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The unofficial mascot for the Japanese city Susaki “Chiitan” has been banned from Twitter and lost its title as “unofficial” tourist ambassador for the region.
In 2016 Susaki (in the Kōchi prefecture) named a real otter called Chiitan as its honorary tourism ambassador. After this Susaki created its official mascot for the city, Shinjo-kun. Around December 2017, the unofficial mascot Chiitan was formed- not officially sanctioned by Susaki- declaring itself a “0-year old fairy baby” and the unofficial tourism ambassador.
Unofficial mascots are not uncommon in Japan. Due to mascots being utilized for businesses, cities, governmental bodies and more- unofficial mascots also spring up. These mascots can come about due to dissatisfaction with the official mascots, as an act of protest, or simply for humor.
These unofficial mascots can sometimes become more popular than the official ones, usually as a result of more creativity and weirdness being involved- as they did not go through the same grueling design and approval process of their official counterparts.
As Chiitan grew in popularity, Susaki officials recognized the mascot as an “unofficial” mascot of the city, even interacting with Shinjo-kun at events and in videos. Chiitan’s antics have been shared on YouTube and social media, usually based around the cute and unwieldy character acting in a clumsy, violent and chaotic manner.
These include attempting to run on a treadmill at incredibly high speeds, pummeling an inflatable punching bag with a baseball bat, hurling itself into metal boxes and even flipping a small car.
While these antics are mostly likely the reason for the mascot’s sudden rise to fame, it was deemed inappropriate by some Japanese citizens. The New York Times reported in January of this year, Susaki officials had received more than 100 calls complaining the character’s behavior was inappropriate. Sora News 24 elaborated on this story further, city officials revoked any ties they had with Chiitan in January 2019.
Despite this, the character has continued to rise in popularity, even getting it’s own anime in April. Even more attention was drawn to it thanks to Last Week Tonight host John Oliver. During one segment, Oliver explained how Chiitan came about, and praised the character’s bizarre and humorous videos.
Oliver even sent out his own mascot “Chiijohn” to interact with Shinjo-kun who had “lost his friend”. While that was clearly authorized and organized with Susaki officials, some have theorized the extra-eyes on Chiitan may have caused the mascot to be banned from Twitter.
The official English Chiitan Twitter account acted as though Chiitan mistook Oliver’s attempts to console Shinjo-kun for losing his friend as though Chiijohn was trying to steal Shinjo-kun for himself. In typical hot-headed fashion, Chiitan challenged John Oliver to a fight on April 22nd.
On May 14th, nearly all of Chiitan’s official Twitter accounts were banned- including those in Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Arabic and Turkish. Sora News 24 reports that the remaining English Twitter account made numerous posts begging for the other accounts to be reinstated.
While some outlets and individuals have theorized this may have to do with the tweet sent to John Oliver being mis-interpreted as a genuine threat, Sora News 24 also report that “Twitter suspensions have been affecting a number of entertainment-related accounts in Japan recently”. These even include the real Chiitan’s Twitter account- the otter that inspired both the creation of Shinjo-Kun and the unofficial Chiitan.
Chiitan’s staff “Team Chiitan” have even created Change.Org petition to reinstate the other accounts. After explaining the situation, they also revealed in a statement they had no prior warning or explanation since about the suspension:
“Chiitan received no prior communication from Twitter warning about Chiitan’s activity on the social media platform.
Chiitan is very saddened and quite at a loss from this particular unfortunate event.
Team Chiitan has communicated with Twitter to resolve this issue, but the un-suspending of all the Chiitan accounts have not yet happened. It has been 12 hours since the incident has occurred.
Please sign, share, and tweet this petition and let Twitter know that we all want to have Chiitan back on the internet!
Thank you very much for your time,
Within the last 24 hours, even Chiitan’s two official English Twitter accounts have been suspended. Currently, Team Chiitan have created @HelpChiitan in English and @Chiitan7407 in Japanese. The current official English account has continued to reach out for help getting reinstated, even to John Oliver and former professional skateboarder Tony Hawk.
As of this time of writing the petition stands at 4,447 signatures, with a goal of 5,000 signatures.