Interview by Nhu Nguyen
July 21, 2015
On day three of Anime Expo, I went to meet Ossan, a popular Japanese mascot from Hyogo prefecture who was making his American debut at the expo. Other than our first exchange of “Hello”, the second thing he said to me was, “I’m going to ink you.” I was taken aback and amused. This would be the start of our interview with the delightful character where we spoke about his time at Anime Expo, Hyogo prefecture, and entertained the idea of me becoming his daughter.
How are you enjoying Anime Expo so far?
Ossan: I am enjoying everything from the bottom of my heart—mentally and physically. I’m 45 years old right now. Since I’ve been little, I’ve been watching a lot of animation, so I can’t live without the culture! I’m so delighted and happy to see the Japanese culture transferred here, it’s brought many people to Anime Expo. Some of the people coming over, a little bit of the reason they are coming here could be because of me. [laughs]
What is your favorite Anime?
Ossan: There’s too much, a bunch, but let’s see! Ghost in the Shell, Doraemon, Pokemon, Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, Sailormoon, One Piece, Naruto, Gintama, Attack on Titan…all of it!
[I pointed outside the window, down at the busy exhibit hall.]
So you have a lot of friends!
Ossan: There’s a friend there, there, there, everywhere! I’m unemployed so I’m watching anime all the time…I don’t have to work.
How have the fans reaction been like?
Ossan: Some of them told me I can come over for a sleepover. I think it’s because we have anime in common and can talk about it. We had a big turnout at the Crunchyroll stage, so the Crunchyroll people were saying I should be the mascot of Crunchyroll instead of their own character.
So are you going to stay in America then?
How will your wife, 4 kids, and your dog, Yagi live without you?!
Ossan: Between you and me…I’m going to leave them. I’m kidding! We will move here and we will change our names to be American names.
Like what name?
Ossan: Like, Bob…Sponge. Last name will be Sponge!
Do you have any interesting stories you can share while you’ve been at Anime Expo?
Ossan: The first day I was myself, Ossan. On the second day, I was cosplaying Splatoon, from the latest Nintendo game. A lot of people feel I am accessible and loveable, so when they see me, they smile.
How do they feel when you ink them?
Ossan: They are so happy to be inked by me! They should be angry, but they are so happy! I am going to ink you!
Later, later! [laugh] I’ve never been to Hyogo prefecture. What should I eat there if I go?
Ossan: Somen, it’s like a thin udon noodle, made in Hyogo. It has a nice flavor and it’s good for your health. You can be beautiful eating it too!
I should eat more somen then! Is there a famous saying or catch phrase I should learn from Hyogo?
Ossan: “Nomu nara noru na, noru nara nomu na” It’s about driving under the influence…Don’t drink, don’t drive! But actually, there’s no real saying in Hyogo prefecture. I’m from Amagasaki city. There are a lot blue skies and white clouds…and factories. Everyone is kind in Amagasaki.
There is a rumor that you can gain good luck if you get a chance to rub your bald head, can you explain?
Ossan: If you rub my head, you get lucky, if you rub my head too hard, you will get bald. The luck will come if you rub my head!
Can I rub your head? [rubs]
Ossan: Now the happiness angel will come to you!
So now I’ll have good luck? I like that!
Ossan: I’m in Japan, so come often! [laughs]
Do you have any success stories you can share from people rubbing your head?
Ossan: In Japan, the guy who rubs my head gets a nice car and nice girlfriend, a fancy life. Or usually people say I have an ordinary life, but that is happiness for me, so thank you for the happiness I already have! But then I ask, what does that have to do with me!?
You are happy!
Ossan: I am happy to see people happy…don’t you think I am pure?
Yes, I see white around you…..except a little green.
[Looks down] Oh, Ink!
I hear you enjoy gambling and horse racing.
Ossan: I’m investing, I don’t expect a return. Every weekend investing, investing, investing…
Does it come back?
Ossan: No. No! [laughs] But, it’s fun! I’m the main character for a local horse race foundation. The last time the PR people told me not to get too close to the horses, my face is too big so the horses get scared. [Starts neighing and imitates a horse running away] Hey! Hey! Hey horse, come back! Come back!
I noticed when you’ve been walking around you’ve been humming the Darth Vadar theme.
Ossan: I think it suits my image. I am visiting my dark side. I’m not working, gambling all the time, every day I play, doing what I want. As a human it’s a dark side, as a father, it’s a dark side too…no job, no work! [In his best Darth Vadar impression of “Luke I am your father”] I am the best father!
Yes, you are the best father.
Ossan: You know?
Ossan: Come on…dark side!
But that makes you a bad father to me, I won’t get an allowance! You gamble, don’t work, and don’t give me money to spend…
Ossan: No problem, everybody helps me!
Ahh, okay, I will support you. I’m a really good daughter.
Ossan: OHHH, COME ON, COME ON. If you stand next to me with a smile on your face, that will be the best. It will bring me peace.
Ossan: Not money, heart!