In the early to late 2000s there was an explosion of cartoon mascots in Japan known as Yuru Kyara. This can be translated literally as loose characters. Yuru Kyara are simple and cute — the kind of cartoon character a child could draw.
Yuru Kyara boomed in the 2000s. Suddenly every Japanese tourist attraction large and small had one. The Japanese media got interested and a handful of local cartoon characters shot to national fame. There were Yuru Kyara Matsuri (loose character festivals) where characters from all over Japan could compete.