Kumamon leaps into national phenomenon The Latter Part


(The First Part/前編へ)


Copyright fee made free/著作権の無料化


  The biggest factor behind Kumamon’s explosive popularity was the prefectural government’s decision to free its copyright fee. Any individual or company can freely use the character if permitted by the government. No product development using Kumamon had been initially permitted. But the prefectural government purchased its copyright, making the development and marketing of such goods possible for an indefinite period after December 24, 2010, subject to its permission. Curiously enough, a family Buddhist altar was the first goods to be allowed to use the name of Kumamon. The number of authorized goods and companies has since been on the constant rise. According to an announcement by the prefectural government, which covered 1,172 of the 2,112 authorized companies, sales of their Kumamon goods amounted to 29,360 million yen in 2012, up more than 11 fold from the previous year. Foods accounted for an overwhelming 25 billion yen, with non-food goods totaling only 2,600 million yen. This indicates that Kumamon was used as a logo for food packages.



Mascots face problems/ゆるキャラが抱える問題点


  There is no doubt that Kumamon has brought a lot of economic effect to Kumamoto Prefecture. The same can be said of some other local mascots, such as "Hikonyan" of Hikone, Shiga Prefecture and "Barysan" of Imabari, Ehime Prefecture. Such being the case, it may be only natural for other municipalities or prefectures to crank out their mascots to try to be successful. In fact, the local mascots registered for participation in the 2013 "Grand Prix” competition numbered 1,580, close to twice as many as that in the previous year. However, these campaigns cost enormously.  For example, the Sano city office, the sponsor of “Sanomaru” that won the Grand Prix for the year, went on the record that it had spent 7 million yen in taxpayer’s money to fund its election campaign. The Gunma prefectural government has said it spends 14.27 million yen in annual budget to promote its official mascot "Gunma-chan".




 Says Yoichi Sasaki, senior analyst at PHP Interface’s Regional Management Research Center, “It’s very likely that even in the case of Kumamon, the cost involved is bigger than the resultant tax revenue increase." Jun Miura, advocate of yuru-kyara, has defined the practice as “aimed for the development of regional economies”. It may be good to jump on the bandwagon. However, full consideration is needed to prevent local governments from running into extra financial burdens as a result of their publicity campaign.





Written By: Kento Isogai