A small town in Japan called Noto recently decided, with all the enthusiasm of a kid finding a $20 bill in their birthday card, to spend a bunch of federal COVID relief money on a giant statue of a flying squid. Despite the fact that this is a very fun way to use a sudden windfall, the big squid has led to debate over why Noto’s politicians thought its construction was a good use of funds that could probably be better spent helping people not die in a pandemic.
The New York Times reported on the debate inspired by The Great Noto Squid. On the one side are the town’s officials who argue that their 43-foot, 5 1/2 ton statue isn’t just totally sweet (which it is), but that it could be “a driving-force attraction” that brings tourists to Noto, “a fishing town where the [flying] squid is a delicacy.” On the other side are actual residents who think putting the equivalent of almost $230,000 in relief money toward squid art is a bad call when Japan, like so many other countries, is currently struggling to keep COVID-19 in check.
Nonetheless, a Noto official defends his sick new model squid by saying his town needs to attract tourists to make up for shortfalls in squid catches and that the statue’s construction was funded with money left over after spending “about $2.5 million on infection control measures and $1.3 million to promote local businesses.”
To be fair, the squid statue is pretty cool. It’s big, it’s got lots of tentacles flying all over the place, and it has a big mysterious squid mouth that looks like a great place to climb on in and take a relaxing nap. Rather than try to rationalize their choice by trotting out financial figures, maybe Noto’s leaders should just focus on talking up the thing they’ve already gone ahead and built.
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