Japan to protest Fukushima-Olympics cartoons in French weekly

Bloomberg

Japan plans to complain to the French satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaine after it published cartoons poking fun at Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

One cartoon published in the Sept. 11 edition of the paper shows two emaciated sumo wrestlers with extra limbs battling it out with nuclear reactors in the background. The caption reads: “Thanks to Fukushima, sumo has become an Olympic sport.”

Tokyo won the right to host the games for the first time since 1964, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew to Buenos Aires last weekend to give a final presentation to the International Olympic Committee. The last few days of the campaign were dogged by questions about tons of radioactive water leaking into the sea from the crippled Fukushima plant. Abe has vowed to resolve the issue before the games.

The cartoon was “extremely regrettable,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Thursday.

“This kind of cartoon hurts the feelings of those who suffered in the disaster and gives an incorrect impression of the problem of contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant,” he told reporters in Tokyo.

Suga added that the government would complain to the weekly via the Japanese embassy in Paris and would instruct the Foreign Ministry to discourage inappropriate media coverage of Japan in the future.

Another cartoon in the paper showed what appeared to be a tank of contaminated water at the ruined nuclear plant. “We have already built our Olympic swimming pool at Fukushima,” reads the caption.

Louis-Marie Horeau, one of the two editors in chief of Le Canard Enchaine, said in a telephone interview that the newspaper doesn’t plan to apologize.

“We don’t see any reason to apologize,” he said. “Satire is a long-standing French tradition and it will continue. The representation of an anorexic sumo wrestler may not be funny to some people but I don’t see how it has hurt Fukushima victims.”

He said a charge d’affaire from the Japanese embassy in Paris called the newspaper to convey how “upset” the government was by the caricatures. A formal protest from Japan is also expected, which would be a first for the weekly, he said.

The newspaper and its political cartoonist Cabu were “taken by surprise by the Japanese reaction,” Horeau said. “Cabu actually loves Japan, he goes there often and knows it well.”

  • Firas Kraïem

    Good thing I have already left, I would feel slightly uncomfortable reading le Canard in the Sendai metro right now. :p

  • OlivierAM71

    Well, the cartoon may be not of the best taste, but I wonder why no Japanese media refers to the article itself, which addresses some very important issues about the current Fukushima situation. For instance, it explains that Tepco and the government are not taking care of the evacuees from the Fukushima’s area, and how the radiation leak is still running and ruining nature and life for decades.
    Why are those topics not addressed by the Japanese media?
    Moreover, what is more outrageous? A bad cartoon, or the fact that Prime Minister Abe, to win over the 2020 Olympic Games, said that “the situation IS under control” in Fukushima, when he knows perfectly well, like many people now trying to save the situation, this is just a lie?!

  • Damn-Skippy

    I do not think the Japanese, in general, understand the French concept of black humor/satire or the virtues of a free press or the Streisand effect for that matter.

  • WithMalice

    That was surprisingly insensitive.

  • slagrange

    It’s about time TEPCO& the Japanese government solves the situation with a long-term solution…criticism was waiting to be made…this cartoon of the2 admittedly too tough; the otherone with comment of swimmingpool and authorization of bading swimsuits simply funny laughing with the sad situation tepco has put itself in 2years after the disaster.

  • http://www.sheldonthinks.com/ andrew Sheldon

    The paradox is that only French people would have known about it if no one cared to be ‘politically correct’, but seemingly empathetically deprived. I guess we’ll all have to mourn again the loss of life. But given the opportunity, we might ask, what has changed in our political institutions to prevent this happening again…yep…nothing.

  • leaf

    Emaciated sumo wrestlers with extra limbs???? Come on! This is downright offensive and I don’t understand how these guys could expect any other reaction. And Horeau says “anorexic sumo wrestlers”. I highly doubt that that’s the only thing the cartoon is trying to express and if he thinks it’s as simple as that, he probably just doesn’t get it.

  • Sid Barton

    Funny cartoon. And don’t forget about 3-eyed Tuna — coming soon. A delicacy not to be missed.

  • Tabatha33

    yes, it is a pitty for the people who lived that but it is a reality that Japan is not taking care off.. You just published few weeks ago that the Fukushima plant is been pouring tons and tons of contaminated water to the sea and your government doesn´t think is an important issue… then at least let us laugh about this polution you are giving to the world

  • Flavio Spezzacatena

    Now japanese wrestlers will invade France. Banzai!!!

  • http://monochrome.me.uk/blog/ Hans

    What I read in this satire, and I think many French people with me, is: ” Tokyo has now the Olympics in 2020 but wouldn’t it make more sense to spend all that money on solving the problems they current have in Fukushima?”
    No wonder the politicians are upset as they have already forgotten about Fukushima and its victims, too mendokusai.

  • Björn Mohns

    It is sometimes very arrogant of a country’s magazine to make fun of other country’s issues (especially in France where they also have big issues).
    You better let a satire unwritten or a caricature undrawn, especially if you write about countries with different type of humour. Or you first learn something about their humour, but it seems they don’t have.
    I still see the widely spreaded protests when the Mohammed caricatures were published by I think it was a danish magazine/newspaper.
    For countries with such different type of humour this is really not fun!

  • Mike Wyckoff

    This is another clear example of foreigners misunderstanding the rules of sumo.

    These 2 wrestlers are clearly in different weight classes as a 3rd leg weighs way more than a 3rd arm.

    Jeez!

  • nonuke

    “This kind of cartoon hurts the feelings of those who suffered in the disaster..”??? This cartoon is about the prime minister Abe and his government saying that “everything was/is under control” to the naive Olympic committee. It is actually the government who uses those suffered in the disaster as victims for their political decisions.

  • Olivier Dessoude

    I read “Le Canard” almost every week. Frankly, I have seen better cartoons by Cabu, a most popular cartoonist for nearly 50 years now, but this is not the point.

    Was the cartoon making fun of the Japanese people? Not a second. The target is Abe’s government, TEPCO and their tragic understatements (I want to stay polite, so I do not write ‘lies”).

    Was it going to hurt the Fukushima victims? How many do you think actually read “Le Canard” in French? The paper is targeted to a French, and maybe Belgian audience.

    What is really happening? This is a red-herring. Abe’s government is just distracting the Japanese people’s attention from the fact that they are currently not doing much to address the most important long term issues: how to stabilize the situation then clean the mess, how to produce safe electricity tomorrow, how to change the culture of the nuclear industry in this country? The Japanese people deserves far better, it is up to them to demand.

  • Mindless

    When you react so defensively to a light-hearted cartoon which is truly reflecting the reality, it is only plain obviously that you know you are in the wrong. Yes, you, the Japanese Government and the Tokyo Game bidding team.

  • Guest

    Although this cartoon is crude, it is spot on. The Japanese government is under the impression that all is good in Fukushima, and that instead of focusing on fixing these critical issues, they would rather sweep it under the rug and focus on the Olympics (knowing very well that Fukushima is nowhere close to being stable – if they have another temblor of any significance, one can only imagine what will happen). Fukushima is a mess, people are still displaced, and some of the worst (post 3/11) leaks have just occurred. What planet are they living on? The situation in Japan reminds me of the story of Caligula fiddling while Rome burned down around him.

  • Ururoa

    Absolutely pathetic attitude shown by the Japanese government. If you don’t like it then just don’t read it! Such childish immaturity by the Japanese government is unbecoming, and I am sure that they and the victims of Fukushima have far more pressing concerns than some cartoons from the other side of the world.

  • http://ameblo.jp/cluttered-talk/ Michiko

    Making such a complaint is more shameful than not making it.
    Only emphasizing how we’re gone desperate.
    Getting desperate to achieve Olympic is nothing but evading facing up to other unpleasant issues, futhermore trying to make an other country “apologize”?
    For their newspaper pointing and offering an objective view?
    Are we saying “Oretachiwobakanisuruna” again?
    It is just like what our ancestors were insisting on in prewar years.
    This is really insane, I’m saying this because it’s about ourselves.

  • JohnnyMassacre

    “The representation of an anorexic sumo wrestler may not be funny to some people but I don’t see how it has hurt Fukushima victims.”

    WOW. Just WOW. You don’t see how that hurts victims whose families died in the giant wave that crippled the same plant? Well, they must be absolutely delighted to see this cartoon.

  • gnirol

    It’s crude, tasteless, doesn’t make a lot of sense (what is the connection between the Fukushima disaster in particular and _adding sumo_ to the Olympic roster, something that is now impossible for 2020? Yes, I see the wrestlers are emaciated and deformed, but why emaciated sumotori and not emaciated judoka?) and not funny. And why anyone wouldn’t just let it sit there and rot instead of making an international incident over a cartoonist who had a bad day, I don’t know. How many people would ever have heard of Salman Rushdie, much less read the book that offends some Muslims so seriously, if the Iranian ayatollahs had not drawn international attention to him and made him very rich, popular and famous? How many Japanese people would have ever seen this cartoon and potentially been offended by it, if the govt had just ignored it?

  • Stack Jones

    The world needs many more articles, and cartoons mocking Japan’s criminal ineptness. Japan and the Olympics… Wow! How undeserved. Period!

  • EQ

    That’s what satyrical newspapers do, And this is really very mild stuff compared to what Le Canard Enchaine’ has published in the past. This cartoon is not an insult to the victims as much as it is a mockery of all those either at TEPCO or in the Government who have been lying and continue to blatantly lie to the victims of the disaster and, yes, to the entire World about how serious the situation at Fukishima really is. In the eyes of the rest of the World, taking care of the Fukushima disaster should be Japan’s ONLY focus of efforts – NOT hosting the Olympics. How hard is that to understand?!? The real insult is the Prime Minister of Japan coming out as he did in front of the IOC and millions of television viewers around the World and lie about how “Everything is under control” and actually use this lie as an argument to convince the IOC to give the Olympic Games to Tokyo!!!

  • Shinya

    I am Japanese. What annoys me about this cartoon is not that it might offend some disaster victims; after all, they’re not going to be paying attention to articles like this.

    Rather, it’s the ignorance and sensationalism that this cartoon is exploiting: sure, Shinzo Abe is an idiot, and his comments about the situation at the FUKUSHIMA plant are a little hopeful, but what on earth has that got to do with a sporting event being held in seven years’ time in far-off TOKYO?! Perhaps this sounds incredible, but Japan was always going to keep up the recovery effort in Fukushima whether or not it was awarded the Olympics.

    Most armchair commentators abroad probably couldn’t even find Fukushima on a map, yet they talk as though the nuclear incident is the only thing happening in Japan, and that the whole country is glowing green.

    Louis-Marie Horeau’s defence is to argue that “satire is a long-standing French tradition”, as though that makes any difference. That said, I’m fascinated by how they automatically interpreted this backlash as an attack on French pride, just because the protests were lodged by a Japanese entity. The fact that they didn’t even foresee this response says it all.

    Oh yeah, the faces of the wrestlers in the cartoon also remind me of something you’d see in anti-Japanese WWII propaganda. Keep practising.

  • Shinya

    I am Japanese. What annoys me about this cartoon is not that it might offend some disaster victims; after all, they’re not going to be paying attention to articles like this.

    Rather, it’s the ignorance and sensationalism that this cartoon is exploiting: sure, Shinzo Abe is an idiot, and his comments about the situation at the FUKUSHIMA plant are a little hopeful, but what on earth has that got to do with a sporting event being held in seven years’ time in far-off TOKYO?! Perhaps this sounds incredible, but Japan was always going to keep up the recovery effort in Fukushima whether or not it was awarded the Olympics.

    Most armchair commentators abroad probably couldn’t even find Fukushima on a map, yet they talk as though the nuclear incident is the only thing happening in Japan, and that the whole country is glowing green.

    Louis-Marie Horeau’s defence is to argue that “satire is a long-standing French tradition”, as though that makes any difference. That said, I’m fascinated by how they automatically interpreted this backlash as an attack on French pride, just because the protests were lodged by a Japanese entity. The fact that they didn’t even foresee this response says it all.

    Oh yeah, the faces of the wrestlers in the cartoon also remind me of something you’d see in anti-Japanese WWII propaganda. Keep practising.