The town of Shirahama is found on the Pacific coast of central Wakayama, in Japan’s Kansai region. Tourists and locals alike enjoy the white sands of Shirarahama beach, the soothing waters of its historic onsen, and the natural beauty of its cliffs and caves. But there is one highlight of this town that you may not expect: a little blue penguin named Shirapen.
Shirapen is the Shirahama Town Chamber of Commerce and Industry Youth Club Character, one of coutless yuruchara mascots that exist in Japan to promote regions, businesses, sports teams, and the like. Shirapen has a unique connection to his hometown: his face looks just like Shirarahama beach! His white belly, representing the famous Engetsu Island sea cave, is said to bring luck to anyone who strokes it.
Shirapen’s habit is to end his sentences with “pen”, like a well spoken Pokemon. “Good morning pen.” “I’m looking forward to it pen.”
I had the privilege to meet Shirapen at the 2022 Local Character Expo in Hikone, where he did a dance number with fellow Shirahama mascot Kuedon the longtooth grouper fish. Although I posed for a photo, I was too star-struck to remember to rub the lucky white belly. Maybe next time!
Shirapen’s appearance schedule can be found (in Japanese) on the Shirahama Town Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s website. You can also follow his activities on Twitter and Instagram.
I first wrote about Shirapen in this blog post.