Japan has so many mascots—serving as ambassadors of everything from specific prefectures to city police departments—that it can be hard to keep track of them. But after upsetting citizens with his unconventional style, one unofficial mascot in the Japanese city of Susaki has stirred enough outrage to get the attention of city officials, The New York Times reports.
The controversy started last year when Susaki named a real-life celebrity otter to be its honorary tourism ambassador. Soon after, Chiitan—a costumed mascot inspired by the real otter—began appearing in public and in videos shared on social media. The twist? Susaki already had an official costumed mascot—Shinjo-kun, a character based on the now-extinct Japanese river otter. But the differences between the two otter mascots quickly became apparent.
Viral videos show Chiitan taking part in dangerous and occasionally creepy stunts. The character has been filmed flipping a car, biking on a half-pipe, and skateboarding on a treadmill. In one video captioned "Chiitan going to visit your house," the devilish mascot can be seen pulling a baseball bat from a locker, tucking it into its costume, and walking out of the room.
For all his fans, Chiitan has also attracted plenty of critics, with the city of Susaki receiving more than 100 complaints about the rogue character's inappropriate behavior. The city has no power to get rid of Chiitan, but it did elect not to renew the real otter's honorary tourism ambassador status as a way of voicing their disapproval of the unsanctioned mascot it inspired.
Mascots have become popular public relations tools in Japan, but usually they're much more family-friendly. In 2017, the Japanese government named Pikachu an official ambassador in an effort to promote Osaka as a host city candidate for the World Expo 2025.
[h/t The New York Times]