Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima on Tuesday visited Harvard University near Boston with "Kumamon," the popular black bear mascot of the southwestern Japanese prefecture, to give a lecture on how the cuddly character has helped "maximize the overall happiness" of residents.
The pair later met Wally, the mascot of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, home of this year's World Series champions.
At Harvard, more than 100 students and other people packed the hall to listen to the lecture, entitled "Kumamon's political science and economics," by the 66-year-old governor with a doctorate in political economics from the Ivy League school
He spoke about how the mascot has been helping promote the prefecture's image and products, as well as raising the spirits of people in Kumamoto on Kyushu Island.
Recalling that the global financial crisis hit just months after he became governor in 2008, "I needed to shift values from economy to overall happiness," he said.
The governor stressed that Kumamon is "public goods" as any business can use its image free of charge once an application is made with the prefectural government.
"Kumamon's universe expands on its own," Kabashima said, adding that it is created by fans, businesses and media.
Kumamon also showed up and danced to the tune of a song named after the character.
Hannah Shepherd, a Harvard doctorate course student in Japanese history, said that when foreigners think about Japan, the main island of Honshu usually comes to mind. Having also studied at Kyushu University and being a fan of Kyushu, she said Kumamon will help make the southernmost main island better known.
The lecture came about at the invitation of Kabashima's alma mater.