Japan lawmaker breaks taboo with nuclear fears letter for emperor

TOKYO Thu Oct 31, 2013 7:13am EDT

1 of 6. Japanese lawmaker Taro Yamamoto (3rd L) hands a letter to Emperor Akihito (front C), while Empress Michiko (R) looks on, during the annual autumn garden party at the Akasaka Palace imperial garden in Tokyo October 31, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool

Related Topics

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese lawmaker handed Emperor Akihito a letter on Thursday expressing fear about the health impact of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, breaking a taboo by trying to involve the emperor in politics.

Taro Yamamoto, who is also an anti-nuclear activist, gave Akihito the letter during a garden party, setting off a storm of protest on the Internet from critics shocked at his action.

"I wanted to directly tell the emperor of the current situation," Yamamoto told reporters, referring to the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant north of Tokyo, which has been leaking radioactivity since it was battered by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

"I wanted him to know about the children who have been contaminated by radiation. If this goes on, there will be serious health impacts."

Akihito inclined his head as he took the letter in his hand but then handed it to a nearby chamberlain. Yamamoto said he made no comment.

About 150,000 people were evacuated from around the plant which suffered a series of explosions and meltdowns. A large area of surrounding land is off-limits due to high radiation.

U.N. scientists said this year the evacuation helped prevent rising cancer rates and other health problems. Traces of radioactive contamination have been found in rice and far out in the Pacific Ocean.

Akihito, who turns 80 in December, fills a purely ceremonial role and remains above the political fray.

He has striven to draw the imperial family closer to the people. Conservative Japanese revere him, while many others feel a fond affection towards him. Some Japanese see the family as irrelevant.

Some Internet critics called on Yamamoto to resign from parliament. "This was really low," one critic wrote in a Web forum.

Chief cabinet secretary Yasuhide Suga also expressed disapproval, telling a news conference: "There is a line for appropriate behavior at such an occasion".

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (10)
scottd. wrote:
The Emperor is the divine leader of Japan, he shouldn’t be involved in religious issues.

Oct 31, 2013 1:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
> Scottd.

This isn’t a religious issue at all. And H.M. The Emperor is a symbol of Japanese conscience and not a divine or political figure. By Constitution his power is limited to performing ceremonial duties as a human being and not a diving being. Former Emperor Hirohito has announced Himself as ‘human’ and not a divine being. And that has been the legacy of our royal family since.

There is no written or unwritten taboo that bounds Senator Yamamoto from doing what he has done representing the Japanese citizens. It was only thought that only those in the leading position–a ruler at the time–can do that, throughout the entire Japanese history. He merely presented the will of the people, albeit in an arbitrary fashion. He must have been awed by the presence of His Majesty, but he still had the courage to step forward to let the people’s voice heard. I think it was a commendable act and I for one as a Japanese national am grateful for his actions.

Nov 01, 2013 3:04am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Morkva wrote:
The Emperor has no right to influence no any political issue and it’s rather forbidden by the constitution.
So regardless of knowing or not The Emperor can’t do anything for political issue and it’s prohibited. So for what he did? It’s no mean. And although there is a legal way to hand in the letter to The Emperor, he did by a improper way. Just a performance.

Nov 01, 2013 4:22am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.