Men who photographed themselves upskirting and groping anime statues at a theme park displaying characters from Studio Ghibli, known for movies like My Neighbor Totoro, have apologized for their actions.
In early March, several photos of masked men suggestively touching figurines went viral on Japanese social media. The now-deleted posts sparked strong condemnation from Studio Ghibli fans and the governor of central Aichi prefecture, where Ghibli Park is located. At the time, he warned of “firm and strict” action against visitors who misbehave.
But about two weeks after the governor, Hideaki Ōmura, made these denunciations, three men who took those photos visited the prefectural office to express remorse.
“I feel deep regret for having caused trouble and disgusting so many people. I will refrain from doing such foolish things in the future. I am truly sorry,” said one man, according to Ōmura, who revealed the men’s apologies at a Friday press conference.
The photos in question show men groping Teru, a central character in the 2006 movie Tales From Earthsea, and Marnie, who stars in the 2014 film When Marnie Was There. Some men also took upskirting photos of Marnie, whose character is 12 years old.
Outraged fans said the actions were disgraceful to the characters and Studio Ghibli, which is globally known for producing acclaimed family-friendly films. The park was built by the local government and is meant to celebrate the animation studio’s works.
In his Friday press conference, Ōmura likened these photos to “sushi terrorism”—a term coined for the spate of unhygienic pranks at conveyor belt sushi restaurants across Japan.
Viral videos of the stunts, which included licking communal soy sauce bottles, caused the stock of one sushi chain to fall five percent—nearly $125 million in value. Restaurants filed police complaints and in early March and authorities arrested three people allegedly connected to the pranks.
But unlike how sushi companies dealt with rogue eaters, Ōmura said he wouldn’t be seeking criminal charges for the men who took sexually suggestive photos of Studio Ghibli characters.
According to Ōmura, the three men who apologized were in their 20s to 30s. They visited the Aichi prefectural office on Wednesday, after a mutual acquaintance encouraged them to admit their mistake.
“They seemed sincere in their apologies, and so I would like to accept them with the same sincerity,” he said at the press conference, adding that he considered the matter closed.
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