When the reaches of humanity's ability to create art looks for a metaphoric warning to address the disastrous arrogance of science, it creates Godzilla, a lasting icon of the world's nuclear past. When the reaches of humanity's ability to create public relations campaigns looks for a mascot to address the disastrous arrogance of science, it creates Fukuppy, a lasting icon of the world's nuclear present.
Welcome to Earth, Fukuppy; you will go down as one of the top three worst mascots of all time.
To get the giggles and eye rolls out of the way up front, "Fukuppy" is the new mascot for Fukushima Industries, a manufacturer of refrigerators. The damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor, which just saw radiation levels hit a two-year high, is located in Fukushima prefecture.
In the wake of the (ongoing) Kumamon craze, brandchannel recently explored "Japan's robust history of anthropomorphized mascots" and how it fits into the island nation's "kawaii culture" ("kawaii" means "cute" or "adorable"). This cultural, maybe compulsive need to give every single thing its own adorable anthropomorphized mascot probably goes a long way in explaining the thinking behind Fukushima Industries' cute new spokes-egg.
Just as Kumamon is the mascot of the high speed train of Kumamoto City, Fukuppy takes its name from the name of Fukushima Industries. The whole joke is only relevant because the Fukushima name is shared with a melting-down nuclear reactor; and the English translation appears to have another meaning. In fact, most Japanese bloggers who noted the new mascot did not even bother commenting on its relation to the reactor. Meanwhile, major American media publications that assumed a connection were forced to completely rewrite their originals stories.
Meanwhile, the good Japan-watching bloggers at Rocket News 24 set everyone straight on the controversy:
"If you’re wondering how the company could choose a name so inappropriate, you’re actually reading it wrong! As you’ve probably deduced, the 'Fuku' comes from 'Fukushima,' which is pronounced as 'Foo-koo.' Unfortunately, when native-English speakers look at this, we can’t help seeing it as, um, well, you get the point, right?
Either way, the correct way to read this would be 'foo-koo-pii,' which sounds very cute in Japanese. It probably would have been better if they’d simply written the name in one of the two phonetic Japanese scripts, katakana or hiragana—you can’t really get the pronunciation wrong that way!"
Rocket News 24 even notes Fukuppy's origin story and responsibilities: "I fly around on my awesome wings, patrolling supermarket showcases and kitchen refrigerators. I can talk to vegetables, fruit, meat, and fish and can check on their health!”
It leads us to wonder if the real Fukuppy is that the West doesn't adopt charming mascots for everything. In fact, if Fukushima Industries finds the controversy more than it's willing to bear, US Congress could look into adopting Fukuppy.