A town in Japan spent a reported $274,000 of its COVID relief funds on a gigantic statue of a squid in hopes to attract tourists.
The coastal town of Noto in Japan's Ishikawa prefecture was awarded $7.31 million (800 million yen) by the central government, in funds for local economies due to the pandemic, according to local media via Reuters. Although the money was intended for COVID-19 relief, it did not have to be used on combating the virus directly.
Of that relief money, the city spent $274,000 (about 30 million yen) on the gigantic pink statue.
The oversized pink squid, — meant to symbolize Noto's local cuisine, where squid is considered a delicacy — measures 42 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 13 feet high. Town officials hoped that the statue would help raise awareness of the local fishing scene and help bring back tourists after the coronavirus slump.
Construction on the squid began in October 2020 and it was moved to its new home in Noto earlier this year.
The use of the money has drawn some backlash on Twitter, with some users calling it a misuse of public funds. One local said that although the statue may be an effective long term tourism strategy, the money could have been used for "urgent support" like medical staff in the town, The BBC reported. Coronavirus cases in Ishikawa are currently much lower than in other parts of the country.
The pandemic is still surging in Japan, with the major metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto under a state of emergency until at least May 11. Some have criticized the state of emergency, saying that it will not last long enough to properly combat the virus.
Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.
This story originally appeared on travelandleisure.com