A popular Japanese tourism advertisement for Miyagi Prefecture has received backlash from critics after it was deemed sexually suggestive. The promotional video sparked widespread criticism after it was released on YouTube in July.

The advertisement features popular Japanese actress and model Mitsu Dan as a guide dressed in a kimono, alongside Miyagi prefecture's official mascot, the anthropomorphised rice ball Musubimaru. According to the local media, Dan is known for her overall sexy aura and for playing erotic roles.

Her sultry voice is reported to have played to maximum effect in the entire commercial, media reports noted.

The video shows Musubimaru appeared to be bored, when Dan starts to gently stroke its head and whisper – seemingly in a sexy manner – "Miyagi, I-cha-u?"

While "Miyagi ichau" in a general reference mean "let's go to Miyagi", the word "ichau" also means "to ejaculate" depending on the context, according to Tohoku News via SoraNews24.

According to local publications, slowly spelling out the syllables of a word could often suggest something sexual.

The two-minute video then shows the mascot nosebleed in reaction to Dan's whisper, which again is seemingly a sexual innuendo. It is reported that a nosebleed – in Japanese pop culture – is visual shorthand for a person being turned on.

In another scene, Dan and Musubimaru are seen floating above various Miyagi landmarks in a dreamlike sequence.

The actress is also seen stroking the head of a flying turtle to which she asks, "Can I get on top of you?"

The turtle visibly blushes as its head grows in size. There is also ostensibly more wordplay involved that is deemed to be sexually suggestive.

Controversial Japanese tourism ad
The advertisement features a popular Japanese actress and model Mitsu Dan, alongside Miyagi prefecture’s official mascot, Musubimaru YouTube/ screengrab

Local publications and internet users also noted the repeated stroking of the creature enlarged its head and that the Japanese word for "turtle head" – 'kamegashira' – can also literally be read as "glans" in English.

The local government announced earlier this week that it would remove the commercial after members of Miyagi's Prefectural Assembly and women's advocacy groups criticised it and demanded it be taken down from internet.

The video also reportedly received nearly 400 complaints or negative comments through various channels.

"We need to be considerate toward those who are unhappy and have negative feelings about it," Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai said. "But I have no doubt the video played its role of attracting visitors to Miyagi Prefecture."

According to Japan Times, Murai had initially defended the video and refused to remove it, arguing that the controversy proved the advertisement was a success.

The Miyagi Regional Promotion Council announced that the video would be removed after a promotional event on 26 August, which Dan is expected to attend.

Controversial Japanese tourism ad
It is reported that a nosebleed – in Japanese pop culture – is visual shorthand for a person being turned on YouTube/ screengrab