Hot off Pikachu’s recent achievement of horrifying Pokémon fans everywhere by actually talking, Japanese Foreign Minister Tarō Kōno awarded the electric mouse mascot the title of cultural ambassador. A gawky, tall version of Hello Kitty got the title as well.
Pikachu’s new honor as ambassador is a clever promotional tactic to win Japan the chance to host Expo 2025, even though Expo 2020 hasn’t rolled around yet. The World Expo, a gathering to discuss “universal challenges of our time,” takes place every five years. The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) elects the host location of each event. Dubai is set for 2020, while France, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Japan are currently vying for the 2025 spot. None of the other countries, however, have managed to catch a beloved pokémon to promote their countries.
Hello Kitty has been a global phenomenon for decades, and Pikachu has become the pokémon equivalent of Mickey Mouse, meaning he’s everywhere: on your Snapchat, dancing at festivals, offering useless advice on your Google Home or Amazon Echo. According to The Japan Times, Kōno had a request for Pikachu and Hello Growth Spurt Kitty: “I would like for you to represent Japan and proactively (promote) the attraction of Osaka inside and outside of the country.”
Whether this means we can expect to see Pikachu and Hello Kitty handing out pamphlets and presents like the creepy Elmos of New York’s Times Square remains to be seen.