Products bearing the image of "Kumamon," the black bear mascot of quake-hit Kumamoto Prefecture, racked up sales of at least 128 billion yen ($1.1 billion) in 2016, the prefectural government said Wednesday.
The official mascot has been used to support reconstruction efforts in the southwestern Japan prefecture following major earthquakes last April, encouraging consumers nationwide to buy agricultural goods and other products from Kumamoto, it said.
The figure was up around 30 percent from a year earlier when sales exceeded 100 billion for the first time, a record-high for Kumamon-related products.
"Kumamon is driving reconstruction. We will proceed together to achieve recovery," Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima told a press conference.
Japanese businesses can produce and sell products featuring the much-loved black bear mascot free of charge upon receiving approval from the prefectural government.
The local government conducted a survey of 5,252 businesses using Kumamon in their marketing, of which 4,013 responded.
According to the survey, food products using packaging bearing the image of Kumamon, including local farm goods, sold around 109.5 billion yen while stuffed bear toys and other character goods racked up sales of 18.6 billion yen.