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.