It seems like nearly every city, town, and village in Japan has a cute mascot character to represent it. Usually these are yuru-kyara, anthropomorphic characters often designed with qualities representing whatever that municipality is known for.
The city of Suwa, Nagano, however, knows that the worth of a mascot character should be judged not by how well it represents the region, but by how well it sells. And in Japan, nothing sells better than cute anime girls.
That’s why they came up with Suwa-hime, or Princess Suwa, a young anime princess from medieval Japan with her own manga, voice actress, and line of original figures and goods.
Since her creation in 2011, Suwa-hime has been such a success that the city has even started printing her on their official marriage certificates, and the nerdy public official who came up with her is likely basking in splendid vindication of his hobby for the first time in his life.
Around August, Suwa-hime became known around Japan after getting her own app for iPhone and Android, Suwa Nabi: an interactive map where Suwa-hime acts as your guide, introducing you to the history and hot spots of Suwa city.
There was no stopping her after that, as the Suwa-hime merchandise expanded to include things like soba and CDs (which you can sample here), to beer and sake.
On Oct 1, the city of Suwa announced that it would begin offering special marriage certificates for residents featuring one of two Suwa-hime designs.
The certificates are available to couples who were married or are planning to marry in the city of Suwa. Additionally, either the husband or wife must be a current resident of Suwa.
Standard, non-“moe” certificates are still available, but who wants those now, right?
In fact, PLUM, the company originally commissioned to design Suwa-hime, recently wrote on their blog that the certificates have been so popular that the company president is considering a Suwa-Hime marriage consultation service.
Suwa isn’t the first Japanese municipality to have a female anime mascot—for the past three years Tochigi Prefecture has held an annual festival celebrating regional “moe” characters and how they can help spur local tourism and economic development — but with all the effort its putting into raising young Suwa-hime, it may be the most enthusiastic.
Source: Suwa City HP, Hachima Kiko, PLUM
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