cheeks? No? It’s time to change that!

His name is Kumamon and he has more than just a few fans, even though not that many people actually know where he comes from or what he stands for. That is why we want to introduce Kumamon to you, starting from his history and ending with why he is so successful these days. Once you are done reading you’ll be ready to surprise your friends with your knowledge of Japanese mascots!

Where does he come from?

Kumamon was “born” in 2010 by officials of Kumamoto prefecture in the very south of Japan. They were trying to create a new, likeable mascot that would drive more people into the local area. And they were successful! Something about the black bear (quick side note, kuma means bear in Japanese) with the big smile yet expressionless eyes made him accessible to the masses. He got more and more fans and slowly outgrew Kumamoto prefecture to become a nationwide mascot.

kumamon train

Why is he so popular?

Why the character in itself seems to be so likeable is hard to say. There are many factors that play into the popularity of a mascot, but at least in Japan it surely doesn’t hurt to be cute and friendly. Kumamon, however, also stands for a success story. He was able to drastically increase the popularity of Kumamoto prefecture despite starting out as an unknown mascot.

Kumamon field

What’s so special about him?

At the very beginning, Kumamon wasn’t special at all. He was just one of many so-called yuru-chara or yuru-kyara, a cute mascot promoting a region. One of the main reasons for his later success is the way the officials of Kumamoto prefecture decided to handle the Kumamoto franchise. Instead of protecting their creation and charging companies for the right to use Kumamon, they decided to allow anyone to use him freely. That means if a company wants Kumamon to promote their product they simply have to fill out and hand in a form – it’s that simple!

Kumamon office

Where can I find Kumamon?

Because of the loose copyright laws around Kumamon you can find him almost anywhere these days. The bear has long since outgrown its function as a representative of Kumamoto prefecture and endorses beauty products, stationaries, toys, fashion, food and even more than that. Kumamon is simply everywhere! He has his own website (in Japanese) and his own Twitter account. No wonder that Kumamon is so popular – you cannot escape him and his distinct charm.Kumamon merch

We hope you have a much better understanding now of who Kumamon is and what he stands for. He started out small, but became immensely popular in a very short amount of time. That is why the black bear represents success and the power to keep going even after failure. Who would have guessed that there is so much more to this smiling face?

What do you think of Kumamon and did you know of his past? Share your comments down below.


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