Atsuo welcomes visitors to Atami, the town where he turned into a fairy.

In Japan, age is respected, but youth is idolized. So when you hear that the local hotel association of Atami, an onsen (hot spring) town in Shizuoka Prefecture about 45 minutes west of Tokyo by bullet train, has a fairy mascot character who’s crazy about hot springs, you might expect the character’s visual design to draw inspiration from anime’s long history of cute magical girls, like Cardcaptor Sakura or Creamy Mami.

So imagine our surprise when, while walking through Atami Station, we saw this.

Those are plushies of Atsuo, the Atami Hotel Association mascot, and his rather exposed pate initially makes him look a little like a samurai. But nope, it turns out that Atsuo, per his backstory, hails from the modern era, and is just a middle-aged guy who’s going bald, and also sports a pretty impressive mustache.

Once upon a time, Atsuo was a salaryman who came to Atami with his coworkers on a company trip. Enthralled by the seaside town’s relaxing hot springs, Atsuo never wanted to leave…and this desire was so strong that it transformed him into a fairy, and he’s remained in Atami ever since. He takes a hot spring bath at least once a day, which is why his skin is so smooth and shiny.

Atsuo was still a young man when he sprouted gossamer wings and became a fairy, but the magical powers he gained didn’t include eternal youth, and he’s been in Atami long enough to have become middle-aged. He does have a number of magical powers, though, which he can activate using his magical wand, which looks like an ume (Japanese plum blossom).

By waving his wand, Atsuo can summon the scent of plum blossoms or himono (dried fish), both things Atami is famous for. He can also make fireworks appear (Atami hosts several fireworks festivals during the year) or produce steam like that which rises off of onsen manju, the steamed sweet bean cakes popular in hot spring towns. Oh, and his wand also functions as a thermometer, so that he can check that a bath is at just the right temperature before he hops in.

▼ A “You’re Atsuo!” cutout photo spot

Atsuo is clad in a yukata, the lightweight kimono provided to hotel guests in onsen towns. His character bio admits that it’s a little chilly in the winter, but when you’re a hot spring fairy, you’ve got to dress the part.

As a proper Japanese mascot character, you can find Atsuo merch in souvenir shops around Atami, so keep an eye out for the shiny-skinned guy when you’re there!

Related: Atsuo official website
Photos ©SoraNews24
Atsuo illustration: Atsuo official website
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