It is no exaggeration to say that Japanese characters are now the most popular in the world. There are so many characters in Japan that each character has its own role. Character culture can be said to be Japan’s current representative culture. There are many different characters in Japan, but they come from different background. Then I classify many Japanese characters with my own will and focus on the most famous character.
1. Japanese Story’s Character
Ex) Pokémon, Dragon Ball, One piece, Ghibli
Story’s character is based on Japanese comics, anime, games, movies and other content. These characters are based on the original story, so the personality of character is very clear. Since fans of the original work can be supported in advance, it has the advantage that it is easy to develop business such as animation, live-action drama, theatrical movie, and goods. On the other hand, there are disadvantages of being criticized for not following the original story faithfully and for not being able to match the character’s image. These characters can be adapted to a wide rage of generations from small children to the elderly. They are also the core of Japanese Character culture.
2. “kawaii” Character
Ex) Hello Kitty, Rilakkuma and so on
In order to explain how character culture has penetrated in Japan and all over the world, it is essential that Japanese culture is “kawaii”. The word that Japan’s “kawaii” culture is now spread around the world. It seems that young woman like “kawaii” things, are common all over the world. Why do humans like “kawaii” things? Maybe it’s because it moves consumers. On top of that, “kawaii” characters are very effective in conveying feelings such as joy and sadness to consumers, and I think they become familiar with people. We can convey a message well by using “kawaii” characters. Also this applies to most characters, but “kawaii” characters have the greatest effect of healing. Seeing “kawaii” characters can help us get rid of our fatigue and make us happy.
Especially, Hello Kitty from Sanrio is the most internationalized character in Japan. Hello Kitty’s activities are so many and she is active in various fields. For example, they offer various goods such as stationary, food, electrical applications, and tourist souvenirs. She served as ambassador of the Japan UNICEF Association. There are some movies, animation and games in which she appears. There are many famous people in each country who like Kitty, including Lady Gaga and Paros Hilton, and Kitty often goes oversea to appeal to Japan.
3. Original Character
Japan produces original characters that serve as motifs at various events. Recently, Mascot characters from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have become a topic of conversation. These characters represent Japanese culture. It designs traditional Japanese color and the tournament emblem on its head and body. The concept is to “learn about the past and acquire new knowledge and reason” from the traditional Japanese proverbs Onkotishin. The origin of the name “Miraitowa” is the wish for a wonderful future forever.
In addition, there are cases that characters are created to promote a company. Softbank used a white dog to advertise its mobile usage plan. He appeared in many commercials and was loved by many people. Companies are produced characters because they are expected to have cognitive effects, sales effects such as character’s goods and company’s product, image improvement effects, and target communication effects and so on. Company’s original characters can transform a firm image into a soft image and give people a sense of friendliness and affinity.
4. Local Character “yuruchara”
In Japan, there are image character from each prefecture and they are called “yuruchara”. “Yuruchara” is the most unique and meaningful project in Japanese character culture. Many characters use the name of places, designs of local special products, and the purpose is to promote the publicity of the region. Through “yuruchara”, we can help attract tourists and revitalize the local area. Also there is also a content to compete for the popularity of “yuruchara” and ultimately rank them. The themes mentioned include “revitalization of local communities”, “revitalization of companies responsible for character management” and “appealing Japanese culture”. “Yuruchara” is very effective in promoting tourist attractions and local specialties.
When we are in Japan, we often see characters in our daily life. If we turn on TV, the cartoon character will please the children. If there is any event, these image character will send us particular message. Characters can be familiar with children and adults, and they have a role as media that leaves a stronger impression than words. This is culture that Japan should be proud of. If a foreigner people comes to Japan, I want to introduce Japanese character culture and bring back character goods to country as souvenirs.