Financial relief during a pandemic is great, but have you ever seen a giant squid statue?
Critics say something fishy is happening in the Japanese port town of Noto, where local officials reportedly splashed out half a million dollars in COVID-19 relief funds to buy a massive squid sculpture.
Video shows there are now plenty of suckers and tentacles in Noto, where the pricey 13 metre-long sculpture now stands guard at the community’s waterfront.
The pink-and-white sculpture looks like the elusive giant squid of the ocean’s darkest depths, but it’s actually a larger-than-life replica of the smaller Japanese flying squid, according to the town. Flying squid are commonly found in the waters around Noto, and are a famous delicacy in the community.
This particular squid appears to be a highly detailed replica, with an opening below its beak for humans to stick their heads out and pose for photos.
Noto officials spent about 25 million yen, or US$228,500, to build the giant flying squid as a tourist attraction, according to Yahoo Japan. That money came out of a larger pot of 800 million yen ($7.3 million) in coronavirus relief grants from the Japanese government.
Japan’s capital city of Tokyo is under a state of emergency due to a surge in coronavirus cases, but smaller communities like Noto have not seen nearly the same kind of outbreaks. Instead, the community has been grappling with the economic fallout of a cratering tourism industry.
Local leaders say the benefits of the squid might not be obvious now, but they hope it will help them hook more tourist visitors after the pandemic. There were no restrictions on how Noto could use its COVID-19 relief money, so there was nothing to stop them from spending some of it on a squid.
Some locals say there were probably better ways to help the community with those funds.
“There is an urgent need for support due to the coronavirus disaster, such as medical staff and long-term care facilities,” one woman told the local Chunichi Shimbun newspaper.
Another man acknowledged that tourism is important to the community, but “there must have been a better way to solicit ideas from the residents.”
Other towns have used their relief money to hand out gift certificates for local shops or to pay for infection control costs, Yahoo Japan reports.
Those projects certainly seem more effective in the short term, but it’s hard to shake a tentacle at the silly squid attack photos that are now pouring out onto social media from Noto.