TOKYO: Prince Pickles, a perky cartoon character with saucer-round eyes, big dimples and tiny, boot-clad feet, poses in front of tanks, rappels from helicopters and shakes hands with smiling Iraqis.
The cutesy icon hardly calls to mind the Japanese military that conquered and pillaged its way across Asia during World War II, and that is just the way the country’s leaders want it.
As Japan sheds its postwar pacifism and gears up to take a higher military profile in the world, it is enlisting cadres of cute characters and adorable mascots to put a gentle, harmless sheen on its deployments.
“Prince Pickles is our image character because he’s very endearing, which is what Japan’s military stands for,” said Shotaro Yanagi, a Defense Agency official. “He’s our mascot and appears in our pamphlets and stationery.”
Such characters have long been used in Japan to win hearts and minds and to soften the image of authority.
Follow the link for more images, and a link to pdfs of Prince Pickles comics.