Japan’s #1 Mascots: Kumamon, Bary-san, and Nishiko-kun

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    Over the weekend, the 2011 National Yuru-chara Summit was held in Saitama prefecture. Over 300 regional mascot characters attended the event, and about 135,000 people came to see them. On the final day of the summit, they announced this year’s top mascot character (based on the results of an online poll):

    The winner was Kumamon (287,315 votes), a bear who represents Kumamoto prefecture:

    The runner-up was Bary-san (245,238 votes), a chicken representing the city of Imabari (Ehime). Third place went to Nishiko-kun (174, 079 votes), the bizarre mascot of Nishikokubunji (Tokyo).

    The real surprise was the Nishiko-kun. Until very recently, he was completely unknown, but enthusiastic support from netizens propelled him into the national spotlight:

    On November 15th, Nishiko-kun was in 84th place in the poll. After receiving attention from sites such as 2channel, he suddenly received tens of thousands of votes and jumped up to first place on November 20th. Apparently some people may have set up automated voting tools, so thousands of the votes were thrown out, sending Nishiko-kun back down to 10th place. Despite this setback, he able to get many more votes and finished in third place.

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