Internet sniggers lead to mascot rethink


Wed, Oct 16, 2013 - Page 6

Japan’s Fukushima Industries yesterday said it was rethinking its “Fukuppy” mascot, after the Internet erupted in sniggers over a name that recalls the catalogue of mishandling at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

The Osaka-based refrigerator maker, whose name derives from its founder and has nothing to do with the area hit by an atomic catastrophe, has been much ridiculed on social networking sites for its egg-like mascot with blue wings and red feet.

“I’m Fukuppy. Nice to meet you,” the smiling character with a human face tells visitors to the company’s Web site. “I think I’m kind with a strong sense of justice, but people say I’m a little bit scatterbrained.”

Fukushima Industries unveiled “Fukuppy” in April, blending the first part of the company name — Fuku — and the end of the English word “happy,” saying it represented the corporate philosophy of being a happiness-creating company.

However, the striking moniker was mistaken for “an inappropriate word among people in English-speaking places or its meaning was misunderstood on the Internet,” the company said in a statement.

“We sincerely apologize for worrying many people and creating misunderstanding among them,” the company said, adding: “We will look into the name, including a rethink of it.”

One of Japan’s biggest makers of industrial cooling systems, Fukushima Industries has offices around the country as well as across Asia, including in Taiwan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

The firm said the name was nothing to do with the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, although it has a sales office in Fukushima Prefecture.

The clean-up at Fukushima, where reactors flung radioactive substances into the air, soil and sea in the days and weeks after it was hit by the March 2011 tsunami, has been beset with problems, and continues to come under the international spotlight.

A series of leaks of radiation-contaminated water over recent months, which came on top of a power outage caused by a stray rat, have added to the impression that the plant’s operator is hapless.

As the name of the broken nuclear plant, “Fukushima” has come to worldwide attention, but it is also a family name, the characters for which mean “fortunate [or good] island.”

It is common for companies and organizations in Japan to have a cuddly mascot character that is used as part of branding. Many are brought to life by adults in full-size costumes who wander around sponsored events.

Last month, Asahikawa Prison in Japan’s far north unveiled “Katakkuri-chan,” a nearly 2m humanoid with a huge square face and an enormous purple flower for hair, that bosses hoped would soften the image of the jail.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police has had its own crime-fighting mascot since the 1980s, who is now well-loved across the nation.