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An $8 Billion Cartoon Bear Leads Push for Japan Tourism Revival

  • Kumamoto bets popular mascot Kumamon will lure visitors
  • Region is developing bear-themed attractions for selfie-lovers
Kumamon on the stage at Japan Expo in France in 2018.
Kumamon on the stage at Japan Expo in France in 2018.Source: Kumamoto Prefecture

A region in southwestern Japan is pinning its hopes for a post-pandemic recovery in tourism on a wide-eyed black bear called Kumamon.

The cuddly character has gained worldwide fame since he debuted as a promotional mascot for Kumamoto prefecture in 2010. Now authorities are developing bear-themed attractions across the region, betting they will spur an influx of overseas visitors when some of the world’s strictest border restrictions ease.