Otaku Culture

The Rise of Domo-kun

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Mascots are a big part of the national appeal of Japanese culture. Mascots are found on buildings, cereal boxes, business pages, clothing, and other items that make up our everyday lives. One of the biggest mascots that has surpassed its brand and became its own thing is Domo-kun.

So who is Domo-kun. Domo-kun is the mascot who is used to help represent the Japanese channel Nippon Hoso Kyokai, or NHK. The mascot was created in 1998 and was named after a pun.

Domo-kun first come to fruition in a short stop-motion sketch on December 22, 1998. The name came from the term “domo konnichiwa,” which means roughly “Oh hi there.”

From there he’s become one of the most recognizable mascots not just in Japan but in the world. How many times have you gone through the aisle at one of your local stores and have seen a keychain with the brown, furry creature looking at you?

Various Domo-Kun Promotional Pictures

Maybe you didn’t know him then, but you do now. Or maybe you had a friend who knew about Domo but you just didn’t get what they were saying.

Well Domo is important because he represents the power of mascots within Japanese culture. Japan is a fascinating country but it’s also very strict country. In comparison to how many hours of work and school people we go through over here in the west, it would seem like we have it easier.

Various Domo-Kun Promotional Pictures

In light of all the extra work they do, Japan has invested in the concept of Kawaii, or cute images to help promote happiness and thus raise the morale of its people. Domo-kun, as a mascot, is a representation of this social phenomenon.

Can you imagine having a hard day? Perhaps you worked extra hard or put in extra hours with no overtime pay. Or maybe you’re working a frustrating entry level job. You look up on your way home and see Domo-kun posted on a billboard high above you.

He makes you smile. He reminds you of being young, of being hopeful, and that if you keep your head up; you’ll eventually be able to get to a better place.

And then you realize the power of Domo-kun.

Various Domo-Kun Promotional Pictures