Jul 7, 2013

Wakutama-kun (or, How I Came to Love the Egg)

Who is Wakutama-kun?
In Japan, many cities and regions have their own mascots. They're supposed to encourage tourism and town pride. Wakutama-kun is an egg from the city of Wakura. In Japanese, egg is tamago. So Wakura+Tamago = Wakutama. The ending, -kun, is an endearing honorific given to boys.

So why an egg? Wakura is an onsen town full of fancy hotels located over the natural hot springs. There are small hot spring pools around town you can lower a basket of eggs into to soft-boil them. They take on the salty taste of the water - they're super delicious!
The eggs in his basket are meant to be boiled in the hot springs water and eaten. Isn't that cannibalism, though?

There are two other well known mascots in the area. Nanao's is Toha-kun, a play on words for the famous artist Hasegawa Tohaku; and Notodon the... orange rice grain thing... with a heart in his mouth. He doesn't get a lot of love.

The mascots are everywhere, especially places we'd least expect them. Like, say, a wedding? In June I attended a wedding reception in Wakura (more on that next post!). First, the groom comes in. Everyone applauds. The bride comes in. More applause. Then, Wakutama-kun comes in. The crowd goes wild! The little egg waddles in and bops around between the tables. Everyone gets pictures of him with the bride and groom on either side.

Here comes the bride... the egg's fat and wide...

Why was he there? Because the reception was in Wakura. It's self-promotion for guests to come back to the onsen town. Let me ask you though, would you invite the local mascot to your wedding? "Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Newlyweds! Now, let's get a photo with Ronald McDonald!"

Wakutama-kun meets his biggest fan!

The mascots don't limit their appearances to weddings. Oh no, they also love holidays like Canada Day! What better way to say "Oh Canada!" than inviting the Noto mascots to the party? Genius, I know. (I'll share more about Canada Day another time!)

Mr. C dressed up as Toha-kun the painter.


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