Japanese coastal town diverts Covid-19 relief grants to build giant squid statue

A Japanese coastal town used some coronavirus relief funds given by the government to build a statue of a giant squid in the hopes of boosting tourism.

The town of Noto in Ishikawa Prefecture was awarded 800 million yen in grants (approximately $7.3 million) from the central government as part of an aid program aimed at boosting local economies amid the pandemic.

From that amount, Noto used $229,000 to cover part of the cost of building the statue, which is 13 feet high and 29.5 feet long. Total construction costs were around $274,000.

Japan is battling a fourth wave of coronavirus infections and the cabinet approved a $708 billion stimulus package in December to help the economy recover from the pandemic-induced slump.

Squid is a local delicacy in Noto and building the statue was part of a “long-term strategy” to raise awareness about the town’s fishing industry and increase tourism, a local government official said.

The grants were not specifically earmarked for spending related to treating coronavirus patients, and Ishikawa Prefecture’s infection rate is low compared with other parts of Japan, according to local media.

However, some people took to social media to question whether those funds should have been used for other purposes.

Construction of the pink cephalopod began in October 2020, and the finished statue was finally moved to its current home in March of this year.