- Title: JAPAN: Students don their costumes as they study at only mascot school
- Date: 21st November 2012
- Summary: STUDENTS IN COSTUME PERFORMING SKIT OOHIRA AND OTHER STUDENTS IN COSTUME WATCHING SKIT OOHIRA WATCHING SKIT
- Embargoed: 6th December 2012 12:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Arts,Quirky,Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVA9FASP99K1CDHQCDQZBNQ6AQBC
- Story Text: For the students at the Choko Group mascot school, while the goal may be to entertain children through their performance, mastering the art isn't child's play.
The school was founded by by Choko Oohira, herself a 20 year veteran of wearing mascot costumes, as a way to perfect the art of the costume and movement.
While mascot wearers in places such as Disneyland or theme parks get on-the-job training, the school which was founded in 1985 is the only one of its kind in Japan and possibly beyond.
"I don't think there's anywhere else like this school. It's normal for performance group to get together and practice before the actual event, but that's it. In terms of a place to learn for people who are looking to be professional or just to enjoy this, I think that this is the only place." Oohira explained.
Lessons are 2 hours long and cost about 2,200 yen (approx 26 U.S. dollars), and students are taught everything from traditional dance to different walking styles to illustrate different ages while wearing costumes or the different ways of acting in an outfit.
Only the last part of the lessons are done in full costume, where they stay in character when watching others perform a skit.
Oohira said she has seen that standards of mascot acting and technique vary across the world.
"When I see places where someone's hand is coming out between the costume's hands, or they take off their mask in front of people, or show their skin under the mask, it's very disappointing. I just want to tell them that it's not how you do it! I want to show the world how to fully become the character and explain that's how to made children happy," Oohira told Reuters.
The school has a mix of students of around 25 students, ranging from those looking to work in theme parks to others simply wanting to give it a try.
"I had been doing this in my own sort of style, and so I wanted to try and actually learn from professionals. So when I came to visit and see what they did here, I was told I could participate this time. I realized there's alot of things I didn't know and so I hope to use the things I've learned this time going forward," explained 21-year-old Eiichiro Suzuki who was visiting from over 900 kilometres away and was trying the class for the first time.
For regular students such as Eri Suzuki however, the eventual goal is to work in the industry.
"As for my eventual goals, I hope to eventually work in a theme park and go all out towards working as those sort of mascot characters," Suzuki said.
Once students graduate from the school, work is unlikely to be a problem as Japan has been experiencing a massive mascot boom in recent years.
Mascots exist for everything from individual companies to government offices, with each having their own character and all being pulled out to help with promotional events whether they be greeting visitors or morning jumping jacks.
"I do indeed like them. The fact that they're fluffy, and each character has it's personality is quite interesting," said 12-year-old Seiji Uchida who took part in a morning exercise session with mascot characters who were out to promote their individual prefecture's gifts.
In the greater Tokyo area alone, there are around 250 mascots not including those made by companies.
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