Who Is Chiitan? New Details On The Otter That's Become The Unofficial Mascot For Susaki, Japan — And Fodder For John Oliver

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New Details On The Cuteness Overload That Has Become An Unofficial Mascot

No one knew that a stuffed animal based on a real-life otter would have created such a sensation on the Internet. Yet, here we are. So who is Chiitan? 

The Japanese prefecture of Susaki named a stuffed animal by the name of Shinjo Kun as its mascot back in 2016. According to Shinjo Kun’s official website, he — like other mascots before him — had a message of peace and unity, with the goal of attracting new visitors to the prefecture.

Chiitan, however, is almost like the “anti” Shinjo Kun. Chiitan was worlds away from Shinjo Kun — and other previous mascots — in that she was more of a “slapstick” personality than previous, more “refined” mascots.

According to The Japan Times, Chiitan is a cross between Buster Keaton and Jackass.

Here are some other things you need to know about the mischevious otter that’s causing headaches in her home country.

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1. Her antics have gotten her in trouble.

According to Know Your Meme, Chiitan’s antics caused so many problems for the real Chiitan (the living otter) that, in January 2019, the real Chiitan was fired as the Susaki prefecture’s honorary ambassador. Representatives for the real Chiitan are looking into the possibility of suing the fake Chiitan (the one with the social media following all over the world) and putting the resultant money in the prefecture’s coffers.

"We sometimes warned against dangerous acts, but we generally kept silent, hoping for positive effects on our promotional efforts," a Susaki official said to Nippon.com.

“We are not happy,” Takashi Moritoki, a spokesman for the city of just over 22,000 residents, agreed to the South China Morning Post. “We have had more than 100 complaints for lots of reasons. People say the character is not doing anything to promote the city so it should not be a tourism ambassador. And they say that some of the things it does in the videos are dangerous.”

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2. She has a very public beef with John Oliver.

Not long ago, John Oliver — he of the hit HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver — did a profile about mascots on his nightly show.

For some reason, that segment ticked Chiitan off and she took to her official Twitter to “invite” Oliver to a “no-holds-barred” match while calling him “the British birb.” Whatever that means.

Chiitan called out comedian John Oliver after he dedicated a segment on "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" to her. 

John Oliver, however, took the beef in stride and responded on his own Twitter account, “I’m in a public beef with an unsanctioned Japanese otter. I needed this.”

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John Oliver took Chiitan's call-out in stride.

3. She has become even more popular on social media than the real Chiitan.

According to Mashable, the fake Chiitan’s social media accounts have become more popular than the real Chiitan’s social media accounts because of her “dangerous antics.” What the Japanese government frowns upon — such as wielding a weed-wacker in a threatening manner — the Internet loves, and as a result, the unofficial-official mascot has garnered an impressive number of followers across all social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She’s even verified!

4. The fake Chiitan’s creator has “regrets” about creating her.

According to the New York Times, a company by the name of Charando was responsible for creating the Chiitan “fake” mascot. When Chiitan started creating problems for the prefecture — to the point that government officials began denouncing her — a spokesman for the company (who declined to be named out of embarrassment — no, really) publicly issued a statement to say he was “sorry” for what he’d done, and for the embarrassment he’d caused his city thanks to Chiitan’s antics.

Regardless of how embarrassed the prefecture was, however, Chiitan has become the world’s unofficial mascot — not to mention pure Internet gold!

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Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, and photographer whose work has appeared in People, Teen Vogue, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, and more. She is also the author of The Uprising series. Find her online at www.bernadettegiacomazzo.com and www.longlivetheuprising.com.