The Green Ambassadors in White and Black

When visiting in Kitakyushu Japan, my daughter Emma and I would see these two bear-like figures all around town in different situations. From the varied contexts we couldn’t tell what they were promoting or relaying—though they didn’t seem to be at all commercial—or if they were bears at all.

Sometime the white one appeared on her/his own and the nose/mouth seemed to be a Japanese character or word. What we did know is that they were adorable. A question to our hosts brought the answer that they were Kitakyushu’s “green ambassadors,” symbols of the city’s many eco-friendly initiatives.

Their names, which I’ve never seem written, we heard as “tay-tone” and they were known as “taytone” and “black taytone.” That didn’t seem quite right to me, so I usually refer to them as taytone and “white taytone,” which annoys Emma to no end (so, of course, I always make a point of saying it that way.) And we were presented with buttons with the creatures. I don’t think it was ever firmly established they were ursine. Or if those were characters/words for the nose/mouth.

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