Quake - Hit Prefecture To Put Kumamon Back Into Action

Quake-hit prefecture to put Kumamon back into actionThe prefectural government of Kumamoto has decided to allow Kumamon, its hugely popular black bear mascot that has remained unseen in public settings since massive earthquakes jolted the area, to make a comeback at the request of fans and the local sightseeing industry, officials said Wednesday.

Among the first assignments to be given to the mascot to mark its comeback will be visiting shelters to cheer up children, the officials said.

In an effort to avoid confusion at places where Kumamon will appear, the prefecture will refrain from releasing the mascot's detailed schedules for the time being.

The prefecture canceled all of Kumamon's scheduled appearances on TV programs and at public events following a magnitude-6.5 quake on April 14 in order to focus on rescue operations. Another devastating M7.3 quake followed on April 16.

As prefectural officials have been working day and night on recovery efforts, they were initially negative about using the mascot again anytime soon.

But as the mascot's Twitter and Facebook accounts have been silent since the initial quake, fans have been posting messages online worrying about its safety, while people in the tourism industry have expressed hope the bear will return to action soon.

Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima told reporters earlier Wednesday, "Kumamon will appear at the best suited timing."