Theses Master's

Planning with Character: Gotouchi Kyara and Place Branding in Japan

Barrows, Lissa

As part of urban planning, local governments in Japan have developed a unique type of city branding that uses gotouchi kyara ご当地キャラ, which are community character mascots representing cities, towns, or villages that highlight significant aspects of the area, such as famous foods or tourist attractions. The character mascots tap into the already present character goods and kawaii culture of Japan, are cost effective and sustainable, are a means for bringing the community residents together, and easily lend themselves to local economic development. Thus, the character mascots are a major strategy for place branding. A geographical information system (GIS) cluster analysis suggests that the origin of gotouchi kyara in Japan was dispersed in the early 1980s, became random in the 1990s, and began to cluster in the mid-2000s. Clusters that are far apart from each other can be found throughout Japan, and hot spots of multiple gotouchi kyara are found in the smaller cities, towns, and villages in the south of Japan and cold spots are found near Tokyo. The proliferation of gotouchi kyara is most dense around the major metropolitan areas. Criticism exists for the mascots, but “character power” is undeniable in contemporary Japanese society.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Freeman, Lance M.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 2, 2014