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Kumamon, Explained!
Kumamon, Explained!
14th August 2021 • by Adam
14th August 2021 • He's the Kumamoto Star. • by Adam
He's the Kumamoto Star.
If you’ve been perusing our store’s newest items and thinking to yourself ‘that new Kumamon plush looks cute, but I have no idea who Kumamon is, or what they’re from!’ Don’t worry. I’ve been in your position before, and trust me: whilst their unmoving cheery demeanour and their unblinking eyes may seem strange at first, understanding Kumamon is the path to enlightenment. You may not know it yet, but Kumamon is in fact one of the most delightful characters ever conceived - a symbol of hope for humanity.
Kumamon’s Origins
Kumamon is the mascot for Japan’s Kumamoto prefecture - a region in the archipelago’s southern island of Kyushu. Kumamoto prefecture is well known in Japan for its thriving agricultural industry which produces incredible fruits and vegetables, as well as landmarks such as Kumamoto Castle and one of the world’s largest active volcanoes, Mount Aso. It’s an interesting region with lots characterised by rural charm, mountains and a welcoming community in the region’s few cities and plentiful small villages.

Throughout its history, the region Kumamoto has unfortunately been at the epicentre of several large-scale natural disasters. The most significant of these in recent years occurred in 2016, when the region was struck by a series of earthquakes reaching up to 7.0 in magnitude. The region suffered severe structural damage, with thousands injured and hundreds tragically killed as a result of the earthquake.

Since even before the earthquakes (but especially after), efforts have been made to boost the economy of the Kumamoto region and establish it as a tourist destination alternative to other more popular prefectures in Japan. The character known as Kumamon is one such effort: born in 2010, Kumamon has been a huge part of the cultural identity of Kumamoto ever since.

What is Kumamon?
It’s hard to discuss Kumamon without first explaining what he actually is. Simply put, he is one of the many mascot characters or ‘yuru-kyara’ (ゆるキャラ - lit. ‘loose characters’ ) meaning characters that represent a place, business, event or organisation in the abstract. Kumamon is the mascot of the Kumamoto prefecture, often referring to themselves as ‘the Kumamoto star’. They’re a tenacious bear-like creature who wants to help raise awareness of the beauty of Kumamoto, and loves to help people wherever they can.

In essence, they’re a large bear-like creature with a black and red colour scheme. They have a somewhat unnerving, unmoving expression, with a vacant stare in his cat-like eyes. Some people say they find Kumamon’s look creepy, but I think those people just don’t respect good design. Kumamon’s design, whilst incredibly simple - is also incredibly charming. There’s an understated simplicity to it which counts for a lot, allowing the design to look pretty cool when presented as a mascot outfit in real life, as well as on various kinds of merchandise. He’s easy to draw and iconic enough to remember, which goes a long way.

Their name, ‘kumamon’ is itself composed of two parts. The ‘kuma’ part means bear, and the ‘mon’ part being short for monster, which in this context is a sort of friendly suffix despite how it might sound. With their name in mind, their design definitely embodies the vibe of a bear with their rounded ears, but there’s something about their smile and eyes that also adds a mischievous quality to their whole persona.
What does Kumamon do?
Kumamon has been a lighthearted and cheerful presence in Kumamoto and beyond ever since his debut. Often appearing in the real world at public events to promote the prefecture of Kumamoto, they’re a strange but enthusiastic creature who seemingly wants nothing more than to bring the joys of Kumamoto to a wider audience. They’re a sort of ambassador for Kumamoto, but also a cute character in their own right.

As well as travelling across Japan to spread the word of Kumamoto, they upload regularly to their official YouTube channel, where they post a mix of vlog-style videos, music videos and other fun stuff. This is where you’re most likely to find some Kumamon content if you’re seeking it out. I highly recommend this particular Kumamon performance from the early days of his YouTube channel.

If you’re in Japan, you’ll see Kumamon popping up in all kinds of places on different types of merchandise, from cups to towels to a wide range of kumamon branded snacks and confections. Unlike some other mascot characters who are a bit more restrictive on where they appear, Kumamon happily lends their face to any product, as long as it promotes something from the region of Kumamoto! You may remember various snacks that we’ve stocked at Tofu Cute with Kumamon branding on them before, such as the ‘ikinari dango’ Kumamon Kit Kat flavour, or the Kumamon chestnut & sweet potato look LOOK chocolate, both of which were immensely popular when we stocked them.

Research estimates that Kumamon has generated over ¥875,829,010,000 yen in merchandise sales to support the prefecture of Kumamoto from 2011 to 2019. That’s pretty neat, and it’s cool that Kumamon has been able to support the prefecture that he loves.
Where can I find Kumamon?
If during the process of reading about Kumamon, you’ve found yourself endeared to their charms, you might be wondering where you can find Kumamon. If you’re looking for Kumamon themselves, it might be a bit of a mission, but if you can make your way to Kumamoto prefecture, there are often meet and greet events at the Kumamon Square, which is the official Kumamon store. You can visit Kumamon’s ‘office’, and he’ll often put on dance performances on a stage within the store.

If you’re looking for a way to find Kumamon a bit closer to home, then we’ve got you covered. We’ve recently added to our online store a small but adorable selection of Kumamon goodies,including a Kumamon plush, mini memo pads, chopsticks, a melamine cup and even socks! All of these are officially licensed Kumamon products, so you’ll be helping to support Kumamon directly in a small way.
Beyond what we currently have available, we wish to stock more Kumamon items in the future, because several members of Team Tofu have a soft spot for this strange monochrome bear. I do too, and so I’ll always recommend Kumamon for those looking to get into mascot characters in general. There’s something heartwarming about the simplicity of their design, their humble origins and their motivations to spread joy and positivity out into the world. If you started this article not knowing anything about Kumamon, I hope you learned something and are perhaps inspired to pay forward that same positive spark. That's what Kumamon would want.

All images sourced from WikiMedia, or Kumamon's official Website.
If you’ve been perusing our store’s newest items and thinking to yourself ‘that new Kumamon plush looks cute, but I have no idea who Kumamon is, or what they’re from!’ Don’t worry. I’ve been in your position before, and trust me: whilst their unmoving cheery demeanour and their unblinking eyes may seem strange at first, understanding Kumamon is the path to enlightenment. You may not know it yet, but Kumamon is in fact one of the most delightful characters ever conceived - a symbol of hope for humanity.
Kumamon’s Origins
Kumamon is the mascot for Japan’s Kumamoto prefecture - a region in the archipelago’s southern island of Kyushu. Kumamoto prefecture is well known in Japan for its thriving agricultural industry which produces incredible fruits and vegetables, as well as landmarks such as Kumamoto Castle and one of the world’s largest active volcanoes, Mount Aso. It’s an interesting region with lots characterised by rural charm, mountains and a welcoming community in the region’s few cities and plentiful small villages.

Throughout its history, the region Kumamoto has unfortunately been at the epicentre of several large-scale natural disasters. The most significant of these in recent years occurred in 2016, when the region was struck by a series of earthquakes reaching up to 7.0 in magnitude. The region suffered severe structural damage, with thousands injured and hundreds tragically killed as a result of the earthquake.

Since even before the earthquakes (but especially after), efforts have been made to boost the economy of the Kumamoto region and establish it as a tourist destination alternative to other more popular prefectures in Japan. The character known as Kumamon is one such effort: born in 2010, Kumamon has been a huge part of the cultural identity of Kumamoto ever since.

What is Kumamon?
It’s hard to discuss Kumamon without first explaining what he actually is. Simply put, he is one of the many mascot characters or ‘yuru-kyara’ (ゆるキャラ - lit. ‘loose characters’ ) meaning characters that represent a place, business, event or organisation in the abstract. Kumamon is the mascot of the Kumamoto prefecture, often referring to themselves as ‘the Kumamoto star’. They’re a tenacious bear-like creature who wants to help raise awareness of the beauty of Kumamoto, and loves to help people wherever they can.

In essence, they’re a large bear-like creature with a black and red colour scheme. They have a somewhat unnerving, unmoving expression, with a vacant stare in his cat-like eyes. Some people say they find Kumamon’s look creepy, but I think those people just don’t respect good design. Kumamon’s design, whilst incredibly simple - is also incredibly charming. There’s an understated simplicity to it which counts for a lot, allowing the design to look pretty cool when presented as a mascot outfit in real life, as well as on various kinds of merchandise. He’s easy to draw and iconic enough to remember, which goes a long way.

Their name, ‘kumamon’ is itself composed of two parts. The ‘kuma’ part means bear, and the ‘mon’ part being short for monster, which in this context is a sort of friendly suffix despite how it might sound. With their name in mind, their design definitely embodies the vibe of a bear with their rounded ears, but there’s something about their smile and eyes that also adds a mischievous quality to their whole persona.
What does Kumamon do?
Kumamon has been a lighthearted and cheerful presence in Kumamoto and beyond ever since his debut. Often appearing in the real world at public events to promote the prefecture of Kumamoto, they’re a strange but enthusiastic creature who seemingly wants nothing more than to bring the joys of Kumamoto to a wider audience. They’re a sort of ambassador for Kumamoto, but also a cute character in their own right.

As well as travelling across Japan to spread the word of Kumamoto, they upload regularly to their official YouTube channel, where they post a mix of vlog-style videos, music videos and other fun stuff. This is where you’re most likely to find some Kumamon content if you’re seeking it out. I highly recommend this particular Kumamon performance from the early days of his YouTube channel.

If you’re in Japan, you’ll see Kumamon popping up in all kinds of places on different types of merchandise, from cups to towels to a wide range of kumamon branded snacks and confections. Unlike some other mascot characters who are a bit more restrictive on where they appear, Kumamon happily lends their face to any product, as long as it promotes something from the region of Kumamoto! You may remember various snacks that we’ve stocked at Tofu Cute with Kumamon branding on them before, such as the ‘ikinari dango’ Kumamon Kit Kat flavour, or the Kumamon chestnut & sweet potato look LOOK chocolate, both of which were immensely popular when we stocked them.

Research estimates that Kumamon has generated over ¥875,829,010,000 yen in merchandise sales to support the prefecture of Kumamoto from 2011 to 2019. That’s pretty neat, and it’s cool that Kumamon has been able to support the prefecture that he loves.
Where can I find Kumamon?
If during the process of reading about Kumamon, you’ve found yourself endeared to their charms, you might be wondering where you can find Kumamon. If you’re looking for Kumamon themselves, it might be a bit of a mission, but if you can make your way to Kumamoto prefecture, there are often meet and greet events at the Kumamon Square, which is the official Kumamon store. You can visit Kumamon’s ‘office’, and he’ll often put on dance performances on a stage within the store.

If you’re looking for a way to find Kumamon a bit closer to home, then we’ve got you covered. We’ve recently added to our online store a small but adorable selection of Kumamon goodies,including a Kumamon plush, mini memo pads, chopsticks, a melamine cup and even socks! All of these are officially licensed Kumamon products, so you’ll be helping to support Kumamon directly in a small way.
Beyond what we currently have available, we wish to stock more Kumamon items in the future, because several members of Team Tofu have a soft spot for this strange monochrome bear. I do too, and so I’ll always recommend Kumamon for those looking to get into mascot characters in general. There’s something heartwarming about the simplicity of their design, their humble origins and their motivations to spread joy and positivity out into the world. If you started this article not knowing anything about Kumamon, I hope you learned something and are perhaps inspired to pay forward that same positive spark. That's what Kumamon would want.

All images sourced from WikiMedia, or Kumamon's official Website.
About the Author: Adam
Adam is the lead writer of the Tofu Cute Blog and Wordsmith person at Team Tofu. When he's not making fun content for Tofu Cute, he enjoys being a huge nerd. He spends his free time gaming, reading, cooking and figuring out ways to make Godzilla and other giant monsters real.
About the Author: Adam
Adam is the lead writer of the Tofu Cute Blog and Wordsmith person at Team Tofu. When he's not making fun content for Tofu Cute, he enjoys being a huge nerd. He spends his free time gaming, reading, cooking and figuring out ways to make Godzilla and other giant monsters real.
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