In what other country would someone think it was a good idea to hold a national ranking of bus company mascots?

Japanese mascots: you see them everywhere you go. They influence the nation’s culture. They play an important part in all of our lives. Okay… they probably don’t do that last one, but try to stay with me on this premise.

And despite all they do for us as representatives of their regions or companies, not all of them get a chance to shine in the spotlight. Ranking and elections are an essential part of any mascot’s life from the Yurukyara Grand Prix to lesser events such as the Regional Character General Election.

To deny a mascot the chance to be voted upon is like denying a fish water. But with literally thousands of mascots scampering around Japan, it’s hard for them all to get the attention and judgment they thrive on.

Take bus company mascots. Often overlooked by their glamorous counterparts such as Kumamon or Funassyi, they rarely get to put a dent in any rankings. So bus information website Bus Trip has decided to hold the first-ever Bus Character Championship.

When nominations were open, a surprising 132 entries came in, which has since been whittled down to the following 12.

1 – Santa-kun (Kyushu Sanko Bus)

2 – Busgori (Tokyo Bus)

3 – Buske & Busmin (Hankyu Bus)

4 – Nikki-kun (West JR Bus Company)
(The bus with a hat in the upper right corner)

5 – Norotchi-kun & Norokka-chan (Oita Bus)

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6 – Kanyan (Kanto Bus)

7- Nikopa-chan (Shinki Bus)

8 – Quality-Z (Sakura Kanko)

9 – Kyunta (Odakyu Bus)

10 – Nishi-chun (Nishitokyo Bus)

11 – Kanamin (Kanachu)

12 – Ange (Seibu Bus)

My parents always told me it was impolite to discuss politics openly, but with a race this hot I just can’t resist!

I put my vote down for Santa-kun. Despite co-opting a well-known name, he seems to embody all the qualities that a bus company ought to have: he’s kind of a square, but also looks very reliable and punctual.

Nishi-chan is a close second but gets edged out because Santa-kun is more original looking. Plus, Nishi-kun’s rosy cheeks makes her look a little drunk – not something I want to see in my bus company mascots.

▼ Alright, good. Now touch your nose please.

As for the rest, we can write off Buske, Busmin, Nikki-kun, Norotchi-kun, and Norokka-chan right away because they’re just drawings and lack the social media presence of their competitors to launch any kind of significant campaign.

Animal mascots are always strong candidates and they should also fare well, except for Busgori. Half the time its hard to even tell he’s a gorilla – he just looks like a dopey guy.

This brings us to the dark horse Quality-Z. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something about him…. Maybe it’s the way he stands at attention, long and proud, powerful yet supple, and just slightly arched.

If you would like to cast your own vote just click here to make your choice. Voting will be held from 31 May to 14 June and ten lucky voters (only in Japan presumably) will also receive a 1,000 yen (US$9) Amazon gift card just for participating.

Best of luck to the mascots themselves, and let’s hope the winner doesn’t end up as horrifying as some other Japanese mascot designs.

Source: PR Times, Livedoor News, First Bus Character Championship
Images: PR Times