Mamesuke XXIII is ready to carry on the proud name of his nearly two dozen predecessors.

In the Japanese entertainment world, there’s something called the shumei system, in which a respected performer passes on his stage name to a successor when he retires. The shumei system is most famously employed in kabuki. For example, in the upcoming kabuki adaptation of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the title role is being played by actor Onoe Kikunosuke, who’s actually the fifth person to use that name professionally (his birth name is Kazuyasu Terashima).

However, this week Japan was excited to learn of the latest successor in an even longer line of beloved performers, with the announcement of the 23rd individual to take up the name of Mamesuke.

Yes, Mamesuke is a dog, and his name comes from the fact that he’s a Mameshiba Inu, a small version of the endearingly goofy Shiba Inu breed. While the collected Mamesuke pooches have no speaking lines, many would say they’re the real stars of weekly TV series Nidaime Wafu Sohonke, produced by broadcaster TV Osaka and also airing on TV Tokyo, for which the pups serve as mascots.

▼ TV Osaka’s special video thanking the 22nd-generation Mamesuke for his service, and introducing his successor, Mamesuke XXIII

Nidaime Wafu Sohonke is an example of the combination quiz show/talk show/light documentary programs that’re incredibly popular in Japan. An on-site video segment introduces a particular region of Japan or aspect of Japanese culture, then the program cuts back to the studio where a panel of celebrities and TV personalities are quizzed about some more detailed aspect, and then it’s back to the video segment for the answer. But as transitional bumpers and also at the start of the program, the camera focuses on the current Mamesuke playing, lounging, or just basically looking adorable.

▼ This also means that even if you don’t speak a word of Japanese, you can still enjoy the show.

Now, you might think Nidaime Wafu Sohonke needs a mascot Mameshiba simply because Japan loves cute things (or because it really loves Shiba Inu) but it also needs one because Japan loves puns. See, the “mame” part of “Mameshiba” is the Japanese word for “bean.” Beans are tiny, so it makes sense that Mameshiba are small Shiba. But there another Japanese word, mamechishiki, which means “bean intelligence,” or, expressed more naturally, trivia and little tidbits of interesting knowledge.

▼ Mamesuke XXXIII is properly dressed with a karakua pattern scarf.

So of course mamchishiki program Nidaime Wafu Sohonke wants to put a Mameshiba front and center as its spokesdog. Mamesuka XXIII is the first white-coated Mameshiba in the series’ history (which stretches back to 2008), and is described as an active, athletic pup who prefers playing to taking naps. Nidaime Wafu Sohonke producer Tadashi Miyoshi is also enthusiastic about the new cast member, saying:

“He’s just so handsome! Personally, I think his most charming feature is his long, white eyelashes!”

Mamesuka XXIII makes his debut in Nidaime Wafu Sohonke’s October 10 episode, which airs at 9 p.m. on both TV Tokyo and TV Osaka.

Source, images: PR Times
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