John Oliver Details Japanese Mascot Madness, Unveils Otter Character - Rolling Stone
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John Oliver Chronicles Japanese Mascot Madness, Unveils Otter Character

‘Last Week Tonight’ debuts ChiiJohn during report on Chiitan, city of Susaki

One week after one of the show’s grittiest deep-dives, an exhaustive segment on the Muller report, Last Week Tonight released the YouTube clip of some “high-end nonsense”: a hilarious and weirdly poignant report on the saga of Japanese otter mascot Chiitan.

Host John Oliver served up the ridiculously tangled backstory of Chiitan, the self-described “0-year-old fairy baby” known for causing mayhem — both online and in-person — in the small port town of Susaki.

The city’s mascot game runs deep: Its official character is Shinjo-Kun, a “magnificent, giant otter wearing a Ramen dish for hat”; and until recently it also boasted an honorary tourism ambassador, a real-life otter named Chiitan. Adding to the confusion, locals created the other, more demented Chiitan as that animal’s own unofficial mascot. “There are three otters, two of which are named Chiitan,” Oliver summarized to audience laughter. “And the mascot Chiitan was never formally affiliated with the city of Susaki.”

The mascot surplus remained adorable until the unofficial Chiitan began stirring up annoyances in Susaki — leading to national news reports of strange behavior attributed to the fake otter. (In January, The New York Times published a story, “A Rogue Mascot Causes Headaches for Japanese City,” detailing the “more than 100 calls from around Japan” about Chiitan.)

Meanwhile, the wild mascot became active for its hilariously bizarre Twitter videos — including clips of dancing on stripper poles, flipping a car and other chaotic nonsense. Referencing one of Chiitan’s weirdest moments, Oliver noted, “You might be wanting to ask, ‘How does an umbrella-wielding, coked-up otter being assaulted in a windowless room encourage tourism to the small, Japanese port city of Susaki?’ Well, I’m on TV and I’m talking about the small Japanese port city of Susaki, so that should answer your stupid fucking question.”

In an attempt to tone down the mascot destruction, the city eventually distanced itself from the fake otter — a decision Oliver took personally. “When’s the last time Twitter made you happy?” he asked. “When’s the last time anything made you happy?”

But another mascot was left behind in the chaos, and the host was concerned for its longterm mental health.

“Shinjo-Kun was clearly overshadowed by an unhinged, psychotic, unsanctioned otter,” he said. “And while I’m sure there’s an element of relief there for Shinjo-Kun, there’s also going to be a massive, Chiitan-shaped hole in its life now. The two mascots were together a lot, and I have to say, whenever you see Shinjo-Kun alone now, the obvious sadness there is absolutely heartbreaking. What I’m saying here is it’s clear that Shinjo-Kun needs a new friend — this time one that won’t disappear or threaten the citizens of Susaki with a baseball bat. Luckily, as we now know, anyone can make an unofficial mascot for a city in Japan. And if you don’t already know where this is heading, you’ve clearly never watched this fucking show before.”

Last Week Tonight ended the segment with a whimsical mini-documentary that unveiled “ChiiJohn,” a “41-year-old, near-sighted, English fairy baby” they created as Chiitan’s replacement. In the clip, the hilarious-looking creature — a nerdy otter with a combover and oversized glasses, clearly modeled after the host — journeys in Japan to “locate and comfort Shinjo-Kun and fill the hole that Chiitan left in its heart.”

A beaming ChiiJohn first arrives in the neon-lit streets of Tokyo and rages to some K-pop at a karaoke bar. “Violently hungover,” he awakes the next day in his hotel room and travels to Susaki. “This is the path that falls at Shinjo-Kun’s feet,” a wise narrator observes. “This is the breeze that cools Shinjo-Kun’s face. This is the sun that warms the noodles that Shinjo-Kun wears as a hat. And knowing this filled ChiiJohn with joy.” Eventually, the mascot meets its new friend, and they embark on a delightful afternoon filled with fish and arcade games.

“ChiiJohn — and this is true — is still in Japan. The city of Susaki has now officially taken ownership of him,” Oliver said, giving the city a tourism plug. “So if you ever want to see ChiiJohn in the flesh, or in the fur, you will simply have to go there.”

In This Article: John Oliver


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