National

Japan 'Nuclear Energy Village' website pulled after critics say it plumbed 'new level of insensitive'

Kyodo, Staff Report

A website created by the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum to educate the next generation on nuclear energy was taken down Friday after drawing criticism on social media, with some Twitter users calling the effort “inappropriate” given that the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster happened “just a few years ago.”

The website, published Monday by JAIF, which is a nuclear energy lobby group, was called “Atsumare! Genshiryoku Mura,” which roughly translates to “Come gather! Nuclear Energy Village” and its homepage was adorned with warlords, ghosts and clowns along with a slew of colorful characters and other comical touches.

The site came down on Friday, to be replaced by an apology message from JAIF saying the site had been pulled due to “inappropriate language.” The lobby group added, “We apologize for any inconvenience or unpleasantness you may have experienced.”

The page featured pop-ups that read “Excuse me, what village?” and an image of a pirate ship being steered by foreign nationals that linked users to interviews with employees from overseas that were taking part in the project.

“We understand that various opinions are being expressed,” said a JAIF representative before the site was pulled, adding that the purpose of the website was to “provide support for young people involving themselves in nuclear energy in spite of adversity, and to respond to students who have questions and concerns about it.”

It was the JAIF’s decision to use the name “Nuclear Energy Village,” the term which has been used in the past to satirize the industry’s vested interests and lack of transparency, that caused particular discomfort to many who expressed their concern on Twitter.

“I’m taken aback,” one user wrote. “I’m not interested in something that seems to mock citizens.”

The website contained links to pages with titles like “rokuhara tandai,” a name that refers to secret police working under the Kamakura Shogunate in Kyoto during the 14th century, and “goyoūda!,” a phrase used by police centuries ago that can be roughly translated to “you are under arrest.” Many of the page’s links were broken.

The strangeness of it all led some to describe the site as a “complete mystery.” Some users wondered if it was a bad joke while others called it a “new level of insensitive” — pointing to the many evacuees who still haven’t returned to their homes since the Fukushima No.1 nuclear disaster that was caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

Before the website was published, the JAIF posted on Twitter that people “should look at the website before criticizing it.”

“By just being polite, we’re not reaching our target audience,” the representative said.

In October, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. roiled the Twittersphere when it posted a picture of the inside of No. 4 reactor at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant with a controversial caption. At the time, a flood of users criticized the company, saying it hadn’t taken responsibility for its role in the March 2011 nuclear disaster.