Gigantic squid statue has given a huge boost to the economy, city claims.

The Japanese government has provided various aid to communities to help them cope with the difficulties of life during the pandemic, including grants to help sustain and revitalize local economies. One of the more unique plans for using that money came from the city of Noto, in Ishikawa Prefecture, where the politicians in charge of the town’s grant decided to build a gigantic 13-meter (42.65-foot) long statue of a squid.

The statue was not at all cheap. Noto spent 25 million yen (US$241,500 at exchange rates at the time) of government grant money building the Ika King (“Squid King”), and even that wasn’t enough to finish it, as the city still had to come up with another two million yen to complete the 10-tentacle art installation.

▼ The 27 million-yen Ika King

So…why? Well Noto is famous for its locally caught squid, and the town’s roadside souvenir shop and tourist center Tsukumall is also called the “Squid Station.” The Ika King is located right outside Tsukumall, and the stated hope was that the statue would help attract more visitors who would then purchase regional products and otherwise contribute to the local economy.

27 million yen is a pretty huge investment in squid statuary though, seeing as how that’s a zero-yen expense in the annual budget of almost every other town in Japan. 16 months after the completion of the Ika King, though, Noto is saying it was worth it, claiming that the statue has resulted in visitors pumping approximately 600 million yen into Ishikawa’s economy, more than 22 times the cost of the statue.

To calculate the Ika King’s economic effect, Noto was assisted by Tokyo-based business consultant Toshiro Shirao. In a Tsukumall visitor survey conducted between June and August of this year, out of 1,125 people 506 of them (45 percent) said they’d come because they wanted to see the Ika King. They were also asked how much they had spent while at Tsukumall.

Next, Shirao and the city looked at records of how many people had made purchases at Tsukumall’s cash registers between April of 2021 (when the Ika King was installed) and July of 2022, arriving at an estimate of 164,556 total visitors. Applying the same 45-percent rate that they’d gotten from this summer’s visitor survey, they came to estimate that 73,652 people have come to see the Ika King since its completion. Shirao then fed that data into an economic input-output model for Ishikawa Prefecture to come up with an estimated 594.44 million yen in inside-Ishikawa spending that the study attributes to the Ika King’s presence.

The study also attempted to account for the value of the media coverage Tsukumall, and by association Noto, has received as result. According to the study, a total of 36 television programs sent crews out for reports on the Ika King, and an analysis of the advertising rates charged by those programs led them to an estimate of roughly 1.8 billion additional yen in free publicity.

Those are some very impressive figures, but when dealing with statistics, it’s always a good idea to consider how the data was collected and how it’s being applied, and there are a few potential issues. Let’s start with the Tsukumall visitor survey, which asked why people had come and how much they spent. The survey was conducted during the summer, when most people, especially those with kids, are more likely to be traveling and spending money at tourist attractions. Those patterns, though, seem to have then been applied to visitors throughout the entire year and a half since the Ika King’s installation. Also important to consider is the large jump in scale in how the survey uses 1,125 survey responses as a base on which to build a model for how much 73,652 people spent.

While the extra TV exposure no doubt had a positive effect on visitor and spending numbers, the estimated 1.8 billion yen of free publicity feels like a pretty clear attempt to inflate the size of the success story, since the attention’s economic value is in its ability to attract visitors, whose economic benefit is already supposed to have been accounted for in the 594.44 million yen the study says Ika King-attracted visitors have contributed to Ishikawa. And speaking of that 594.44 million yen, it’s worth remembering that it’s an estimate for the entire prefecture, not the town of Noto itself.

Still, it’s nice to see that there’s some good, and maybe even a whole lot of it, coming from the Ika King’s presence. Oh, and it should be pointed out that Shirao carried out the economic analysis on a volunteer basis, so his work didn’t cost the town a thing.

Source: Hokkoku Shimbun via Yahoo! Japan News via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24)

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