Japan is putting the cat in catastrophe with its new pandemic mascot, a coronavirus-combatting kitty named Koronon.
On most days, the mascot can be spotted in busy parts of Tokyo such as Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, passing out free masks to pedestrians and spreading good cheer instead of pathogens.
The pink costumed critter wears a mask and plastic shield over her Hello Kitty–ish face, and a big red X crosses out “Covid-19” written across her middle. She also carries a purple sword and sports a red superhero cape.
Koronon’s daily schedule is listed (in Japanese) on her Instagram page. Her creators at event promotions firm Al-Pha Co. told Insider that the cat can be booked for appearances at schools and offices to promote social distancing and hygiene.
Koronon is a timely addition to Japan’s thriving mascot culture, known as yuru-chara. In contrast to the U.S. practice of restricting mascots to theme parks, sports stadiums, and select tourist-heavy spots such as Times Square and Hollywood Boulevard, Japan rolls out lovably bizarre costumed figures for seemingly every business, small town, special event, local export, and public safety initiative.
You don’t have to go to Japan to become acquainted with these creations. Follow the Tokyo-based Mondo Mascots on Twitter, and you’ll meet a manatee who teaches driving etiquette, the city of Kushiro’s piece of kelp in a bikini (which looks like a potential love interest for South Park‘s Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo), a safe sex–promoting “ninja condom” named Jimmy Hattori, and scores more.
Komboin is a piece of kelp in a bikini, who promotes kombu seaweed from Kushiro City, Japan. pic.twitter.com/xxL0V3ZRf5
— Mondo Mascots (@mondomascots) November 2, 2020
As Time Out points out, the anti-coronavirus mascot joins several other already-existing characters devoted to related topics, including Awawa the hand-washing bubble, Quaran the quarantine fairy, and Amabie the plague-fighting mermaid.
Even Gritty of the Philadelphia Flyers seems tame by comparison.