Cheburashka in Japan

This article is a part of the series on cultural connection between Japan and Russia.

Another Russian invention immensely popular in Japan, perhaps even more so than in Russia itself, is Cheburashka—a cute little animal and the main protagonist in children’s literature and the animation series of the same name.

Screenshot from the original series by Soyuzmultfilm.

According to the 1966 story by Eduard Uspensky, Cheburashka, also known as Topple in earlier English translations, is a funny little creature, unknown to science, who lives in the tropical forest. He accidentally gets into a crate of oranges, falls asleep, and eventually gets delivered to the greengrocer in an unnamed town where the rest of the main story unfolds.

Cheburashka in the first edition of the book (1965), and on cover of a new audiobook.

Cheburashka is very popular across the CIS, where he is the subject of numerous jokes, used in a figurative sense to name objects, and regularly selected as the official mascot for the Russian Olympic Team. Nevertheless, his popularity in the former Soviet Union is nowhere near the Japanese Cheburashkamania, which exploded in 2001, after the series was shown in 15 cinemas and seen by over 700,000 across the country.

Since then, Japan got flooded with myriads of Cheburashka dolls and other collectibles and in 2006, TV Tokyo announced that it has acquired the rights to remake the Cheburashka shorts as a feature film; shot simultaneously in two languages—English and Russian. In 2008, the Cheburashka films were introduced into the Ghibli Museum Library with Japanese theatrical release on the same date as Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.

In 2009, a new Japanese animated series Cheburashka arere? premiered on Japanese television, and the aforementioned feature was reconfirmed for release.

Screenshot from the Japanese animated series Cheburashka arere?

Have you ever watched Cheburashka? If not, head straight to YouTube where the entire series is available with English subtitles, both in Russian and Japanese. Please do let me know what you think in the comments!