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Flying squid statue bought with COVID-19 relief money puts Japanese town in spotlight

  • May 07, 2021

Leaders of a coastal town in Japan are drawing the ire of some residents after spending $230,000 in COVID-19 relief money on a statue of a flying squid.

Squid is king in Noto, a fishing town of about 18,000 people 200 miles northwest of Tokyo. And atop the throne now sits a pink, five-ton flying squid that would seem to be a perfect fit in a place where squid is a favored delicacy and tourism was a growing industry before the pandemic.

Tourism evaporated after the government suspended its “Go To Travel” campaign last November. Still, some residents think there might have been better uses of its emergency relief funds.

Some people complained that the sculpture cost as much as their homes. Others noted that the pandemic is far from over in Japan. Some of the country’s biggest metropolitan areas, including Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, are under a state of emergency and facing record numbers of infections.

You don’t have to travel to Japan to see communities spending COVID-19 relief money on tangential, if less colorful, projects. In the U.S., Indiana plans to use some of its $3 billion for police body cameras. Louisiana could spend its $3.2 billion to repair the aging water systems.

Still, the squid drew global news coverage, with BBC, the South China Morning Post, NBC News and even the New York Post weighing in. 

Tetsuji Shimoyachi, a town official, told the New York Times the town received $6.2 million in coronavirus relief, spending $2.5 million on infection control measures and $1.3 million to promote local businesses and employment.

Shimoyachi said the town has recorded fewer than 30 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. He said he hoped the statue would be “a driving-force attraction in the post-COVID period.”

States get billions from the American Rescue Plan.Now they have to spend it

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