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When France uses Charles Aznavour to trivialize Fukushima





June 22, 2016 / Mathieu Gaulène (Reporterre)

Translated by Hervé Courtois (D’un Renard)

From our correspondant in Tokyo, Japan

Last week, the Embassy of France in Tokyo, Japan organized a “friendship dinner” to promote agricultural products from Fukushima. In this great communication exercise, the main purpose was to “serve the interests of France in Japan”, that is by defending the nuclear industry.

” The oceans are garbage dumps, the seabeds are soiled, smultiple Chernobyls are seeing fetuses stillborn”, sang in 2009 Charles Aznavour in “The Earth dies”.

Yet at the Embassy of France in Tokyo, Friday, June 17, at a dinner during which he was the guest of honor, it was another song that was sung to the the nonagenarian by the Ambassador Thierry Dana. In partnership with Fukushima Prefecture and the Aeon supermarkets chain, the Embassy of France organized within its walls a great event for the promotion of agricultural products from Fukushima. Some “delicious dishes” were prepared and served by the chef of the Embassy to the handpicked guests.


Charles Aznavour with Ambassador Thierry Dana

This is not the first time that the Embassy of France is actively promoting the nuclear industry and minimizing the risks following the Fukushima accident.

The former minister-counselor had even told us point blank, in 2013, that the main role of the embassy was “to serve the interests of France in Japan, that is to say nuclear.”

“We want to end this drama with this event”

But with this event, a new milestone was reached in the promotion of nuclear power, assumed and uninhibited: an outright negation of the health consequences of this disaster on the region. For, under the guise of a pseudo “friendship” with the people of Fukushima, singularly absent from the reception, the dinner was above all a great exercise in communication.

“We want to end this drama with this event,” explains a communication officer before the press conference starts. And to end the debate about radioactivity? “We do not want to present things like that …” she begins, before going elsewhere. And indeed, the ambassador of France, Thierry Dana, achieved the feat of making a speech on Fukushima never saying the words “nuclear accident” or “radioactivity”. He should have thought about it strongly, however when talking about “unfounded rumors on products that are both delicious and safe for health” [1]. When the phrase was translated into Japanese, Masao Uchibori, governor of Fukushima, and Tsuyoshi Takagi, Minister for Reconstruction, nodded, visibly satisfied that France plays its role of stooge in this case.


Masao Uchibori, the governor of Fukushima, Thierry Dana and Tsuyoshi Takagi, the Minister for Reconstruction (left to right), Friday, June 17, at the Embassy of France in Tokyo.

When we questioned the ambassador on the left unspoken and the danger or irresponsibility, to promote products from a contaminated region, in the time allotted to us – 5 minutes for questions of the journalists in a “press conference” of 1 hour 15 – he made a well-rehearsed reply: “Our goal is to enlighten the people who do not know, and as your question proves, we must continue to promote these products which are safe, and to eat them”, before to hand us theatrically before the cameras of TV Asahi, a cucumber from Fukushima.

Stay and learn to live with radioactivity

Indeed, explains Mr. Uchibori, who’d like also to answer us, tests are performed on products such as rice, and a maximum of 100 becquerels per kilogram of radioactivity has been set since 2012 for vegetables and fruits – In the first months, the threshold was set at 500 becquerels.

But even if these tests were systematic, which is not the case for all vegetables, food from Fukushima often contain low doses of radioactive particles. Even water from Tokyo tap still contains traces of cesium 134 and 137. Now we know that the radioactivity is more harmful when internal and repeated. Ingested, radioactive particles accumulate and can cause cancer, weakened immune system and various diseases.

On location, a hundred citizens laboratories were created to verify the content of radioactivity in food after food. A practice that could become over the years horribly banal: the life of radioactive elements is measured in decades or even thousands of years for plutonium.


A selection of products, among which mushrooms, from Fukushima.

The presence of Aeon, first supermarket chain of the Japanese archipelago, as a partner of this event is more significant. The company is very engaged with the Fukushima Prefecture in the denial of the radioactive risk. In August, 2011, Aeon was the center of a scandal after it sold in its Tokyo supermarkets several hundred kilos of Minamisoma beef, whose radioactive cesium content was three to six times higher than normal. The company president, Mr. Okada, although present at the press conference and dinner, has been inconspicuous. And yet he seems to have been the main architect of this event.


A candlelight dinner, to the invisible radioactivity.

“Mr. Okada and Mr. Dana met upstream, and the ambassador has generously offered to host this event,” explains the director of communication of Aeon. Okada knows well indeed the ambassador, who presented him with the Legion of Honor in December 2015. Mr. Yasuhide Chikazawa, vice- president of Aeon, participated in the Ethos program in 2013. The Ethos program, benefiting from significant EU subsidies had already been set up in Chernobyl, and seeks nothing less than to encourage residents of contaminated areas with radioactivity to stay and to learn to live with it, because their evacuation is considered too expensive.

Free trade agreements between Japan and the European Union

A program that appears to have paid off as in the town of Tamura, highly contaminated but open to refugees since April 2014, small school children are taught about radioactivity and agricultural activities, professed by Ms. Yukiko Okada, of the atomic energy laboratory of the University of Tokyo city.

Since 2012, Aeon began to flood its supermarkets with products from Fukushima, at bargain prices.

For if the apology of products coming from an area that experienced a nuclear disaster is a first for France, in Japan, advertisements for Fukushima products orchestrated by Dentsu advertising, are permanent. [2] Aeon, well developed in the rest of Asia, has also started to export these products to other countries. And tomorrow, to Europe?


The Japanese seem to think about it very much. The Minister of Reconstruction, Mr. Takagi, laments, “Unfortunately, there are still countries or regions in the world who refuse to import products from Fukushima. ” But that could change. Since January 2016, the European Commission has facilitated the importation stopping simply to require radioactivity test certificates for most fruits and vegetables, tea or beef from Fukushima.

This facilitation, far from health considerations, was in fact granted under free-trade agreements being between Japan and the EU. In short, the EU condones products from Fukushima in exchange for lower tariffs in Japan for pork, cheese or wine exports. This “friendship dinner” might be just one of the final steps in those trade negotiations.

[1] The term “rumors” is a language element very quickly adopted by the Japanese government. From March 2012, the Japanese Embassy in France had sent to all French journalists writing about this country, a press release entitled “Fight against harmful rumors.” “To come to Japan and buy Japanese products, including those produced in the affected areas, is the best support for reconstruction that can be provided,” it read.

2] On the role of Dentsu the advertising giant in the promotion of nuclear power, you may read this article:



June 22, 2016 - Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , ,

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