A journalist finds his nose doesn’t stop bleeding after visiting the meltdown-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. He also learns others suffer similar symptoms.
The scene from popular manga comic “Oishinbo,” published last month, has set off a hot public debate in Japan — a nation still traumatized by the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Local governments immediately protested the comic, saying it fosters unfounded fears of radiation.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe chimed in over the weekend, reassuring the public there was no proof of a link between radiation and such illnesses. “The government will make the best effort to take action against baseless rumors,” he said.
Undeterred by the ruckus, Tokyo-based publisher Shogakukan added a special 10-page segment to weekly Big Comic Spirits magazine, published Monday, featuring criticism it had received as well as opinion from radiation experts.
Editor Hiroshi Murayama acknowledged he had been unsure about publishing the manga, subtitled “The Truth of Fukushima,” because he anticipated people would be offended. But he had decided that voice needed to be heard, he said.
“We hope the various views on the latest ‘Oishinbo’ will lead to a constructive debate into assessing our future,” he said in the special segment.
Scientists say there is no exact safe limit to low dose radiation. A causal link to any individual’s disease is hard to prove, given the varieties of carcinogens and other risks in the environment.
Fukushima is monitoring the health of its residents, and carrying out thyroid checks on those ages 18 and under.
Seventy-five confirmed and suspected cases of thyroid cancer have been found in those tests, but it is unclear whether they are linked to radiation.
Tetsu Kariya, the writer of “Oishinbo,” did not immediately respond to requests for an interview. But he said on his blog earlier this month that the intensity of the outrage set off by the nosebleed scene was unexpected.
Having researched Fukushima for two years, he was not about to write that Fukushima was safe and all was well — even if that may be what people wanted to hear.
“I can only write the truth,” he said.
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