Hikone mascot convention: Japan's most plush summit

Hikone mascot convention: Japan's most plush summit

Openly B-list characters get together in the Shiga city of Hikone to celebrate cuteness and make dozens of costumed men sweat

Samurai must be rolling in their graves -- their former dominions are represented by fuzzy animals wearing their war gear. (Video by YouTube user asahicom)

On October 23, the Shiga town of Hikone played host to Yuru-Kyara Matsuri in Hikone -- a gathering of more than 100 lesser-known mascot characters from around Japan. This was the second year for the grand event.

Yuru-kyara -- 'gentle/weak characters' -- is a term coined by cultural critic Jun Miura (who was on hand for the event) to describe regional and national mascot characters that never really reached their expected levels of fame. The mascots, however, appear to have embraced this tag and now congregate at annual conventions under the yuru-kyara label.

But after investing so much money into making mascot characters, are sponsor cities not upset about having their symbols called 'weak'?

Not at all. Resident CNNGo mascot character expert Matt Alt, co-author of Japanese mascot collection "Hello, Please! Very Helpful Super Kawaii Characters from Japan," tells us: "The very best yuru-kyara are on the level of anything pro anime companies churn out, but even the worst have a so-bad-it's-good quality that's really funny if you're in on the joke. Which pretty much everyone in Japan is. They're supposed to be cheesy in the first place. Most of them consist of little more than a face doodled on whatever the local specialty is, and that's the whole point."

So feel free to openly mock Manto kun from Nara next time you run into the temple-hatted deer creature. Although better not insult Sento kun or you may be gored with those antlers.

"Yomiuri" provides a visual guide to all the yuru-kyara here.