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

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This handout photograph taken on April 2, 2021 and received by AFP from the town of Noto on May 6, 2021 shows a giant squid statue, built at a cost of nearly 250,000 USD with a national tax grant to aid communities hit financially by Covid-19 restrictions, in the town of Noto, Ishikawa prefecture. (Photo by Handout / Noto Town / AFP)

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.

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