Ideal for fans of weird mammals and/or contactless payment services.
Japan was relatively late in the game of cashless payments compared to other developed countries, but one of the early adopters was rail giant Japan Rail (JR). JR has been divided into different regions of the country, each with its own smart card, such as JR East’s Suica and JR Kyushu’s SUGOCA, for more than ten years now.
JR West, meanwhile, is represented by the ICOCAwhose name symbolizes both that it is an “IC Card” and is a play on the Japanese expression “iko-kawhich means “are we going to go?” ” For the mascot, Ico-chan the platypus was created.
▼ A video explanation of how to use your platypus cards
A platypus mascot may seem completely random at first, but there’s actually some logic behind the choice. For starters, the animal’s unique characteristics as a mammal that lays eggs and has a beak like a bird’s make it a symbol of evolution, especially out of the norm. The highly specialized parts of a platypus, such as its tail that helps it swim and its beak adapted for picking up prey, underscore the functionality of ICOCA. And finally, much like how a smart card works, platypus have the ability to generate their own electric fields, only they use it to detect nearby prey rather than registering payments.
Of course, while choosing a platypus as a mascot is clearly rational, that doesn’t stop JR West from getting a little goofy from time to time. For example, from May 2 to May 31, they are accepting pre-orders for Ico-chan the Platypus “Aaaah” cushions for 29,700 yen (228 USD).
You might be wondering why Ico-chain’s bill is so grossly overcharged, like he’s saying “aaaaah” to get his tonsils checked. It’s so he can humbly accept your head, of course!
Simply sliding your skull into the pie hole of this semi-aquatic mammal is a one-way ticket to rest and relaxation. You’ll even be pleased to notice that on the roof of his mouth is an illustration of a sleeping Ico-chan saying “Let’s dream…zzzzz”.
Granted, you’d probably have to be an avid Ico-chan fan to spend that much money to get your head in your mouth. Luckily, for those still getting into the character, JR West releases plenty of other merchandise as well. Taking the train is a common way to reach holiday destinations in Japan, so it’s normal for a ICOCA picnic mat featuring Ico-chan is sold for 1,650 yen.
Even for those who prefer to stay home in their free time, Ico-chan puzzles are available in 100 and 500 pieces for 1,650 yen and 2,420 yen respectively
▼ The puzzles also feature Ico-chan’s smartphone version, which is white
And finally, when it’s time to go back to school or work, there’s the Ico-chan pencil case for 770 yen.
Still, the pillow is probably the way to go, given the choice. Not only is it a centerpiece of Ico-chan merch, but it fits into the hot new trend of sleeping in cat houses for the ultimate rest.
Source: Train Box, JR West via Netlab
Images: JR West
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