Japan has an adorable new anti-coronavirus cat mascot that’s handing out free masks around Tokyo and reminding people to social distance11/17/2020
- Japan has a thriving mascot culture — practically every company, brand, town, and event has a mascot.
- The latest mascot spotted roaming the streets of Tokyo is Koronon, an anti-coronavirus cat that hands out masks.
- Koronon means "NO corona," according to a representative of the company that created the mascot.
- Japan is currently closed to foreigners, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that "travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19."
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Japan has a well-documented obsession with mascots, as almost every brand, business, event, town, and even district in Japan has its own.
Some mascots are there to remind you to do your taxes, get a colonoscopy, or practice safe sex. Others are shaped like everyday items such as bridges, condoms, or faucets. And others are simply meant to draw you to a certain destination.
The latest mascot spotted roaming the streets of Tokyo is Koronon, the anti-coronavirus cat, who made her first appearance on September 5, 2020.
In Japan, these mascots are known as "yuru-chara" or "yuru-kyara." Many people go out of their way to meet as many of them as possible.
At their peak, a mascot contest, described by The Guardian as "overly competitive," brought out thousands of serious competitors and tens of thousands of votes, with the winner garnering international fame (and sometimes fortune).
However, this "Grand Prix" of mascots was canceled this year, after nine years.
This hasn't stopped new mascots from emerging, though.
Created by Al-pha Co., an event promotion and temporary staffing agency based in Tokyo, Koronon wears a face mask, usually paired with a face shield, and holds a heart-shaped purple shield with her name on it.
She encourages social distancing and has a big red X on her belly that strikes through the word COVID-19.
A representative of Al-pha Co. told Insider that Koronon means "NO corona", as the Japanese usually use Ks instead of Cs.
The representative said that, since his company couldn't help develop a vaccine, it wanted to do something useful, no matter how small.
Every day, Koronon can be found in the Ikebukuro and Shinjuku neighborhoods of Tokyo handing out free masks.
The hope is that Koronon will do her part in helping slow the spread of the coronavirus, while also bringing a smile to people's faces.
She can be booked to visit schools and offices to talk about hygiene and steps that can be taken to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
"Let's put on a mask together and [make] the world happy," her representative said.
According to TimeOut, while Koronon is the first coronavirus-specific mascot, there are many other newly-relevant ones, such as Awawa, who is meant to remind people to wash their hands, Quaran, who reminds people to quarantine and self-isolate, and Amabie, who is meant to ward off plagues.
Japan is currently closed to most foreigners due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Japan has seen 119,555 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1,880 related deaths at the time of writing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that "travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19" and recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Japan.
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