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Japan's Group of Seven summit host city Shima under fire over 'obscene' mascot
Image of the mascot Aoshima Megu. Twitter @japantimes.

TOKYO (AFP).- A Japanese city hosting the Group of Seven summit next year said Wednesday it may change its new community mascot after the depiction of the female character was blasted as obscene and sexist.

The cartoon image of a voluptuous 17-year-old aspiring "ama" diver in search of a boyfriend drew fire from the real divers, who traditionally harvest seaweed, clams and, in some areas, pearls.

About 170 people, mostly female divers, have signed a petition calling for the city to scrap the character, according to a tourism official in the coastal city of Shima 300 kilometres (185 miles) south of Tokyo.

Protesters reportedly said the mascot, launched late last year, was obscene and sexist.

"We don't want foreigners who visit... to think 'ama' divers look like this," one of them told local media.

Cartoon images of young women with exaggerated body features are common in Japan and have attracted criticism.

The mascot spat also comes just weeks after Tokyo's 2020 Olympic logo triggered plagiarism claims due to its resemblance to the logo of a Belgian theatre and a separate Spanish design.

"We may consider changing the mascot's design to avoid hurting some people's feelings," the Shima official told AFP.

"But at this point we have no plan to retract our official approval for the character."

She added that the design was meant to draw more tourists to Shima as it gets set to host the G7 meeting in May 2016.

"Most of the reaction we've received from the public so far has been positive," she added.

Mascots representing local municipalities have surged in popularity in a nation obsessed with all things cute, amid hopes they can promote ageing and declining rural communities.

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

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