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Japan's maker of mascots feeds a nation's craving for cuteness

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Ms Kano's whimsical mascots have become a virtual obsession and almost as closely associated with Japan as Mount Fuji and sushi. Seemingly every town, business and arm of government now has one.

Miyazaki, Japan

FOR some of Japan's most adored celebrities, the journey to fame starts in a converted Internet cafe above a bowling alley in this sunny south-western city.

This is where Hiromi Kano runs her unlikely star factory, an enterprise whose most successful creations are