In his trademark blue jumpsuit, the bleary-eyed Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano became the government's face of the Fukushima nuclear crisis as he faced the press every few hours. Five years later, he has stern words for Japan's atomic watchdog, the plant's operator and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's nuclear restart policy.

Edano, secretary-general of the now-opposition Democratic Party of Japan, refutes claims by the current administration that the Nuclear Regulation Authority is imposing the world's most stringent safety standards in the earthquake-prone nation.

"The government's explanation is mistaken," the 51-year-old said in an interview last week at his Tokyo office. "The regulations have not won international recognition as the world's toughest."