Hikonyan is the mascot character of Hikone, seen everywhere in the Ōmi region. For ubiquity, Hikonyan’s only competitor is Tobita-kun, the boy running out into the road. Since Hikonyan is allegedly genderless, we’ll avoid gender-specific pronouns here.
Hikonyan exists as illustrations, a yuru-chara mascot, and embodied in various brand products. Hikonyan is the white cat associated with the second lord of the Hikone clan, Ii Naotaka, in the Edo period. The cat walks upright on two legs and wears the distinctive samurai helmet of the Ii clan, famous for its blood-red colour and golden horns worn by Ii Naomasa. The name was selected from 1,167 suggestions from the public. His usual name is Hikonyan, but the official blog reports that the staff call him Mochi, due to the similarity of his appearance to the gelatinous rice cake of the same name. Hikone Castle is Hikonyan’s home address. Hikonyan is sometimes seen around with a character called Yachinyan who definitely seems to be female.
In 2007, Hikone Castle celebrated its 400th anniversary, and Hikonyan appeared as an image character of the festival held to mark the occasion. Hikonyan appeared in advertisements and merchandise for the event, and his cute lovability, combined with regional flavour, caused a sensation. Hikonyan is considered to have inspired the recent yuru-chara boom in which similar cuddly, regionally inspired characters have been adopted as mascots. Due to popular acclaim, Hikonyan was kept on as mascot of Hikone Castle, and products featuring the character still sell very well.
Use of the Hikonyan image is royalty free. This novel licensing system was introduced so that companies and individuals would feature Hikonyan widely to draw attention to the 400th anniversary of the castle. Local businesses created a wide range of goods featuring Hikonyan, including traditional crafts such as copperware, which had hitherto received little attention. Hikonyan also appears as confectionery and other items. Products were sold widely on the Internet, gaining the character national recognition.
Hikonyan is widely credited with being instrumental in revitalising tourism in Shiga, to the extent that public recognition of the character exceeds that of Hikone Castle. Today, Hikonyan appears almost every day at Hikone Castle, and also participates in other events related to Hikone City and the Ii clan.
Ii Naotaka, the second lord of the Hikone Domain was out hunting on the outskirts of Edo when a rainstorm hit. He took shelter under a large tree at the dilapidated Gōtoku-ji Temple. There he noticed a white cat who appeared to be beckoning him. When he left the shelter and approached the cat, lightning struck the tree. Naotaka felt he owed his life to this cat, and in gratitude, he restored Gōtoku-ji and made it the family temple of the Ii clan. This legend is also regarded as the origin of the beckoning cat figures placed in front of businesses to attract customers.
The land of Setagaya in Edo, including Gōtoku-ji Temple, was given to the Ii clan by the Edo Shogunate in 1633 and it became the territory of the Hikone Domain. This is about half the area of the current Setagaya Ward. Hikonyan has been known to visit this part of Hikone too.
Hikone Castle stands on a hill in central Hikone. Originally it was almost entirely surrounded by the water of Lake Biwa, but today the subsidiary lakes have been filled in. A visit to the castle is a
Originally from today’s Shizuoka Prefecture, Ii Naomasa was rewarded for his service to Tokugawa Ieyasu with the Sawayama Domain, which belonged to Ishida Mitsunari before the Battle of Sekigahara. Na
When you travel the roads of Ōmi, your eye is sure to be caught by the figure of a boy running out into the road with apparently suicidal vigour. He’s everywhere. On some roads, you can find him runni