The 12th “Yuru-kyara Festival in Hikone: Kigurumi Summit 2019” was held on Oct. 19-20 in the central part of Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture. A record 244 groups, representing 38 of Japan’s 47 prefectures and the island of Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, participated. The event, held since 2008, is backed by local character associations in Japanese cities and Hikone City, as well as that city’s merchants’ association. At 244, the number of participants this year increased by more than fivefold over the 46 in 2008, earning Hikone the claim to being “The Haven of Yuru-kyara.”
Yuru-kyara is an abbreviation for “easygoing mascot character,” and refers to the lovable mascots that are used to promote local publicity, as well as corporate identity by businesses and organizations. In the narrow sense of the term they are limited to mascot characters of public organizations featuring people who dressed up in such costumes, but in the wider sense they also include characters used for promotion by large corporations. At that year’s event, the Yuru-kyara were used in their narrower sense to promote local products in some 150 booths. They also made five-minute appearances to promote their localities on three stages set up specially for the occasion.