Japan's man-sized mascot bear goes to Cannes

Japan's man-sized mascot bear goes to Cannes

TOKYO - He has lectured at Harvard University and featured on the front pages of a global newspaper, now Japan's paunchy black bear mascot is to walk the red carpet at Cannes promoting his own movies.

Kumamon - a stylised creation with red cheeks and a fixed grin - is to attend the premier global film festival when it opens in the south of France next week.

The man-sized mascot, whose name means "Bear-person" in the dialect of southwestern Kumamoto, will appear at the Japanese Pavilion at Cannes where the nation's cinema and culture will be featured on May 18-19, Kumamoto prefecture said in a statement.

"Kumamon will promote short films titled 'Waiting in Kumamoto' (Kumamato de matteru) and "Forever in Hometown' (Furusato de zutto), in both of which he plays the lead," the statement said.

Even by the standard's of cute-obsessed Japan, the klutzy bear has been an eye-popping success for his home prefecture, rocketing to international stardom and inspiring awe among marketing experts.

Since debuting in 2010 to mark a new bullet train service, the bear - with a giant head and disproportionately short limbs - has decorated literally everything from bread and keychains to airplanes and purses.

The Bank of Japan has estimated that Kumamon-related products have had an economic impact worth a whopping 123.2 billion yen (S$1.6 billion) in the past two years alone.

Kumamon's creator Kundo Koyama will produce the "Japan Day Project" - a multi-datelined campaign to promote Japanese films, music and other creative media over the coming months that kicks off at Cannes.

Kumamon is used to the glare of publicity, and regularly graces Japanese newspapers, with one feted appearance on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

He also appeared at Harvard University with Kumamoto Governor Ikuo Kabashima who was giving a lecture at his alma mater.

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