Japan's rock-star mascot – Funassyi, the self-made rock star of a mascot that captured the heart of an entire nation waves to his adoring fans at a festival in Tokyo in May.
Catch phrase: "Nashiii!" – Unlike other mascots who are calm and quiet, Funassyi's is loud and energetic. He talks and sings in a high-pitched voice, ending his sentences with his catch phrase, "nashiii!"
From humble beginnings – From the humble beginnings of a youtube channel, Funassyi's popularity has exploded in the last two years. His resume includes television commercials, talk show appearances, music videos and even his own novelty single released by Universal Music.
... to superstardom – Millions of dollars in Funassyi merchandise has been sold in Japan since the mascot's fame skyrocketed. From key chains, handbags, purses, pens, clothing, posters, and of course, dolls, Funassyi and other popular mascot brands can generate billions in revenue.
Meet Kumamon – Kumamon, a rosy-cheeked silent black bear waves and dances to music as his fans snap photos. Kumamon is a ubiquitous presence in Japan, advertising everything from food and drinks to video games, and of course, his prefecture of origin, Kumamoto.
Hometown heroes – Japan's most popular mascots pose together on stage. Each mascot represents a city or prefecture and their appearance is linked to their place of origin. Funassyi gets his namesake and looks from "nashi" or pear, a product his city of Funabashi is famous for.
Success against the odds – Some of Funassyi's fans are children, but the majority of fans who came to see him at this Tokyo festival on May 31 were adults.
Funassyi's CNN debut – Funassyi makes his international television debut during an interview with CNN Tokyo correspondent Will Ripley. The mascot creator keeps his identity a secret and never appears out of character. He rarely grants interviews due to an exhaustive schedule of appearances.
Adoring fans – The most popular mascots are treated like rock stars in Japan. Fan scream their names, snap photos, and record videos as they take the stage.
Cute, cuddly, bizarre – Funassyi (left) and Kumamon (right) are the two most popular yuru-kyaras (mascots) in Japan. They are leading a movement of cute, cuddly, and sometimes bizarre characters that drive big business and capture the hearts of both children and adults.
Money for mascots – Tokyo resident Mika Asano, 32, poses with some of her Funassyi merchandise, which she estimates cost her more than $1,000. Mascots appeal to people of all ages in Japan, with many adult fans.
Imitating the legend – Since Funassyi's explosion in popularity, other mascots are imitating the mascot's wacky and wild style -- hoping to replicate his commercial success.