Japan’s affection for mascot characters: Pandas, radishes and polar bears

One of the many things visitors notice when walking the streets of Japan is the overwhelming variety of cute and appealing mascot characters that greet them at every turn. They range from the internationally popular Hello Kitty to a number of less-than-polished characters that have been developed as a way for local regions and organizations to boost their brand recognition and make a lighthearted connection with customers. In fact, a special word, “yuru-kyara”, (literally “relaxed characters”), has emerged to represent the latter, which includes the beloved wide-eyed black bear Kumamon of Kumamoto Prefecture and the yellow pear fairy Funassyi of Funabashi City, Chiba.

Of course Rakuten has its very own mascot. Okaimono Panda (or Shopping Panda) is a cheery, optimistic character who loves seasonal events and has trouble deciding what to buy. Since its big break in a sticker pack offered on messaging services, the panda has moved on to TV commercials, online services and billboards around the nation, becoming one of the most recognized corporate characters in Japan.

But Okaimono Panda isn’t Rakuten’s only charismatic character. Scroll down to learn more about our adorable family of Japanese mascots.

Meet Rakuten Viber Japan’s mascots Cassis, Mash and Cherry 

Rakuten’s chat app Viber has not one, but three official characters in Japan, each representing a certain feature that the Viber app provides.

Rakuten Viber Mascot “Cassis”

Viber’s main character, Cassis, is a lively, talkative but earnest monkey. His big ears can hear sounds and voices clearly – just like Viber’s high quality VoIP feature Viber Out. Cassis is also the hero of the Rakuten Institute of Technology’s AI-powered Rock-Paper-Scissors machine, which uses deep learning to read the hand movements of its human opponents.

Rakuten Viber Mascot “Mash”

Mash, on the other hand, is a rather sensitive and sincere polar bear. He tends to have trouble saying “no” to his boss and often ends up working late into the night as a result – something many Japanese office workers can relate to. When not at work, he can be found enjoying a beer at the local drinking hole. He jumps at any opportunity to travel, and uses Viber to make payments, get work done and keep in contact with friends and family, showcasing the app’s many versatile features.

Rakuten Viber Mascot “Cherry”

Trend-conscious bunny Cherry has a passion for all things romantic and fashionable. She’s passionate about making new discoveries, and uses Viber’s Chat Extensions to look up and share videos, images and articles inside Viber’s chat screen. Her sense of curiosity is a defining feature and makes her the ideal personality to explore Viber’s constant stream of exciting new offerings.

Rakuten Today caught up with the creator of Cassis, Mash and Cherry, who, although wanting to remain anonymous, was happy to share this comment: “You really have to design these characters in such a way that users know straight away how they are going to use them. The ever bright and energetic Cassis, trend-lover Cherry, and hard-working Mash all represent very relatable themes that are common to everybody’s lives.”

Kabusuke and Radico from Rakuten Securities want to teach you about investing

Representing Rakuten Securities are two root vegetables – a seemingly odd choice until you notice that the Japanese word for  “shares” and “stocks” is “kabu,” which also happens to be the word for “turnip.”

Rakuten Securities Mascot "Kabusuke"

Kabusuke is a bit of a shy character, but this trusty turnip will never miss a good business opportunity. On the Rakuten Securities homepage, Kabusuke Sensei provides easy explanations on the basics of investing in the Japanese stock market. One other pertinent detail: He’s currently in a relationship with Radico.

Rakuten Securities Mascot "Radiko"

Radico, on the other hand, grew up overseas, and in contrast to her boyfriend, this cute little radish is an expert in the global stock market. She has a can-do attitude and enjoys going for drives and having fun.

The publicity-shy creator of these characters shared this comment: “One mention of the word ‘investing’ is enough to make most people groan – including myself, at first. But nowadays there are so many services that allow you to start investing with small amounts of money through apps on your smartphone. I wanted to make it easier for other beginners like myself to overcome the psychological hurdles that prevent them from taking that first step.”

So next time you encounter a member of the Rakuten family, be it in a Viber chat, surfing the web or elsewhere, perhaps you’ll recall the unique backstories that give each of these characters such unforgettable personalities.

Download sticker packs for the above characters for free from Rakuten Viber and Rakuten Securities below:

Viber Friends:
Thank You Stickers:
Kabusuke and Radico 3:

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