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Photo Journal: That's what friends are for

Thirty local mascots from around the country gathered at a shopping center in the Shiga prefectural city of Hikone on April 24 and collected donations for quake-hit areas in Kumamoto and other areas of Kyushu.

    Hikonyan and Kumamon, the local mascots -- or "yuru-kyara," literally meaning "loose characters" -- of Hikone and Kumamoto Prefecture, respectively, are the most popular mascots in the local mascot world. Since the Kyushu Shinkansen bullet train's Kagoshima route began operations in 2011, the two mascots have often visited each other; with Hikonyan just recently visiting Kumamoto in February of this year. Kumamon was set to participate in the latest event, but cancelled due to the massive quakes that have struck the Kumamoto area since April 14.

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