Japan upset by French cartoon linking Fukushima to Olympics

TOKYO Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:54am EDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is to formally complain about a cartoon that appeared in a French weekly newspaper showing sumo wrestlers with extra limbs in front of the Fukushima nuclear plant and linking this to the Olympics, the top government spokesman said on Thursday.

Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 summer Olympic Games after overcoming concerns about leaking radioactive water at the stricken Fukushima plant north of Tokyo, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assuring the International Olympic Committee that the situation was "under control".

The cartoon, carried in the satirical Le Canard Enchaine, shows two sumo wrestlers, each with an extra leg or arm, facing off with the Fukushima plant in the background as an announcer says, "Thanks to Fukushima, sumo is now an Olympic sport."

Another cartoon shows people in protective gear by the side of a pool, the Tokyo Shimbun daily reported.

"This cartoon hurts the feelings of those who suffered through the Great East Japan Earthquake," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, referring to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the Fukushima nuclear plant, triggering the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

"It is inappropriate and gives a wrong impression of the Fukushima contaminated water issue. It is extremely regrettable."

Suga said Japan would lodge the complaint through the French embassy in Tokyo and that the Foreign Ministry had been directed to "thoroughly explain the situation" to avoid similar incidents.

Japan was angered last year after a French broadcaster used a composite picture that showed Japanese national soccer team goalie Eiji Kawashima with four arms and the caption "Fukushima Effect" about a save he made in a game between the two nations. The broadcaster subsequently apologized.

Japan was chosen as host for the 2020 Olympics on Sept 7, beating out Madrid and Istanbul despite the issues posed by the Fukushima plant, some 230 km (140 miles) from Tokyo.

The crisis shows no signs of ending. The operator of the plant said on Wednesday that levels of tritium - considered one of the least harmful radioactive elements - spiked more than 15 times in groundwater near a leaked tank over three days this week.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Comments (4)
Allow me to thoroughly explain: in the West, people are allowed to make jokes. Sometimes they joke about tragic things. Complaining that these jokes aren’t funny (not to mention summoning ambassadors to complain about them) makes you look like a humorless dolt.

Sep 12, 2013 9:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
sendaiben wrote:
I live in Sendai, the city that bore the brunt of the damage from the 2011 tsunami and less than 100 km from the Fukushima plant.

The thing that hurts the feelings of the people who suffered through the Great East Japan Earthquake, Mr Suga, is the way the government has yet to rehouse victims of the tsunami, has yet to contain the nuclear accident, and has ended up spending much of the money earmarked to help Tohoku on unrelated projects in other parts of Japan.

Now it appears that money and time is best spent on Olympic bids and getting Tokyo ready to host the games.

Meanwhile in Tohoku, thousands are still living in flimsy ‘temporary’ housing. Shame on the central government of Japan. Shame on putting the ‘prestige’ of the games ahead of helping people in need. Shame on using the 2011 disaster to raise money and then misusing it elsewhere.

I’m disgusted.

Sep 12, 2013 10:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
westlongitude wrote:
France has more nuclear power plants than Japan.
So, it is understandable for the French to be concerned about Fukushima Dai-ich power plant.
Still, some or many French nuclear plants workers in France may have already had more radiation than the Japanese…
The French may still be worried about Windcale plant in the UK as well.

Anyway, they still possess Isamu Noguchi’s scalpture at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
They might also be fearful about it as he lived in Japan in the past.

Sep 13, 2013 5:29am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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