Bar Associations in Japan Create Mascots, Logos

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Bar Association Building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Bar associations in Japan are stepping up efforts to help people feel close to lawyers, such as making cute mascots as well as logos.

The moves come as many people tend to think that lawyers are strict and unapproachable.

The Tokyo Bar Association in March announced a mascot called “Bentora,” based on a tiger. On its forehead is a kanji character, “ben,” one of the three characters forming the Japanese word “bengoshi,” or lawyer.

It was chosen from among more than 500 designs sent from members of the public and organizations.

Bentora “has warmth and is also attractive as it looks like a reliable friend,” said famed manga artist Hirohiko Araki, a special member of the jury, who is known for works such as the “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” series.

In January, the Yamanashi Bar Association in Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo, unveiled a mascot called “Kopitto,” originating from a dialect meaning “firmly.” Kopitto is “a grape fairy,” according to the association. Yamanashi is one of the largest grape-producing prefectures in Japan.

The Sapporo Bar Association in Sapporo, the capital of the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, announced in February a logo designed on the basis of two kanji characters that are read together “satsuben,” short for “Sapporo Bengoshikai,” the Japanese name of the association.

“Lawyers tend to be thought to be a little strict,” said Hitoshi Hanawa, former head of the Yamanashi Bar Association.

Due to such image, people may hesitate to contact lawyers for advice and consultations, Hanawa indicated. There have been many cases in which clients should have come to see lawyers earlier, he said.

“I want people to feel closer to lawyers and visit them easily,” Hanawa said.

Ryo Ito, a lawyer and chief of the Sapporo Bar Association’s public relations department, said, “The logo could be effective (for the association) to approach people who are not interested in its activities.”

In light of citizens’ rights, bar associations often release statements and submit written opinions regarding policies and measures of the government and others.

Takahiro Ujihara, a lawyer who was involved in the work to choose Bentora as the Tokyo Bar Association’s mascot, noted that the mascot is intended to encourage people to read such documents released by bar associations. Materials comprising only characters tend not to be read, he said.

Still, Ujihara said that the mascot is “just the entrance,” adding, “It’s also important for us to make documents that are easy to understand.”