HIKONE, Shiga -- Some 500 fans celebrated the 11th birthday of popular Hikone mascot Hikonyan on April 13 at Hikone Castle, Hikonyan's official "residence."
The celebration was held in front of the keep of the castle, which is designated as a national treasure. Roughly 60 gifts from birthday cards to sweets and bouquets of flowers were gathered in front of the castle tower for Hikonyan.
On a specially prepared stage, the mascot Yachinyan, representing city shopping district Yonbancho Square, presented Hikonyan with a large birthday cake, after which Hikonyan struck a signature pose of delight.
Hikonyan is based on the white cat that is said to have beckoned the second feudal lord of the Hikone Domain, Ii Naotaka, and saved him from being struck by lightning. The character was given its name on April 13, 2006, a year before the 400th anniversary of the castle's construction, and this became the mascot's official birthday.
After the birthday party, Hikonyan also participated in a ceremony celebrating the 410th anniversary of the building of Hikone Castle, held at the castle gates. A crowd of visitors cheered wildly upon seeing the popular mascot participate in the festivities.