When I was studying abroad in Japan last term, I quickly discovered how much Japan loved its mascots. I knew this beforehand, but I had yet to grasp just HOW MUCH Japan loved its mascots. Called “yuru-chara” (but pronounced closer to “yuru-kyara” in Japanese), these mascots represent and promote prefectures, cities, wards, companies, organizations, sports teams, events, YOU NAME IT. There’s even an annual Yuru-Chara Grand Prix!
Since most mascots are tied to regions and cities, I decided to try my hand at mapping them out onto Japan itself. In an ideal world, I would have the prefecture mascots linked to polygons of each prefecture with points for cities, organizational headquarters, buildings, etc., but I decided to start simple and work on a point-style map on ArcGIS. We also spent a little more time stylizing the points in ArcGIS than we did Corta so for a first draft of this map ArcGIS felt more comfortable.
I spent the most time trying to find the mascots in the first place (there’s no definitive list out there so I had to dig deep into my memory and do a LOT of google searches) and then organizing the information into a google sheet that could then be translated into layers the program could understand. Sparing you my trials and errors, I decided on two differently styles sheets:
Prefectures & Cities
– (Mascot) Name
– Image URL
– (Mascot) Name
– Building/Organization/Company (Name)
– Image URL
City Mascots were pretty easy to drop points on, but prefecture mascots I linked to the prefecture’s capitals to avoid being too vague. On the other hand, I dropped points for building mascots etc. via Latitude and Longitude. Because the Japanese and American address system is so different, I figured that would be the easiest way to get an accurate pin on the map.
By using two separate sheets (and therefore two separate layers on the map) I could indicate the location method separately, and make further edits and additions to either spreadsheet easier and faster to upload. There were some locations from the Prefectures/Cities sheet that couldn’t be found after rendering, which I think was caused by alternate spellings (the bane of my existence using map apps in Japan). I wish ArcGIS would flag those error-ed entries but it doesn’t so until I can go through one by one and see which are missing there will be a few missing points in my map.
Please check out my map on my website! I recommend playing around on the prefecture/cities scale before zooming into Kyoto and Tokyo. Try and find my favorite mascot, Tawawachan!
This tryptic of Tawawachan postcards is above my bed.
You can tell I REALLY like Tawawachan
2 Replies to “Maps! Mascots! oh MY!”
I have seen some maps of famous Japanese regional foods before, but not the mascots. It heard that Japan often advertises its own town and city using mascots and your map indeed very well illustrates different Japanese mascots for each region.
Maybe I’m biased but I think having a map like this is a great way to explore modern cultural elements of Japan.