You know those over-sized furry creatures that entertain kids at theme parks and special events? They’re called character mascots and being a good one is apparently about more than putting on a costume and acting silly. For professional training, there’s the Choko Group mascot school in Tokyo, Japan.
Probably the only school for mascots in the world, Choko Group was founded in 1985, by veteran mascot Choko Ohira. Students that go here are taught everything from traditional dance, which helps with goofy mascot dancing, to various walking styles that help illustrate different ages when wearing the funny costume. Wannabe mascots also learn how to interact with children, project a friendly or scary aura and using gestures to communicate when users are unable to see the wearer’s face. Right now,there are around 25 students at the Tokyo mascot school. Their ages range from early 20s to mid 50s, and while some are attending Ohira’s courses for pure fun, some are interested in pursuing mascot careers, and are hoping to some day work at a big theme park.
“I just want to tell them that’s not how to do it. I want to show the world how to fully become the character and explain that’s how to make children happy,” Choko Ohira said in an interview with Reuters. ”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,” She’s been teaching people how to correct these common mistakes for the last 27 years.
Japan absolutely loves cute big-eyed characters, so finding a job as a mascot is not that difficult for graduates of the Choko Group school. In Tokyo alone there are around 250 mascots, working at theme parks, tourist sites and even government offices, and that’s not even counting the mascots hired for company promotions.