A rogue otter mascot in a Japanese city has caused controversy due to its anarchic behaviour and dangerous stunts.

Susaki, a city in southern Japan with 22,000 residents, assigned the role of honorary tourism ambassador to a real-life otter with a large social media following last year.

It was all going well, until a mascot based on the otter, produced by an entertainment company in Tokyo, began causing havoc around the town.

Known as Chiitan - which also happens to be the name of the real otter - the mascot has been filmed carrying out a number of mildly inappropriate activities. Online posts show it swinging a power tool around its head, pole-dancing and tipping over a car.

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In one darker example, titled "Chiitan going to visit your house", the mascot is seen removing a baseball bat from a locker, before tucking the bat into its costume and walking off camera.

To add to this complex situation, the city already had a mascot called Shinjokun, based on an extinct species of river otter, who wears "a bowl of local noodles" as a hat.

So that adds up to three separate otters representing Susaki, which caused confusion among residents.

Chiitan's antics have brought fame to the city of Susaki on social media, but they have also resulted in a barrage of complaints.

"We are not happy," Takashi Moritoki, a spokesman for the city, told the South China Morning Post. "We have had more than 100 complaints for lots of reasons. People say the character is not doing anything to promote the city so it should not be a tourism ambassador. And they say that some of the things it does in the videos are dangerous."

In the wake of Chiitan's rambunctious behaviour, the city also decided not to renew the tourism ambassador contract of the real otter – who confusingly is also named Chiitan.

Chiitan, right, with her better-behaved counterpart Shinjokun. Photo / Twitter, Mondo Mascots
Chiitan, right, with her better-behaved counterpart Shinjokun. Photo / Twitter, Mondo Mascots

Many areas of Japan have official mascots, known as "yura-chara", and the trend for the cute characters is growing.

In a 2016 Kanagawa University study, sociologist Jillian Rae Suter studied the growth of mascots – with the number of entrants in the country's "Yura-Chara Grand Prix" rising from 348 in 2011 to 1727 in 2015.

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Kumamon, a rosy-cheeked brown bear who represents the Kumamoto Prefecture is the most famous of all the yura-chan mascots.

He was created in 2010, as part of a campaign to draw tourists to the region after the Kyushu Shinkansen line opened and has since become internationally popular.

Kumamon even has his own office, where visitors can drop by to hang out with the loveable bear and learn more about Kumamoto's tourism and local products.

Kumamon, the mascot for Kumamoto Prefecture, puts in the hours in his own office. Photo / Twitter, 55_kumamon
Kumamon, the mascot for Kumamoto Prefecture, puts in the hours in his own office. Photo / Twitter, 55_kumamon

However, among Japan's flock of official animal mascots more and more unsanctioned characters are appearing.

Chris Carlier, a Tokyo-based British writer who runs the website and Twitter feed Mondo Mascots, told the New York Times the Chiitan saga showed how the world of mascots was evolving "in fun and unpredictable ways".

"It shows the contrast between government-approved city mascots like Shinjokun, who are expected to behave themselves, and independent characters like Chiitan, who can be as anarchic and outrageous as they want," he said.

Following the controversy, Charando, the company that owns Chiitan, has apologised for the problems it has caused for Susaki.

However, the saga might not be over yet - Takashi Moritoki told the Times the city was consulting with a lawyer over concerns Charando may be earning money from the character's viral popularity.

An spokesman for the company denied the claims and said it had received no compensation for Chiitan's antics.

Japan's menagerie of feral mascots

Marimokkori is a well-endowed algae whose name means
Marimokkori is a well-endowed algae whose name means "bulge". Photo / Supplied

Hokkaido - Marimokkori

The northern Japanese Island of Hokkaido is known for beautiful snowy landscapes, and now an extremely awkward mascot. Marimokkori is a well-endowed green algae animal, whose name which sounds like the Japanese word for "bulge" has become a euphemism for "erection". Though the indecent cartoon character is known to some as "the island's shame", he's been a hit with tourists and those with a childish sense of humour.

Iwate is represented by five brother bowls. Photo / Supplied
Iwate is represented by five brother bowls. Photo / Supplied

Iwate - Wanko Kyodai

The bowl of soba noodles represents one of the most popular noodle dishes in the Morioka region. This happy-looking, black anthropomorphic bowl is one of five brothers or 'Wanko Kyodai' - each with differing characters and carrying different foods. Another one of which is Tofuchi, who is fittingly described as "friendly, but firm" and carries round a slab of tofu in his head.

Melon Kuma: The melon-bear mascot of nightmares.
Melon Kuma: The melon-bear mascot of nightmares.

Melon Kuma - Yubari

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Reruhi-san apepars in Harajuku in his snow topped skisuit. Photo / Guilhem Vellut, Flickr
Reruhi-san apepars in Harajuku in his snow topped skisuit. Photo / Guilhem Vellut, Flickr

Reruhi-san - Japan's ski mascot

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