Japan's rock-star mascot

Published 0245 GMT (1045 HKT) June 11, 2014
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Funassyi, the self-made rock star of a mascot that captured the heart of an entire nation waves to his adoring fans at a festival in Tokyo in May. Edmund S. Henry for CNN
Unlike other mascots who are calm and quiet, Funassyi's is loud and energetic. He talks and sings in a high-pitched voice, ending his sentences with his catch phrase, "nashiii!" Edmund S. Henry for CNN
From the humble beginnings of a youtube channel, Funassyi's popularity has exploded in the last two years. His resume includes television commercials, talk show appearances, music videos and even his own novelty single released by Universal Music. Edmund S. Henry for CNN
Millions of dollars in Funassyi merchandise has been sold in Japan since the mascot's fame skyrocketed. From key chains, handbags, purses, pens, clothing, posters, and of course, dolls, Funassyi and other popular mascot brands can generate billions in revenue. Will Ripley/CNN
Kumamon, a rosy-cheeked silent black bear waves and dances to music as his fans snap photos. Kumamon is a ubiquitous presence in Japan, advertising everything from food and drinks to video games, and of course, his prefecture of origin, Kumamoto. Yoko Wakatsuki/CNN
Japan's most popular mascots pose together on stage. Each mascot represents a city or prefecture and their appearance is linked to their place of origin. Funassyi gets his namesake and looks from "nashi" or pear, a product his city of Funabashi is famous for. Will Ripley/CNN
Some of Funassyi's fans are children, but the majority of fans who came to see him at this Tokyo festival on May 31 were adults. Edmund S. Henry for CNN
Funassyi makes his international television debut during an interview with CNN Tokyo correspondent Will Ripley. The mascot creator keeps his identity a secret and never appears out of character. He rarely grants interviews due to an exhaustive schedule of appearances. Edmund S. Henry for CNN
The most popular mascots are treated like rock stars in Japan. Fan scream their names, snap photos, and record videos as they take the stage. Yoko Wakatsuki/CNN
Funassyi (left) and Kumamon (right) are the two most popular yuru-kyaras (mascots) in Japan. They are leading a movement of cute, cuddly, and sometimes bizarre characters that drive big business and capture the hearts of both children and adults. Edmund S. Henry for CNN
Tokyo resident Mika Asano, 32, poses with some of her Funassyi merchandise, which she estimates cost her more than $1,000. Mascots appeal to people of all ages in Japan, with many adult fans. Will Ripley/CNN
Since Funassyi's explosion in popularity, other mascots are imitating the mascot's wacky and wild style -- hoping to replicate his commercial success. Edmund S. Henry for CNN