Japan mascot shows 'bear' necessities for marketing success
TOKYO (AFP) - A clumsy bear mascot for a remote Japanese farming region has rocketed to superstar fame and notched up an unlikely marketing triumph in a nation obsessed with all things cute.
The life-sized Kumamon and his now nationally ubiquitous image - red cheeks and doughy physique - are found on everything from pastries and keychains to airplanes and purses.
Most local mascots linger in relative obscurity but Kumamon draws hundreds of camera-toting fans at public events. He makes national television appearances and his wobbly signature dance - once performed for the emperor and empress - has notched up more than two million views on YouTube.
Rivalling the success of Hello Kitty or Mickey Mouse in Japan, the black bear has rung up a commercial fortune for his rural birthplace, and become a closely-watched marketing case study.