The whole last week there were some tweets back and forth between Chiitan, better known as the self-injuring otter mascot in Japan, and John Oliver, a British comedian and television host of Last Week Tonight on HBO. But what was the deal? What was made clear is that John Oliver has been challenged by Chiitan for a fight, but why?
For those not able to watch the episodes of Last Week Tonight, can follow parts of the episodes on the official YouTube channel of the television program. Just only one week after the episode of 21st of April, the YouTube channel finally uploaded the part of the episode people were waiting for.
Who is Chiitan?
Chiitan, the otter with a turtle as a hat, is best known as the unofficial mascot of the city of Susaki in Kochi Prefecture. The mascot gained a lot of attention on social media with videos where Chiitan is trying to do some bizarre and dangerous challenges. The mascot costume is based on a real otter with the same name. This otter was a tourism ambassador for the city Susaki till earlier this year, when the otter got fired. What was the reason? After the many bizarre adventures of Chiitan, the residents of Susaki sent in complaints about the unofficial mascot because Chiitan wasn’t really promoting the city but acted extremely in videos that got posted on the social media. It was decided to sever ties with the official tourism ambassador Chiitan, the real otter.
The city of Susaki also has an official mascot, named Shinjokun, an otter with a ramen dish as a hat. The mascots Chiitan and Shinjokun look alike, although Shinjokun has a more serious face, while Chiitan has a mischievous one. It did spark some concern that it might cause a problem because they looked alike. The mascots did do some adventures together, but the mayor of Susaki mentioned that the behaviour of Chiitan was having a negative effect on Shinjokun’s work. As Shinjokun did appear in several videos and photos with Chiitan, to show their partnership but also show the influence of Chiitan on the official city mascot.
Last Week Tonight
In the video of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the situation got explained by the television host with the conclusion that Shinjokun is now lonely without the silly mascot Chiitan. The television program decided to make an unofficial mascot with the name ChiiJohn, a 45-year-old English fairy baby with glasses, who flown to Susaki to meet up with Shinjokun. The city of Susaki official has taken ownership over Chiijohn, according to the presenter, so if you want to meet up with the mascot, you have to head to the city of Susaki.
In a reaction to the episode of Last Week Tonight, where Chiitan got discussed and dismissed by replacing the mascot with Chiijohn, Chiitan decided to invite John Oliver to a (wrestling) match without restrictions or limits. In an image that was attached to the tweet, Chiitan and John Oliver were photoshopped with a wall of fire in the background and the text: “Chiitan wants to give Mr. John Oliver a chance to explode through a table.” John Oliver said in reply to this tweet that he is “in a public beef with an unsanctioned Japanese otter.” What will happen next is unknown.
In a tweet earlier today, Chiitan shows once again that the mascot is not done with John Oliver. At first glance, it seems that Chiitan has become friends with John Oliver, now depicted as a toucan with the Union Jack on the beak, but Chiitan’s ‘little friend’ refers to the baseball bat that has been used many times for hitting objects. Chiitan is clearly still training for the fight. On social media it is possible to let people know for which team you are, you can use the hashtags #TeamChiitan or #TeamBritishBirb.
Mascots are big in Japan
Mascots, also known as yuru-chara, are a big thing in Japan. Many municipalities all over Japan have their own, but also several companies and sports teams. Even T.M. Revolution has its own mascot, named Turbo-kun. The costume design of the mascots are based on what suits the organisations, a local product or recognisable building, or even a wild animal, but can also be a mix of all this. Some big-headed mascots look not that conventional and can be seen as silly, but most are seen as cute and fun by the people. Such mascots are good for the promotion of tourism. For example, the mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, Kumamon, is very popular and generated economic benefits for his region in the first few years after Kumamon was chosen as the mascot in 2010. It is possible to find his image on several products in shops, from keychains to clothing. His popularity grew after the big earthquake struck Kumamoto in 2016. While every year new mascots come to life in Japan, others have to say goodbye for several reasons. It is interesting to see how some mascots are taking over the world, instead of focussing to promote their company or municipality.
Source: Last Week Tonight