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French Fukushima cartoon has Japan up in arms

Photo: DR

Japan is to lodge a formal complaint with French weekly Le Canard Enchaîné after it published a cartoon showing sumo wrestlers with extra arms in reference to Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympic Games, despite the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis.


Japan reacted angrily Thursday to cartoons published in a French newspaper that mocked the decision to award the 2020 Olympic Games to Tokyo despite the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Published by the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné in its Wednesday, September 11 edition, one of the cartoons depicts two emaciated sumo wrestlers sporting extra limbs with the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant in the background. A caption reads: “Thanks to Fukushima, sumo is now an Olympic sport.”

Another cartoon shows two people, donning radiation suits and holding Geiger counters, standing in front of a pool of water, with a caption stating that “the Olympic swimming pool has already been built at Fukushima”, an apparent reference to Japan’s struggle to contain leaks of radioactive water at the damaged plant.

Japan does not appear to have appreciated Le Canard Enchaine satirical approach to the Fukushima disaster, and the country’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government would lodge an official complaint with the publication.

The Fukushima plant was the site of a triple meltdown after being struck by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011.

It was the biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, according to the scale used by the International Atomic Energy Agency, resulting in radioactive contamination of the air, sea and food and the evacuation of 160,000 people from the surrounding area.

More than two years later, Japan continues to struggle to bring the crisis under control, with spikes in radiation still being recorded at the plant.

Cartoons ‘hurt the victims of the disaster’

Speaking at a press conference, Suga denounced Le Canard Enchaîné for making light of a disaster that has had an impact on so many lives.

"These kinds of satirical pictures hurt the victims of the disaster," he said. "This kind of journalism gives the wrong impression about the waste water problem.”

It is not the fist time Japan has taken exception to the French media’s treatment of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Less than a year ago, a popular talk show on the TV channel France 2  showed a doctored photo of Eiji Kawashima, the goalkeeper of the Japanese national football squad, with four arms.

The show explained that it was the "Fukushima effect" that had allowed Kawashima to keep goal so effectively in Japan's shock defeat of France at a match in Paris in October 2012.

France 2 later expressed its regret over the incident while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius issued an apology to Japan.

Tokyo was named host of the 2020 Olympic Games following a vote by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Saturday, despite concerns about the continued problems at Fukushima, which lies 141 miles (227km) to the north of the Japanese capital.

During the bidding process, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the IOC that Fukushima posed no risk to the Games.

“Let me assure you the situation is under control,” Abe said. “[The Fukushima plant] has never done, and will never do, any damage to Tokyo.”

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