My dissertation, provisionally titled ‘From Domestic Marketing Tool to Public Diplomacy Double Agent: Japanese Mascots as Soft Power Actors,’ focuses on the use of yuru kyara (“weak” or “light characters”), a Japanese style of mascot and brand ambassador, by various Japanese institutions. The sociological implications of their popularity and widespread use are of particular interest to me - why has this style of marketing tool become so widespread in Japan? Although the field has been briefly examined in existing literature, yuru kyara are often condensed into a monolith, flattening their complex applications and reasons for existence. Thus, my research proposes original definitions in order to elucidate this complexity as well as provide terminology conducive to a more thorough discussion of yuru kyara. Furthermore, I examine how foreign embassies in Japan are capitalizing on yuru kyara’s cultural cache. Through surveys of and interviews with past Japanese exchange students to Japan, my dissertation will determine whether foreign embassies in Japan which utilize such ‘mascots’ of their own creation are effecting Japanese perceptions of said embassy and the country it represents.
Supervisor: Chigusa Yamaura
College: Wadham College
Previous Degree Program: I completed my undergraduate degree in International Studies, with a focus on East Asia (Japan), at the University of Mississippi in 2019, where I won the Croft Institute for International Studies award for the Best Senior Thesis on an East Asian Topic.