Have you ever wondered how Kumamon suddenly burst into the spotlight back in 2011? It was the result of his victory in the national mascot character contest, the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix. The contest has been held every year since 2010 and Kumamon was the first major winner in 2011.

Voting for the annual contest runs from August to October every year and people are eligible to vote for their favorite character (usually the one representing their town or prefecture) once a day for the duration of the contest. Well, the results for the 2014 contest are finally in, and it looks like a certain entrant took the win by a nose.

Congratulations, Gunma-chan!


After taking third prize in both 2012 and 2013, Gunma-chan from, of course, Gunma Prefecture was finally named the champion.

Now, Gunma-chan is no stranger to the spotlight. He’s technically been around since 1983, when he was first created as a mascot for the 38th National Athletic Festival held in Gunma. He has however, had a huge makeover since then, transforming from a four-legged, blue-maned horse in 1983 to the brown, hind-leg walking pony in the green hat that we know today. He’s had a name change as well; the current model was originally named Yuuma, a mix of Yuuaipikku (the name of the athletic meet for mentally handicapped people which he hosted) and Gunma. It was later changed to the more appropriate Gunma-chan when he took over advertising duties for the entire prefecture in 2008.

Since his renaming, Gunma-chan has been quite busy promoting the different attractions of his homeland. He has his own blog, Facebook page, house (a shop which sells both Gunma prefectural goods), a dance, merchandise, and even cookies! He’s quite the star in his home prefecture and they are proud of him!

trainPhoto: Ancient Botanical Garden

The question of whether or not Gumna-chan will be the next Kumamon is one that only time can answer. But the winners from the past two years, Bari-san from Ehime Prefecture’s Imabari City (2012) and Sanomaru-kun from Tochigi Prefecture (2013) barely scratched the surface of popularity that their senpai has.

▼Bari-san, 2012 winner


▼Sanomaru-kun, 2013 winner


If not Gunma-chan this year, maybe next year’s winner will rise to fame. Although there will always be outliers, this year’s second- and third-place winners, Fukka-chan from Fukaya, Saitama (below-right), and Mikyan from Ehime Prefecture (below-left) respectively, have a good chance.


▼Birthday: Feb 22, 1994
Home: Gunma Prefecture
Age: 7 (for eternity)
Special skill: Metamorphosis


 ▼Name: Fukka
Home: Fukaya, Saitama
Birthday: June 28, 2010
Personality: Kind but very competitive

fukka▼Name: Mikyan
Home: Ehime Prefecture
Birthday: November 11, 2011 (Wan-Wan-Wan-Wan Day)
Charm Point: Heart-shaped nose and mikan (mandarin orange) blossom-shaped tail


If you have a favorite mascot character (I know I do!), make sure to vote for it in the 2015 contest. You never know, maybe you could see your local character plastered all over the country like Kumamon.

Sources: Yurukyara Grand Prix, Gunma Prefecture, Ehime Prefecture
Images: Yurukyara Grand Prix