Takata-no-Yumechan, the official mascot of Rikuzentakata in the northeastern prefecture of Iwate, was announced the winner of Japan's 10th and final "yuru-kyara" mascot competition on Sunday.
The white mascot, which made its first appearance in January 2012 as a fairy delivering dreams and happiness from a bag slung over its shoulder, received 280,017 votes at the contest held over the weekend in Takizawa, Iwate Prefecture.
The annual event had grown in scale since first being held in 2011. "Winning had become the goal, and (the contest) had lost its original purpose of revitalizing regions," the organizing committee cited as one of the reasons for discontinuing the competition.
Yumechan, which has ears modeled after pines in a grove that was swept away during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, entered the contest for the first time in six years, with the mascot's home prefecture hosting the competition and the 10th anniversary of the quake next year.
There were 691 contenders in this year's contest, including those competing in the category for mascots of corporations and other organizations.
Yurunakin, the dog-like mascot of Izumisano in Osaka Prefecture came second, while Tsurugon, the dragon hybrid of Tsurugashima, Saitama Prefecture, was third.
Meanwhile, Kokaryu Ninja Ponpoko, a virtual YouTuber of Koka in Shiga Prefecture, was voted favorite in the "corporate and others" category. The winners were decided by votes cast by audience members as well as online.
"I was originally just accompanying my wife, who is a fan of yuru-kyara, but I began to like them too. I want to enjoy looking at the photos we took when we get home," said Atsushi Yamada, 48, who came all the way from Toyama Prefecture in central Japan.
Mascots known as "yuru-kyara," literally meaning "loose characters" to signify their laid-back image, are mainly created by local governments to attract tourists and invigorate communities.
Kumamoto Prefecture's Kumamon black bear-like mascot won the inaugural competition in 2011.