This ran in the Sun-Times Friday. I didn't post it here, because I figured people had read enough about Kumamon Tuesday and wouldn't want more. But then I realized, some might have been put off by the 6,000-word treatise that ran in Mosaic, and might appreciate the 650-word, reader-friendly version. Plus it does have some elements not in the original. And how long can you puzzle over a photo? So, just in case, here it is:
“Tell the world about our Kumamon,” urged Hoei Tokunaga, as we shook hands goodbye after a weekend together last March. That one sentence, so sincere, almost beseeching, somehow summarized my week in Japan.
Tokunaga’s title is assistant deputy director of the Kumamoto prefectural government. In reality he is a coat holder for a teddy bear, one of 20 functionaries wrangling the massive business dealings, intense media interest and hectic publicity schedule of Kumamon, an imaginary black bear with red cheeks that is among the most popular mascots in Japan.
Kumamon’s handlers claim he is on his way to becoming bigger than Mickey Mouse or Hello Kitty. So I might as well introduce him to you, given that he is almost unknown in this country. In Asia, Kumamon sold $1 billion worth of merchandise last year.
You may have noticed we are not talking about politics. That’s intentional. If President Obama’s passionate evocation of the power and glory that is America left you unmoved Wednesday, if Hillary Clinton’s address Thursday only intensified your doorjamb-biting hatred for her, what am I supposed to do? Politics is a 24-hour hobbyhorse and sometimes, to remain sane, a person should get off and let it rock by itself for awhile. Friday, the gateway to the weekend, is the perfect day to take a break. The bad dream that is Election 2016 will be waiting for us Monday, right where we left it.
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