Neil Steinberg flies to Japan and finds a country and culture conflicted over cuteness.
On 14 April 2016, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu, toppling buildings and sending residents rushing into the streets. Hundreds of aftershocks – one an even stronger 7.0 quake – continued for days, killing 49 people, injuring 1,500 and forcing tens of thousands from their homes.
News spread immediately around the globe on social media.
“Earthquake just happened,” Margie Tam posted from Hong Kong. “R u ok kumamon?”
“Are Kumamon and his friends safe?” wondered Eric Tang, a college student.
“Pray for Kumamoto & Kumamon,” wrote Ming Jang Lee from Thailand, a phrase that would be repeated thousands of times.
Kumamoto is a city of 700,000 in a largely agricultural province in south-western Japan.
But what, or more precisely who, is Kumamon? And why in the wake of an immense…
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