‘Oishinbo’ spurs nuclear debate

by Yuri Kageyama

AP

A journalist finds his nose doesn’t stop bleeding after visiting the meltdown-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. He also learns others suffer similar symptoms.

The scene from popular manga comic “Oishinbo,” published last month, has set off a hot public debate in Japan — a nation still traumatized by the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Local governments immediately protested the comic, saying it fosters unfounded fears of radiation.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe chimed in over the weekend, reassuring the public there was no proof of a link between radiation and such illnesses. “The government will make the best effort to take action against baseless rumors,” he said.

Undeterred by the ruckus, Tokyo-based publisher Shogakukan added a special 10-page segment to weekly Big Comic Spirits magazine, published Monday, featuring criticism it had received as well as opinion from radiation experts.

Editor Hiroshi Murayama acknowledged he had been unsure about publishing the manga, subtitled “The Truth of Fukushima,” because he anticipated people would be offended. But he had decided that voice needed to be heard, he said. “We hope the various views on the latest ‘Oishinbo’ will lead to a constructive debate into assessing our future,” he said.

So far, there has been no confirmed illnesses related to radiation among nuclear plant workers or residents of Fukushima. The nuclear disaster began three years ago in March 2011, when a giant tsunami disabled backup generators at three reactors. Entire towns around the Fukushima plant remain no-go zones.

The Fukushima prefectural government issued a protest against “Oishinbo,” slamming it as misleading and fanning the fears about the safety of the area’s fish and agricultural products.

Although nosebleeds may be related to radiation, people outside the evacuation zone in Fukushima are not being exposed to such high levels of radiation, it said in a statement.

Also featured was Ikuro Anzai, honorary professor at Ritsumeikan University and radiation expert, who said he was aware of talk in Fukushima about nosebleeds but stressed there was no scientific data to draw conclusions. And discrimination against Fukushima was causing far more real suffering, not radiation.

“People know it is best not to get radiated and so whatever happens, people are going to blame Fukushima,” he said.

Scientists say there is no exact safe limit to low dose radiation. A causal link to any individual’s disease is hard to prove, given the varieties of carcinogens and other risks in the environment.

Tetsu Kariya, the writer of “Oishinbo,” said on his blog earlier this month that the intensity of the outrage set off by the nosebleed scene was unexpected.

Having researched Fukushima for two years, he was not about to write that Fukushima was safe and all was well — even if that may be what people wanted to hear.

“I can only write the truth,” he said.

  • Starviking

    A strange thing happened last week, in two different classes I had one student come down with nosebleeds…radiation or…dry air? Hmmm…

  • forsetiboston

    More of the Japan Times doing what it does.. When there is no ‘tangible’ news to publish it makes news. It sells papers and ultimately ads.

    “Also featured was Ikuro Anzai, honorary professor at Ritsumeikan University and radiation expert, who said he was aware of talk in Fukushima about nosebleeds but stressed there was no scientific data to draw conclusions. And discrimination against Fukushima was causing far more real suffering, not radiation.”

    No scientific data to draw conclusions. But the JT never let a little thing like science get in the way of the “truth” now does it?

    This line here is just plain false:

    “Scientists say there is no exact safe limit to low dose radiation.”

    Which scientists are these, because the ones from MIT and other top Uni’s around the globe seem to disagree with that. It is particularly hard to support given that we are exposed to low level radiation every, single, day. Or is this the argument we want to introduce the “theory” of LNT? Or perhaps it is one where we want to suggest there are red and green radiation(s).

    FUD.

  • Sam Gilman

    Here’s the backstory. An anti-nuclear activist called Takahiro Katsumi has the bright idea of finding out how tweets mention nosebleeds in Japanese. He finds five thousand tweets one weekend with the Japanese word for “nosebleed”, a couple of thousand with “nose won’t stop bleeding” over a ten day period and a couple of thousand tweets with “nose is bleeding” in another two day period. He then claims that this must mean that over *five thousand*, *mainly under thirty* (It’s twitter), *different people* have nosebleeds (no, no, and no) and that it is…(drum roll)…because of Fukushima! No matter where the people tweeting about nosebleeds are, in Japan or indeed the world, it’s all because of Fukushima. The whole thing really is that stupid.

    This “research” gets picked up by various notorious anti-nuclear and conspiracy sites (such as here), including the mysteriously owned and funded ENEnews, a particular favourite site of anti-nuclear paranoiacs. In certain versions, the story gets changed along the way from “man counts tweets mentioning nosebleeds” to “people have suddenly begun tweeting that they have nosebleeds from radiation” or worse still, to “Doctors report nosebleeds from Fukushima“. The lie is formed, the Internet does the rest.

    A short while later, a manga company decides to make some money out of the Fukushima crisis (a kind of monetised “concern trolling”). They put in the nosebleed story. People in Fukushima, quite understandably, complain. They’ve had a really bad time of it, all things considered, and the last thing they need is some manga idiots from Tokyo spreading rumours that visitors to the prefecture are going to fall sick from radiation. It’s just not true.

    The publishers – who are bleating about how much they care – refuse to back down for a long time. Do they have a case? Nope. Nosebleeds occur with acute radiation poisoning, for which you need absolutely massive radiation exposure. It’s something that ZERO people have suffered. Not even anyone at the plant. The whole thing is yet another fantasy cooked up by an activist. A damaging, and, as the radiation expert points out, hurtful fantasy that the people of Fukushima do not need to have put about. To repeat: The people the publishers say they care about angrily protest, and the publishers refuse to back down. Profit before people.

    Eventually, the publishers do very grudgingly half back down, but the free publicity for their commercial product in the mean time has clearly been marvellous. All this should be a story and cause for outrage.

    It is therefore unfortunate that the openly anti-nuclear journalist Yuri Kageyama (her surname is misspelt here for some reason; the story appears under her name on the AP site), instead of relating this tale of corporate exploitation of the victims of a nuclear accident, tries very hard to validate the nosebleed story. Sure, she can find people convinced their nosebleeds are from radiation. What she can’t find is any specialists to confirm that. As a parallel: there are large numbers of people genuinely suffering from similar symptoms who believe it’s all due to alien abduction. Neither their suffering nor their earnestness make that true either.

    But isn’t this piece balanced? Doesn’t Kageyama include both sides, including radiation experts? That’s the trick: She and the Oishinbo publishers are adopting a tactic used by religious creationists and corporate-funded climate change deniers when the science is against them: you “teach the controversy”. You present a view that has all the credible evidence and a view that has none of the credible evidence equally side by side, and thereby give validity by association to the view that has no credible evidence. At the same you can claim you are “fair and balanced” – which just so happens to be the slogan of Fox News.

    Ultimately, these people are not reporting on the Fukushima disaster, but are instead a part of it. It’s all rather tawdry.