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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class: News and Current Events in Japan, Season 1 - Lesson 10, "Yuru" Characters.
Japan’s culture is constantly evolving, and mascots are a sign of the ever-changing face and identity of Japan and its people.
In this lesson, we'll learn about this news story.

Lesson focus

Since ancient times, Japan has built its culture on animism.
In flora and fauna, as well as stones and utensils, spirits exist in everything, and everything that contains a spirit can perform actions just like human beings, from talking and thinking to having emotions and feelings.
Even now, the Japanese have many habits and annual events based on these ideas. There’s not only traditional culture, but new culture is also being born every day.
A remarkable example of this is the idea of a "loose character," or "Yuru-Kyara."
Yuru-Kyara is an abbreviation in Japanese and stands for "loose mascot character."
This name is thought to have been devised by cartoonist and essayist Miura Jun and has spread rapidly since 2008.
Mascots and other characters created for the PR of companies, local governments, and other entities have been around for a long time, but this movement rapidly accelerated as the "Yuru-Kyara Grand Prix" was held in 2010.
When the positive economic effects of Hikone castle’s "Hiko-nyan" and Kumamoto’s "Kumamon" were revealed, municipalities across the nation began to compete in developing unique characters, regardless of their size.
An entry condition for the Grand Prix is to be "a character working hard for its municipality," and more than 1,400 "Yuru-Kyara" were entered into the 2016 Grand Prix.
According to the statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the total number of current municipalities in Japan is about 1,700, so almost every local government has a "Yuru-Kyara."
The economic effect brought about by the "Yuru-Kyara" that wins the Grand Prix is ​​great; therefore, both public and private associations conduct their election campaigns for the Grand Prix to try to win votes.
In other words, "Yuru-Kyara" are not just mascots, but are creatures that carry the hopes and expectations of the locals from their regions.
Behind their lovely appearances, they face fierce competition, where winning and losing is a matter of survival.


Those are the key facts about the Japanese "Yuru" characters.
If you want to find the related Japanese keywords, make sure to check out the lesson notes.
Okay, that’s all for this lesson. Thank you for listening everyone, and keep listening for more of the most talked about news stories in Japan!