Photo by Liz Ohanesian

Attention, super-cool kawaii tastemakers here in the USA – Rilakkuma is on his way.

If you aren’t familiar with the little plush bear (as I wasn’t until about 10 minutes ago), let this post be your wake-up call.

Here in the USA, I’ve mostly only noticed Domo-kun and Hello Kitty merchandise everywhere, but I haven’t heard of this Rilakkuma bear just yet.

This post on the LA Weekly blog highlights the bear’s official US debut which was signaled by parties thrown in the recent days by Umami Burger and JapanLA. As the post points out, the big campaign behind making Rilakkuma a big-time star stateside includes marketing towards adults instead of just kids:

In the process, it appears that they are targeting cool adults with a penchant for all things kawaii rather than the children’s market. Using L.A. as a launchpad, San-X is in the midst of a two-week promotional campaign with Umami Burger, where the local burger chain features Rilakkuma napkins, to-go bags and even a few goodies. Last weekend, JapanLA opened up a Melrose Ave. pop-up shop adjacent to the main store to display a large selection of Rilakkuma and other San-X characters, including the bear’s buddies Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori in stock and a collection of seals called Mamegoma.

The parties look like they were pretty popular affairs. Here’s what you missed:

The parties surrounding Rilakkuma’s official L.A. debut were organized by Bubble Punch, the duo that has injected a fandom-meets-nightclub vibe into events ranging from Hello Kitty’s Three Apples exhibit to Munky King’s Comic-Con bash. They started off the weekend Thursday night with an invite-only soiree at the Los Feliz Umami Burger location filled with local artists and fashion mavens. At Saturday night’s JapanLA event, a DJ played David Bowie and Passion Pit as club kids mingled with fashionistas recognizable from Natalia Fabia paintings. The event staff dressed in Rilakkuma t-shirs and onesies mixed with hip street wear. Party-goers sipped Sapporo and nibbled on takoyaki and cakeballs as they browsed through the shop and posed for photos with the star of the evening. Sunday, fans headed back to the pop-up shop for themed manicures.

If these parties are any indication, it may be sooner rather than later that Rilakkuma assumes the same level of global popularity as Domo…remember, Domo recently took over various 7/11 convenience stores across the country, so who knows?

–Adrian G.

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