Japan prison uses cuddly mascot in image makeover
TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese prison housing a range of convicted criminals has unveiled a cuddly life-size mascot that bosses hope will help change the jail's forbidding image.
Officials say Asahikawa Prison in Japan's far north is too often thought of only as a dark place with imposing grey walls and not as a place of rehabilitation.
They hope "Katakkuri-chan", a nearly two-metre humanoid with a huge square face and an enormous purple flower for hair, will make people understand the true nature of the institution.
"Prisons have the image of being isolated places that have no contact with the rest of society and are surrounded by imposing grey walls," said a public relations official at Asahikawa.