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Idle Idol: Mascots from around the world

Sato-chan and Satoko-chan

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Sato-chan

Sato-chan and Satoko-chan

Just off the main road in Ginza, the cosmopolitan shopping area of Tokyo lies Shimizu Pharmacy. Like most drug stores in Tokyo they sell the usual products but as soon as you step into the shop you’ll notice two characters almost everywhere you look. Like two stone lions guarding the entrance to a temple they stand either side of the doors. The welcome mat features the pair and inside you’ll find plates, mugs and smaller collectible models. They’re mascots for Sato Pharmaceutical and stand outside drug stores all over Japan. However its only Shimizu Pharmacy which boasts a small museum dedicated to the loveable elephants.

Sato-chan the orange elephant first appeared as an illustration in 1955; then in 1961 he was launched as their first storefront mascot sitting astride a rocket. In 1982 Sato’s sister was born and began to stand alongside her brother outside stores in 1995. There have been many incarnations of the characters, and older models are scattered among the newer ones. In the past their were models which could speak to customers when they walked by. Others could sing a song if you dropped a coin in them.

The two characters are so popular that many stores chain them up to keep keen collectors and fans from stealing them. The pink Satoko-chan is particularly sought after, and as a result is a bit more rare than her brother.

The siblings are modelled after the Indian elephant, which the creators believed to have a calm and gentle nature. Sato Pharmaceuticals also chose elephants as a mascot because elephants live long lives, something the company would like to emulate. A Sato Pharmaceutical advertising representative praised the elephants for standing in front of shops all day everyday, always smiling, always being welcoming.

This pair may be the most common ‘Idle Idol’ in Japan, you can see them dressed up in different costumes all over the place. If you’re lucky you might even be given a cute pair of finger puppets if you take enough pictures of them and a kind shop owner notices you.