The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Disaster-hit Tohoku residents unimpressed by ‘recovery Olympics,’ survey shows

Members of the 2011 Women’s World Cup-winning Japan soccer team run at the start of the Tokyo Olympic torch relay at the J-Village soccer training center in Fukushima Prefecture on March 25, 2021 | KYODO

June 28, 2022

The Tokyo Olympics, promoted as a way to improve the plight of areas devastated by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, left residents of northeastern Japan largely unimpressed, a survey buried in a government report revealed Tuesday.

The survey was included as part of a government report on the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. It went over the entire endeavor, from the bid stage to its realization during a pandemic with virtually no fans, and all but ignored the controversy surrounding the design and cost of the national stadium.

The survey by Japan’s Reconstruction Agency in November asked if people were “grateful for the reconstruction support, or believed the Olympics sent a message to the world that reconstruction is taking place.”

Only 29.8% of the 4,000 people in the survey answered that question by saying either “I really think so” or “I think so.” A total of 38.8% answered “I don’t think it did much” or “I don’t think so.”

Asked their opinion about the best thing from the Olympics, 20.7% said, “events held in the disaster-hit region,” while 11.1% answered, “the torch relay.” The answer “nothing in particular” was selected by 39.6%.

The survey asked 1,000 residents each from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures and from Tokyo. The results were not published in the main body of the report but in the attached reference materials.

The main report focused on positives: how Fukushima-produced hydrogen was used in the torch relay, and how the athletes village served food from the disaster-hit region.

The Olympics, the government report proclaimed, “showed the world how recovery is being accomplished and how we are tackling the issues that promote reconstruction.”

Regarding the Olympics’ centerpiece, the National Stadium, the report was remarkably vague. The original stadium design bid, by the late Zaha Hadid, was the most prominent price tag in a huge bill that would need to be paid to host the Olympics.

To remedy that, organizers re-opened the bidding, delaying its construction for a year, and preventing it from hosting 2019 Rugby World Cup matches.

The report’s only comment on what was just one of the organizers’ first stumbling blocks was, “The related cost became larger than originally planned.”


July 3, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Olympic torch relay to start on March 25, 2021 in Fukushima

Same time same place next year …The relay will start from the J-Village soccer training center and last for 121 days while traversing all of Japan’s 47 prefectures. The previous schedule for each region was maintained aside from a one-day adjustment to fit next year’s calendar.

September 28, 2020

The Tokyo Olympic torch relay will start on March 25 in Fukushima Prefecture, Tokyo Games organizers said Monday, in keeping with the plan that was developed prior to the games’ one-year postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The relay will start from the J-Village soccer training center and last for 121 days while traversing all of Japan’s 47 prefectures. The previous schedule for each region was maintained aside from a one-day adjustment to fit next year’s calendar.

The Olympics are slated to open on July 23 next summer followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24.

Approximately 10,000 runners who had already been selected will be given priority for the nationwide relay. Organizers said they will stick with the local routes and events that were already planned in principle but may make future adjustments according to the status of each region.

The Paralympic torch relay will be held in August.

Athens Olympics women’s marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (L) receives the Tokyo Olympics flame from first runner Anna Korakaki, the 2016 Rio Games shooting gold medalist, in the torch relay in Olympia, Greece, on March 12, 2020.

Organizers had been seeking to shorten the torch relay schedule in order to reduce swelling costs caused by the games’ delay but abandoned the idea after receiving strong disapproval from local governments already banking on the event.

As a result, only reducing the size of the vehicle convoys, staff and pageantry of some of the events connected to the relay are under review as potential areas for cost cutting and streamlining the games.

The Olympic flame was lit earlier this year at the site of ancient Olympia in Greece and arrived in Japan four days before the games were postponed on March 24.

The flame has remained in the host country since and is currently on public display at the Japan Olympic Museum near the main stadium for the games in central Tokyo until Nov. 1.

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Olympics will be most costly Summer Games, Oxford study shows

In this June 3, the Olympic rings float in the water at sunset in the Odaiba section in Tokyo.

September 4, 2020


The Tokyo Olympics are already the most expensive Summer Games on record with costs set to go higher, a wide-ranging study from Britain’s University of Oxford indicates.

The Tokyo cost overrun already exceeds 200%, lead author Bent Flyvbjerg explained in an interview with The Associated Press. This is even before several billion more dollars are added on from the one-year delay from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flyvbjerg is an economist at Oxford’s Said Business School. His entire study is available here, and it’s set to be published on Sept. 15 in the journal “Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space.” It’s titled “Regression to the Tail: Why the Olympics Blow Up.”

Tokyo, postponed until July 23, 2021, is only a small part of the focus. The study — the third in a series following editions 2012 and 2016 — looks at Olympic costs since 1960 and finds they keep increasing despite claims by the International Olympic Committee that costs are being cut.

Flyvbjerg cites many reasons for the rising costs and cost overruns, and offers solutions for the IOC. The vast majority of costs are picked up by governments with the IOC contributing only a small portion.

“The Olympics offer the highest level of risk a city can take on,” Flyvbjerg told AP. “The trend cannot continue. No city will want to do this because it’s just too expensive, putting themselves into a debt that most cities cannot afford.”

In his paper, Flyvbjerg cites Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose city is to hold the 2028 Olympics following Paris in 2024.

“Most cities, unless you have a government that’s willing to go into debt or pay the subsidy of what this costs, most cities will never say ‘yes’ to the Olympics again unless they find the right model,” he quotes Garcetti as saying.

By the right model, Garcetti means lower costs.

Tracking Olympic costs is difficult, a dense maze of overlap and debate. Politicians and organizers always argue over what are — and what are not — Olympic expenses.

Flyvbjerg writes: “Unfortunately, Olympics officials and hosts often misinform about the costs and cost overruns of the Games. … We therefore cannot count on organizers, the IOC, and governments to provide us with reliable information about the real costs, cost overruns, and cost risks of the Olympic Games.”

Flyvbjerg looks only at costs to operate the games — the operating costs and capital costs — the cost to build sports venues. He leaves out a third category, which is usually many times larger: renovating roads, building airports, and what he calls “sprucing up projects,” which also fall to taxpayers.

“Our estimates are conservative because there are lots of costs that are hidden that we can’t get into,” Flyvbjerg said. “And there are lots of costs we decided not to include because it’s too complex. We include the things we can get the most reliable numbers for and we do it in the same way for each city that we study.”

He also excludes the cost of debt, and the future cost of running sports venues after the Olympics leave, and inflation.

According to the Oxford numbers. Tokyo’s spending is at $15.84 billion, already surpassing the 2012 London Olympics, which were the most expensive summer games to date at $14.95 billion. He expects several billion more from the cost of the one-year delay.

Tokyo organizers say officially they are spending $12.6 billion. However, a national auditor says the actual costs are twice that high, made up of some expenses that the Oxford study omits because they are not constant between different Olympics.

Tokyo said the cost would be $7.3 billion when it won the bid in 2013.

“They (IOC) obviously don’t like our results, but it’s very difficult to counter a piece of rigorous research like this,” Flyvbjerg said. “And they haven’t done that, and they can’t do that. Our research is a problem for them.”

In an email to Associated Press, the IOC said it had not seen the latest Oxford study and declined to comment.It referenced another study by Mainz and Sorbonne universities.

This study also found Olympic cost overruns but said they were in line with other large-scale projects. Flyvbjerg’s study finds they are not.

Flyvbjerg said he has been in touch on and off with the IOC and had sent a colleague to an IOC workshop. He said a major reason for the rising costs is that the IOC does not pay for them. He also cited rising security costs, and moving the games around the world. He calls this the “Eternal Beginner Syndrome” with new host cities starting basically from scratch.

He’s said the IOC has tried recently to rein in costs, but the effort is “too little, too late.”

“They (IOC) define the specs but don’t pay for them,”Flyvbjerg said. “This is pretty similar to you and I giving the specs for a house that we are going to live in, but we don’t have to pay for it. How do you think we’d spend? We’d gold-plate it. This is what has happened over time.”

Flyvbjerg said he’s relish a chance to sit and talk with IOC President Thomas Bach. He calls himself a fan of the Olympics.

“It’s not that the IOC hasn’t been willing to talk, or I am not willing to talk,”he said. “We certainly are. We have communicated in writing to keep the IOC informed. But yes, we would like to sit down with Thomas Bach.”

September 13, 2020 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Billing Olympics as ‘pandemic recovery games’ unfeasible: ex-Fukushima mayor

jkjFormer Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai is seen talking to the Mainichi Shimbun in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 3, 2020


August 5, 2020

MINAMISOMA, Fukushima — Katsunobu Sakurai, former mayor of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, who was in office during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, firmly stated during a recent interview with the Mainichi Shimbun that it is unfeasible to dub the Tokyo Olympics a “sign of humanity’s triumph over the novel coronavirus,” as suggested by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Sakurai, who was born in the city of Minamisoma himself, served two terms as mayor for his hometown between 2010 and 2018. Sakurai was picked as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2011 following the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The following is an excerpt of Sakurai’s remarks to the Mainichi Shimbun on July 3.

* * * * *

Following the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke of holding next year’s Olympics as a “sign of humanity’s triumph over the novel coronavirus.” Up until now, the prime minister may have thought that presenting the event with the title “disaster recovery” from the Great East Japan Earthquake would gather worldwide attention, but now he is trying to replace this slogan amid the global spread of the novel coronavirus. However, the concept of a “recovery Olympics,” let alone a “coronavirus Olympics” has no chance of success.

jllkmkFormer Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai is seen talking to the Mainichi Shimbun in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 3, 2020.


The torch relay for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was eventually canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak, was just a performance put on for show. The relay was set to start at the J-Village national soccer training center in Fukushima Prefecture, which was used as a base to handle the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (after the Great East Japan Earthquake). However, the relay route was limited to areas that have been tidied up, and did not show the real nature of the disaster-hit areas. “Recovery” means restoring an environment to a state where people can return. At the very least, if residents have returned and can once again live in a state similar to before the disaster, this may be called a recovery. But the government is trying to show how far the recovery has progressed, when in fact there is much left to be achieved.

There is also talk that flowers grown in the disaster-stricken areas will be used for victory bouquets awarded to Olympic medalists, but would this actually help boost the recovery overall? In Fukushima Prefecture, baseball and softball matches for the Olympic Games are to be held in the prefectural Azuma ballpark in the suburbs of the city of Fukushima, but this site has almost no connection to the coastal areas of the prefecture (that were damaged in the tsunami following the magnitude-9.0 temblor). It appears that it is nothing more than a performance (by the Japanese government).

No matter how much you tout the games as a sign of recovery, the overall picture of only Tokyo prospering while the recovery of the disaster-hit areas in the Tohoku region remains undone will not change. I’ve been to Tokyo many times, and saw that there were more crane trucks at the construction site of the athletes’ village than in the disaster-hit areas. It was obvious at a glance where the national government was placing its resources.

It’s not that I am disapproving of the Olympics itself. It is a festivity celebrating peace, and I am aware that Japan had been long active in its bid to host the games. However, it doesn’t make sense when you start calling it a “recovery Olympics.” The inconsistency becomes clear when labeling the games an event “contributing to the recovery of the disaster-hit areas.”

During the Japan’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics, Prime Minister Abe described the polluted water generated by the nuclear disaster as being “under control,” and then Tokyo Games bid committee chairman Tsunekazu Takeda called Tokyo “safe,” as it is 250 kilometers away from Fukushima. Don’t these very statements run counter to a “recovery Olympics”?

At the time, I was confronted by an elderly resident of my city who asked, “It’s a dangerous place here, isn’t it? Why don’t you let us live in Tokyo?” A “recovery Olympics” should by nature be something that residents of the disaster-stricken areas can feel good about holding, but the authorities’ perceptions are inconsistent with those in such areas.

If a “recovery Olympics” in the true sense of the term is to be held, it will by restoring the coastal regions of disaster-hit areas to a state capable of hosting the events, such as marathons.

During the 2019 Rugby World Cup, matches were held in the city of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, in northeastern Japan, (an area also hit hard by the tsunami) as a way to underscore the recovery. This must have been a large source of emotional strength for local residents. However, Fukushima Prefecture still has zones that people cannot even enter. It just doesn’t seem like it is in any condition to hold the Olympics. I can only presume that the large impact of the nuclear disaster is still being underestimated.

The Japanese government has prepared for the Olympics while upholding the “disaster recovery” label, even though a recovery is far from reality. It is superficial to declare a recovery with no actual progress. The government is now talking of an Olympics that could be a sign of humanity’s triumph over the pandemic, but vaccines have not yet been put into practical use, and the world has not yet been freed from the risk of infection. There is no chance of success by trying to box in reality to meet the labels the government upholds. The idea of a “coronavirus Olympics” may also likely end as a mere fantasy.

(Original Japanese interview by Jun Kaneko, City News Department)


August 7, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Activist Professor Unveils English-language Video Warning of Tokyo Olympics Radiation Risk

July 24, 2020

SEOUL, July 24 (Korea Bizwire)Ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics scheduled to be held next year in Japan, Seo Kyung-duk, a professor at Sungshin Women’s University, unveiled on Thursday a video in English on social media such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, warning that the radiation risk still remains high in Japan.

The four-minute video focuses on highlighting the risk of being exposed to radioactive materials in Fukushima.

In 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that the radiation in Fukushima was sufficiently under control.

The video, however, claims that in the seven years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the region’s nuclear power plant and its neighboring areas still remain a dangerous radioactive area, with the radiation level of some Fukushima areas being up to 1,775 times higher than internationally recommended levels.

The video warned that the Fukushima nuclear disaster is not terminated but still underway, adding that those who want to visit the Tokyo Olympics should be careful about the risk of being exposed to radiation.

The Japanese government plans to host some Olympic games in Fukushima as well as providing ingredients and foods from Fukushima to the athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympics,” Seo said.

This move is a sign that the Japanese government only wants to use the Tokyo Olympics as a chance to herald the rebuilding of Fukushima, neglecting the region’s radiation risk.”

Lina Jang (

August 3, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s Olympic makeover: Will the ‘cursed’ area be safe from radioactivity in time for Games?


By: Constantin SIMON | Aruna POPURI | Ryusuke MURATA

In a year’s time, the Olympic Games, dubbed the “reconstruction Olympics”, should allow Japan to move on from the Fukushima tragedy. The region, a symbol of the 2011 disaster, has officially been cleaned up but many problems remain, such as radioactivity and “forbidden cities”. Over the course of several months, our reporters followed the daily lives of the inhabitants of this “cursed” region.

In recent months, Japanese authorities have been working hard to finish rebuilding the Fukushima region in time for the Summer Games. This huge reconstruction and decontamination project is never-ending and is expected to cost nearly €250 billion.

Although the work undertaken over the past 10 years is colossal and the region is partly rebuilt, it’s still not free from radioactivity. The NGO Greenpeace has detected radioactive hotspots near the Olympic facilities. And at the Fukushima power plant, Tepco engineers continue to

battle against radioactive leaks. They also face new issues such as contaminated water, which is accumulating at the site and poses a new-fangled problem for Japan. Our reporters were able to visit the notorious nuclear power plant.

They bring us a chronicle of daily life in Fukushima, with residents determined to revive their stricken region.

July 10, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

This Will Still Be True Tomorrow: “Fukushima Ain’t Got the Time for Olympic Games”: Two Texts on Nuclear Disaster and Pandemic

Muto Ruiko

Introduced and translated by Norma Field


The fear of being forgotten that haunts the victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster set in quickly in the months following March 11, 2011. The Tokyo Olympics, touted as the “Recovery Olympics,” has served as a powerful vehicle for accelerating amnesia, on the one hand justifying the rushed reopening of restricted zones and other decisions of convenience, on the other, programming moments highlighting Fukushima in the Games. As preparations for the latter, especially the torch relay, reached fever pitch, the novel coronavirus intervened to force an abrupt postponement. It also disrupted ongoing and special events planned for the ninth 3.11 anniversary. The essay below elaborates on that context as an introduction to two texts by Muto Ruiko, head of the citizens’ group whose efforts led to the only criminal trial to emerge from the Fukushima disaster. The first, a speech anticipating the torch relay, outlines what the Olympics asks us to forget about Fukushima; the second is a reflection on living under two emergency declarations, the first nuclear, the second, COVID-19.

Key words: Olympics; Fukushima; torch relay; COVID-19; coronavirus; Dentsu; activism; Muto Ruiko

Prologue from an Ever-Shifting Present

Everybody has experienced, from childhood on, time crawling and time galloping, or time simply standing still, against the indifferent tic-toc of the clock. For much of the world, there is now a recent remote past—before the pandemic—and a present of bottomless uncertainty. But time continues to move unevenly in the new present, marked by unpredictable drama, as in the case of a tweetstorm that forced Abe Shinzo’s government to shelve a bill extending the retirement age of prosecutors, or by unexpected power, as in the global fury unleashed by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. The former, exploiting the attractive anonymity afforded by Twitter, punctuated years of quiescence following the demonstrations provoked by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, when tens of thousands of Japanese were willing to show their faces in protest. The latter seems the logical culmination of only the most recent instances of police brutality hurled before our eyes by the unabated racism and structural inequality prevailing in the U.S. Although the Japanese instance has been related to the coronavirus, the U.S. case is indisputably magnified by the overwhelming disparity in COVID-19 suffering, whether in numbers of death, the preponderance of minorities in the under-compensated, risk-burdened ranks of essential workers, and the economic nightmare, owing to job insecurity and paucity of savings, produced by the pandemic, such that “logical” now has the force of “inevitable.” And yet, is so remarkable as to also seem unpredictable.

As one recent remote past is replaced by another, we cannot forget that the issues thrust upon us by each of these recent pasts have hardly been resolved. Even as they momentarily recede from the foreground, they constitute a cumulative, living—and therefore, shifting—seismic force upon our present. This is the spirit motivating the following examination of the Tokyo Olympics and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, meant to serve as an introduction to two reflections by Muto Ruiko, head of the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. The first was delivered in anticipation of the 2020 Olympic torch relay to be kicked off in Fukushima; the second, written in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency declaration. 


1No time for Olympics: Azuma Sports Park, Fukushima City
March 1, 2020.


A Dream Vehicle for Amnesia

In the early spring months of 2020 in the northern hemisphere, the grim march of infection numbers was punctuated by reports of miraculous sightings, some true, others false: swans (false) and fish (true) in the lagoons of Venice; or blue sky in New Delhi. It felt as if decades of devoted action, joined in recent years by youth from the world over demanding that the earth be habitable for them, were being mocked. As if only a pandemic could bring about conditions seemingly more hospitable to life forms even as livelihood for many threatened to imperil health or simply vanish.2

In Japan, as if to scoff at the concerted efforts to protest that fabulous exercise in deceit called the “Recovery Olympics,” postponement of the games was abruptly announced on March 23, 2019, a scant four months in advance of the opening, when the torch—dubbed the “Flame of Recovery”—had already begun its triumphal progress3 in northern Japan. Does this mean that the effort expended in opposing the Olympics was wasted? The question is rhetorical, of course. In the coming months and years, we will need to reflect on the political, socioeconomic, and experiential impact of the assaults brought on by two kinds of invisible agents, radionuclides and a pandemic-causing virus. But for now, let us pause over the actions of antinuclear activists confronting the convergence of Covid-19 and the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

There is nothing bold about claiming that a major design of the games was to put paid to the 2011 triple disaster, most especially, the nuclear disaster. That objective is trumpeted in the official moniker, the “Recovery Olympics” (or in the even less merchandise-friendly translation of fukko, “Reconstruction”). It is still worth remarking how quickly those wheels were set in motion—the goal announced and declared achieved in virtually the same breath, as in Prime Minister Abe’s “under control” statement before the International Olympics Committee in Buenos Aires, a claim at which even TEPCO would demur shortly after it was made. That was September 2013. But the domestic selection of Tokyo as Japan’s candidate city had taken place on July 16, 2011, an indecent four months after the terrifying explosions. Only one month earlier, the Japanese government had admitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency that the molten fuel in reactors 1-3 had suffered a “melt-through” and not a mere “meltdown.” The daunting physical trials posed by the Fukushima Daiichi plant generated correspondingly difficult administrative challenges for Kan Naoto’s Democratic Party government. In late April, University of Tokyo professor Kosako Toshiso, hitherto a reliable government expert testifying against A-bomb survivors pressing for recognition, resigned as special cabinet adviser in a tearful press conference: as a scholar and from the standpoint of his “own humanism,” he could not condone raising the annual exposure rate for workers from 100 millisieverts (mSv)/yr to 250, or from 1 mSv/yr to 20 for primary school playgrounds in Fukushima.4 How could anyone in a position of responsibility have had the spare time to be plotting an Olympic bid during that period? 


2And in any case, I absolutely cannot inflict such a fate on my own children”
Special cabinet adviser Kosako Toshiso announcing his resignation at press conference
April 29, 2011.

A quick review suggests it was more a case of who was sufficiently determined to press on with pre-existing ambitions in the face of a catastrophe. Right-wing, nationalist politician Ishihara Shintaro, then Governor of Tokyo, had felt thwarted by the loss of the 2016 games to Rio de Janeiro.5 With strong encouragement from former prime minister Mori Yoshio (who would become head of the 2020 organizing committee), Ishihara declared that Tokyo would bid again once he was reelected on April 11. On that same day, Matsui Kazumi, a Hiroshima mayoral candidate opposed to that city’s Olympic bid, was elected, and in short order, withdrew the city from the running, leaving Tokyo as the de facto candidate from Japan.6 Ishihara, speaking in Tokyo on July 16, 2011, “passionatelyproclaimed the purpose of the “Recovery Olympics” (fukko gorin) to be the demonstration of Japan’s recovery from the 2011 disaster. By the end of 2011, a pet scheme opportunistically harnessed to the disaster by conservative politicians had won support across party lines. Noda Yoshihiko, who succeeded Kan as prime minister even or especially as the latter showed himself susceptible to public sentiment favoring de-nuclearization, declared that the Fukushima plant had successfully entered a “cold shutdown” on December 6. (See timeline here.) 

3Preparing for official 2020 Tokyo bid:
Governor Ishihara Shintaro with Jacques Rogge, IOC chair
July 2, 2011.

With hindsight—and not much of that—it is easy to grasp that the disaster and the 2020 Games were a match made in Olympic heaven. Without this bit of serendipity, the 2020 bid might have floundered in search of a convincing brand. (The mission of the failed 2016 bid was “Uniting Our Worlds.”) In the coming months and years, one worthy goal or another was accentuated for Tokyo 2020, but Recovery has been the mainstay.7 The serendipity has proven to be priceless because the promotion-proclamation of recovery, regardless of cost to people, the environment, and even government credibility, was the guiding principle behind managing the disaster from the start, as reflected in the watchwords of “ties that bind” (kizuna), “recovery/reconstruction/revitalization” (fukko), and “reputational harm” (fuhyo higai). This triplet of key words—two carrots of hope, one stick of warning—has managed to police Fukushima discourse to the present day: who would resist the call for solidarity in the hope of recovery? Or impede recovery by expressing worries about food safety? The expression of anxiety, whether on the part of mothers who stayed on or Tokyo consumers, is susceptible to the charge of causing “reputational harm,” which can further be seen as participating in discrimination against Fukushima.8 Redefining evacuation zones, ever so narrowly defined from the start, along with assistance cutoff, began as early as September 30, 2011, well before the Olympics were secured, but convenient markers of recovery gained tacit and explicit reinforcement as soon as the Olympics appeared on the horizon.9

True to the adage that a good offense is the best defense, Fukushima itself was assigned a prominent role: to host the opening matches in baseball and softball, and perhaps even more significantly, to serve as the starting point of the torch relay.10 In other words, the intractable nuclear disaster, which had often taken a back seat to the earthquake and especially, the dramatic tsunami in invocations of the “triple” disaster, was to be featured front and center, albeit momentarily, in the form of its erasure: Fukushima would be displayed to the world as having recovered. And to further drive home the point, J-Village, the former national soccer training center that served as the frontline base for operations for Fukushima Daiichi (workers lodged, vehicles washed, protective gear donned and disposed of) from March 15, 2011, was selected for the start of the torch relay. Not surprisingly, despite extensive efforts to clean up and beautify—including having local elementary students planting grass seedlings—radioactive hot spots continue to turn up.11


4Getting ready for the Olympics in Fukushima
Children at work on turf seedlings at J-Village
May 8, 2018.

The Astonishing Journey of the Torch

By February, the crescendo of 2020 Olympics preparation in Fukushima took on a manic quality before descending into a surreal sublime and finally, sputtering into silence. Day one of the torch relay was to take runners through areas close to the plant. Futaba, one of two adjacent towns hosting the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, its entire population still under mandatory evacuation, was not on the original route. With a partial lifting scheduled for March 4, the organizing committee decided on February 13 to respond to the wishes of the prefecture and rearranged the schedule to include Futaba. This would, said the grateful mayor, “light the flame of hope in our hearts and become a boost for recovery.” On March 14, the severed sections of the Joban train line that connected this portion of Fukushima with Tokyo were reconnected for the first time in nine years. Some gathered to cheer on the platforms, despite the fact that not much of the land beyond the station was accessible, for most of the town was still designated as “difficult-to-return-to” in the tactful—that is to say, strategically obfuscating—parlance of Fukushima disaster management.12 The plan was to have the flame, carried in a lantern and accompanied by runners, transported by train to newly reconstructed Futaba Station as part of the relay on March 26. 

Back in the metropolitan region, in the meanwhile, the number of people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama testing positive for the novel coronavirus shot up from 10 to 700 between February 4 and 28. With the Abe regime clearly hell-bent on holding the Olympics as scheduled, local organizers scrambled to stay one step ahead of the virus. They could not bring themselves to relinquish plans for displaying the torch in the three disaster-hit prefectures prior to the relay, not to say the relay itself. Whatever the precautionary advice, nothing like social distancing was on display as people flocked to see the “Flame of Recovery” at its various resting places. Most provocative, though, was the flame’s journey on the local Sanriku Railway in Iwate Prefecture. Secured in a lantern, it was placed between facing seats before a window, through which the “coastal townscape of recovery proceeding apace spread before the eye.”13 Passengers had been excluded, but the lantern could be viewed at key stops, where people gathered to welcome and then send off the flame.


5Lantern transported on Sanriku Railway from Miyako to Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture March 22, 2020—two days before postponement announced. Source


6Lantern transported from Kamaishi to Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture on SL Ginga [Milky Way], inspired by the work of Iwate-born writer Miyazawa Kenji March 22, 2020. Source

Even as this frenzied prelude unfolded, anxiety mounted as to whether the torch relay itself could in fact take place. On March 17, it was announced that the relay would be held, but without the ceremonies planned at stopping points. Spectators would be permitted as long as they “avoided” overcrowding, though one resident expressed disappointment: she had thoughtthe sight of overflowing crowds would symbolize recovery.” In less than a week, on March 23, this plan was replaced by a new proposal: a torch relay with no spectators—and no runners. The flame would be driven around Fukushima Prefecture, stripped even of the romance of rail travel. The following day, however, the other shoe dropped: the Games were to be postponed until 2021, and the 2020 torch relay canceled altogether. Ever resilient, organizers put the flame on display at J-Village for a month beginning April 2, with the hope that it could tour other parts of the country in the interest of “revitalization.” This, too, came to naught within the space of one week, with the Prime Minister’s declaration of a state of emergency.14

It could be taken for parody, this frenzy over the torch relay. The Olympics were meant to be a magic wand waving a spanking new post-disaster world into existence. As those prospects began to dim, the flame burned ever more brightly. The fuel? Greed. Pride. A yearning for fantasy in the midst of a dubious recovery, and an appetite for exploiting it. And the apparent means to do so. Or deciding that the means existed, despite mounting cost overruns.15

Recently, it was reported that the Foreign Ministry was directing $22 million to AI monitoring of overseas coverage of Japan’s pandemic response—as if this were more a “PR challenge than a profound public health crisis” (Kingston 2020). Perhaps this mode is even more far-reaching than we cynically, or more neutrally, abstractly, imagine. About one year ago, Taakurataa, a remarkable little magazine published in Nagano Prefecture, managed, through tenacious use of Japan’s version of freedom-of-information requests, to discover that in the seven years between 2011 and 2018, the central government and Fukushima Prefecture had paid $224 million to the PR firm Dentsu. The Environment Ministry was by far the greatest customer, using approximately half that budget for Dentsu’s services in the campaign to inform the public about its decontamination and debris cleanup efforts. The guidelines were to make people feel “safe and secure” (anshin anzen) again, “bring people back to their home towns,” and “have citizens recover pride in their hometowns.” A study group was created, consisting of staff from the prefectural forestry and fishery division as well as newspaper and TV marketing divisions, not to purvey a message, but in order to monitor twitter users and identify those who could be classified as “sources of reputation harm,” “supporters of the right-to-evacuate trial,” or simply “noise,” if they said anything that would dampen enthusiasm for Fukushima agricultural products.16 It is hard to avoid the conclusion that a marketing firm had been appointed a principal actor, with potential censorship power, in deciding Fukushima policy. And of course, that same firm is a major player in Tokyo 2020: Dentsu Inc. is the Games’s official marketing agency

A briefly revealed, quickly forgotten detail about the Olympics-Dentsu chain of operations makes Fukushima seem a minor, though useful, link in that chain: a former Dentsu executive and member of the organizing committee disclosed, a few days after postponement was announced, that he had played a key role in securing the support of an African Olympics power-broker now under investigation by French prosecutors. He, Takahashi Haruyuki—still on the organizing committee—had been paid $8.2 million by the Japanese bidding committee, which presumably had some relation to the $46,500 the bidding committee paid to Seiko Watch. Seiko watches and digital cameras, said Takahashi, were “cheap,” and common sense dictated that “You don’t go empty-handed.” Dentsu’s contracts for Fukushima recovery—as known to date—come to seem almost reasonable, at $224 million over seven years, or $32 million per year. Takahashi singly was paid one-quarter of that to procure the Recovery Olympics. 

Perhaps this is all unsurprising—a version of normal operating procedure most of the time for certain strata of the world. If so, then here, as in countless other instances, we need to make the modest yet seemingly immense effort to refresh our capacity for surprise. And anger. That there is so much profit to be made in doing anything but genuinely contribute to Fukushima remediation, to in fact, profit by diverting attention and burying the disaster, as if “nothing had happened,”17 should rouse us all, in solidarity both with the few who sustain the struggle and with those who gave up long ago, too exhausted from maintaining daily life to keep insisting not only that something had happened, but that it was still happening. Some of the struggle-weary were likely in the throngs greeting the arrival of the flame from Greece, or taking selfies with the lantern-encased flame. And as astonishing as it seems, there is already a new generation of children who were infants or unborn in 2011 now grown old enough to enjoy a spectacle touting the recovery of their region, their pleasure untainted by responsible education about the long-term impact of a nuclear disaster.18 Their parents may have welcomed the chance to banish recurring reminders of the disaster: reports of the re-dispersal of radionuclides and especially conspicuous, images of decontamination waste bags unmoored in the flooding brought on by Typhoon Hagibis; or the agonizingly protracted, risky dismantling of a highly contaminated vent stack at the Fukushima Daiichi plant itself; or the Olympic plans themselves putting hot spots back in the news.19 Bread and circuses is the bright side of the coin whose other face is expert exhortation to accept living amid decontamination waste for the foreseeable future: “Why would other prefectures want to accept waste that you yourselves don’t want?”—exhortation sweetened by the assurance that Fukushima contamination is not, for the most part, harmful. Anxiety, after all, is a matter of the mind/spirit (fuan wa kokoro no mondai).20


7Radiation instruction for the very young: “Let’s block beta particles with ‘scissors’!”  Fukushima Prefectural Centre for Environmental Creation, Community Relations Wing – July, 2018

It was back in June of 2019, an eternity before Covid-19 would appear on anybody’s horizon, that the torch relay route was announced, omitting Futaba. Was that omission owing to the last, frayed shred of realist perception, in view of the fact that the town was still off limits to the entire population? As Kowata Masumi, councilor of Okuma, the other town hosting the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and one of the painfully few elected officials in Fukushima willing to address radioactive contamination, observed, “National Route 6 still has high radiation levels. There are places where hardly any residents have returned, and conditions are not suitable for people running or cheering from the roadside.” Voicing the common complaint that the Olympics were deflecting workers and materials from Fukushima, she told Our Planet-TV, “They seem to have turned the idea of recovery on its head.” Any legitimacy accruing to the commonsensical had long ago been extinguished in the fever dream of the Olympics. 

Protest and Pandemic

It’s all Olympics all the time,” said emails from Fukushima. But as February wore on, with the drumbeat of news from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the novel coronavirus became an ominous competitor for attention. Emails began to say, “It’s exactly the same. Deny it’s happening. Don’t test. Find experts who’ll support that policy.” And rather sooner than later, “Is anyone taking responsibility?”21 If COVID-19 cast a shadow on Olympic plans, it also was a challenge for groups long opposed to the games. This was the run-up period for the 9th anniversary of March 11, a difficult time for survivors and a crucial occasion for them and antinuclear activists to remind the rest of the country of what had happened and how much remained unresolved, with some hardships predictably aggravated, rather than alleviated, through the passage of time. Anguished discussions took place about canceling or proceeding with activities that had already consumed months of painstaking preparation. Sharing with other progressives a deep-seated antagonism to the Abe administration, activists were reluctant to relinquish the platform of the anniversary occasion, given already fading public interest exacerbated by the Olympics. Wouldn’t cancellation have a ripple effect on other organizations? Wouldn’t the government exploit this to apply pressure for “voluntary restraint” (jishuku)22 across a range of activities? At the same time, wasn’t the desire to safeguard health at the heart of the antinuclear movement? Was it appropriate for those who had made the agonizing choice to leave, not just Fukushima and immediately adjacent areas but the Tokyo region as well, to put themselves along with others at risk of exposure? If a valued keynote speaker were willing to appear remotely, were the organizers obliged to follow through? What were the ethics of putting one’s body on the line in these circumstances?23

Anniversary events, large and small, were postponed or canceled outright. One of the largest had been planned by FoE Japan (Friends of the Earth). Although not exclusively dedicated to the nuclear issue, it has been a leader in the field since 2011, remarkable for the depth of on-the-ground work underlying its educational and watchdog activities. Besides issuing its own carefully researched public comments, FoE has taken initiative to hold public-comment writing workshops, so that citizens unaccustomed to expressing themselves in this medium—never mind on such topics as evaluation of the Rokkasho reprocessing facility or the release of contaminated water into the Pacific—could be empowered to participate. In 2019, it launched an ambitious “Make Seeable(mieruka) project to contest the Olympics-accelerated obliteration of traces of the disaster, whether the number and circumstances of evacuees, the disposition of contaminated soil issuing from “decontamination,” or health effects. The March 2020 symposium would have brought together workers from Fukushima, a liquidator from Chernobyl, evacuees, physicians and scholars, a physician and energy specialists from Germany, for presentations in Tokyo followed by two venues in Fukushima.24 In April, as part of the “Make Seeable” project, FoE Japan planned to send young people to a workshop in Germany where they could network with youth from France and Belarus as well as Germany. This, too, was not to be. Here, as elsewhere in the world, the novel coronavirus, itself as invisible as radionuclides, asserted its power in unmistakably visible fashion—revealing what had been obscured and providing opportunities for new concealment in the process.

The days of “voluntary restraint” from activity, without economic support to speak of, have imposed hardships, predictably severe for the most vulnerable. They have also intensified antinuclear activists’ sense of urgency: not only have they witnessed the power of the coronavirus to swiftly and therefore visibly impact all sectors of society, but they soon came to realize that it provided cover to proceed with activities they strenuously opposed, such as paving the way for dumping “treated” water from the damaged reactors into the Pacific.25 On another front, court dates for the approximately thirty Fukushima-related cases winding their way through jurisdictions around the country have been postponed or even cancelled, eliminating a precious occasion for plaintiffs, lawyers, and citizen supporters to rally at the courthouse and hold press conferences—for themselves, for all of us who should care, and for the judges, who need to know that there is still a caring public. One of the most active and inclusive groups of plaintiffs (both mandatory and “voluntary” evacuees, from within and without Fukushima) seeking compensation, their attorneys, and supporters centered in the Osaka area put together a composite video message to fill the lacuna, reminding us of their goalssecuring normal lives, the right to evacuate, and a safe future—and giving us a glimpse of how nuclear evacuees are experiencing the coronavirus. The video format also reveals the still differing degrees of visibility participants feel able to tolerate—from full face, full name to full face but first/assumed name only to voice only.

With the pressure of the Olympics removed for the moment,26 these groups are having to grapple with the coronavirus as they continue to address the consequences of the nuclear disaster.


From Olympics to Pandemic: Two texts by Muto Ruiko

Muto Ruiko, who was propelled to antinuclear activism by the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, captured the nation’s attention with a breathtaking speech at the first “Sayonara Nukes” rally in Tokyo in September of 2011.27 She became head of the Complainants for Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, which, against all odds, led to the only criminal proceeding—against three former TEPCO executives—to result from the disaster.28 She is a respected leader, vital to many of the activities referred to above and more. The first text below, “Fukushima ain’t got the time for Olympic Games” is a speech delivered at Azuma Sports Park in Fukushima City on March 1, 2020, just as storm clouds were gathering for the Olympics-pandemic collision. It was an action jointly organized by HidanrenFukushima Gempatsu Jiko Higaisha Dantai Renrakukai (Liaison of Fukushima Nuclear Accident Victims’ Groups) and Datsugempatsu Fukushima Nettowaku (Fukushima Denuclearization Network). It is translated here with permission from Muto Ruiko; the original may be found here. The second is a reflection from May on the two overlapping emergency declarations: the nuclear emergency, issued March 11, 2011, at 19:03 and as yet unrescinded;29 and the novel coronavirus emergency, declared on April 7, 2020, and rescinded in stages, by locale and region, between May 14 and May 25, 2020. The second piece was written before the coronavirus emergency declaration was lifted, for the newsletter of Tomeyo! Tokai Daini Gempatsu Shutoken Renrakukai (Shut it down! Liaison of Citizens from the Metropolitan Prefectures Seeking to Close Unit 2 of the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant).30 The piece, from Nyusu No. 4 (June 2020) is translated here with their permission.

8Muto Ruiko outside Tokyo District Court on the morning of September 19, 2019, before the judgement. (Photo by N. Field)

Fukushima Ain’t Got the Time for Olympic Games

With the risks of the coronavirus in mind, we went back-and-forth about whether to proceed with this action, but considering that it would take place outdoors, that it wouldn’t involve large numbers, and that we would be equipped with face masks and alcohol, we managed to arrive at the decision to go through with our plans.


Nine years since the nuclear accident, the Olympics and the torch relay now dominate the news and the whole atmosphere of Fukushima Prefecture. 


Night and day, athletes are giving their all to prepare for the Olympics. 

Middle-schoolers have hitched their dreams to the torch relay and are eager to run. 

And probably, there are people looking forward to watching the relay and the ball games. 


Then why must we take this kind of action? 

Because we think this is no time to be hosting an Olympics in Fukushima. 


Have on-site conditions been stabilized since the accident?

Is the contaminated water under control?

How many workers have had to climb the vent stack to dismantle it?

Have victims been properly compensated?

Have their lives been restored?

Has industry returned to pre-accident levels?

Will these Olympics truly contribute to recovery?


Is it certain that neither athletes nor residents will be subject to radiation exposure?

With problems piling up one after the other, the people of Fukushima, both the ones living here and the ones who’ve left, are desperately trying to live their lives. 

There isn’t a single person who doesn’t wish for a true recovery from the disaster. 

In Fukushima today, what is it that we should be prioritizing first and foremost?

Stupendous sums of money are being poured into the Olympics and the torch relay. Multiple problems, hidden by the Olympics, are receding from view. We are worried about what will be left once the Olympics are finished.

It’s not the Fukushima that looks recovered on the surface that we want to make known. It’s the true conditions we want the world to know, about the cumulative problems that can’t be solved in nine short years—the suffering and the struggle caused by the harms of the nuclear disaster.

Then let us today, all together, proclaim heartily, “Fukushima ain’t got the time for Olympic Games!”


Life Under Two Emergency Declarations

In Fukushima, the “declaration of a state of emergency” issued with the spread of the novel coronavirus was superimposed on a “declaration of a nuclear emergency situation” that has never been rescinded. For victims of the nuclear accident, this occasion calls up many memories of that experience: staying indoors; wearing a mask; searching frantically for information; fighting the mounting tide of anxiety. In the early days of the contagion, we felt terribly oppressed, psychologically. 

But gradually, it became possible to see that there were commonalities and differences between the nuclear accident and the spread of the coronavirus. Fearing that people would panic, the government concealed the truth. It limited testing as much as possible, and without disclosing accurate case numbers, made them seem trivial. Ad hoc measures led to the sacrifice of the most vulnerable. Expert opinion was distorted to suit political power. Taking advantage of the disaster, opportunistic capitalist ventures rose to press their interests. These are some of the commonalities.

Some of the differences are the speed with which the infection has spread, making it more readily graspable; the dispersal of the afflicted in large numbers throughout Japan; and large-scale citizen protest prompted by the government’s coercive actions with little regard for laws and statutory authority, such as the sudden request for school closures or the proposal for revision of the Public Prosecutor’s Office Act.

After the nuclear accident, we anticipated a transformation in values, in worldview. It turns out that such a wish is not readily granted. Maybe this time—we can’t help hoping. But, in a world where more chemical substances are added to the environment by the day, where climate change is intensifying, it is possible that the next emergency is already waiting in the wings. Rather than tossing and turning between hope and despair, we need to work hard, together, to gain clarity on what we should prioritize for protection in the event of such an emergency. Otherwise, we run the risk of letting our fear and sense of oppression invite the heavy hand of authority.

Eventually, the state of emergency occasioned by the coronavirus threat is likely be lifted, although questions about appropriateness of timing and extent will remain. But how long will the “declaration of a nuclear emergency situation” remain in effect, imposing on people annual exposure levels up to 20 millisieverts per year, or leaving behind waste with levels of radioactivity 80 times pre-disaster levels? In the shadow of the coronavirus, problems that demand resolution are accumulating, while opportunistic measures are advanced, such as the use of the torch relay to trumpet Fukushima recovery, or the release of contaminated-ALPS-treated water into the environment.

Living under a double state of emergency, I have come to hold, more than ever, that we must commit ourselves in earnest to the following simple task: “to learn the truth and to help each other.” Failing that, it will be difficult for us humans, along with other living things, to survive on this planet. 


10March 1, 2020. Source



The original wording, “Fukushima wa orimpikku dogo de nee,” which quoted a senior citizen from a township hard hit by the nuclear disaster, has been adopted by many activists. My translation used in this article, “Fukushima ain’t got the time for Olympic Games” is an attempt to suggest the flavor in English.


Although the extent to which air quality has improved is debatable. See, for instance, NPR (May 19, 2020).


The imperial allusion is intended. See note 12, below.


20 Millisieverts for Children and Kosako Toshiso’s Resignation (APJ-Japan Focus, December 31, 2012). It has been standard for most countries to follow the recommendations of the International Commission for Radiological Protection (ICRP): 20 mSv/yr for occupational exposure (averaged over a 5-year period, not to exceed 50 mSv in any given year), 1 mSv/yr for the general public. See Japanese government site providing a Comparison between ICRP Recommendations and Domestic Laws and Regulations. These standards are subject to fierce contention worldwide, from both those who find them too protective and those who find them inadequate. The Japanese government has made 20 mSv/yr the de facto threshold for reopening restricted areas. See discussion in Jobin, The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and Civil Actions as a Social Movement (APJ-Japan Focus, May 1, 2020).


On Ishihara and the Olympics, especially with respect to overlapping aspects of 1964 and 2020, see Tagsold (APJ Japan Focus, March 1, 2020).


In 2009 Hiroshima City and Nagasaki City submitted a single bid for summer 2020, appealing to the principle of promoting peace that, after all, constituted a cornerstone of “Olympism.” The mayors of the two cities linked the bid to the goal of nuclear abolition by 2020 (Asahi Shimbun, October 10, 2009), but the plan failed to make headway against the one-city rule. The Hiroshima-Nagasaki bid was not necessarily supported by hibakusha, as exemplified by the trenchant criticism, utterly applicable to Fukushima, of Yamada Hirotami (age 78), then Secretary-General of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council (Nagasaki Gembaku Hisaisha Kyogikai): “If the Games were to be held in Nagasaki, it would be an enormous technical and financial burden. […]They say that holding the Olympics in the cities where the atomic bombs were dropped means lots of people coming from all over the world, and that would raise awareness about nuclear abolition, but I think it would just detract. During the 1964 Olympics, even here in Nagasaki, everybody was swept up. How many gold medals did we get—that sort of thing was all that anyone could talk about. In that kind of frenzy, any interest in nuclear abolition goes out the window. [As with previous Olympics] there’s the risk of getting distracted by commercial priorities. […] There’s an atmosphere that makes it hard to voice opposition when they say that the Olympics are for the cause of spreading peace, but we need to discuss this rationally. […]The activism of Japanese hibakusha has gained the respect of NGOs around the world. We’re not about performance” (Nagasaki Shimbun, October 24, 2009). The Olympic-nuclear connection is worthy of examination in its own right, beginning with the striking use of Hiroshima in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. There, the runner of the last leg of the torch relay, the one to light the cauldron, was Sakai Yoshinori, born on August 6, 1945 to be sure, but in Hiroshima Prefecture, not City. That fact was conveniently overlooked, and he was quickly dubbed “Atomic Boy.” Perhaps this was an initial source of ambivalence (Tokyo Shimbun, June 3, 2020), but he became a lifelong believer in spreading the message of peace through the Olympics (Withnews, September 10, 2014).


On the challenges of branding Tokyo 2020, see Kingston (APJ Japan Focus, February 15, 2020). Kingston has edited two special collections on the Olympics, here and here.


A position elaborated in a collection with the title, Shiawase ni naru tame no “Fukushima sabetsu” ron (2018) (Discourse on “anti-Fukushima discrimination”: For our happiness). “Real harm(jitsugai) is sometimes used to contest the widespread use of “reputational harm.”


See Fukushima Prefectural maps of zone changes here.


The addition of baseball and softball was finalized in August of 2016 though both sports have been dropped from the roster for Paris 2024. Azuma Stadium in Fukushima City was approved in January of 2017. The decision to start the torch relay in Fukushima came more than a year later, in August of 2018. Only one baseball game, in contrast to six softball matches, have been scheduled for Azuma Stadium. Olympic softball is a women’s sport, cautioning us to keep in mind research showing radiation exposure resulting in disproportionately greater harm to women and girls than to men and boys. See Gender and Radiation Impact Project.


On March 23, 3030—the day before postponement of the Games was announced—TEPCO held a press conference at which it disclosed that, in accordance with its own standards, it had returned J-Village to its owner foundation without first decontaminating it (Okada, Toyo Keizai, March 27, 2020). Subsequent disclosures, both through TEPCO’s press conferences and responses to Toyo Keizai magazine’s freedom-of-information filings, have revealed additional egregious transgressions, such as TEPCO’s storing radioactive waste exceeding 8000Bq/kg on J-Village grounds and the prefecture’s demanding that TEPCO not disclose the location of such storage (Okada, Toyo Keizai, June 23, 2020). See Shaun Burnie’s “Radiation Disinformation and Human Rights Violations at the Heart of Fukushima and the Olympic Games” (APJ-Japan Focus, March 1, 2020).


See celebratory account in Hirai and Watabe, The Mainichi, March 14, 2020, and a more guarded one by McCurry, The Guardian, March 4, 2020.


The positioning of the lantern makes it seem as if this passage were written from the viewpoint of the flame (Yomiuri Shimbun, March 22, 2020). The extraordinary treatment accorded the flame, the rhapsodic attribution of hope made real, invokes the journeys—progresses—of Emperor Hirohito through the war-devasted country.


See Kingston, PM Abe’s Floundering Pandemic Leadership (APJ-Japan Focus, May 1, 2020) on the consequences of action delayed for the sake of the Olympics.


Reports of cost overruns have been predictably common, with the postponement now adding a hefty $2.7 billion according to the organizing committee.


See report on the first disclosures by Taakurataa by Our Planet-TV 2019. As for bringing “people back to their home towns,” the meagerness of such assistance as was provided beleaguered evacuees, both “mandatory” and “voluntary,” has also served as a powerful inducement to return. Late in 2019, Fukushima Prefecture doubled rents and threatened legal action (Our Planet-TV, August 29, 2019 and Taminokoe Shimbun, November 30, 2019). The Prefecture has taken four households to court even as their conditions have become further straightened because of the pandemic and associated loss of income (Hidanren, March 27, 2020).


A phrase often repeated in Fukushima. See Ogawa, “As If Nothing Had Occurred: Anti-Tokyo Olympics Protests and Concern Over Radiation Exposure(APJ-Japan Focus, March 1, 2020).


In March of 2018, the Reconstruction Agency issued a 30-page pamphlet titled “Hoshasen no honto” [The truth about radiation] for widespread circulation through other government agencies, events within Fukushima and elsewhere, PTA gatherings, etc. True to the mission of the authoring agency, it argues in multiple ways that harmful health effects have not been shown to have resulted from the nuclear disaster. The text may be found here. In October of 2018, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry issued revised editions of supplementary readers, “Hoshasen fukudokuhon,” for elementary and middle/high school levels. These may be found with the 2014 versions here. The Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) critically reviews both sets of documents here (2019).


On the redispersal of radionuclides following weather events, see Burnie, Radioactivity on the move 2020: Recontamination and weather-related effects in Fukushima (Greenpeace International, March 9, 2020). Specifically with respect to the Olymics, see Burnie, Fukushima and the 2020 Olympics (Greenpeace International, February 5, 2020). Arnie Gundersen writes of the sampling trip he and Marco Kaltofen (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) took in 2017: “When the Olympic torch route and Olympic stadium samples were tested, we found samples of dirt in Fukushima’s Olympic Baseball Stadium that were highly radioactive, registering 6,000 Bq/kg of Cesium, which is 3,000 times more radioactive than dirt in the US. We also found that simple parking lot radiation levels were 50-times higher there than here in the US[emphasis in original]. Atomic Balm Part 1: Prime Minister Abe Uses the Tokyo Olympics as Snake Oil Cure for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Meltdowns (Fairewinds Energy Education, March 1, 2019).


Tanaka Shunichi, former head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority and now reconstruction adviser to Iitate Village in lecture at Fukushima City on September 18, 2019. Quotations taken from Fukushima Minpos lavish report, “Fukko arata na kyokumen e” (November 1, 2020). Much like a school teacher chastening and encouraging his pupils, Tanaka—himself only recently in a position of responsibility for government nuclear policy—directs the people of Fukushima to forget the promise by the central government to remove decontamination waste from the prefecture in thirty years’ time. This was, after all, their “own” waste. The article reports that 85% of the overflow audience of 2800 responded they were satisfied by the contents of the lecture. Only one critical respondent is quoted by the paper, to the effect that a promise by the government is a promise. The photo of the audience in rapt attention as they are being “given courage,” as one respondent puts it, to, in effect, embrace their victimization is haunting.


Personal emails. An immediate example of the “don’t test” approach is the prefectural survey of pediatric thyroid cancer. See Aihara, Follow Up on Thyroid Cancer! Patient Group Voices Opposition to Scaling Down the Fukushima Prefectural Health Survey (APJ-Japan Focus, January 15, 2017).


Government measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus have taken the form of “requests” (yosei) for “voluntary restraint,” or jishuku. See, for example, Japan Declared a Coronavirus Emergency. Is It Too Late? (New York Times, April 7, 2020.) The extent to which jishuku can lead to mutual policing and censorship will be familiar to those remembering the long final illness of Emperor Hirohito from late 1988-early 89.


These are examples of issues raised on a listserv focused on evacuees and their supporters.


For the original program, see here. For written and video messages from presenters, see here. The video messages of those who have stayed and those who have left are short, but informative and moving. Two are now available in multiple languages: former dairy farmer Hasegawa Kenichi here and evacuee Kanno Mizue here. See FoE’s informative statement in English released for the 9th anniversary here.


Contaminated water leaks have been a persistent issue for TEPCO, whether contaminated groundwater escaping from the basements of the reactor buildings and underground tunnels containing cables and pipes (Radioactive Water Leaks from Fukushima: What We Know (Scientific American, August 13, 2013) or from storage tanks (Fukushima daiichi gempatsu: Konodo osensui ga tanku kara moreru (NHK News Web, October 7, 2016). The difference now is that TEPCO is attempting to make contaminated water release the explicit solution to ever-accumulating storage tanks. “Treated water” (shorisui), the compliant media now call it, having cast aside the earlier designation of “contaminated water” (osensui). In 2018, TEPCO itself admitted that the ALPS filtration system had failed to remove, not just tritium, but other radionuclides at levels exceeding allowable limits in 80% of the contaminated water store in the forest of tanks. FoE Japan uses the term “ALPS-treated contaminated water” (ALPS shori osensui) and has taken a leadership role in public-comment workshops. See its summary of remaining radionuclides and the circumstances of TEPCO’s admission here.


See, for example, The Tokyo Olympics Are 14 Months Away. Is That Enough Time (New York Times, May 20, 2020). Just recently, Takahashi Haruyuki—he of the Seiko cameras as bargain bribes—became the first official to suggest that further postponement was possible, but that cancellation had absolutely to be avoided (Nikkan Sports, June 16, 2020).


See, for example, Yamaguchi and Muto, Muto Ruiko and the Movement of Fukushima Residents to Pursue Criminal Charges against Tepco Executives and Government (APJ-Japan Focus, July 1, 2012); Field, From Fukushima: To Despair Properly, To Find the Next Step (APJ-Japan Focus, September 1, 2016); Hirano and Muto, “We need to recognize this hopeless sight…. To recognize that this horrible crime is what our country is doing to us”: Interview with Muto Ruiko (APJ-Japan Focus, September 1, 2016).


For an authoritative account of the criminal trial and district court ruling, see Johnson, Fukurai, and Hirayama, Reflections on the TEPCO Trial: Prosecution and Acquittal after Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown (APJ-Japan Focus, January 15, 2020). On the significance of Fukushima-related trials, Jobin, The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and Civil Actions as a Social Movement (APJ-Japan Focus, May 1, 2020). For statements by 50 complainants, Field and Mizenko, Fukushima Radiation: Will You Still Say No Crime Was Committed? (Kinyobi, 2015).


See also former Kyoto University nuclear engineer Koide Hiroaki’s views on the Olympics and the nuclear emergency declaration in The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and the Tokyo Olympics (APJ-Japan Focus, March 1, 2019).


For a general account of the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant, see here. Tatsuya Murakami, who was mayor of Tokai Village at the time of the JCO criticality accident and took personal initiative to evacuate the residents, has been a leading voice in opposing nuclear restarts. TEPCO, on life-support with taxpayer money after the Fukushima disaster, has committed to supporting the aging Tokai No. 2 plant to the tune of $2 billion (The Asahi Shimbun, October 29, 2019).

July 10, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Replace Tokyo by London as Host of 2020 Olympics

London Seems Ready to Replace Tokyo as Host of 2020 Olympics

Feb 20, 2020

London, Feb. 19 (Jiji Press)–Two major candidates in the London mayoral election in May suggested Wednesday that the city is ready to host the 2020 Summer Olympics if Tokyo is forced to give up hosting the Games due to a possible epidemic of the new coronavirus in Japan.

London, which hosted the 2012 Games, “can host the Olympics in 2020,” Conservative challenger Shaun Bailey said on Twitter.

“We have the infrastructure and the experience. And due to the coronavirus outbreak, the world might need us to step up,” Bailey said.

“As Mayor, I will make sure London is ready to answer the call and host the Olympics again,” he said.

Local newspaper City A.M. reported a comment by a spokesman for Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan that London will do its best in the unlikely event that it be required, although everyone is working toward the success of the Tokyo Games.

tokyo-2020John Coates, chairman of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games coordination committee (left), and Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori

Tokyo Olympics have no ‘Plan B’ for coronavirus, organizers say

February 14, 2020

There is no “Plan B” for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if the event is affected by the coronavirus outbreak in nearby China, organizers said.

There’s no case for any contingency plans or canceling the Games or moving the Games,” John Coates, head of an International Olympics Committee inspection team, said at a press conference in Tokyo Thursday.

Coates, who had just wrapped up a two-day trip to investigate possible risks, said the World Health Organization has advised him that a back-up plan isn’t necessary.

He added that the starting date of July 24 “remains on track.”

The rapidly spreading virus has infected nearly 64,000 people worldwide and claimed the lives of 1,400 people, with only one fatality reported in Japan.

At the press event, elected officials were also asked if there are any “organizational changes” planned for rolling out the games in light of the virus.

This stage, no. We are not thinking of any such possibility,” said Yoshiro Mori, a former Japanese prime minister who is heading the Olympic planning committee.

But outside experts warned that coronavirus-related health risks to Japan are hard to predict.

There is no guarantee that the outbreak will come to an end before the Olympics because we have no scientific basis to be able to say that,” Shigeru Omi, a former regional director of the WHO.

We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan.”

February 23, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Radiation Hotspots Raise Concerns Ahead of Tokyo Olympics

“According to Greenpeace, the figure of 71 microsieverts per hour is “1,775 times higher than the 0.04 microsieverts per hour prior to the Fukushima Daiichi triple reactor meltdown”.

After the accident, the Japanese government took the controversial decision to raise the maximum exposure threshold for civilians in Fukushima from 1 millisievert (=1,000 microsieverts) per year, the figure recommended by the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency, to 20 millisieverts per year.

Even on this basis, the annualized equivalent of 71 microsieverts per hour amounts to nearly 622 millisieverts, a figure 31 times higher.”


01.jpgArea of radioactive hot spots found by Greenpeace survey team in J-Village, Fukushima prefecture, 26 October 2019.

December 8, 2019

This is one of the most shocking discoveries I’ve made in decades of radiation surveys.”

The troubling discovery was supposed to remain under wraps, until Greenpeace Japan determined on December 4 that it had no choice but to publish a press release entitled “High-level radiation hot spots found at J-Village, the starting point of Tokyo 2020 torch relay.”

The story remains largely unnoticed in Japan, but it raises serious questions about public health, transparency and accountability that transcend the country’s borders all the way to Switzerland and Argentina. It also deals a heavy blow to the Japanese government’s narrative that “all is well in Fukushima,” a region forever tainted by the triple meltdown at the eponymous nuclear plant, as Tokyo gears up to host the 2020 Olympics.

On a deeper level, the sequence of events sheds light on an apparent cover-up that would result in a public relations fiasco — that is, if the media covering the issue were asking the right questions, connecting the dots and delivering the full picture.

This is one of the most shocking discoveries I’ve made in decades of radiation surveys,” says Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace who has been the environmental NGO’s point man in Fukushima since the triple meltdown of March 2011. “One of the reasons is that the Tokyo Olympics torch relay is set to kick off from this very location on March 26.”

A Symbol of Fukushima’s Cleanup

The location where the radiation hotspots were discovered, J-Village, is highly symbolic for Japan. Tens of millions of people first heard of it at the peak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, when Japanese Self-Defense Force troops dispatched in a last-ditch effort to bring the situation under control turned the sports complex into a forward operating base. The location of J-Village, approximately 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, was ideal because it was right at the edge of the mandatory evacuation perimeter imposed by the government — often referred to as the exclusion zone.

Over the years that followed, J-Village became a logistics center for the decontamination of areas tainted by radioactive fallout from the nuclear plant. And in April 2019, the reopening of a completely renovated J-Village National Training Center became the cornerstone of a major public relations campaign to signal that the cleanup of Fukushima was finally complete.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe chose J-Village as the “grand” starting point, on March 26, 2020, of the torch relay that will see the Olympic flame travel across all of Japan’s 47 prefectures — the equivalent of U.S. States — over 121 days.

The Tokyo Games themselves are seen by many in Japan as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shine on the world stage. And in the same way that the Tokyo 1964 Summer Olympics marked the country’s rise from the ashes of war, the 2020 edition is being marketed, especially on the domestic front, as the “Reconstruction Olympics” in reference to the triple disaster of March 2011.

An Unexpected Discovery

On October 26, a team of radiation experts from Greenpeace, which has been carrying out annual surveys across Fukushima since the 2011 nuclear accident, detected abnormally high levels of radiation at several points around the sports complex. The survey was part of an annual study covering the main contaminated areas of Fukushima, which involves taking tens of thousands of measurements with high-precision sensors mounted on drones, vehicles and handheld devices.

The highest reading, 71 microsieverts per hour at ground level, was discovered in a parking area. “I was standing less than one meter from the hotspot and two meters from a parked car from which a woman had just come out,” recalls team leader Shaun Burnie. “Just 30 to 40 meters away, soccer players were sitting on the tarmac eating their lunch. There were also sports fans, family members and coaches.”


02.jpgYouth soccer game, J-Village Stadium, Hirono, Fukushima. 9 August 2010.

According to Greenpeace, the figure of 71 microsieverts per hour is “1,775 times higher than the 0.04 microsieverts per hour prior to the Fukushima Daiichi triple reactor meltdown”. After the accident, the Japanese government took the controversial decision to raise the maximum exposure threshold for civilians in Fukushima from 1 millisievert (=1,000 microsieverts) per year, the figure recommended by the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency, to 20 millisieverts per year. Even on this basis, the annualized equivalent of 71 microsieverts per hour amounts to nearly 622 millisieverts, a figure 31 times higher.

Obviously no one is going to stand over a hotspot for a year, but it indicates that there is a problem with contamination,” says Burnie. “The much more serious hazard is inhaling cesium-rich microparticles. The long-term risks remain a big unknown.”

[Note: The health risks associated with external exposure to such levels of radiation are a highly complex and contentious issue that goes beyond the scope of this article. It is partly addressed in this Scientific American article on the return of Fukushima residents displaced by the nuclear crisis.]

Weighing Options

The Greenpeace team spent only about two hours on location, but it quickly identified six hotspots within approximately 100 meters of each other. “Finding such high levels, especially in areas open to the public, was an unexpected situation to say the least,” says Burnie.

The team immediately discussed and considered three options: 1) an immediate release of the information; 2) informing authorities and urging them to take action; and 3) holding onto the information, compiling the data from the entire Fukushima survey — a process that takes between one and two months — and publishing the annual report as planned sometime at the end of February or early March (see for example Greenpeace Japan’s March 2019 report).

We immediately ruled out the third option because of the high radiation levels,” says Burnie. “The first option was very tempting, but we wanted to give the authorities of J-Village, Fukushima Prefecture and the government an opportunity to take action immediately.” Greenpeace settled for option two, in the form of a letter to Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi.

Copies of the letter were sent separately to the Governor of Fukushima Prefecture (who also presides over J-Village), the president of the Japanese Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, and last but not least, the President of the powerful International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne.

Birth of a Public Relations Fiasco

On November 18, Greenpeace entrusted the letter to an official from the Environment Ministry’s PR department. The copies were all sent on the same day via registered mail. In the letter, the NGO raised “urgent concerns,” presented the survey’s methodology and findings, and recommended an “immediate and extensive” survey of the public area in and around J-Village.

What followed was two weeks of complete radio silence, despite regular follow-up inquiries by telephone to the Environment Ministry and J-Village’s PR departments. Until, on Monday, Dec. 2, Greenpeace Japan received a phone call from a reporter with the Sankei Shimbun, a daily newspaper on the (arguably hard) right of the political spectrum. The journalist sought confirmation about the survey, which a Greenpeace spokesperson refused to confirm or deny.

On Tuesday, the same journalist called again, this time with the precise figure of 71 microsieverts per hour. The cat was out of the bag, and the Sankei article set to go to print on Wednesday. That is what prompted Greenpeace to go public on Dec. 4 with a full-fledged press release.


03.jpgScreenshot of Greenpeace Japan’s website.

The NGO’s original plan, according to Senior Energy Campaigner Kazue Suzuki, had been to wait until mid-December for a proper response from the government and J-Village. At the time of writing (Dec. 8), the only reaction Greenpeace had received from the Environment Ministry’s PR department, according to Suzuki, was a verbal commitment to “work towards being able to reply by Dec.19.”

At this point in time, it would have been reasonable to believe that authorities were simply dragging their feet, all the more so because Greenpeace Japan is not exactly popular in government circles due to its campaigns against Japan’s whaling programs, and the NGO’s highly critical stance on the issue of nuclear decontamination. But the Sankei’s Dec. 4 article also carried revelations that raise a whole new set of questions.

A Discreet Bombshell

The Sankei article, entitled “Starting Point of Olympic Torch Relay Re-Decontaminated,” cited “multiple government sources” confirming Greenpeace’s survey findings, including the maximum figure of 71 microsieverts per hour. It also revealed for the first time to the public the existence of a letter “requesting action from the Environment Ministry, the Japanese Olympic Committee and the IOC“ — but stopped short of mentioning that the letter had been sent 2 weeks earlier.

The government takes survey results seriously due to possible safety concerns among countries participating in the Olympics”, noted the article, before delivering this crucial nugget: “On December 2, representatives from the Environment Ministry, local authorities, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) and J-Village held a meeting, and on Dec. 3, Tepco removed [contaminated] soil from the surrounding area.”

More importantly, the Sankei article suddenly made it clear, albeit between the lines, that neither the government nor Fukushima Prefecture or Tepco — entities that have repeatedly pledged greater transparency over radioactive contamination — had deemed it necessary to inform the public about the hotspots or their decision to decontaminate those areas.

Also puzzling is the silence of Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori, who as President of J-Village was a direct recipient of the Greenpeace letter. If this matter came to the attention of his constituents, his administration would most likely have to field questions from angry parents whose children attended summer camps at the facility, among other concerned citizens.

What’s more, there is no sign of any intention on the part of authorities to conduct an immediate and comprehensive survey of the entire J-Village complex, as urged by Greenpeace Japan. “If this were a nuclear facility,” says Burnie, “the matter would have to be reported as an incident and the area closed off immediately.”

Low-Key Media Coverage

Unlike what one would expect in nuclear-powered countries such as France or the United States, none of Japan’s mainstream media have deemed this story worthy of high-profile coverage.

Sankei’s short article was buried on page 26, which explains perhaps why few other Japanese media such as the Mainichi Shimbun picked up the story, all in a similar, low-key fashion. The headlines didn’t read anything close to “Government Occults Radiation Hotspots at J-Village,” nor did the articles raise questions about transparency or accountability.

More often than not, even Greenpeace’s name was replaced with “an environmental protection group,” despite its conspicuous role as the whistleblower that initially brought this matter to the government’s attention.

Bloomberg and AFP were among the few non-Japanese media to pick up the story, but neither offered details about the timeline of events or its wider implications.

Did authorities know of any hotspots at or near the facility before receiving the Greenpeace letter? If not, why did they fail to spot them? Why did they choose to remain silent after determining that radiation levels warranted an intervention? Are they in a position to guarantee that J-Village will remain clean until the Olympic torch relay? Is it reasonable to hold sports training sessions and competitions involving children at the facility?

All of these questions have yet to be addressed, and it’s unclear if they ever will be.

This is not the first time that news related to the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi remained, intentionally or not, under the radar of Japanese media. Nor is it the first time that the government has opted not to disclose matters directly relevant to public health or safety.


04.jpgAuthor comparing the readings of handheld geiger counter with official monitoring post in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture. 31 August 2013.

Notable examples include the Japanese media’s reticence to use the word “meltdown” for 6 weeks after the nuclear accident, opting instead to relay the government and Tepco’s less frightening “partial damage to fuel rods” wording; the general absence in media reports of testimonies from nuclear evacuees openly expressing their distrust of data from the government’s radiation monitoring posts (some claimed to have seen workers regularly decontaminating the area immediately around the sensors, presumably to make sure the readings remained low); and the revelation in February 2012 that the Japanese government, in its darkest hour, had contemplated evacuating Tokyo.

Outside Japan: the Argentina Angle and the IOC

On the international front, the issue that appears to worry the Japanese government the most, as underlined by the Sankei article, is how countries participating in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics might react. But there are other dots that no Japanese or foreign media seem to have connected so far: J-Village was also an important facility during the Rugby World Cup hosted by Japan this year, and served as a training ground for Argentina’s national team less than 6 weeks before the hotspots were discovered.

According to a reporter from Argentina’s leading newspaper La Nacion, who covered the team during the tournament, Los Pumas (as the squad is known) spent at least one week training and sleeping at J-Village in mid-September. Would they have done so if there had been any suspicions about radiation levels in the area?

Neither Argentina’s national squad nor the Argentina Rugby Union could be reached for comment at the time of writing. Details about this story and an offer to collaborate on it were extended to La Nacion’s reporter as early as December 4, but they have yet to elicit a formal response.

The other angle that needs to be pursued is in Switzerland, namely at the headquarters of the Grand Master of Ceremonies itself, the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne.

The IOC is on the list of institutions that received the registered letter from Greenpeace Japan. And just like its Japanese counterparts, it has yet to respond to the NGO — let alone inform the public about the findings. Among the questions that come to mind are: what is the IOC’s position on the matter of radioactive hotspots? And how does it feel about hosting a large-scale public event such as the launch of the torch relay at J-Village, without a comprehensive survey being conducted first?

Here again, a Swiss newspaper, La Liberté, was contacted directly and provided with detailed information about the story, particularly on the IOC angle, but its editors chose not to follow through.

Author’s Analysis

It’s unusual for a journalist to include personal thoughts as part of a news story. But in the spirit of Citizen Truth’s belief “in the power of regular people sharing their news, thoughts and experiences,” this reporter — who, like any journalist, is also an ordinary citizen — would like to switch to the first person to share a few considerations with the readers, while keeping them separate from the story itself.

I spent several years covering the Fukushima nuclear accident as a reporter for Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, and more episodically for other non-Japanese media, including Time, the Independent and Canada’s CBC. I interviewed evacuees, spent the equivalent of one week with a farmer inside the exclusion zone, walked around with an industrial-grade Geiger counter, wrote a long critical assessment of decontamination efforts in Fukushima for the Asia-Pacific Journal, and even participated as an observer in a survey at sea off Fukushima Daiichi aboard a research vessel operated by the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

What are my takeaways? To name just a few related to this article: Japanese media are notoriously reluctant to disclose any negative information that hasn’t been confirmed by the government or other official sources; understanding radiation figures and what they mean takes a lot of time and effort, and there are still significant doubts about the government’s willingness to be transparent and forthcoming with the numbers, especially when they don’t fit with the narrative that all is well in Fukushima.

Despite the Japanese government’s constant assurances, the consequences of the Fukushima nuclear crisis are not going to go away anytime soon, nor are the radionuclides that have been scattered across large areas of the prefecture. You only have to look at a map to see that 70 to 80 percent of the land most affected by radioactive fallout consists of mountains and forests that can by definition not be “decontaminated” without causing tremendous damage to the environment. The direct consequence is that radioactive particles continue to be scattered across areas designated as “safe to return to,” and although background radiation levels are receding, they will remain above normal even in the reopened parts of Fukushima for decades to come.

To me, it’s no surprise that this story appears to have been nipped in the bud, or at least neutralized for now. The only scenario I can think of that would prompt Japan’s mainstream media to revisit it would be if an official protest were lodged by another country or institution, for example, Argentina’s Rugby Union. Only time will tell.


December 17, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | 1 Comment

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: will Fukushima rice and fruits be on the menu?

Japanese officials insist food from Fukushima is safe despite the 2011 nuclear disaster but China, South Korea and the US still restrict food imports from there
Producers are keen to serve local rice, fruits, beef and vegetables at the Olympic Village
An angler shows off a salmon caught in the Kido River in Naraha, Fukushima prefecture.
For years, Japan’s government has sought to convince consumers that food from Fukushima is safe despite the nuclear disaster. But will it serve the region’s produce at the Tokyo Olympics?
It’s a thorny subject for the authorities. They pitched the Games in part as a chance to showcase the recovery of areas affected by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.
Government officials tout strict checks on food from the region as evidence that the produce is completely safe, but it remains unclear whether athletes and sports teams from around the world will be convinced.
In the Fukushima region, producers are keen to see their products served at the Olympic Village and have submitted a bid to the organisers.
“The Fukushima region has put forward food from 187 producers and is second only to Hokkaido when it comes to meeting the specified criteria in terms of range of products,” said Shigeyuki Honma, assistant director general of the local government’s agriculture and forestry planning division.
“Fukushima wants to serve athletes its rice, its fruits, beef and vegetables. But the committee still has to decide.”
In the years since the nuclear disaster, when tsunami waves overwhelmed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, strict measures have been in place to screen all manner of local products. And officials say the figures speak for themselves.
Japan allows a maximum of 100 becquerels of caesium radioactivity per kilogram (Bq/kg). The European Union, by comparison, sets that level at 1,250 Bq/kg and the US at 1,200.
From April 2018 to March this year, 9.21 million bags of rice were examined, with not a single one exceeding the Japanese limit.
The same for 2,455 samples of fruit and vegetables, 4,336 pieces of meat and 6,187 ocean fish.
“Only river fish and wild mushrooms have on just six occasions been found to exceed the limits,” said Kenji Kusano, director of the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Centre, in Koriyama, the government’s main screening site.
But the figures have only gone some way to reassuring foreign officials: numerous countries including China, South Korea, and the United States maintain restrictions on the import of some or all produce from Fukushima.
Kenji Kusano, director of the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Centre, subjects fish to radiation tests.
South Korea, which is currently locked in a dispute with Japan over wartime issues, has been vocal about its concerns ahead of the Olympics, even raising the possibility of bringing in its own kitchen and food.
“We have requested the Olympic organisers to provide objective data verified by an independent third body,” the South Korean Sports and Olympic Committee said in a statement earlier this year.
“Since Japan repeatedly said its food from Fukushima is safe, we have demanded they provide statistics and data to back up their claims,” an official with the committee said.
The position underlines a long-running problem for Japan: while it points to its extensive, government-mandated checks as proof of safety, many abroad feel the government is not an objective arbiter.
In 2011, tsunami waves overwhelmed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
“Generally, Japanese citizens have faith in the government, and we haven’t felt the need to have checks carried out by independent parties,” Kusano said.
But lingering questions have left some officials feeling “perhaps [third-party checks] may be important from the point of view of foreigners,” he added.
The International Olympic Committee said it was still weighing how to handle the matter.
“Food menus and catering companies for the Olympic Village are under discussion and have yet to be defined,” a spokesman said.
The Tokyo 2020 organisers said promoting areas affected by the 2011 disaster remains a key goal.
Japanese pear farmer Tomio Kusano shows how he removed the tree skins after the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster at his farm in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture.
“Supporting the area’s reconstruction efforts through the sourcing of its food and beverage products is one of our basic strategies; we are therefore seriously considering doing this,” 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya said.
He said rules on what food and drink could be brought in independently by teams were still being reviewed. And, pointing to the strict standards of Japanese checks, he said the organisers “are confident the food we will serve to athletes will be completely safe”.
In Fukushima, producers can only wait and hope for the best.
Tomio Kusano, a pear farmer in Iwaki on the Fukushima coast, struggled enormously after the disaster.
“My world really collapsed, but I never thought for a second of quitting,” he said.
And his perseverance is finally paying off, he said.
“I don’t get subsidies any more. My pears are inspected and there are no problems. They are selling well again in Japan, and Vietnam has started to import them.”

December 2, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chefs to join Team South Korea in Tokyo Olympics

optimizePresident of Korean Sports and Olympic Committee Lee Kee-heung

November 5, 2019

Chefs and food ingredients will accompany the South Korean team and delegation traveling to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics next year. The chefs will prepare food for the South Koreans using homegrown ingredients for the duration of the Games.

Korean Sports and Olympic Committee (KSOC) President Lee Kee-heung, also a member of the International Olympic Committee, unveiled the measures to allay fears over food safety which were raised after Japan announced it would use food products from Fukushima, a region hit hard by a 2011 tsunami and an ensuing meltdown at the nuclear power plant there.

“The KSOC is planning to expand the meal station for Korean athletes during the games to address the food safety issue,” he wrote in a recent written interview with The Korea Times. “Korean food has superb nutritional value and we believe it will help the athletes perform at their best. We will also deliver lunch boxes to the stadiums so our athletes can focus on getting medals,” Lee said.

Earlier, the Japanese Olympic Committee said it would serve athletes food made using ingredients from Fukushima, a region in which water and soil are feared to remain contaminated with radioactivity following the meltdown. South Korea banned rice and vegetable imports from the region immediately after the incident.

The Tokyo Olympics is not the first international sports event where the KSOC has dispatched chefs to prepare meals for athletes. During the 2012 London Olympics, the KSOC sent chefs and nutritionists from the national training center to cook for Korean athletes and staff who craved food from home.

Food safety is among other touchy issues at the Olympics.

The “Rising Sun” flag, a symbol for many in Asia of Japanese colonialism, is another pre-Olympics issue that some South Koreans find concerning. The issue has been raised by Seoul since September after relations with Japan deteriorated following it imposing trade restrictions on certain exports to Korea. In response, Japan said use of the flag does not violate the Japanese Constitution.

Lee said the KSOC has been working to make an Asian alliance to push Japan to not fly it.

“During the 24th Association of the National Olympic Committee (ANOC) General Assembly in Qatar earlier this year, I met with other Asian state representatives and discussed ways to address the issue together. On this issue, our effort to change Japan’s policy will continue and with the support of the government,” he said. ANOC has an annual meeting, and this year’s congress took place in Doha.

Joint Korea team

Lee said he was cautiously optimistic about fielding a joint team between the two Koreas for the Tokyo Olympics, saying the KSOC has continued to talk with the North.

However, another high-level official, who didn’t want to disclose his name because of the sensitivity of the issue, said a joint team may be a distant dream. “Considering what’s going on in inter-Korean relations, it’s difficult to move on a joint team,” he said. He had taken part in negotiations with the North in the past.

A joint team for the 2020 Olympics was agreed in November 2018 at inter-Korean talks held in Gaesong in the North. That year, President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held three summits.

The governments of the two Koreas agreed to form unified teams in female basketball, female hockey, judo and rowing. “The IOC approved this under one condition ― that is the unified teams would start from qualifying matches,” the anonymous official said.

For all sports but basketball, qualifying matches are already underway. “Basketball qualifying matches will begin at the end of the year. Yet, if things go the way it goes now, unifying a basketball team will be out of the question,” he said. But, he added hopes remain in judo. “In judo, individual athletes compete for qualification. We can consider making a joint team with qualified athletes.”

However, the political situation will hold full sway over the joint team and the current circumstances are not very promising.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered the removal of all South Korean-built facilities at Mount Geumgang, including a hotel. North Korea’s aggressive treatment of South Korean football players during their World Cup qualifying game also cast a shadow on the prospects for a joint team.

Despite this, there is still hope for a possible peace gesture during the Olympics.

The official said a joint march at the opening ceremony could still happen. “This has been done several times now, so we could continue to do it.”

North and South Korean athletes have marched together at international sports events 11 times so far. The most recent being the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea ― the Koreas also fielded a joint women’s ice hockey team.

In addition to creating the joint team, the two Koreas also agreed to submit a joint bid to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics, and President Lee said they have a very good chance.

“The Korean Peninsula can be a symbol of peace which will be something we can take advantage of in our campaign for the Olympics,” Lee said, noting that South Korea will host the next ANOC General Assembly. “This will be also a good opportunity to show the sports community that the Koreas are qualified to host the Olympics.”

As an IOC member representing Korea, Lee is at the center of sports diplomacy.

“Now, Korea has two IOC representatives, which has elevated its standing in global sports.” Korea’s sports diplomacy had its heyday in the 2000s when it had three IOC representatives, but in 2017, the number went down to one, raising concern that its standing had weakened.”

Lee viewed the PyeongChang Winter Olympics as demonstrating Korea’s success in sports diplomacy. “This helped Korea get two IOC representatives.”

100th National Sports Festival

With regard to the centennial of the National Sports Festival, Lee said he was saddened by the decreasing public interest. “It will be my job to revamp the festival so that it will recover its lost popularity with bigger public interest and participation.”

The festival started out as an act of resistance to colonial Japan in 1920. In the first year, only baseball was played but other sports were added over the century. This year saw 47 sports including trials of two new ones.

Over the century, the festival served as an incubator for world-class athletes. Figure-skater Kim Yu-na competed in the festival as did Swimmer Park Tae-hwan. The festival has also contributed to developing the infrastructure for Korean sports.

Born in 1955, Lee’s background has been in business, not sports. His first step into the world of sports was with the Federation of the Modern Pentathlon where he served as vice president in 2000. Between 2004 and 2009, he was the president of the Korea Canoe Federation, followed by the Korea Swimming Federation between 2010 and 2016..

He headed the athlete’s team in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou in China and 2012 London Summer Olympics.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Activists urge Japan to avoid Fukushima in Tokyo Olympics

Oct 10, 2019
South Korean civic groups on Thursday kicked off a global campaign against potential radiation risks during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, demanding that Japan ban Fukushima food products and cancel games at the Japanese city.
“We launch an international campaign to protect thousands of athletes and visitors at the Tokyo Olympics from radiation risks and to stop the Japanese government from using the Olympics as a tool” to conceal lingering damages from the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the environmental groups told a press briefing in Seoul.
Taking part in the initiative are a handful of Korean environmental organizations, consisting of activists and academics, as well as major environmental and anti-nuclear groups based in Germany, Taiwan and the Philippines.
The civic groups demanded the Japanese government and Olympics organizers refrain from providing food produced near Fukushima and cancel games scheduled to be held in the city. They also urged the torch relay to be held in areas outside of Fukushima, which was hit by the nuclear disaster caused by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
They also claimed that if Japan seeks to misuse Olympic events for a political or commercial purpose, it would goes against the Olympic spirit.
The environmental groups said they plan to collect signatures through an online website and hold international conferences to raise awareness on the risks of radiation.
Some baseball and softball games are scheduled to take place at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, according to the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games website.
It also shows that a 121-day torch relay will “commence on March 26, 2020, in Fukushima Prefecture and start its journey southwards” in an aim at “showcasing solidarity with the regions still recovering from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.” (Yonhap)

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

International Olympic Committee President confirms Japan’s food products are safe

Business is business, never mind people’s health….A question though, did Abe’s government paid an additional bribe for this declaration or was it included in the first bribe paid to get the Olympics to Tokyo as an all included package deal?
IOC chief to confirm Japan’s food products are safe
September 24, 2019
New York – International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach intends to assure participants of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics that Japanese food products are safe following the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said Monday.
He conveyed his intentions to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York after two international organizations announced last year that the products are adequately managed, the ministry said.
A joint team of the International Atomic Energy Association and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in June last year that inspections for radioactive substances and distribution management of food from Japan were adequate, according to the ministry.
Bach told Abe he would inform the participating countries of the 2020 games of this view, the ministry said.
This comes after South Korea announced last month that it would double the number of samples and frequency of inspections for radioactive substances on some processed foods and agricultural products from Japan.
The move by the South Korean government marks a tightening of measures first implemented following a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Abe and Bach also agreed to jointly seek the adoption later this year of a U.N. resolution calling for a truce during the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.
It is customary for the United Nations to adopt a truce resolution before the summer and winter games and Tokyo has been leading preparations for a new one as host of the upcoming sporting events.
Bach was quoted by the Japanese Foreign Ministry as telling Abe that he will work with Tokyo to have the resolution co-sponsored by as many countries as possible.
Abe and Bach also reaffirmed they will continue to work closely together to make the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics a success, the ministry said.
The Japanese leader also met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II over dinner and expressed Tokyo’s intention to help alleviate the country’s burden in accepting refugees from neighboring Syria. The two welcomed the strengthening of bilateral ties in security, economic and other areas, according to the ministry.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach
IOC chief to confirm Japan’s food products are safe after 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster
September 24, 2019
NEW YORK (Kyodo) — International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach intends to assure participants of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics that Japanese food products are safe following the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said Monday.
He conveyed his intentions to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York after two international organizations announced last year that the products are adequately managed, the ministry said.
A joint team of the International Atomic Energy Association and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in June last year that inspections for radioactive substances and distribution management of food from Japan were adequate, according to the ministry.
Bach told Abe he would inform the participating countries of the 2020 games of this view, the ministry said.
This comes after South Korea announced last month that it would double the number of samples and frequency of inspections for radioactive substances on some processed foods and agricultural products from Japan.
The move by the South Korean government marks a tightening of measures first implemented following a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Radioactive sushi: Japan-South Korea spat extends to Olympic cuisine

A Tokyo Electric Power official wears radioactive protective gear at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2014.
August 23, 2019
TOKYO —  The specter of radioactive sushi on menus at the Tokyo Olympics is a new front in an increasingly vindictive spat between South Korea and Japan, two U.S. allies that can’t seem to get along.
With tensions between the neighbors the highest in decades, South Korea’s delegation to Japan’s 2020 Games raised concerns this week about radiation at Olympic venues near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and the risk that athletes might consume contaminated food.
The protest formed part of a three-pronged attack that suggested South Korea is using the tsunami-induced 2011 nuclear meltdown as another stick with which to poke Japan. The two sides’ dispute over trade and compensation for wartime forced labor escalated Thursday when Seoul scrapped a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact.
On Monday, South Korea said it summoned a Japanese diplomat to express concerns about the possibility that treated radioactive groundwater stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant might someday be released into the ocean — although Japan says the meeting came at its request. A day later, South Korea’s Olympics delegation raised worries about radiation at an international meeting with Tokyo Games organizers, while on Wednesday, Seoul’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it would double the radiation testing of some Japanese food imports because of contamination fears. 
The Korean Sport and Olympic Committee has operated separate cafeterias for its athletes at past Olympics and is considering expanding that operation in Japan due to concerns about food safety, spokeswoman Lee Mi-jin said. 
In doing so, Seoul has struck at what it knows is a tender spot. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set great personal store in a successful Olympics and wants to use the Games as a symbol of hope and recovery after the Fukushima disaster.
Six Olympic softball games and a baseball game will be held in Fukushima, the prefecture’s capital city. The Olympic torch relay will start from there, too.
Japan’s government says the fears are groundless, with Foreign Minister Taro Kono saying he had “thoroughly explained” the safety of Japanese foods based on scientific evidence when he met his counterparts from South Korea and China on Wednesday.
Radiation levels in Fukushima city are comparable with safe readings in Hong Kong and Seoul, while Tokyo’s readings are even lower, in line with Paris and London, government data shows. Food from the region is tested intensively for safety.
Seafood sits in buckets for radiation testing at a lab attached to a fish market in Iwaki, Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, in January.
The radiation cloud generated by explosions at the Fukushima reactors spread over thousands of square miles of northern Japan, causing 165,000 people to flee their homes. But officials have been engaged in a massive cleanup since, removing or treating swaths of topsoil to remove radioactive cesium and prevent it from entering vegetation.
Tokyo has stringent limits on the amount of cesium allowed in food, setting a maximum of just one-twelfth the levels permitted in the United States or the European Union. Agriculture and fish testing centers in Fukushima prefecture have analyzed hundreds of thousands of food samples from the danger zone, as well as samples of every ocean catch.
With the exception of a handful of samples of wild mushrooms and freshwater fish, and one skate caught in the ocean in January, none of the samples has exceeded radiation limits in the past three years, officials say. 
Although exports of agriculture, forestry and fisheries products from Fukushima have recovered beyond pre-disaster levels, at least 24 countries and territories ban some produce from Fukushima, while Taiwan, South Korea and China maintain a total ban on food from the prefecture.
In April, South Korea won the bulk of an appeal at the World Trade Organization supporting its right to ban and test seafood from Japan, although the judgment was based on WTO rules rather than the levels of contaminants in Japanese food or what the right level of consumer protection should be.
In justifying its move to step up testing, Seoul’s food ministry said trace amounts of radiation were detected in around 20 tons out of more than 200,000 tons of total food imports from Japan over the past five years, although its statement noted levels below even Japan’s strict limit of 100 becquerels a kilogram.
People shop for fresh seafood at a market in Kanazawa, Japan, in January 2016.
South Korea’s qualms about contaminated food at the Olympics fell on deaf ears, according to Japanese media reports, with the organizers saying thorough inspections of Olympic sites had already been carried out and other countries failing to support South Korea’s position.
That’s not to say there are no grounds for concern about a million tons of treated radioactive groundwater stored at the nuclear power plant, environmental groups say.
This month, Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, said the tanks at the site would be full by the summer of 2022, as fresh groundwater continues to seep in and become contaminated.
That announcement raised concerns that Tepco may push ahead with a proposal to dilute the treated water and gradually release it into the ocean.
Although many scientists say it is safe to release properly treated water, public trust is low, with Tepco forced to acknowledge last year that the treatment system had so far failed to remove dangerous radioactive elements, including strontium-90.
Local fishermen also oppose releasing the water, arguing such a move would destroy public confidence in marine produce from Fukushima. Japan says no decision has been reached.
Ironically, rice from Fukushima was on the menu at a working lunch during the Group of 20 meeting in Japan in June attended by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. But Moon left before the rice was served, the presidential office in Seoul said Friday.
Min Joo Kim in Seoul and Akiko Kashiwagi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

September 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

South Korea concerned over food safety at Olympics with events slated for Fukushima

Talks to take place over food provision at Tokyo Games
Fukushima to host baseball and softball games next year
The Fukushima Azuma baseball stadium will used during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
August 22, 2019
South Korea is considering making its own arrangements to feed its athletes at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, citing concerns over the safety of food from Fukushima, media reports said.
In addition, South Korean sports authorities have requested that international groups be permitted to monitor radiation levels during the 2020 Games.
Food safety concerns in South Korea have grown since Fukushima city was chosen to host six softball games and one baseball game next summer. Fukushima prefecture will also be the location for the start of the domestic leg of the Olympic torch relay, beginning next March.
Tokyo Olympics organisers said South Korea’s National Olympic Committee had sent a letter expressing concern at the possibility of produce grown in Fukushima prefecture being served to athletes in the Olympic village.
“Nothing is more important than safety. We will seek consultations with the International Olympic Committee and others to secure our athletes’ safety and ensure that the Tokyo Olympics will be held in a safe environment,” the South Korean sports minister, Park Yang-woo, said this week, according to Yonhap news agency.
Seoul’s concerns come amid an escalating dispute with Tokyo over South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines before and during the second world war, when the Korean peninsula was a Japanese colony.
The dispute has affected trade and cultural exchanges, while figures released this week show that the number of South Korean tourists visiting Japan fell by 7.6% year on year last month – its lowest level for almost a year – according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation.
Bloomberg reported that the Korea Sport and Olympic Committee is to request international organisations such as Greenpeace be allowed to monitor radiation levels at Olympic venues.
Committee officials have also drawn up plans to open a separate cafeteria exclusively for South Korean athletes to ensure that they are not served food from the region affected by radioactive fallout from the March 2011 meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The official threshold for radioactive substances in food from Fukushima is much lower than those in other parts of the world, including the European Union and the US.
All food items produced in Fukushima undergo repeated inspections to ensure their safety, according to the prefectural government.
“We are only shipping primary products which are certified to be safe through multiple inspections in each stage with cooperation among municipal and prefectural government, production areas, producers, distributors and retailers,” it says on its website.
Data from the NGO monitoring group Safecast shows that atmospheric radiation levels in Tokyo are lower than those in many other cities.
On Thursday morning, Safecast data showed levels in the Roppongi district of Tokyo stood at 0.084 microsieverts per hour, compared with 0.116 in Suwon, south of Seoul. In Fukushima city, located 45 miles west of the stricken nuclear power plant, atmospheric radiation was recorded at 0.100 microsieverts per hour.
The global average of naturally occurring background radiation is 0.17-0.39 microsieverts per hour, according to the pro-nuclear lobby group the World Nuclear Association.

September 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment