Israel’s Japanese Embassy knows where it’s at.
Cute. Fluffy. Mascots.
Were you not in the loop on this? Neither was John Oliver, who, upon finding out about this trend, ran a hilarious piece about Japan’s ‘yuru’ mascot culture.
Let’s face it, cheesy design aside, Shalo-um Chan is pretty darn adorable. And he was chosen out of 500 other submissions posted to Israel’s Japanese embassy’s Facebook page. So, you know he’s got street cred.
Shalo-um-Chan (not to be mistaken with Shalom-Chan, only the 7th most popular mascot) is a parrot (yes, parrot, not dove! It’s a twist!), holding an olive branch and wearing a fashion-forward Star of David headband (where can we get one of those?!).
The mascot was designed by Yoku Ogawa, who won a free trip to Israel. Let’s hope she was not disillusioned when she saw the lack of cute fluffy parrots the Holy land had to offer.
In its 2013 unveiling, Shalo-um-Chan showed he (she?) was an avid dancer (and boy, can he put on the moves) and got his photo taken — like a pro. Let’s face it, Shalo-Um-Chan is pretty photogenic.
“As you see, this character is round and soft, and Israelis are not as soft. But as you can see, we are trying to change our image to make it softer” said Nissim Ben-Shitrit, Israel’s ambassador to Japan. “I believe some Japanese will see Israel like this character.”
“Look,” John Oliver added in his sketch, “People see Israel in a lot of different ways, but I don’t think there is anyone on earth who sees it as that character.”
Well, John Oliver, unlike you, I’m a believer. Maybe it’s just a matter of time. After all, just like another prominent Israeli politician, Yair Lapid, Shalo-Um-Chan, already has his own (YouTube) show, ‘I Say, Israel!’.
The show has seven strangely compelling episodes (you can read our review of its first episode here). The show takes on charged subjects like multiculturalism, inter-marriage (will Saki marry Itai-kun?!) and abuse of alcoholic beverages (Oh no! Arak is too strong!).
In the latest episode, Shalo-Um-Chan brings together all his former enemies (the other contestants in the mascot competition) while DJing at a rave for all of them. Can you say diplomacy?
And despite the fact that Shalo-Um-Chan can’t really talk (all the beaky fellow can manage are strange beeping sounds), he’s already done more to improve Israel’s image in his two years as mascot than many of Israel’s foreign ministers do in their four year terms.
I vote Shalo-um-Chan for Israel’s next prime-minister any day.