Japan’s Police Mascots
For those of you that live in Tokyo you might be fooled into thinking that Japan has just one police mascot, and that’s exactly what I first thought when I came to Japan. After attending a mascot festival, I found a tanuki dressed as a policeman. I soon discovered that he was the mascot for the Shiga police department. It quickly dawned on me that Pipo-kun didn’t represent the police force for the whole country but in fact just Tokyo.
After weeks of research I can now present the most comprehensive look at Japan’s police mascots. I’d like to shift some of the attention away from Pipo-kun and onto some of the other interesting prefectures and their characters. Listed below are 48 police mascots, one for each prefecture including one extra for the city of Saga in Yokohama, Kanagawa. Beside each character is a number which corresponds to a numbered map, displayed at the bottom of the page so you can see where the character comes from.
The various mascots often take on the appearance of one of the symbols of the prefecture. Each prefecture usually has four symbols which include a flower, bird, tree and fish. Being as a fish and trees are not too cute most have opted for the prefecture bird. Speciality food, famous animals, local legends and landmarks are also used. Many of the mascots have a male and female character, invariably the female mascot was added later in what is most likely an easy way to address gender equality issues. Try to choose your favourite character and answer the poll at the bottom of the page.
Hokuto-kun takes on the image of various animals living in Hokkaido including, a rabbit, owl, horse, fox and lastly, human. He has large ears like a rabbit to hear the opinions and requests of residents. With the eyes of the owl he’s able to watch out and protect the locals. And finally the legs of a horse ensures he has the speed to respond quickly to accidents. His name comes from ‘Hokutosei’ The Japanese word for the big dipper which signifies the bright future of Hokkaido.
2. Api-kun Repi-chan
These two, possibly Gatchaman inspired are the police mascots for Aomori prefecture. The siblings take on the appearance of a type of swan called Bewick’s Swan which is a symbol of the prefecture. Api-kun’s name comes from a combination of the ‘a’ in Aomori and the ‘p’ in police. Repi-chan’s name is somewhat less obvious with the ‘re’ coming from Lady and again the ‘p’ from police. Api was born on July 4, 1997 and Repi-chan on April 24, 2003.
3. Kaze-Pikapo & Ame-Pikapo
In 2005 Iwate changed their mascot from a green pheasant (bird symbol of the prefecture) called Keitaro-kun to a more modern mascot that would reflect the diversity of the residents and Iwate police force. Kaze in Japanese means wind and ame is rain. Kaze-Pikapo is a bag of wind and Ame-Pikapo a drop of rain. The onamatopia for the sound a flashing siren makes is ‘pipo’ which explains the second part of their names. The design comes from a famous poem by Kenji Miyazawa, a poet and childrens book writer from Iwate. It starts “Not losing to the rain, not losing to the wind”.
The wild goose and the Miyagi bush clover (Lespedeza) are two symbols of Miyagi prefecture, both of which are incorporated into the police mascot. Miyagi-kun holds the clover in his hand which is acting as an antenna for his radio. He was born on the June 1, 1992.
Modelled on the letter A from Akita, Mamoru-kun is also the shape of the tree symbol of the prefecture which is the Akita-sugi or Akita cedar. Mamoru means protect but it can also mean to follow the law. He also has a friend called Ai-chan who seems to be a cheerleader.
The Kamoshika or serow is a goat like animal that can be found in Yamagata and the chosen animal to represent the police force. His name comes from the animal but is also a plays on the English phrase ‘Come on’. He states that if you have any problems you shouldn’t hesitate to contact the police.
7. Fukuboushi-kun & Fukuboshi-san
Okiagari-koboshi are traditional papier-mache dolls, famous in the Aizu region of Fukushima. The toy is designed so that it always returns to an upright position when knocked over. Okiagari-koboshi are considered good-luck charms and a symbol of perseverance and resilience. The two Fukuboushi’s are modelled on these self righting dolls and are said to protect the people of Fukushima and their happiness from crimes and accidents. This is further illustrated in their name, ‘fuku’ means happiness while the ‘boushi’ means stop or avoid. Just in case you want to know their birthday it’s October 7.
Hibari is Japanese for skylark and a symbol of Ibaraki prefecture. Hibari-kun was born in Mito, the capital city of Ibaraki on October 1st 1998. His mission is to protect the residents of the prefecture and help them to live peaceful and safe lives.
Born in 1986 on June 15 at the foot of a mountain, the cheerful bird represents Tochigi. Ruri-chan is a Blue-and-White Flycatcher a migratory song bird and symbol of Tochigi. In Japanese it’s called a ‘ooruri’ which is where the mascot’s name comes from. Ruri-chan says her best point is her smile, her favourite colour is azure blue, her hobby is traveling and favourite food is strawberries from Tochigi. She’s holding the leaf from a Japanese horse chestnut, another symbol of the prefecture.
10. Joushu-kun & Miyama-chan
Gunma used to be called ‘Joushu’ which explains the male horses name. Miyama seems to be a popular name of hotels and businesses in Gunma but I’m not sure if there’s a deeper significance. The prefecture chose two horses because Gunma used to be a centre for horsebreeding. Infact this was the reason the name changed from Joushu to Gunma. The two kanji in Gunma can mean ‘group of horses’. The mascots are kind, strong and gentle. Joushu-kun was born on January 1, 2000 while Miyama-chan was born April 1, 2001.
In October 2003 Popo-kun was unveiled to the people of Saitama. The bird was designed by the staff of the Saitama police and is based on the bird symbol of Saitama; the Eurasian Collared Dove. The shape of Popo-kun is an egg shape because the Japanese word for egg is ‘tamago’, tama by itself means ball or drop and appears at the end of Saitama.
Chiba prefecture has the majority of its borders facing water, with the Pacific Ocean to the east and Tokyo Bay on the west. To reflect the importance of the sea they chose a dolphin to be the police mascot. The blue is of course for the sea and the yellow of his shoes symbolize the rapeseed blossoms which are a common sight in the prefecture. On his chest is the logo CP which stands for Chiba Police, although its also said to stand for citizen and police. He was introduced in September 1990.
The mascot for the Tokyo police force is probably the most well known Police mascot in Japan. Born on April 17, 1987, his name comes from the first two letters of people and police. A combination of several animals, he takes the best parts in order to be the best law-enforcement officer: his large ears help him hear people in trouble, an antennae to catch quick movement and large eyes to watch every corner of society. Read more about him here.
P-gull’s name comes from the ‘P’ in police and ‘gull’ the bird symbol of Kanagawa. P-gull has wings protruding from his helmet, these are special ears which help the character hear the voice of citizens and it even catches their dreams. The white of his costume represents the seagull, the blue the sea and the yellow the feeling of warmth. Born in 1992 P-gull is according to his website loved by everyone from the old to young.
14. Ajisai Seyano & Keyaki Seyano
Also from Kanagawa this pair don’t represent the prefecture but just a small ward (suburb) of Yokohama called Seya (1 of 18 in the city). The twins were born on October 1st and incorporate many symbols from the city including the owl which inspired the design and the ajisai hydrangea and keyaki tree which are used in their names. Their aim is to make the city safe, secure and loved by everyone. Ajisai the girl on the left is easygoing and likes sweets, while her brother Keyaki is cheerful and enjoys his job working in the traffic department arresting drunken drivers. Matt Alt has written an interesting piece on the pair on CNNGO.
15. Hikaru-kun & Hikari-chan
Koshihikari is a popular variety of rice cultivated in Japan and the subject of Niigata’s two police mascots. The Koshihikari produced in Niigata is considered by many to be the best rice in the world and has a suitably expensive price tag. With strong hands and large eyes Hikaru-kun and Hikari-chan can protect the citizens of Niigata. Hikaru-kun was born first in December 1992 with Hikari-chan arriving later in November 1998.
Tateyama was designed by Fujiko Fujio the penname for two manga artists called Hiroshi Fujimoto and Moto Abiko. They are most famous for creating Doraemon and Obake no Q-taro. Both artists came from Toyama but moved to Tokyo for work. The design and name of the character comes from Mount Tate (Tateyama) one of the tallest peaks in the Hida Mountains.
17. Inuwashi-kun & Inuwashi-chan
The bird symbol of Ishikawa is the golden eagle which in Japanese is ‘inuwashi’ (dog eagle). The birds are found living on the slopes of Mt Haku a dormant volcano and one of Japan’s top three sacred mountains (Sanreizan) together with Mount Fuji and Mount Tate (16. Tateyama-kun). The powerful, quick and cheerful creatures help protect the people of Ishikawa. Inuwashi-kun was Born on August 26, 1994 and his sister on May 14, 2001.
Fukui prefecture is the location for Japans only dedicated dinosaur museum and considered one of the best three in the world. Fukui is also the location for the Kitadani Dinosaur Quarry, which has yielded many interesting discoveries. His name comes from kyourue (恐竜) which means dinosaur in Japanese, the second kanji (ryu) which appears in the word means dragon. The pi at the end of the name… yup you guessed it stands for police and people.
On the south border of Yamanashi prefecture Mt Fuji stands. The familiar sight and a symbol of strength and power was chosen for obvious reasons. Fuji-kun was created on March 3, 1988 and seeks to win the affection of the people and make them feel safe.
‘Raichou’ is the Japanese for the Rock Ptarmigan and bird symbol of Nagano. With its beautiful tall mountains and clear air Nagano is the perfect place for the bird. The character was designed to appeal to everyone and give the police a friendly image. He is said to come from the future in order to help keep Nagano crime free. Born January 10, 1992 his name comes from ‘raichou’ the name of the bird and the ‘po’ in police. The ‘p’ is also said to stand for ‘peace’ and ‘people’ as Raipo-kun wants the people of Nagano to live peacefully.
Like Raipo-kun, Rapi is a Rock Ptarmigan and the bird symbol of Gifu. The north part of Gifu is dominated by the mountain range called the Japanese Alps. This is where Rapi came from to help the residents of the prefecture. The area is also said to be a leader in the apparel industry which explains why Rapi is so smartly dressed. The blue hat and shoes symbolize the water and the green trousers the green mountains. His name has the same origin as Raipo-kun.
Shizuoka Prefecture where Sp-kun is from has four football (soccer) teams with two doing well in the J-league. Shizuoka also leads Japan in the number of elementary schoolboys who play soccer. The city is well known for its love of the sport so it’s no wonder the police chose a football for their mascot. The Shizuoka police also state there are many similarities with the game and police work. The many black and white sides of a ball could represent the many facets of police work. The offence and defence of players are also techniques used by the police. And like footballers they aim to respond to incidents with speed and accuracy. Football has strict rules, which could be compared to the law and how police follow it. Finally like a football match the police require the support of the public to cheer them on.
The bird symbol of Aichi is of course an owl, a Eurasian scops-owl to be precise which is called ‘konohazuku’ in Japanese. The migratory bird is found throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Shinshiro in Aichi is a famous spot where the calls of the owls can be heard. So the first part of the name comes from the type of owl while the later, ‘keibu’ means police inspector.
Mie prefectures bird symbol is the snowy plover. The hard working bird takes his name from the name of the prefecture and the police.
Shiga’s police mascot Keita-kun is modelled on a Tanuki, a Japanese raccoon dog and legendary creature from Japanese folklore. In Shigaraki, a small town in Shiga, they are famous for their pottery and for producing tanuki statues. A special tanuki policeman was made by local residents and given to the police force. It was later made into an illustration for their website and used as their mascot. The ‘kei’ in his name comes from ‘keisatsu’ meaning police, while the ‘ta’ is short for tanuki. Unlike the mischievous folklore creature, Keita-kun is reliable and trustworthy.
In the spring of 2001 Kyoppi was born. Once again a bird was chosen as the mascot for the area. A type of seabird called the Streaked Shearwater his name comes from combining Kyoto with police. The p also stands for people and peace. Kyoppi is friendly and cheerful and always looks out for the safety of citizens.
27. Fuu-kun & Kei-chan
The smiling siblings from Osaka both have the letter ‘V’ on their hats which stands for vitality. They also have a red light on top which is said to expresses their attitude for coping with emergency at any time. Fuu-kun, the boy and older of the pair takes his name from Osaka-fu (‘fu’ means prefecture but not used for every area) and the girl, Kei-chan takes the ‘kei’ from Keisatsu (police).
28. Kouhe-kun & Mamori-chan
Despite becoming extinct in Japan in 1971 the oriental stork or Kounotori is the bird symbol of Hyogo. Good news is that in May 2007 a hatchling was born in the area. The chick was the offspring of two storks who were bred in captivity in a breeding park called Konotori no Sato Park, part of an effort to reintroduce the bird to the area. Kouhe-kun’s name comes from kouhei meaning fair and justice, Mamori on the other hand means protection or defence. Kouhe-kuns birthday is January 28 and Mamori-chan’s November 9.
Nara is famous for the deer that roam through the town and park. Visitors can buy deer biscuits and feed the tame creatures. Legend says the mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara riding a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country. Sento-kun from Nara is also modelled on the deer. Napo-kun was born August 27th 1996. His name comes from abbreviating the two words Nara and police.
Wakayama was once known as the Kishu Domain before the Edo period which explains the name of the Wakayama police mascot. There’s also a dog from Wakayma called Kishu-ken. This breed was originally used to hunt boar and deer. Kishu are often very quiet and will stalk prey silently preferring not to bark. Kishu-kun was born on July 1, 1994 and proved an extremely successful character in Wakayama where he appears on mobile phone straps, t-shirts, stuffed toys and much more. There’s also a four meter tall Idle Idol on the side of the road in Arida.
31. Patoru-kun & Patoko-chan
Tottori in Japanese is 鳥取, the two kanji mean “bird” and “to get”. This was because early residents in the area made their living catching the region’s numerous waterfowl. The bird symbol of Tottori is also a mandarin duck. Patoru-kun and Patoko-chan are kind, cheerful and friendly. Their names likely come from the word patrol.
Okuninushi no Mikoto (‘great land master’) is an important Shinto god from Izumo province now called Shimane. He is believed to be the god of nation-building, farming, business and medicine and ruled the area. Izumo Taisha in Taishamachi, Shimane, is one of the oldest shrines in Japan and dedicated to Okuninushi. The Shimane police force don’t make it clear but it’s likely Mikopi-kun is based on this important god. Mikoto is a common ending to gods names and could mean highness or lord. The first part of this word is used in Mikopi-kun’s name with the final ‘pi’ coming from police.
33. Momo-kun & Momoka-chan
The young boy Momotaro is a popular hero from Japanese folklore and strongly associated with Okayama, where he is believed to have been born. According to legend, an old, childless woman discovers a giant peach floating down the river. She takes it home to her husband where they cut it open to discover a baby inside. They name him Momotaro, momo after the peach and taro because it’s a common boy’s name for the eldest son of a family. Like the legend Momo-kun is kind hearted and strong. He was born on February 2, 1990. Momoka-chan was born 19 years later in 2009, January 19. The flower symbol of Okayama is the peach blossom which Momoka-chan has in her hair.
Slightly more unusual than choosing the prefectures bird symbol Hiroshima picked its tree and flower. The tree is the Japanese Maple a highly sought after tree for its attractive leaf shapes and variety of colours.
One of the prefecture symbols of Yamaguchi is the Takifugu better know as fugu. Shimonoseki a city in Yamaguchi is known as fugu city and supplies a large part of Japan with the fish. It was also the first city to lift the ban on fugu sales during the Meiji period. The fugu can inflate its body several times it’s normal size and of course can poison it’s predators. The toxic fish is considered a delicacy in Japan despite the dangers of eating it. In Yamaguchi they call the fish “fuku,” which means “to blow” or “happiness.” “Maru” the second part of Fukumaru’s name means circle.
Uzushio means whirlpool in Japanese, the Tokushima prefecture symbol was created in October 1992 and inspired by the Naruto whirlpools famous in the area. The Naruto whirlpools are tidal whirlpools in the channel between Naruto in Tokushima and Awaji Island in Hyogo. Uzushio-kun isn’t a whirlpool though, he’s a sun and represents the light and energy of the police force which he passes onto the prefecture residents. Apparently just like the police he’s fair, reliable and kind.
Kagawa’s capital city, Takamatsu, was the location for an historic battle between the Heike and Genji clans. Nasu no Yoichi was a famed samurai who fought in the Genpei War and known for his skilled archery. An enemy of his side is known to have placed a fan at the top of a mast on one of his ships, and challenged the opposing side to shoot it off. Despite the fierce waves and the rocking of the ship, Yoichi hit the fan with just one shot. The bright and colourful mascot takes inspiration from this historical figure.
38. Mamoru-kun Shin-chan An-chan
まもる君 心ちゃん 安ちゃん
On the left we have Mamoru-kun, mamoru can mean to protect or guard and that’s what Mamoru-kun does. Stickers of the character are placed on locations in Ehime prefecture that indicate places which are safe for children to wait if they feel they are in danger. Mamoru is a mikan (satsuma) which are grown in the prefecture. The two mascots on his right are twins and Mamoru-kun’s younger siblings. The boy in the middle is called Shin-chan while the girl is called An-chan. Together the names spell “anshin” which means peace of mind or security.
39. Porin-kun & Pori-chan
Porin-kun and Pori-chan are probably the only Japanese otters you’ll see in Koichi. The creature was once a common sight in Japan but due to pollution and hunting the otter disappeared in the 1930s. The last official sighting of one was in the southern part of Kochi Prefecture in 1979, when it was photographed in the mouth of the Shinjo River in Susaki. Porin-kun and Pori-chan have appeared in many campaigns and public relations activities supporting the police department.
On the 1st of July 2004 Fukei-kun was crated to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Fukuoka police force. His name combines the ‘Fuku’ from Fukuoka and the ‘kei’ from police (keisatsu). He carries a lantern with Fukuoka written in Kanji on the side and wears a happi; a traditional festival coat. Fukuoka is famous for the Hakata lantern festival where more than 10,000 paper lanterns light up the streets, and processions of happi wearing people walk along carrying them. Fukei-kun’s special skills include judo and kendo, he enjoys participating in events and his favourite thing in the world is people smiling.
On the 11th of November 1999 Gorou-kun was born and started working in public relation campaigns and traffic safety classes for the police. ‘Mutsugorou’ is the Japanese word for mudskipper and where Gorou-kun takes his name. The wide eyed mudskipper a creature common on the coast line of saga represents the police forces friendliness, their sense of justice and cheerfulness.
Catch-kun symbolizes the age of information and technology. He’s a robot who can quickly catch the voice of citizens and solve their problems.
Yuupi is a bear and represents Kumamoto prefecture. The two kanji used in Kumamoto can mean “origin of the bear”. Yuupi made his debut on October 1, 1997. He was named Yuupi for a variety of reasons. Firstly Yuuki mans brave, Yuujou means friendship and Yuu can mean gentle. The pi of course comes from police.
Oita Prefecture is famous for Mt.Takasaki National Park sometimes known as “Monkey Mountain”. The mountain is home to about 1,700 wild Japanese Macaques. Pinky is modelled on this type of monkey and he has a family too. His wife is a policewoman, his son is an elementary school student and the young girl is at nursery.
In a competition to name the Miyazaki police mascot the prefecture received 13,794 submission. Like many of the mascots Miyakei-kuns names combines the name of the prefecture and the Japanese word for police (Keisatsu). The design however is a little more unusual. The police force set a design competition for members of the police force and their family members to come up with a mascot. They received 132 submissions and the chosen design was created by a police officer. Miyakei-kun is said to dressed in a jomon (14,000 BCE to 300 BCE) style as Miyazaki has many interesting Jomon archelogical sites.
The design of Chesto-kun comes from Kagoshima’s famous and active volcano; Sakurajima. The name ‘Chesto’ was taken from an old Kagoshima dialect which could mean ‘whaaaaaa’ or the sort of thing you might say when running into battle. The word expresses the will of the police to cooperate and overcome difficulties.
Found all over Okinawa, the Shisa is a traditional decoration that is placed on roofs and outside villages, homes and temples. It is a cross between a lion and a dog, and is often found in pairs, one with its mouth open and one closed. The Shisa with an open mouth wards off evil spirits while the other keeps the good spirits in. The lion-dog was introduced to Okinawa through trade with China in the late 14th century and was appropriated and developed by the Okinawan
people. Considered a guardian of the island, Shisa-kun is described as friendly and cute. His wears a navy blue winter uniform and the colour of his skin is a ‘tropical fruit orange’.
If you discover a police mascot from anywhere in the world I’d love to see it. Leave a link in the comments. If you have an Idle Idol photo you like to send us please get in contact. You can also add your photos to the Idle Idol flickr group. Finally, let us know which one is your favourite by taking part in the poll below.