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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogChiitan: Japan’s Wildest Mascot!

Chiitan: Japan’s Wildest Mascot!

By Devon Lord-Moncrief
May 30, 2024
Chiitan at a pink tea party.

Chiitan is one of the wildest mascots! For those who may have never heard of the outlandish otter before or those who have seen them in passing but never really learned who it was, genuine and unadulterated chaos is the only way to describe them.

If watching a super cute otter wail on a punching bag with a baseball bat or kick a medicine ball into its own head gives you a good case of the giggles, Chiitan is the mascot for you! Once the most giant mascot in Japan, the controversial otter has since fallen on hard times.

The Creation of Chiitan

Chiitan has a fascinating history in that while it was technically a recognized mascot, it was never an official mascot. In 2013, the Susaki City, Kochi Prefecture, revealed that it adopted a new mascot, Shinjo-kun. He was an adorable river otter who wore a hot pot ramen dish on his head. He even won Japan’s national mascot competition for the year!

Chiitan hanging out with Shinjo-kun.
Chiitan and Susaki City’s official mascot, Shinjo-kun, are very good friends! Image via Naika’s Lounge

In 2016, Susaki named a local otter “Chiitan” and designated it the city’s official tourism ambassador. Chiitan became so beloved that he received his own public-access TV show that enjoyed reasonable success. So, Susaki had Shinjo-kun as its official city mascot and Chiitan as its real-life tourism ambassador. Both mascots were well-liked and famous, and all was well in Susaki.

Chiitan handing out the the Chica animatronic from "Five Nights at Freddy's".
Chiitan was Susaki City’s unofficial mascot. Image via Fur Affinity

But this is where things take a left turn. In 2017, another otter mascot named Chiitan was created by a group from the real Chiitan’s Tokyo-based production company. This new Chiitan was also an otter, but not a real otter, just a person in a mascot suit. They named this Chiitan the unofficial tourism ambassador for Susaki even though no one ever officially discussed the matter or voted on it.

Why are they so popular?

The new Chiitan took off like wildfire. With an adorable face and a cute turtle on its head as a hat, they had the looks. When they took to social media, their popularity skyrocketed, thanks mainly to the ridiculous videos they starred in. By the end of 2019, their Twitter (now X) account had over 906,000 subscribers. The video game company Square Enix hired them to promote their game Just Cause 4 with them performing several of the stunts from the game. 

Three plushies depicting a chaotic mascot.
Chiitan even has merch! Image via Amazon

As if one major video game company wasn’t enough, Sega also had a Chiitan mobile game in the works. The true mark of the unofficial otter’s meteoric rise in popularity came in 2020 when they were more popular than the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics mascots, Miraitowa and Someity. Unfortunately for Chiitan, their party came to an abrupt and messy end.

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The Chaos of Chiitan

Chiitan’s antics were often compared to comedic stunt shows from the early 2000s. They enjoyed bashing things with baseball bats, elbow-dropping balloons, and breaking trampolines. In addition, they also liked to leap into metal boxes and attempt to shoot a bow and arrow while riding a bike.

Chiitan climbing on a balance beam with a skateboard.
They are most famous for doing their own stunts. Lots of stunts. Image via Twitter/X

While none of their stunts ever hurt anyone (other than themselves), many people didn’t care for Chiitan’s representation of their city. Susaki officials received enough complaints that they demanded the production company cease all activities with the mascot. The city of Susaki took the matter so seriously that they also chose not to renew the actual otter Chiitan’s title as tourism ambassador.

Once Susaki cut ties with the mascot, other companies, including TV Tokyo and Sega, followed suit. Though, in true Chiitan fashion, the rambunctious mascot continued to produce content despite the orders to stop. The actual blow to the absurd otter came when its Twitter account was suddenly frozen without warning (which was probably because they jokingly told comedian John Oliver from the show Last Week Tonight that they wanted to fight him.)

Comedian John Oliver doing a news segment on the comedy news show "Last Week Tonight".
The show “Last Week Tonight” did a comedic segment on the chaotic mascot. Image via YouTube

Things became especially dire when several of their other backup accounts and the real Chiitan otter’s account were locked, too. Luckily, their Instagram page is still active, with over two million followers. 

Where is Chiitan now?

Sadly, such a silly and popular character got the axe as quickly and definitely as they did. Even though Chiitan’s creators insisted that its antics were always good fun with no intention of harming anyone or anything, too many people considered the wild otter to be too chaotic a character. 

Understandably, the city of Susaki drew issues with the mascot, considering no one officially voted for it. Still, it was suddenly associated with a character that told viewers it was coming to their houses that night with a baseball bat in tow. Chiitan is still around but in a much smaller capacity. While it’s doubtful they’ll ever return to what they were in their heyday; it is still cool to know the 0-year-old fairy baby otter is still causing comic mischief somewhere in Japan.

Chiitan in a room full of posters.
Have you ever heard of Chiitan? Image via Chiitan Love

Have you ever watched any of Chiitan’s videos? Did you like the mascot or think it was too much? Please let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear your thoughts on Japan’s wildest otter mascot!

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Devon Lord-Moncrief

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