The village of Katsurao, Fukushima Prefecture, which was evacuated in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, has created its first mascot, modelling the character on a local specialty.
The mascot, "Shimi-chan," is named after shimimochi, or dried rice cakes, which are a traditional preserved food for the winter in Katsurao and other parts of the Tohoku region. They are created by dipping rice cakes in water, then hanging and freezing them outdoors, after which they are dried.
A food manufacturer in the village began selling the dried cakes commercially in 1990, and Katsurao became one of the top producers of shimimochi in the prefecture.
With the lifting of its evacuation order expected soon, the mountain village, previously home to some 1,500 people, will set out on the path to recovery. A village official says, "Small but resilient, we want to show the attractiveness of our village to many people."