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Japan in Uproar Over Censorship of Emperor’s Anti-Nuclear Speech via The Atlantic

There is a particularly sensitive accusation reverberating through online discussion boards and social media in Japan: that Emperor Akihito’s speech on the one year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami was censored on TV for his comments about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

The 78-year-old Emperor Akihito had insisted on attending the memorial service, though he had been released from the hospital for heart bypass surgery less than a week earlier. While the emperor is technically just a figurehead, he is still deeply revered here. Many Japanese see him a source of guidance in times of political difficulty, which have been many in the last 20 years. His speech was highly anticipated. Unlike Prime Minister Noda, who never mentioned the nuclear crisis in his speech on the anniversary, the Emperor addressed it directly.

As this earthquake and tsunami caused the nuclear power plant accident, those living in areas designated as the danger zone lost their homes and livelihoods and had to leave the places they used to live. In order for them to live there again safely, we have to overcome the problem of radioactive contamination, which is a formidable task.

While this statement may seem more obvious than radical to outsiders, underneath the Imperial-grade Japanese understatement were two ideas that have become quietly explosive. First, he seemed to suggest that the nuclear crisis is not over, a “formidable task” yet to be overcome. This noticeably contradicts the government’s official stance that Fukushima has achieved a cold shutdown and, for all practical purposes, the crisis is over. Second, it implies that it is not yet safe for people to return to areas stricken with high levels of radiation, at least not before the “formidable task” is “overcome.” This, again, contradicts the government’s position that it is now safe for people to return to almost all areas and that neither Tokyo Electric Power Company nor the national government are obliged to assist in long term evacuations.

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