wapuu: origins

As you know I’m wapuu’s biggest fan and I’ve been pestering Naoko for a while to learn more about how wapuu came to be. Now I know the story and I’m so excited to share it with you.

The People

  • Kazuko Kaneuchi: Designer/Illustrator @mutsuking
  • Naoko Takano: Japanese community manager/translator @naokomc
  • Seisuke Kuraishi: aka “tenpura” WP Multibyte Patch developer @eastcoder
  • Takayuki Miyoshi: Contact Form 7 Plugin developer @takayukister
  • Taisuke Jotaki: aka “Tai” Japanese translator @tekapo
  • Odyssey: @odyssey

In 2009 at the WordCamp Tokyo after-party, Matt asked Japanese users what should we do to promote WordPress in Japan. One of the ideas was to create a mascot.

Foxkeh was already a popular local mascot for Firefox, so many community members thought WordPress should have a mascot for Japan as well. Matt said he thought it was a cool idea although many of the ja.wordpress.org admins thought he was kinda joking.

A few weeks after WordCamp Tokyo Naoko was hired by Automattic as a contractor. In May, she flew to San Francisco to attend to WordCamp SF. While there she talked with Matt about the mascot idea. He asked her to have the Japanese community to take the lead and make it happen. He mentioned the “Jazz Cat” idea, but he was open to anything Japanese users like. They also discussed possibly making illustrations of mascot body parts available (just like Foxkeh) so that others can make different versions. Finally they talked about one of my favorite things in the whole world, making mascot swag (plush toys, t-shirts, towels).


Once they decided to go ahead with the project they had to pick an illustrator. The ja.wordpress.org admins shared names of illustrators they felt could do it, based on the style. Kazuko was someone that both Miyoshi-san & Naoko knew, from her previous work on OSS mascots (neko-bean and BaserCMS) and her involvement in the web designer community in Fukuoka.

Miyoshi-san felt it’s important that the illustrator know what’s involved around “open sourcing” the mascot, and they all agreed that Kazuko would be the best person for the job.

Kazuko Kaneuchi
Kazuko Kaneuchi

After talking with Paul Kim (who was doing marketing for Automattic at the time and use to work at the Mozilla Foundation, promoting Firefox), Naoko sent the initial email to Kazuko. Naoko told her about the vision of WordPress, ideas/themes for the mascot, and the licensing requirements for the illustration. Kazuko was offered cash + character goods for the project but ended up doing it for free, as a gift to the WordPress community.

On May 12, 2010 Kazuko sent her first draft to the ja.wordpress.org admins.

During the process, Tenpura added this detailed comment with alternative ideas for idea J (someday I want to see this character come to life too).

Alternative idea for concept J
Alternative idea for concept J

The ja.wordpress.org admins discussed it over a bit and in the end decided to go with option “E” (or “4” in the iteration below) which we now know as wapuu. Part of the reason had to do with the fact that it was the character that would allow for the easiest variations. They also liked this one as it is embracing the W logo and sphere that almost looked like a globe.

Japanese WordPress mascot ideas

wapuu’s birthday

On February 19, 2011, the illustration was unveiled (it did not have a name at this point) at WordCamp Fukuoka and on this blog post.

Out of that WordCamp came the first pieces of wapuu swag.

The Name

On August 2, 2011, a poll was started to vote on the ideas collected on this forum thread.

By August 10, 530 people had cast their votes and the winner was “wappy”. However, there was a trademark issue and the runner up “wapuu” was announced as the official name on August 12th.