Japanese Regional Mascots as Representations of Nostalgia

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Title: Japanese Regional Mascots as Representations of Nostalgia
Author: Hietala, Mona
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of World Cultures 2010-2017
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202006223258
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Itä‑Aasian tutkimus
East Asian Studies
Abstract: Regional mascots in Japan are utilized in several different ways from place branding, tourism marketing and business to administrative soft power functions. With the Japanese tourism industry relying heavily on domestic travel, regional mascots are parts of campaigns designed to market rural travel locations to domestic audiences. Predating the use of mascots, these campaigns have long marketed rural destinations as imagined homeplaces utilizing the culturally bound nostalgic imagery of hometown, furusato. The concept of homeplace is intimately connected to the locally observable phenomenon of indulgent interdependence in Japan, amae. This study aims to find nostalgic triggers identifiable in the framework of furusato and amae in regional mascots and their campaigns through qualitative representational analysis. Nostalgia is conceptualized as an emotional response containing a mixture of positive and negative feelings for things no longer available. In addition to personal nostalgia, nostalgia can be experienced towards a collectively shared cultural past or a historical time, in which case the nostalgic experience is simulated. In advertising texts, nostalgic triggers provide a means for greater consumer involvement. In the Japanese cultural context, nostalgic experience is often connected to the sense of homelessness and yearning for homeplace. While personal nostalgia for furusato is possible, the majority of nostalgic experience can be categorized as collective or historical. Things like local specialty products, events and activities may serve as nostalgic triggers. Amae ties in with furusato through the collective nature of village life and interdependence, whereas cute culture connects with amae through feelings of comfort and indulgence. Character culture enables affective consumption and escape into simulated worlds. The representation analysis utilized follows the constructionist approach to representation and meaning making, where reality is constituted from meaning making processes. This approach allows the search of denotative and connotative connections between mascot campaign content and furusato imagery. The analysis focuses on four regional mascots and their campaigns. The material introduced includes design, promotional activities, products and content produced for the characters. Content analysed is multimodal including audiovisual material, websites, blogs and social media channels. The representations in the campaigns are found to constitute locations as imagined homeplaces and communities. Similarly, the analysis discovered possibilities for nostalgia through experiences of amae. Nostalgic triggers identified through the analysis evoke either personal, collective or historical nostalgia. Notions of tradition, home, childhood, nature, festival culture, cuisine and local specialties are identified as powerful nostalgic triggers in the Japanese cultural context. As the outcome of nostalgic feeling cannot be guaranteed, further study is recommended for the confirmation of the occurrence of nostalgic reactions to these triggers from a larger sample of material.
Subject: Regional mascots
cute culture

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