The Curious Case of Hyakumansan

In 2013, Mr. One Million, Hyakumansan, upset the residents of Ishikawa prefecture, whom he was supposed to represent, by being too ugly. Overdesigned. Not cute enough. Nearly a decade later, he’s still standing as the mascot of Ishikawa but what was all that hullabaloo about? Is he really as messy as they said he was? Or have tastes changed to be more in line with his design?

Prefectural Mascots

I’ve gone into some prefectural mascots and the whole mascot trend in general in previous posts, but to quickly recap: To boost tourism, prefectures are in an arms race to design cute characters to bring riches to their prefectures. Success stories include Kumamon from Kumamoto prefecture (meme legend) and Gunma-chan from Gunma prefecture (he has his own anime series!).

Hyakumansan Gifts - Two Second Street -

Hyakumansan is the representative of Ishikawa prefecture, located about 294 kilometers (183 miles) northwest of Tokyo. Its capital is Kanazawa, home to 99% of Japanese gilding, its own unique kimono style, one of the best-preserved samurai districts in the country, and an assortment of Geisha tea districts. It has a special place in my heart, and I personally love the daruma-looking Hyakumansan and his fancy mustache, but what in the world is going on with this guy? Why is he so… cluttered?

The Symbolism of Hyakumansan

Hyakumansan at Kanazawa Station - Two Second Street -

Every part of Hyakumansan is intentional and represents something unique about Ishikawa prefecture’s history and culture.

For starters, he has a lustrous gold color to symbolize the gilding industry in Kanazawa. Similarly, the peony on his body represents the Kaga Yuzen kimono painting style of the region. The famed lacquerware from the region is represented by his lacquerware mustache, and his body represents the advanced technology industry of Ishikawa by being made of cutting-edge carbon fiber. The famous Kutani Ceramics of the area are represented in the colors used along the items on his body: red, yellow, green, dark blue, and purple.

But what about all that other stuff, you may be asking? Well, those are famous locations and notes of interest in the prefecture, such as Mt. Hakusan. There are also cultural items, such as the Noto Kiriko floats from their famous Noto Kiriko festival.

Hyakumansan Sign - Two Second Street -

So while there is a lot of thought and symbolism, is it too much? I prefer more of the minimalist interpretations I saw across the city, like this sign I found along a random road. Sure, you can keep the original for the mascot suit and public appearances, but I feel like for a truly successful mascot character, its design language has to be easy enough for a child to draw. Kumamon? Easy: Two colors and it’s a generic bear. Gunma-chan? Easy: Round shapes making a horse with a hat. Hyakumansan? Ehr, maybe more refined motor skills are required for this guy!

While I love the thought put into it, I feel a more simplistic rendering should be used in promotion, keeping the super detailed version available for special treats and sightings.

What do you think? Is Hyakumansan too much? Just enough? Let us know in the comments below!


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