National / Social Issues

Gifu city’s sexually suggestive tourism promotion sparks Twitter outrage

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

A controversial flyer featuring an anime character with accentuated breasts has landed a small city tourism agency in hot water, with calls it is tantamount to sexual harassment.

At the center of the furor is the flyer put out by the tourism office in the Gifu city of Minokamo depicting Kocho Yoshida, a fictional teenage girl with a buxom figure.

The promotion, which caused a ruckus on Twitter over the weekend, is being used in a drive to attract anime fans from across the nation.

“This is definitely sexual harassment. To think the flyer is an official project of the city’s tourism agency . . . it’s creepy” said Twitter user @Dakaoda.

“I do think healthy-looking women are beautiful. But this illustration is actually making it difficult for families and couples to go visit the city,” another, @gintatakamatuoda, wrote.

The flyer was taken down Sunday at JR Mino-ota Station in response to the outcry, said Takafumi Kiriyama, an official with the tourism agency. The latest anime promotion was launched in early November.

“We will decide what to do with it after further discussion. We may end up continuing to use the same flyer in the end or redesign it where necessary,” he said.

Kiriyama said officials did not believe the flyer was offensive when it was being designed, adding that the tourism agency, despite the uproar, still does not believe it is demeaning to women.

Kocho Yoshida is the fourth character from the TV anime series “No-rin” — a romantic comedy set in the city’s real-life agricultural high school — that the agency has adopted as a mascot for its promotional flyers.

Past flyers made by the agency, all based on different characters from the series, spurred no such public anger, Kiriyama noted.

Although the agency is in charge of designing the entire flyer, Yoshida’s image itself was borrowed from a production company, he said.

The controversy over the use of sexually-suggestive anime character as a mascot by a city for promotional purposes is not the first.

The city of Shima, Mie Prefecture, which is hosting next year’s Group of Seven summit, scrapped its use of a similarly controversial mascot early last month. The anime character, a 17-year-old aspiring ama diver named Aoshima Megu, sparked the ire of real-life ama divers who said her appearance was overly sexual and that it demeaned their profession.