At the corner of the intersection outside Otsuka-Saikachido Archaeological Park stands a giant gorilla, raising his fist with a furious expression on his face, revealing his fangs in a roar. Believe it or not, he is a local favorite in this Tsuzuki district of Yokohama, a symbol of traffic safety.
The official name of this King Kong lookalike is Tsuzuki Mamoru-kun, a typical name for mascots of neighborhood safety (such as those seen in Miyakojima) as “Mamoru” is a common given name meaning “to protect.” This particular Mamoru-kun promotes safe driving, wearing a sign that reads “NO TO SPEEDING AND DRUNK DRIVING.”
Unbeknownst to most people, Tsuzuki Mamoru-kun had lived quite a life before he got his post as the safety mascot. He was originally part of the Dinosaur Forest, a now-defunct theme park in the Hodogawa ward of Yokohama, among 50-odd life-size statues of prehistoric creatures—possibly a representation of Skull Island. Following the park’s closure, the Kong stand-in was adopted by the local traffic safety committee, where he was given a new name and purpose.
Initially, in 1996, he stood on the grounds of the Chigasaki City division of an urban development corporation but was removed as an apartment complex was planned to be built on the site. He was then placed in front of the Yokohama Waterworks Bureau building in 1998, but another organization soon took over, forcing him to relocate again. His next location in Tsuzuki Ward lasted from 2000 to 2005, after which he was moved to the current spot.
He has grown in popularity over the years, and today many consider him to be the most beloved icon of Tsuzuki. From time to time, he continues to show up in unexpected places—from LINE stickers to castella cakes at the local festival—solidifying his place in the neighborhood.