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Business trends

Kumamon, Japan’s billion-dollar bear, ventures abroad

Watch out Mickey Mouse, Kumamoto's popular mascot is going global

Kumamon hugs a Taiwanese tourist at a Kumamon Square in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan on June 14. (Photo by Shinya Sawai)

KUMAMOTO, Japan / BANGKOK -- A small prefecture in western Japan is taking its bear mascot global, in a challenge to entertainment juggernauts like Walt Disney who dominate the world’s $123 billion character licensing market. 

With its pitch black fur, red cheeks and white eyes, Kumamon has become a phenomenon in Japan. Sales of goods carrying its cheery image topped 150 billion yen ($1.4 billion) last year. Now the Kumamoto government is accelerating international expansion of the brand in a partnership announced on Thursday with major Thailand conglomerate Saha Group to roll out Kumamon-branded products in the country. 

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