Kumamon, the popular Japanese black bear-like mascot, will soon change its official Chinese name used in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to better represent and promote Kumamoto, the southwestern prefecture said Thursday.
The current official name, which is a combination of Chinese characters meaning cool and cute, is pronounced "ku-ma-meng" in Mandarin as a transliteration of Kumamon. This will be replaced from March 19 by one formed by the characters for Kumamoto and bear in Chinese.
The new name, pronounced "xiong-ben-xiong" in Mandarin and "hung-bun-hung" in Cantonese, has in fact long been the unofficial and more commonly known name for the now-ubiquitous mascot in Chinese-speaking territories since its debut in 2011.
Kumamoto Prefecture said it has already applied for trademark registration of the new official Chinese name, as part of efforts to protect its intellectual property rights.
In Japanese, Kumamon is an abbreviation of "the people of Kumamoto" in the local dialect.
So is Kumamon a bear after all? Its official website says it is not -- "Kumamon is Kumamon. Not a bear."