2005 photo essays
Week five (April 24, 2005)
This week's entry is dedicated to Expo mascots: Morizo and Kiccoro, the official Expo mascots, the German mascot (die Maus) and some more of the country pavilion mascots.
· Morizo vs. die Maus
You may have seen the two official Expo mascots by now. Morizo, the dark green one, is the forest grandpa, whereas Kiccoro (light green) is the forest child. Even though interest in the Expo in Japan isn't (yet) as big as expected, Morizo and Kiccoro merchandise is selling very well. If you talk about merchandise, you get everything imaginable: pens, cups, t-shirts, cookies, finger puppets, hats, scooters, even planes, possibly.
Update 2005-09-04: I took a few photographs inside one of the official goods shops. Please note that these photos were taken in the early morning; usually these stores are so crowded that you need to queue up to enter and to check out (even though they have 20 cashiers), moving from one side to the other may take up to one hour. This extreme souvenir craze by the Japanese visitors is mainly caused by the custom of bringing omiyage (souvenirs) from a visit such as at the Expo. Everyone back home (friends, family, work colleagues) will receive some kind of small souvenir from the visit in exchange for "being so selflish as to take some time off to go to the Expo".
People dressed up as Morizo and Kiccoro also stroll the Expo site. One of my Japanese co-workers told us about the working conditions of these people. They are trapped inside a very heavy costume with only a small slit of vision. They have to be on the site entertaining visitors no matter how hot, cold, rainy or windy it may be. Especially the kids love them, or let's say they love beating and bodychecking into their costumes. It goes like this: "Look Momma *POW* it's Morizo and Kikkoro *BANG* how cute!" So these poor suckers are jumping around, waving their small hands and pretend to be really happy, while inside, they are (maybe) really sad.
There are numerous mascot groups on the Expo area, but they all shift hourly to a new location. Of course, it is absolutely prohibited for two of these groups to meet at the same place, so the shifting intervals have to be strictly upheld. To this end, the mascots have a vibrating alarm at their hip which gives them the signal to move on every hour. Or maybe it's a a shock device which makes them move to the new location with GPS-directed electronic shocks, you can never be sure. ..also if two groups come too close to each other, all of them explode, probably.
Update 2005-08-01: Other regulations include that no one may see the people inside changing in and out of their costumes; Morizo and Kiccoro may never be separated; the costumes may not be worn for longer than 30 minutes.
As for the mascot of Germany, the main character of the long-running German TV program "Die Sendung mit der Maus", die Maus, has been chosen as the official mascot of the German year in Japan 2005/2006. In Germany, everybody knows die Maus; even though it's a kids TV show, many older people have also grown up with it and regard it as a classic. The show is somewhat similar to Sesame Street and dubs itself "Lach- und Sachgeschichten" (fun fact stories). It features films that explain how things like steam engines or nuclear power plants work, also some comic films, some child's narratives etc. In between, there are short comic episodes with die Maus and his later-introduced sidekick, a blue elephant ("der Elefant") (check out these stills if you want to get a general idea). They also put in another sidekick, a yellow duck ("die Ente"), into the show later, but that character is really lame. They have a quite good German-language website for kids about Japan and the German year in Japan.
It's a shame that the German pavilion failed to bring the Maus costume character to Japan, who could have then worked right next to me. I also really would have liked to see an all-out brawl between Morizo and die Maus. Mascot fight! One thing that's really weird about the Japanese mascots (Morizo being the ripoff of Totoro, most popular anime character in Japan, that he is) is that they were apparently designed by some French comic artist and not by a Japanese mangaka. Whose idea was that? ?
· Pavilion mascots Pt. 2
Without much further comment I give you the second half of the photographs of the pavilion 'mascots'. Many thanks go out to Torsten Hüren who took these great pictures.
· Next week: Major blunders in the organization of the Expo