Meet SA’s Newest Citizen: Kumamon, the Rosey-Cheeked Japanese Tourism Bear

Meet SA’s Newest Citizen: Kumamon, the Rosey-Cheeked Japanese Tourism Bear
via blogdotjapancentredotcom

Kumamon, the official mascot of Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture, is a divisive figure.

Is Kumamon an endearing cute and cuddly bear, or the terrifying product of some nightmarish fever dream?

Either way, he (or she? or it?) is coming to the Alamo City tomorrow. As a representative of one of San Antonio’s sister cities, Kumamon will receive “Honorary Citizenship” at Thursday’s City Council meeting, according to a news release from Mayor Ivy Taylor's office.

Kumamon was originally concocted to promote tourism in Kumamoto Prefecture. The mascot apparently does this by promoting local events and industry, creating dance videos and catalyzing a merchandise empire.

Kumamon isn’t just an embodiment of Japanese weirdness though — its story is also a parable about how appointing a rosy-cheeked bear to represent your city can create an economic windfall. Here’s an excerpt from the city’s news release detailing the bear’s accomplishments:

Since debuting in 2010, Kumamon has lectured at Harvard, walked the red carpet at Cannes, appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, danced for the Japanese Emperor and this Thursday, he’ll meet our very own San Antonio Spurs Coyote! The Bank of Japan has estimated the economic impact of Kumamon-related products at $1.2 billion over the past two years. 

It’s nice that Kumamon could squeeze San Antonio into its busy schedule. As you can see from these YouTube clips, this is clearly the world’s busiest bear:

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