Chicchai Ossan is one of Japan’s most popular regional mascots along with Kumamon and Funassyi. While there are more than 3,000 mascots in Japan, each representing a specific prefecture or city, Chicchai Ossan is the first speaking character. Chicchai Ossan, whose real name is Shinichi Sakata, is a middle-aged Japanese man from Amagasaki in Hyogo prefecture. Speaking in a Kansai dialect with a sharp tongue and giving warm fatherly advice, Chicchai Ossan has become one of Japan’s favorite pop culture characters. He appears on Harajuku kawaii fashion shows, game shows and at other events. Tokyo Journal met with Chicchai Ossan at Anime Expo 2015 in Los Angeles.
TJ: Not many ossans [middle-aged guys] become famous in Japan. How do you feel about your newfound fame?
OSSAN: I’m surprised. I appreciate everyone supporting an ossan like me… Who are you calling ossan?!
TJ: Can you tell us about yurukyara [anime-style cartoon mascots]? Do they usually promote prefectures and cities?
OSSAN: I know Kumamon [Kumamoto’s mascot] very well. He’s my senpai (senior). We can feel his strong passion to boost the island of Kyushu. He inspired me to represent my region too. Many characters started to appear one after another. I think each region has many appealing things. There are some unofficial characters representing cities or prefectures like me who are produced by companies or volunteers. I once visited city hall to say, “Hello,” but they told me to work on my own. I didn’t even get an invite to the city festival! There are advantages and disadvantages. If it’s official, the character works with money from the city as its representative. On the other hand, as an unofficial character, I can work freely without restrictions.
TJ: How long have you lived in Amagasaki? Can you tell us about it?
OSSAN: I’ve lived in the city for 45 years. I was born and raised there. It is easy to get to since it’s located between Kobe and Osaka. The town was originally developed in the Hanshin industrial area that boosted the Japanese economy. Although some factories have moved to the Chugoku area or some other places, we can still see traces from the old days... It is hard to introduce Amagasaki in a pop-cultural kind of way. Well, we have a lot of good food, such as kushikatsu [deep-fried breaded meat or vegetables on skewers], Japanese barbecue, horumon [innards], and so on. The population has been growing! I highly recommend the city.
TJ: What are you doing at Anime Expo?
OSSAN: I did a slide show about the differences between Japan and the U.S., and also the di erences between ordinary middle-aged guys and me. I will do a lecture on the Kansai dialect. It is wonderful to see that anime, games, manga and other types of Japanese culture are this popular and to see everyone’s happy faces. I also did cosplay of the game Splatoon earlier. Many people asked me to take a photo with them. They are open-minded and get me pumped up.
TJ: How were the attendees at Japan Expo in France?
OSSAN: People told me that I made them laugh just by my laughing and just by my being there. The young people in their 20s speak Japanese very fluently. It might not be as big as Anime Expo but Japan Expo was huge, too.
TJ: Do you speak English?
OSSAN: I don’t speak much English but I have enthusiasm and I can do body language too. My facial expression won’t change, though. And my mouth is always open...
TJ: Do you have any big plans or events ahead?
OSSAN: There’s an event called J-POP SUMMIT in San Francisco in August. My friends Koakkuma & Akkuma from Hokkaido and I will be there. They can play the guitar and dance! Don’t you think that’s amazing? Sanasenabona from Nagasaki will be there too. They can do traditional Japanese and J-pop idol dancing. tj
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