Date of Award
Croft Institute for International Studies
In Japan, mascots are not only representatives of sports teams and sugary cereals, but are vital diplomatic tools of communication and domestic tools of escapism. Though a multitude of mascots exist, scholarship on the topic tends to portray the body of mascots as one-dimensional. This thesis analyzes the modern mascot field and provides previously undefined categories for mascots based on their application, as their absence hinders further analysis. These definitions also describe the subversive social space that mascots inhabit in Japanese society and allow the thesis to examine consumers’ relationships with mascots. An analysis of the U.S. and Israeli embassy mascots reveals that, through these Japanese-styled mouthpieces, foreign countries can more gently promote their goals to the Japanese public. A historical contextualization of mascots elucidates their cultural heft and provides a framework to examine the mascots of the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Japan as soft diplomacy actors. Embassy mascots are unique in their form and application, presenting a Japanese-styled mouthpiece whose goal is to alleviate the country-specific anxieties that Japanese people experience – a truly usable manner of soft power given their agency. While embassy mascot’s efficacy, longevity, and matters of who controls the soft power they embody are debatable, further scholarship should examine them seriously as possibly affecting diplomatic relations with Japan and not dismiss them as simply another fad.
McCormick, Gwenafaye, "Japanese Mascots: Diplomatic Tool, Domestic Escapism" (2019). Honors Theses. 1213.