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July 9, 2024 63 mins

In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe discuss Japan’s beloved yuru-chara, corporate and governmental mascots that are undeniably cute but with deeper connections to other aspects of Japanese culture. 

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:13):
Hey, welcome to Stuff to Blow Your Mind. My name
is Robert Lamb.

Speaker 3 (00:16):
And I am Joe McCormick. And today on Stuff to
Blow Your Mind, we're going to be starting a series,
probably a couple of episodes on a cultural phenomenon, the
wobbly mascots of Japan known as urukiara. Rob what got
you interested in urukiara?

Speaker 2 (00:34):
Well, my family we recently visited Japan and it was
an amazing experience, highly recommended, you know, full of culinary, historic, natural, cultural,
and pop culture discoveries. We tried to cover just about
everything during our time there, from you know, Shinto shrines
and historic landmarks to Ghibli Park, the Tokyo Pokemon Center,

(00:56):
and you know, as with any visit to another country
and another culture, there's so much fun and wondered to
be had in the little things. And I think one
of our favorite pastimes, especially as we traveled around in
the country and especially as we use public transportation, was
the endless parade of these curious mascots, these uru kiyara,

(01:16):
and it was just you know, every time we would
encounter another one, we were like, oh, look, at this
little one. We've got to and we have to research it,
you know, bust out our phones. Once we were able
to find ourselves seated or stationary on the train, figure
out who this individual is, what they represent, it was
a great deal of additional fun.

Speaker 3 (01:35):
Now we'll go into a lot more detail about what
yurukiarra are in the forms they take in these episodes,
but generally they are characters that can appear in the
form of two D representations like drawings or also in
costumed embodied form. Were you mostly just seeing them like
on signs and in media and stuff, or did you

(01:57):
actually come across physically costumed eruqia.

Speaker 2 (02:00):
Are Sadly, we never encountered any physically costumed mascot character
as Kiara mostly, I mean exclusively, we're encountering them on
informational signs sometimes you know, promotional material and so forth,
and very rarely on merchandise. I didn't encounter a lot

(02:21):
a lot of them that were heavily merged, though some
of them are as we'll discuss, but yeah, it's like
oftentimes would be like in the midst of going from
point A to point B and momentarily being distracted, but
also momentarily being you know, getting an emotional boost from
seeing one of these little cute characters and you know,

(02:42):
and figuring out what they're trying to say to you.

Speaker 3 (02:45):
Yeah. So, oh, it's a pair of bipedal sentient Japanese
leaks who are talking about the agricultural products of this prefecture.

Speaker 2 (02:53):
Exactly. Yeah, so yu Kyara have garnered a fair amount
of attention internationally already. I imagine many of you are
more than aware of them. I believe John Oliver did
a piece on them many years ago, and it has
continued to revisit the topic over the years. But for
those of you who are new to the concept, you
can basically start with the Western concept of a mascot character,

(03:17):
say a Ronald McDonald. You know, like, there's an example
Ronald McDonald and is his team of McDonald's mascots. They're
sometimes physical and costume or makeup form. They're oftentimes illustrative,
sometimes downplayed, sometimes you know, exaggerated, but they're there and
they represent the brand. Then you have things like what

(03:37):
the Starbucks siren with with the double tail. You know,
I don't you know, I have never seen anyone dressed
up as that in an official capacity for Starbucks, but
it's very much a part of the brand and you
recognize it like, Okay, there it is. It's a creature,
but it doesn't have much personality. But you could say
it's sort of a mascot.

Speaker 3 (03:56):
Yes, I think the Starbucks Mermaid and Ronald McDonald are
a good comparison, except a couple of differences with most eurokiara.
I think they tend to be more shaped like pillows
than either of those characters, where Ronald McDonald and the
Starbucks Mermaid are more kind of humanoid, like leaner, more
humanoid representations most erukiara, though there's some variation between them.

(04:21):
Most of them are more like a large, walking plushy.

Speaker 2 (04:24):
Yeah, like Grimace of the McDonald's crew would be a
better example. He would fit the mold more of the
euro kiara, as would I would say the Michelin.

Speaker 3 (04:33):
Man, yes, yeah, or the stay Puffed marshmallow Man exactly.

Speaker 2 (04:37):
Yes.

Speaker 3 (04:38):
But another thing is that both of those are corporate mascots,
and so we're familiar with like corporate mascots in America,
like sports team mascots. But imagine if a broader range
of cultural institutions and objects could have mascots. So you
can have a mascot for a town, a mascot for
a region, a mascot for a piece of public infrastructure,

(05:00):
or a mascot for an agricultural product.

Speaker 2 (05:03):
Yeah, that's that's where it instantly begins to become my
obvious I think to do to to guideen and Westerners
that you realize, oh, well, a chemical company that is
not marketing anything towards children will have one of these,
as will like the local sewage treatment plan. So it's uh,
it runs in directions you might not expect. And then

(05:25):
you find or if I have found anyway sort of
digging into it, then there are there are like corporate
companies that you might expect to have gotten into it
that seemingly haven't. Like, as far as I can tell,
Pilot Pins, the Pilot Corporation based in Japan, they have
no uru kiara that I can tell. Maybe I just
couldn't find them. But then so, not every company company

(05:46):
is getting in on this, and it is it seems
like it's more often that you do find them in
various like city or prefecture associated organizations. All right, so
what does this word mean? Euro Kiara is actually fairly
complex to break down as a translation. One paper I
was looking out for this as a twenty sixteen paper

(06:06):
called who is Hikonyan The Phenomenon of Japanese Urukiara by
Gillian Ray Sutter, this twenty sixteen publication, and they point
out that the term here is short for the code
mixed uru mascot character, So you already know what mascot
character is, and that just becomes kiaru. But the uru

(06:28):
here may be translated as loose, easy, lazy, careless, half hearted,
or lenient, according to Sutter. And I've also seen lax
and soft invoked in translation as well.

Speaker 3 (06:42):
Yeah, so I did a little digging on this word yurui,
which is spelled usually in English why you are you? I?
And it seems to have some different clusters of connotations.
So Japanese speakers right in and correct me if I'm
getting anything wrong here, But I'm doing best to figure
out all the different to untangle all this. It seems

(07:03):
like it literally means loose, slack, or soft, but when
applied to a person or creature, indicates something like relaxed,
chilled out, laid back, or lazy. So I think in
this facet of the words meaning the dude from The
Big Lebowski would be a type of yurui, but it

(07:24):
would also seem to apply to characters that are more gentle,
light hearted, sweet, and non threatening. So something that is
yurui maybe has some overlap with cuteness, but is also
like no big deal. Also, an academic essay that I'm
going to cite later in this episode translates yurukiara as
wobbly characters, and that brings in another aspect of them.

(07:48):
I don't know if wobbliness is itself at all implied
by yurui, but the author who coined this term originally
specified that an important thing about them is the they
have sort of like awkward or unstable movements. I think
that's a key part of their cuteness appeal. But anyway,
I don't know if we really have a term in

(08:09):
English that connects all these different connotations that I'm seeing
with yurui. But the way I understand it is that
is that these yurui characters are They're soft, they're easy going,
they're a little bit awkward, they're cute, they're non threatening,
and they are not telling you to hurry up and
get those spreadsheets finished. They're just they're just hanging out.

Speaker 2 (08:30):
Yeah, I think that's that's pretty accurate from what I've
read and what I've seen. And the interesting thing is, though,
even though they are very lax and very chill, and
they might be doing nothing more than just being that
representing this company or this you know, public works department,
but also they can and sometimes are invoked in situations

(08:55):
or or in causes that are serious, but they keep
that laxness. So I'll get a specific example of this
in the second episode we do. But it's like, your
particular mascot may be like, Hey, I'm just being chill,
I'm vibing, I'm cute and approachable, but try not to
fall in the train tracks.

Speaker 3 (09:16):
Yes, yeah, let me remind you about public health precautions,
but in a very non threatening, chilled out way.

Speaker 2 (09:24):
Exactly now, they are pretty much, without exception cute. I
think if you look around, there are so many of them,
as we'll get into there's basically an unknown number of them,
and there's not uniform quality. Most of them are amazing,
but some of them there have been occasionally one or
two that I've seen where it's like, I don't know

(09:44):
that this concept really working. Maybe they should have workshopped
this a little bit more, but they are pretty much,
without exception cute, and therefore I think they're a fine
example of the larger Japanese concept of cuteness kauhai and
its various subsets.

Speaker 3 (09:58):
Rob, I don't know if you came across the same thing,
but there are a few that I almost understood to
be considered cute in the way that they fail to
be cute. That they're like something that is understood as
an attempt to be cute that is unsuccessful and is
in fact ugly, which itself is cute.

Speaker 2 (10:18):
Yeah, yeah, I know what you're talking about. And this
might actually relate to some of the subsets of kauai
that I find pretty interesting, Like, for instance, there there
is or was I'm not sure if this term is
still relevant, but kauai noir, which is dark cute, so
it's creepy cute, and therefore sometimes it may feel like
it's like falling short of true cuteness, or the mask

(10:39):
of cuteness is slipping away from horror.

Speaker 3 (10:41):
One of the academic essays I was reading about Urikiara
talked about this concept of gross cute. It's a type
of cuteness in Japanese culture that didn't apply to any
particular URUQR, but to other bear characters in cartoons specifically,
I think like a rotting zombie bear.

Speaker 2 (10:59):
Oh okay, yeah, yeah, there was one called angry Bear
I think I remember this was years and years ago.
That is like an actual bear and he ends up
mauling the cute human characters in his vicinity because he's
an actual pair. But there's yeah, there's this other area
that I believe is referred to as pitiful cute, and
I think there is also some sort of level of

(11:20):
crossover in Japanese language between pitiful and cute that maybe
doesn't like they're too separate in English and maybe they're
more connected in Japanese. It's my loose understanding, but you
have this pitiful cute area that I think arguably includes
such examples as Goodi Tama, the Lazy Egg, which I
know a number of you are familiar with now because
he's really blown up and has his own Netflix series.

(11:40):
He's amazing. And then there's this other character that I
only discovered while in Japan, and this is a Panchu Yusagi.
She is like a little pink rabbit in like old
Granny underpants, and I think her name basically means like
Pamper's rabbit. And she goes about trying to do things

(12:02):
that are sweet and cute and have like sweet, cute,
meaningful experiences, generally in like two panel cartoons, and something
goes wrong, and so there is kind of this. She
often looks kind of weird in the second panel because
she's either embarrassed or she's angry. Expectations have not met
up with reality.

Speaker 3 (12:19):
Yeah, you shared this with with JJ and me, and
I thought this was really funny. It seems like they're
often centered around but like an awkward social misunderstanding, Like
there was one comic you shared with somebody waving and
then this character waving back at them, but then it's
clear that the original character was waving for a cab.

Speaker 2 (12:38):
Yeah, it's that sort of thing, and it's really good
and most of it has no language associated with it,
so you can look it up on Instagram and plow
through them, which is what I did. I mean, I also,
I want to stress I also did things like I
saw Mount Fuji while I was there, but I mostly
end up talking about things like this.

Speaker 3 (12:56):
Oh but wait, doesn't the Mount Fuji region have its
own mascot?

Speaker 2 (12:59):
Oh yeah, yeah, And I'll definitely come back to that. Yeah,
anywhere you go there there's there's some sort of it
basically comes down to like how visible are they going
to be? You know, how many posters and so forth.

(13:20):
But I want to come back to just the concept
of cuteness and kawhi and broader detail here, because I
think it is key. It's one of the key sort
of tripod legs or even like table legs to understanding
this whole concept. And I was I was looking around
for a good source on this, and I found an
article on Ian magazine titled The Great Regression by Tokyo

(13:42):
based translator, writer and speaker Matt Alt who also co
wrote a trio of very fun books on Yo Kai
Yuri and Ninja's which two of those I've read with
my son and the other one I have on the
shelf ready to go, in addition to other books dealing
with Japanese culture that he's pinned over the years. And
so this article in general is a very good read.

(14:03):
It deals with this idea that there's like this larger
trend in the world of adults taking an interest in
things associated with childhood, arguably when they should not be,
which I want to stress here is a not a
concept that I feel one hundred percent okay with. It's
just kind of like a judgment call of how grown

(14:24):
up to spend their lives and make their choices.

Speaker 3 (14:26):
Well, yeah, we could take normative judgments out of it
and just talk about the phenomenon. It does seem like
there's been a clear trend, I think in the last
couple of decades at least in my knowledge in the
US context, of more of a tendency for adults living
adult lives to engage with say media men for children.
I mean, especially like you know, nostalgic media that they

(14:48):
liked when they were kids, and you know, you can
ask interesting questions about like what drives that kind of
that kind of interest.

Speaker 2 (14:56):
Yeah. Yeah, And I want to stress that the alt
article here is very good and is ultimately not trying
to grind an act in that direction. But but my
my sort of gut response to just the concept of
it is like I end up, you know, going back
to that old C. S. Lewis quote, you know, when
I became a man, I put away childish things, including
the fear of childishness and the desire to be very

(15:16):
grown up, you know, because like ultimately, like what are
adults supposed to be doing? You know, you get into
that whole question, and and and also like the unreality
of the idea that that in the old days adults
didn't do things like play games or or craft you know,
fiction for children and so forth.

Speaker 3 (15:35):
I feel like the most childish thing one could actually
say is like, you know, that's for babies. I'm not
a baby. Yeah, yeah, nothing makes you sound more like
a baby.

Speaker 2 (15:46):
Yeah. So anyway, in this article all lays out this idea,
this concept that many people in the contemporary Western world
have entered into a kind of global second childhood in
response to various social, economic, and local health factors over
the last decade or two. And this is wrapped up
in the whole idea of they're like the Great Regression.
And in this the idea is that has arguably occurred

(16:09):
in Japan during the nineties. Quote, when the youth and
young adults of a hyper connected post industrial society lose
faith in the future, the Great regression is inevitable. And
I have to admit, And he points out as well
that this sounds grim and again I personally feel certain
amount of resistance to the idea. But he goes on
in an interesting direction here, arguing that this large scale

(16:32):
cultural interest in the things of childhood can be in
net positive and that this is where where it gets
into the mindset that I can connect with. Alt writes quote,
Under the right circumstances, regression can nourish. It can be
a form of progression, a form of experimentation and creative play.
It can pave the way for new ways of thinking
and living. It can spawn new trends and identities and lifestyles.

(16:55):
These become essential tools for navigating the strange new frontiers
of mind life, and as we adopt them, they transform
our definition of what it means to lead healthy adult lives.
So the historic underpinning here is that is Alt lays
out Japan's post war economy was extremely ascended from the
nineteen seventies through roughly nineteen ninety one, and was even

(17:18):
expected to overtake the US economy, something that ended up
being echoed and warped in contemporary, certainly American culture at
the time, even in racist and hateful ways, like you know,
up to and including acts of physical violence. And it's
also in other ways, like you see it referenced in
the sci fi tapestries of you know, futuristic cyberpunk visions.

(17:42):
You know, this idea that the future, there's something about
the future that will be predominantly Japanese, that sort of thing,
and you still see that in sort of like retro
futuristic cyberpunk visions. It like just becomes sort of baked
in to the concept and into the world building. But
then in nineteen ninety one, there's this economic burst. People

(18:02):
coped or didn't as best they could, and there was
this kind of slide away from the capitalist pursuit of
the salarymen, you know, the stereotypical you know, employee worker
that's out there just really busting it. And then you know,
at the end of the day, you know, you have
a few beers and then you go to sleep, and
you wake up and you do it all again. And

(18:23):
there was a slide away from all of that into
interest that were previously more niche. And this all brings
us to Kuwai quote. Salarymen may have built Japan ink,
but when it crumbled, young people picked up the pieces.
The real trendsetters were young women, ranging from schoolgirls to
office ladies, the female counterparts of the salarymen. They began
unabashedly incorporating symbols of feminine childhood into their adult identities,

(18:47):
upending entire industries. So the power of kuai, a Japanese
word that overlaps with cuteness, but which is also a
state of mind that refers to being adorable, playful, just
begging for cuddles like a kitten or a baby. By
nineteen ninety two, One Woman's magazine anointed kawai the most
widely used, widely loved habitual word in modern living Japanese.

Speaker 3 (19:11):
So it's a kind of fascination, especially beginning with younger
women in Japan, but sort of taking over the whole
culture in a way and becoming a very economically important concept.

Speaker 2 (19:21):
Yeah. Absolutely, and one that even though you know, there's
a load about kuai that's distinctly Japanese, and you know
we're already talking and we'll continue to talk about that,
but obviously it's also something that anyone can look at
and feel connection to, you know, it's it's ultimately it
has universal appeal. So anyway, all goes on to argument
while critics love to see all of this, either in

(19:42):
Japan or elsewhere, as a moral failure, as an inward
escape into fantasy. He stresses that it's much more than that,
and in the example of Japanese pop culture, it didn't
just result in an endlessen we're inward gays, but also
resulted in new modes of social change, adaptation to changing times,
and the advancement of whole industries. So anyway, it's a

(20:03):
great article worth checking out in full. But I think
the key things to keep in mind for our purposes
here are that number one, there was a hyper charging
of kauwhai in Japanese culture during the nineteen nineties. And
again too, it doesn't occur in a bubble, but it
also isn't a bubble, if that makes sense. Like, this
doesn't mean that there was nothing cute prior to that.

(20:24):
I mean, to the contrary, there was this strong, you know,
element of cuteness, appreciation of like small decorative objects and
so forth in Japan, and this was like just a
hyper charging of that. And you can also point to
examples like Hello Kitty, one of the ambassadors of kauai
dates back to seventy five, and you know, as we've
discussed in the show before, you have this long standing

(20:46):
Japanese fascination with house cats, and cats feature very strongly
into various forms of kauai and also kawai as manifested
in Japanese handwriting goes back to the seventies and so forth,
and I think you can make similar observes about this.
You know, the ideas of regression over here. You know,
people are pointing out, oh you have you have adults

(21:07):
with no children going to Disney World, adults with no
children buying lego sets. You know, these are things that
pre existed any observations of widespread regression by decades. So
you know, none of this is coming out of nowhere.

Speaker 3 (21:18):
I think it's hard to deny the appeal of legos
to anyone. The way they snap together, that's just good.

Speaker 2 (21:24):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. My son and I just built an ornithopter.
It was it was challenging and rewarding. Anyway, coming back
to Urukiara again, it's just essential that these are not
just aimed at kids. They're representing a wide range of
regional governments or governmental agencies and all sorts of different businesses,

(21:45):
but not all businesses. For instance, I ran across one
very adorable pig urukiara that is a pink pig, very
cute inside of like bubbles, like he's covered from bubbles,
like he just got out of a bubble bath. His
name is Awabutta and he is the mascot of Eagle
Star Chemicals. So it's companies, you know like that. I

(22:07):
don't know anything about Eagle Star Chemicals, but I'm assuming
that they are not, you know, particularly like child oriented
in their marketing and so forth. But they have this
adorable mascot.

Speaker 3 (22:17):
Why is the pig surrounded in bubbles? Oh no, this
is not a pig that's dissolving in a vat of
why is it.

Speaker 2 (22:24):
No, he's happy, he's cute.

Speaker 3 (22:26):
Okay, it's a happy pig. It does look happy, does
not look to be dissolving.

Speaker 2 (22:30):
Now, as we've pointed out, these these mascots, these zero
kara often are personified and brought into physical reality via
a costume, and as Eddie yl Chang points out in
the twenty eighteen article, let the euro Kiara do the job,

(22:50):
they essentially have the life of a celebrity spokesperson. They
make public appearances again in suit form, they participate in
charity and outreach initiatives. And I have to read this
passage from Cheng's article. This was published in the Japanese
studies journal Mira, and this is brilliant quote. Urukiara do

(23:10):
not just have a realistic profile and job. Part of
their public relations work involves them having a life, for instance,
and he refers to a picture in the article. In Fig.
Seven we see Rinkachan from Katsuragi City in Nara Prefecture
quote unquote falling for sinto Kun and baked a cake

(23:31):
for him for his second birthday in an attempt to
win his heart and become his girlfriend. It is striking
that this was reported in the Nara Keise Shimbun business newspaper,
an indication that Urukiara are considered by people as social
members in a world where the line between reality and
fantasy is often unclear. And I need to stress that

(23:54):
Sinto Kun is a young boy with deer antlers because
Nara is known for its it's dear. Rinkachan is like
a cartoon princess. And this is news of this not
even engagement, but possible girlfriend boyfriend scenario was published in
what I can only imagine would be like if there's
a Wall Street Journal article about it in the US.
Uh huh.

Speaker 3 (24:15):
Santo Kun, by the way, I should point out, is
one of the mascots that I had read described as
ugly in acute way. According to some people, it is
just a bold boy with antlers. Apparently some people find
the antlers off putting, but in a way that actually
comes full circle and makes it cute.

Speaker 2 (24:34):
I would agree with that. I think that was the
roller coaster I went on when I first glimpsed him,
I was like, I don't know, okay, okay, it's cute.
By the way, if you really want to like supercharge
your knowledge of what these various yurokiara look like, I
highly recommend checking out the Instagram feed for Mondo mascots.
You can get hit by new ones every day. It's

(24:56):
a wonderful experience, especially if you are not in where
you can encounter them in the wild. Now, one thing
that Star points out in her article that referenced earlier
is that, yeah, these mascots are not only far more popular,
but they're compared to say, US mascots, but they're also
far more numerous, and indeed their full number is probably uncountable.

(25:18):
And potentially out of control, something that has been a
topic of some concern. I don't know how ultimately how
concerned you can get about mascots getting out of control,
but it has been on everyone's radar for a bit.

Speaker 3 (25:33):
I might go out on a limb and say I'm
not worried about it.

Speaker 2 (25:36):
Well, they didn't. There are some details that everyone has
to take into account here. But she decides a twenty
fifteen story in The Guardian detailing a move by the
government of Osaka to cut down on the number of
mascots in Osaka government offices because this apparent and ultimately
this ended up resulting in there cutting down from something
like ninety two to sixty nine mascots in twenty fifteen.

(26:00):
I don't know if that held, if they've been able
to hold it at sixty nine, or if that has
gone up again. And according to Bloomberg, that same year,
the Japanese government announced a nationwide crackdown on yurokiara from
a cost cutting standpoint. So again, it's not the idea
that people were saying. You know, I don't think that

(26:20):
the Kashiwa City Sewer Department needs its own mascot, though
it does or had one named Rinko Chan a Lotus
ferry riding on a leaf. It's not that they that that,
you know, politicians and government workers were saying, we can't
have things like cute things like this in life. They
were just saying, you know, it's costing too much money.

(26:42):
You know, someone has to design them. If you have
a suit, someone has to wear that suit. If you're
printing up a bunch of promotional materials with that character,
well then you know that's an added cost. And you know,
some of the estimates that I've read with particular mascots,
it was like it was getting pretty pricey, and I
get it, Like, imagine if for stuff to blow your mind,
we decide I did, Okay, not only do we need
our own Eurokiara for the show, but we need separate

(27:06):
Eurokiara for Weird House Cinema for each of our Wednesday
short form shows. Listener Mail needs one. We need a
vault centric Eurokiara. It would be a bit much, and
I could understand our corporate masters being a little resistant
to the addition of an additional four to five mascots.

Speaker 3 (27:25):
Okay, here's what it is. A super Kowhi rendering of
Christoph Lambert, but the old man version from the beginning
of pilot or two. Just make it cute somehow.

Speaker 2 (27:39):
I can imagine it. I can imagine, but I can
also imagine what it was that Lambert Productions being a
little week ago. Yeah, oh yeah. Is there a way
you could animize it, like by thirty five percent?

Speaker 3 (27:52):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, he would be he would have lamb characteristics,
little tiny like buds of ram horns.

Speaker 2 (27:59):
Maybe okay, and then you have Ramirez and maybe he's
a bear. Hmm.

Speaker 3 (28:04):
I don't know, we're getting there.

Speaker 2 (28:07):
So anyway, I you know it as a guiding tourist.
For my part, I never got tired of seeing this
endless parade of cube mascots, but I could see where
the prize could get out of hand. But on the
other side of the issue, I can you know, I
see I realized not only my own enthusiasm, but I've
also seen this reference in various articles dealing with him,

(28:28):
talking about how they've really caught on not only with
Japanese residents but also with tourists, also becoming instrumental in
international relations. So, you know, I wonder if it's something
that while they maybe do the cost cutting, if it's
something they could lean into even more from like a
tourism standpoint, you know, you know, like a kind of
like a bird watcher's guide, but just for euro Kiar.

Speaker 3 (28:51):
Oh well, the way I understood it, especially some of
the like regional township mascots were specifically, at least in
part aimed at at attracting tourists.

Speaker 2 (29:00):
Oh definitely. Yeah, there are ones that are associated with
directly with tourism. But it's like, I don't want to
just know about the tourism related ones. I want to
know about the sewage departments. They're all so interesting. I
want to catch them all.

Speaker 3 (29:14):
And there have been attempts to reckon with the multitudes
of mascots because I don't know if they're doing it
in the most recent years, but for a while there
they were holding in Japan a Eurokiara Grand Prix.

Speaker 2 (29:27):
That's right. This began in twenty eleven as a way
to specifically to help revitalize various regions in Japan by
highlighting their mascots, and it featured like a really cool
website which is still around. You can look up in
lots of mascot pictures, and participants could vote online for
their favorites in both a regional and a business division,

(29:50):
but by twenty twenty apparently, I think the last one
was in twenty twenty because it was deemed that this
had just become too competitive with competing regions and or
companies lobbying like super hard to get those online votes,
and it was just decided. I'm not sure exactly who
decided this, but it was decided that, you know what,
this is betraying the spirit of what these characters should be,

(30:12):
and we're just not going to do it anymore.

Speaker 3 (30:13):
I feel like if it were taken too seriously, it
would not be yurui.

Speaker 2 (30:18):
That's right. It's supposed to be laid back. It's supposed
to be lax. And ultimately, yeah, it's like, if you're
if you're putting all this effort into getting votes, you know,
that's that's not laid back. If you're spending you know,
close to a million dollars on your lax character, I
don't know how lax they are anymore, you know, So
I guess we have to take that into consideration with
these criticisms here.

Speaker 3 (30:48):
Now, where does this cultural concept come from? The term urukia?
Most of the sources I was looking at give credit
to a Japanese manga author and I think sort of
social critic, an essayist named June Mura, who coined the
term urukyara in I've actually seen different years cited for this.

(31:09):
An essay that I'm going to get into in just
a bit pins it in the year two thousand and four.
But according to Mura, there are three characteristics that define
a urukyara. The one we've already mentioned is the concept
of urui, which has these connotations of like soft, loose, relaxed,
laid back, weak, gentle, non threatening, no big deal. The

(31:34):
second characteristic is a strong sense of love or passion
for the home region that they represent. And then third
is awkward, wobbly, strange, unique or unstable movements. And that
seems like a very specific kind of criterion, but maybe
later in this series we'll come back to that and

(31:55):
zero in on the unstable movements, because I think that
is a more psycho logically important criterion then one might
assume at first. An interesting thing about these criteria is
that they sort of implied that the character must have
an embodied form, So a lot of times these mascots
only appear as you know, as drawings as two dimensional representations,

(32:16):
but it implies that they must at some point move
right to have these strange, unstable movements, and so I
think this does connect to the fact that most of
these characters do have an embodied form or at some
time in place a human inside a suit. But anyway,
I think it would be useful to just look at
a few examples of Yurukyr that stick out to us.

Speaker 2 (32:39):
Yeah, yeah, And I want to start with one that
that ties into what we were talking about earlier about
tourism and both domestic and international, because the one I
want to highlight first is ultimately a pretty simple one.
This is not a complex or super weird one, but
one that my family fell in love with rather quickly.
His name is Hako Geo and he is the mascot

(33:00):
of Hakone Geopark. So Hakone is a beautiful mountain area
with sometimes views of Mount Fuji. It kind of depends
on where exactly you are in what the clouds are doing,
because it's it's a shy mountain sometimes and we luckily
we got we got a little peak there at the peak,
but you're not guaranteed that with Mount Fuji. But anyway,

(33:21):
it's full of This region is full of natural hot springs.
It has some fun museums. The ways to get around
are amazing because you have, of course, you know, great trains,
but then cable cars, gondolas, pirate ships are part of
the public transportation system there to get across, criss crossing
this lake there, and there's in so much more. There
are restaurants and so forth is the fourth It's a

(33:43):
beautiful area and every step of the way we saw
signage with hako Geo there to tell us what we
were doing, right, where to go, and how much we
should be enjoying Hakone and he does occasionally take physics
in a costume, but we did not see him in
such form. It was not one of those days. Okay,

(34:06):
So the design of this character is nothing to elaborate.
It is just a cute person. I'm not sure if
it's a boy or what. And they're very cartoony, just
a bright, glorious face. They're so happy. And this person
is wearing a hat shaped like the mountains of Halkoni,
like three peaks, a bigger one in the center. And

(34:27):
it's just still amazing. I just felt the looseness every
time I looked at him. I was a little surprised
that there wasn't a lot of merch for this guy,
because by the end of our brief stay in Hakone
like I wanted more. I was like, yes, let me
have a shot at the Hagajio merch but it didn't
seem to be. There was barely any of it. But
of course this is not the case with every eurokiara.

(34:49):
Some of them are merchandise superstars.

Speaker 3 (34:52):
That's right. So if you know Rob and I, you
probably know that we're going to be drawn to some
of the weirder and more obscure matth scots as we
highlight some more in the next episode or two. But
we should definitely mention the heavy hitters as well. And
one of the most famous yurokiara in Japan and around
the world is Kumaman, which is a mascot created in

(35:17):
the year two thousand and nine to represent the Kumamoto
Prefecture of western Kshu and to boost local products, spur trade,
and attract tourists. This character was debuted at the same
time that a high speed rail line connecting the region
was completed in the year twenty eleven. I believe now

(35:38):
I will get to a source in just a minute.
That disputes the essential nature of what I'm about to describe.
But I have to start just by reporting my own
perception and first impression looking at Kumaman, and that is
that Kumaman looks like an adorable bipedal black bear, sort
of pear shaped in the body, with a white muzzle,

(35:59):
large eyes with curious curved brow, sort of arched eyebrows
over them, and prominent bright red cherry cheeks. Kumaman was
the winner of the urukiar A Grand Prix in twenty eleven.
I think that was the first year they had the competition,
So he's a big early winner and incredibly popular.

Speaker 2 (36:19):
Yes, absolutely adorable, looking, very huggable, just yeah, phenomenally cute
and reassuring, very soft. Yeah yeah.

Speaker 3 (36:28):
Now, like many urukya, Kumaman plays a big role in
marketing and advertising for a particular region. In this case,
again the Kumamoto Prefecture, and Kumaman in particular has been
judged a huge success. At this goal, I was reading
an I Triple E paper by Nakasato and Tanaka about
using machine image analysis to predict the popularity of these mascots.

(36:53):
By the way, the results of that was that people
seem to like bright colors, especially on the yellow green spectrum,
so bright yellow greens seem to be the most popular.
But Kumaman, of course, is an exception. Anyway, in the
intro of this article, they just happened to summarize a
Japanese news article which included a figure from the Kumamoto

(37:14):
branch of the Bank of Japan estimating that Kumaman alone
had generated one hundred and twenty four billion Japanese yen
worth of economic activity just in the two year period
from twenty eleven to twenty twelve. I tried to look
a conversion rate, and that's something like seven hundred and
seventy million US dollars today. Don't know what that would

(37:35):
have been in twenty twelve. But yeah, so this is
a big business, an adorable creature, a beautiful, incredibly cute design,
a cultural phenomenon, but also a big money maker.

Speaker 2 (37:48):
Yeah, you can't argue with those figures. No matter how
much it costs to design it or make the costume,
this guy paid off.

Speaker 3 (37:55):
Now, the likeness of this character is used in all
different kinds of marketing contexts, seems to appear he seems
to pop up in you know, photos, like in a
costume with a beautiful natural landscape behind him, like hey,
you know, come visit Kumamoto Prefecture, but also appears on
the packaging of products and so forth. But some uses

(38:16):
of this character go hard, and go hard almost into
bizarre territory. One example is I found an article from
twenty sixteen about a recent promotion for Kumamoto tourism which
involved filling a hall in Osaka Station with dozens and
dozens of kumaman representations of various sorts. Some are three

(38:39):
dimensional models, some are two D cutouts like you know,
cardboard stands. Some are banners that hang from light posts.
One is a giant, just a giant kumaman head that
has like spotlights aimed at it curiously. A lot of
these representations have little variations on the character. One is

(39:00):
wearing a pink scarf, one is holding an apple, one
has its eyes closed usually they're wide open. So these
strange little variations, and all of these images are of
this same excruciatingly cute bear like organism. But the way
they're lined up in these columns stretching down the hall,
it's almost like you are looking at a bunch of

(39:21):
storm troopers standing at attention on the Death Star. It's
a bit menacing, and from what I can tell, Rob,
I don't know if you picked up on the same thing.
It seems like some cultural uses of yurukiara seem to
embrace this kind of irony.

Speaker 2 (39:37):
Yeah, I know when I look at it. They're certainly
the feeling of like, okay, an army of kumaman's are
here for me. But also it's like, well, kumaman he
represents the way I want to feel. And now they're
all of them here, and they all have different expressions,
different emotional states, and I realize that maybe I'm not
one person either. Maybe I'm multiple people just spread out

(39:58):
across time and there's no there's no definite identity or reality.
I don't know that that was their intention.

Speaker 3 (40:06):
Yeah, so another strange, ironic use of kumaman. I was
not aware of this meme when it popped up, but
apparently sometime around twenty eleven, this adorable, rosy cheeked bear
became the subject of a minor meme in which he
was depicted in front of something that's on fire, and
the text was always for the glory of Satan.

Speaker 2 (40:27):
Of course, Now this was not an official usage, right.

Speaker 3 (40:30):
This memes on the internet, okay, And in fact I
want to turn into an essay that in one part
does address perplexity of people over why Kumaman is used
in this meme. So I was trying to learn more
about Kumaman and I came across a fascinating essay on
this character and on the broader you werekire phenomenon. It

(40:52):
was called Kumaman, Japan's surprisingly Cheeky Mascot by Debor j
Ochi in a book introducing Japanese popular culture published twenty
twenty three by Rutledge. This book is edited by a
professor of Japanese literature at the University of Oregon named
Elisa Friedman. But again the essay is by Debor je Ochi.

(41:13):
So I'm not going to have time to get into
everything the author brings up in this article, but I'll
go through and hit some highlights that I thought were interesting.
One is about the literal origin of this character. So,
Kumaman began as part of a regional advertising and pr
campaign called Kumamoto Surprise, the goal of which was to
give Kumamoto residents a new sense of local pride and

(41:37):
to sort of delight tourists and visitors with what Kumamoto
had to offer in terms of natural landscapes and local cuisine.
And the story goes that originally, a Kumamoto born designer
named Koyama Kundo set out to design a logo just
on the theme of Kumamoto Surprise, but his art director,
who was named Mizuno Manabu, included as a surprise this

(42:01):
new character, Kumaman, which allegedly went through three thousand draft
variations before he reached his final form. That's how the
story goes. I don't know, three thousand drafts. What do
you think I mean?

Speaker 2 (42:13):
That's it' that's evolution right there, right.

Speaker 3 (42:16):
Yeah, oh yeah, all the generations. But what are so
I've already described him looks like a black bear with
a very cute face, a wide eyes, kind of curious expression,
the red rosy circles on the cheeks. But what were
the visual influences on Kumaman? According to this essay, the
creators have cited Santa Clause and a New York Yankees

(42:42):
baseball player named Matsui Hideki. I initially found this somewhat perplexing,
but it makes more sense the more I thought about it.
So I will say that Santa sort of has the
Kumaman build, and what all three sharing common is prominent cheeks.
So Santa Claus is often depicted with rosy red cheeks.

(43:05):
I don't know anything about baseball, so I was not
familiar with this player. But I looked up pictures of
Matsui Hideki, and the essay doesn't make this connection. But
I noticed he has in some pictures where he's got
a leaner physique, he has very prominent cheek bones, and
in other pictures where he's older, he has just a
very very like cute, you know, cute prominent cheeks.

Speaker 2 (43:29):
Yeah, I mean I look at him and I'm like, okay, yeah,
hands on baseball player, prominent cheek bones. But it's hard
for me to imagine the transition from this plus Santa
Claus equal Kumiman. But I believe it. I'll accept it.

Speaker 3 (43:44):
Should we take a moment to say anything about the
role of Santa in Japanese culture, Like, despite the mostly
non Christian context, a number of people in Japan do
observe Christmas in some way, not as a religious holiday,
but just as a kind of a fun cultural holiday,
and there is some role for Santa Claus in Japanese
culture or Santa San Yeah.

Speaker 2 (44:04):
Yes, Santa has Uh has has proved to be an
export in some ways. I mean, Japanese Christmas traditions also
include Kentucky Fried Chicken, which is its own whole story.
But I haven't researched Japanese Santa culture a lot. I've
looked into Chinese embrace of sand in the past, where
he ended up like basically entering the Chinese popular mindset

(44:29):
during the nineties and ended up playing a saxophone due
to associations with Bill Clinton playing a saxophone. Probably, uh.
These are things that often happen like without you know,
they just happen, and you don't know how an idea
is going to move from one culture to the next,
what it's going to drag with it, and then when
it gets over there, you know where, what kind of
form it's going to take up take on, either temporarily

(44:51):
or permanently. You know, as as you know, something comes
over from another culture and whatever's novel about it may
be accepted, you know, And and there's also how does
it fit into pre existing values and ideas you know,
where does it sort of like naturally fit and so
forth and so forth. So I imagine there's a fair
amount of that going on with Santa being brought in.

(45:14):
We've talked in the past two about how in like
in Chinese traditions, there are these ideas of Chinese and mortals.
You know that in some ways like remind me of
Santa Claus. You know, the idea that it's an old
man with a beard that lives at the North Pole
in some you know, translations of and understanding of the story,
and so you're like, well, this kind of sounds like

(45:35):
Santa Claus to me. So I don't know. All sorts
of things like this I think end up occurring when
when one cultural motif is is brought over into another.

Speaker 3 (45:44):
I think you can also think about some cross cultural
similarities and characters like that, not necessarily as even having
influenced one another at aiting point, but there are just
some character types that are kind of easy for the
mind to get to. Yeah, and a lot of cultures
will come up with characters with some similar characteristics.

Speaker 2 (46:02):
I think it gets to the appeal in general of
urokiara though, because these are all individuals that you can
look at one, and you don't need to know like
how their design came together. You don't need to know
what they represent, if anything, you don't have to know
like what corporation or prefecture they're associated with, but you
just instantly get why they're appealing. There's something about them

(46:25):
that transcends all language and cultural understanding, and you're like, yes, yes,
come into my life. You know so many characters like
that in pop culture in general.

Speaker 3 (46:46):
Ochi in this essay mentions another possible influence on the
design of Kumaman, which is that he is thought in
some ways to resemble a sort of local stereotype of
the qshu man, who is described as stocky, tough, and
subject to turbulent emotions. So I'm not sure I understand this,
this sort of intro Japanese stereotype perfectly, but I'm interpreting

(47:11):
it in the same way that we have regional stereotype
characters in America, like you know, the forget about It
New York mayn or the you know, the Barbecue Texas mayn.

Speaker 2 (47:20):
That kind of thing, Okay, And so if you like
took this stereotype and then made it cute and then
used it to represent the region, which you know that
it sounds more appealing the more I think about it,
because you take that which on some level and I
don't know to what degree they were doing this on
any level with this particular Japanese scenario, but you could
imagine part of it being well, let's take this thing
that might be a little intimidating and we make it cute.

(47:42):
We you know, we pull the thangs from it, and
we turn it around and make it something that ultimatelyons
of attracting people.

Speaker 3 (47:49):
Yes, but you know, there's another way that the cuteness
of these characters can be deceiving, because it seems to
me that certainly with Kumaman, and I think with many
of these other mascots that we'll get to in the
next episode. The more you dig, the more layers of
intended symbolic meaning and cultural reference seem to emerge. For example,

(48:11):
according to this essay, the red rosy circles on Kumaman's cheeks.
Ochi says that the red circles symbolize that Kumamoto is
also known as the land of Fire, and they are
also supposed to be a reference to the mark of
a particular feudal lord of Kumamoto during the Tokugawa Shogunate.

(48:32):
And then also they are reminiscent of the he Knu
Maru or the sun circle the rising Sun, which is
used on the Japanese flag, and the essay points out
that these red circle cheeks appear on other Japanese characters,
such as Pokemon's Pikachu.

Speaker 2 (48:48):
That's right, yeah, now that you mention it, Pikachu has
those notable red spots. And then you've mentioned another one here,
open Man, who I was not familiar with, but I
looked up pictures of this superhero is character, and he
has like a big rosy red nose and then two
big red rosy cheeks, so his face is highlighted by
three big rosy red circles.

Speaker 3 (49:10):
So anyway, I mentioned earlier that Kumaman is a big business,
and this is true. Kumaman not only exists as a
mascot promoting Kumamoto and its products, but also as a
motif in a type of consumer item known as fun chiguzu,
which is a term derived in part from English meaning
fancy goods, and in the essays words, these are quote small, cute,

(49:34):
decorative personal items often marketed to young women and An
example given is Hello Kiddy merchandise. So some of these characters,
especially Kumaman, have been popular not just in promotions, but
as imagery in themselves, sought after for their own value
in the form of like cute decorative knickknacks. Now, Rob,

(49:55):
you brought this up earlier, that your kiara are not
just visual image or likenesses, but characters and their creators
give them narratives, backgrounds, and personalities. You brought up the
I think the romance between two different mascots, so they
have like histories and hobbies and preferences. I came across
references to at least one mascot that was said to

(50:16):
be a fan of heavy metal music, and maybe we'll
get back to that in a subsequent part here. But
the author of the essay mentions several things about Kuma
Man's bio in particular, so they say his birthday is
March twelfth, and he is five years old. I don't
know if he ages or if he is perpetually five

(50:37):
years old. I mentioned his arched eyebrows, which I initially
interpreted as curious, but another way of rating them is surprised,
And in this way he connects to the theme of
Kumamoto Surprise. The creators do say that he is male,
though this is specified quote in the human not animal sense, Okay,

(50:59):
They say he is curious and loves playful mischief, and
so an example of the playful mischief is that sometimes
at public events, when he's in costume form, he will
show off strange behavior that seems to baffle his human handlers.
One example given is that, like, he will sit down
on the ground when it's time to dance.

Speaker 2 (51:19):
Well, and that makes sense too when you get into
the fact that ultimately these mascots are going to be
portrayed by a person in a costume, and then it
becomes a performance hard then it becomes a basic like
you know, silent clowning routine, and therefore, like some of
the basics of entertaining, you know, costume work, are you
going to be in play now?

Speaker 3 (51:39):
One thing that I thought was interesting that this essay
gets into is that often urukiara do speak, but from
what Ochi says, at least in the context of Kumaman,
they don't speak in person in the embodied form, So
the person in the costume is never going to make
a statement out loud, but the character, or may have

(52:00):
their words appear in print or be spoken for by
an attendant spokesperson, And I thought that was kind of
interesting because it reminded me of other characters. Specifically, I
was thinking of silent protagonists in video games, and examples
of this would be characters like Mario or Link from

(52:22):
Legend of Zelda, or Gordon Freeman in the Half Life games,
the protagonist of the Portal games. These are characters that
we never hear speak, at least not in sentences. We
might hear little exclamations or noises or single words. You know,
Mario might say yahoo or little thing, but will not

(52:43):
make a full statement, and these characters are usually not
understood to actually be mute within the storylines of the
games in which they appear. The way I've always understood
it is that within the story they can speak, and
the other their characters have heard them speak and sometimes
react to them as if they are speaking in the moment,

(53:06):
but we do not hear them speak out loud ourselves.
And this seems to have some kind of magical relationship
to the fact that when we're playing the game, we
are them. Some kind of magic would be broken if
we heard their voice, speaking full coherent sentences, and so
that seemed in some ways parallel to the idea of

(53:26):
that like with Kumaman, you're not going to hear the
person in the suit speaking as Kumaman, but Kumaman is
understand understood to be able to speak. It's just that,
like words will only appear in print or something.

Speaker 2 (53:39):
And I think that is that is a key difference
from some of the Western counterparts that you might compare
them to, like Grimace talks, Ronald McDonald talks. You know,
the Starbucks Mermay doesn't talk, but the Starbucks Mermay doesn't
do anything.

Speaker 3 (53:52):
Yeah, And I wonder if a difference here is that
these mascots often represent locality or polities of some kind,
and so there are lots of people who are passively
being represented by them in some ways. You know, you
sort of like are Kumaman. If you are a Kumamoto resident,

(54:13):
he's sort of the avatar of your region. So I
wonder if there's a similar logic at work that kind
of prevents them from speaking in person, even if they
can be understood to have personalities and the power of speech,
just only being able to give quotes in print.

Speaker 2 (54:28):
I think That's a great point because some of these
images you included in our notes of Kumaman in his
natural habitat, like he looks like I want to feel
if I go there, you know, And I think that's intended.
So there's that aspect to it for sure, Like he
represents that it would and it would destroy the magic

(54:49):
if he spoke. And I guess also you could add
maybe too that the various physical suit performances I have
seen footage of of these various mascots. There's a kind
of shyness to them that is part of the cute factor.
You know. Sometimes they're peeking from behind doorways or you know,
around corners at you. They're being a little shy, and
that's part of their cuddliness, you know, like if they

(55:11):
were chasing you down, it would not be the same vibe.

Speaker 3 (55:14):
Yeah. Now, there's a bunch of stuff about Kumaman that
I would like to get into, but I might save
some of it for part two, especially if we start
talking about connections between these characters and Yokai. But one
last thing I wanted to get to while talking about
Kumaman right now is one of my favorite parts of

(55:34):
this essay. It is the insistence that despite appearances, Kumaman
is not a bear. What okay, he looks like a
bear to me, So what is he? Is he some
kind some other kind of animal that just looks like
a bear. And here I just have to simply read
from Ochi's essay. The answer makes reference to the concept

(55:55):
of kigarumi, which means costumed character. So a kigarumi is
a person in a costume, Ochi writes.

Speaker 2 (56:02):
Quote.

Speaker 3 (56:03):
Another misconception about Kumaman is that he is a bear,
the animal he most resembles. When I contacted Kumamoto Prefecture
to use his image in my chapter, I was told
that any such statements must be removed. Most Japanese people,
along with foreign and domestic media, say Kumaman is a
bear and are surprised to learn otherwise. Perhaps this reminds

(56:24):
readers of the wildly popular news story of August twenty fourteen,
in which Sanrio insisted that Hello Kitty.

Speaker 2 (56:32):
Is not a cat yep. I remember that the paragraph.

Speaker 3 (56:35):
Goes on, not only is Kumaman not a bear, he
is not a human in a fuzzy suit, as I
was told by the Kumamoto brand promotion office.

Speaker 2 (56:44):
Quote.

Speaker 3 (56:45):
The kumaman you see in the real world is not
a kigarumi. The thing you see is his flesh and blood. Wow,
So I this really got the gears going. So they're
not denying that Ku the Kuma Man costume looks like
a bear. They are denying that it is a costume,

(57:07):
but it is also not a real bear.

Speaker 2 (57:10):
Hmm. Yeah. And this I guess they're kind of like
leaning into this kind of like on reality. This this
this third case. You know, it's like it's it's almost
like it's a supernatural being, like you would say that
like getting into the world of Yokai, which we'll get
into more in the next episode. It's like saying, well,
a kappa is not a turtle and it's not a man.

(57:31):
It is and it would be wrong to say it's
a hybrid of the two either it is its own thing. Yeah,
and and yeah, oh boy, this is Yeah, it gets
into I wonder if part of this, too, is like
a Western impulse to need to strictly classify everything, like
we need to know, you know, what species this particular
mythological creature is without stopping to remind yourselves that it

(57:54):
exists in myth and and therefore it has special classification.

Speaker 3 (57:58):
Well, I was thinking about it in another way, which
is that if you ask the question is Kumaman a bear?
You could mean sort of two different things by that question.
One is is a bear what it is supposed to resemble?
And the other is a sort of literal or reductive question,
like are you currently playing along with the game? So

(58:22):
we have you know, normally, if a person in a
costume or a cartoon representation of an animal, if I'm
thinking about that, there are two possible ways to think
about it. Either I'm playing along, which involves accepting the
thing as the thing it resembles or represents, So a
cartoon cat is a cat if I'm playing along, Or

(58:44):
there's being reductive, which would be taking a literal objective
perspective and saying no, it's pixels on a screen that
are intended to look like a cat, or in the
case of a person in a suit, it is a
human being inside a suit that is supposed to look
like a bear. And this is neither one. It's like
they are still asking you to play along. They're saying no, no, no,

(59:07):
We're not being literal and reductive that it's a human
inside a suit. What it actually objectively is we're still
playing the game, but we're not asking you to see
the character as the thing. It looks like it is
only what it is on the outside, no questions about
what's underneath.

Speaker 2 (59:24):
Okay, it's kind of it's kind of like the concept
of KFA and pro wrestling. Then, I guess it's like
if you were to ask about, say, I don't know
the Undertaker, and you were to say, well, is the
Undertaker a zombie? No, he's not a zombie. Is the
Undertaker like a guy from Texas pretending to be a zombie? No,
he's not that either, He's this other thing. You've got
to like approach it. You got to play the game,

(59:45):
like you say, he is what he is. Yeah, he
is as presented.

Speaker 3 (59:51):
So I thought that was like worthy of a symbiotics
lecture or something interesting. I'm I keep thinking on that.
Oh at won very last I want to get to
before we wrap up for today is there is a
section of this essay where people are just trying to
make sense of why Kumaman is being used in the
for the glory of Satan memes. Now, I don't really know.

(01:00:15):
I wasn't familiar with these memes back in the day.
I didn't make them, obviously, but I if I had
to guess, I would just think it's the irony. It's
just like he's cute, and thus it's funny to make
a cute thing say something that is, you know, menacing
or sinister.

Speaker 2 (01:00:31):
Yeah, the juxposition is just like the Almo you hell
fire thing?

Speaker 3 (01:00:34):
Yeah, exactly. One thing mentioned here is a Japanese news
report that's trying to make sense of the meme and
says and they speculate that it may have dimmed from
the similarity between the word kumaman and the word in
English demon or the names of specific demons in Christianity

(01:00:56):
Mammon or Ammon, and that I don't know. That just
seemed like I don't think that's what it is. But
it's funny because that's the same kind of logic we
sometimes employed, and we're like trying to figure out why
something why a cultural connection is made. It's like maybe
it has to do with these sound alike words, but like,
I really don't think that's it.

Speaker 2 (01:01:17):
Yeah, the memon thing came to my mind when we
were talking about the hell fire thing earlier. But then
I like it's like it can't be it on a
mainstream level, like that's that's more of a like a
deeper demonology cut that surely wasn't part of the decision
making process, and it is me.

Speaker 3 (01:01:35):
But then apparently this same news report speculated in the
other half that the answer is what is in my opinion,
almost certainly correct. It's just the juxtaposition of like the
cuteness and the evilness of Satan.

Speaker 2 (01:01:46):
Yeah. I mean, it's the same reason that the stay
Puff marshmallow Man runs a muck. It's the reason that
we have so many different stories horror tales that involve
like a murderous Santa or monstrous Santa. It's the juxtaposition.
It's the the twisting, the flipping of the concept.

Speaker 3 (01:02:03):
Okay, do we need to break part one there?

Speaker 2 (01:02:04):
I think so. I think that's a good place to
break it off. But we will be back in our
next core episode of Stuff to Blow your mind with
additional explorations of the world of euro Kiara, some more
examples of note that we thought were pretty interesting, and
we'll also get into some of these connections that you
know that get into you know, religion and folklore. So

(01:02:26):
make sure you tune in for that, and in the meantime,
certainly right in and share your favorites with us. We'd
love to discuss that in future episodes of the Lister
Mail episodes that we run on Mondays. Also, if you
reside in Japan, have visited Japan, our Japanese and so forth,
and have additional thoughts on all of this, yes, right in,
we'd love to hear from you on all of that

(01:02:46):
as well. Please reminded the Stuff to Blow Your Mind
is primarily a science and culture podcast, with core episodes
on Tuesdays and Thursdays Monday's Lister Mail Wednesdays we have
short form episodes, and on Fridays we set aside most
serious concerns to just talk about a weird film on
Weird House Cinema.

Speaker 3 (01:03:00):
Huge thanks as always to our excellent audio producer JJ Posway.
If you would like to get in touch with us
with feedback on this episode or any other, to suggest
a topic for the future, or just to say hello,
you can email us at contact at stuff to Blow
your Mind dot com.

Speaker 1 (01:03:22):
Stuff to Blow Your Mind is production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts from my Heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio app
Apple podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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