Dance video

Japanese mascot Kumamon teaches Indian children hygiene in dance video

This photo shows Japanese mascot Kumamon, Indian Ambassador Sanjay Kumar Verma, 2nd from left, Japan International Cooperation Agency Senior Vice President Keiichiro Nakazawa, 3rd from left, Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima, on screen, and others during a ceremony held at the Embassy of India in Tokyo on November 26, 2021. (Photo courtesy of JICA/Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Kumamon, the popular black bear-like mascot of Kumamoto prefecture in southwestern Japan, is used to teach Indian children about hygiene while dancing to a Hindi song in a video recently released by the Japanese aid agency, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The roughly four-minute video, a collaboration between the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Kumamoto Prefectural Government, shows the famous mascot washing his hands before having ‘chai’ tea at an Indian restaurant, with Indian artists and children dancing to local music. background.

The video released last month encourages Indian children to become friends with Kumamon and learn good habits from him such as cutting their nails, washing their hands and wearing face masks to “beat the pandemic”, in the words of the song.

It was shot in Japan and India and uploaded to JICA’s official YouTube channel. A shorter version of around one minute has so far been viewed around 5,000 times.

The project is part of JICA’s “Achhi Aadat” (good habits) campaign launched in January this year in India, with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of hygiene practices in preventing the spread of coronavirus infections and other diseases.

The year-long campaign was implemented in partnership with Japanese companies and local non-profit organizations in India.

“We hope Kumamon will play an important role in inspiring children and young people in India to love learning about hygiene practices,” JICA Senior Vice President Keiichiro Nakazawa said at a ceremony held at the Indian Embassy in Tokyo to officially launch the video at the end of November. . Kumamon also attended the event.

Welcoming the move, Indian Ambassador to Japan Sanjay Kumar Verma told Kyodo News that JICA’s campaign adds value to New Delhi’s “Clean India Campaign” covering the streets , roads and infrastructure of the country launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.

The video spreads “good hygiene information in an interesting way using the famous Japanese character Kumamon,” the envoy added.

A government official from Kumamoto Prefecture said, “We hope Kumamon’s video will arouse Indian children’s interest in our prefecture and Japan.

In the video, Kumamon also dances in front of the famous Kumamoto Castle to the lyrics that he will have to “visit India to eat a local delicacy” and meet his Indian friends. A JICA official said the organization aims to help Kumamon make a trip to India.

In Japan, mascots like Kumamon are collectively known as “yurukyara”, which literally translates to “cowardly characters”. Their laid-back attitude earns them followers who help them promote their regions and businesses in Japan.

Kumamon was originally established in March 2010 to promote Kumamoto ahead of the launch of Kyushu shinkansen bullet train service the following year. Since then, it has gained popularity in Japan as well as other parts of Asia.

Sales of products bearing the mascot image reached 169.8 billion yen ($1.5 billion) in 2020, hitting a record high for the ninth consecutive year, according to the local government.

Last year’s sales were up 11.9 billion yen from a year earlier, boosted by products such as masks and face coverings amid the pandemic, he said.