TIME Japan

Report: Fukushima Workers Defied Orders and Fled Plant After Accident

A new report challenges previous account of events surrounding the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl

Panicked workers at the Fukushima power plant in Japan fled in the aftermath of a crippling earthquake in 2011, according to a new report, despite receiving orders to keep working in a last effort to avoid a meltdown.

A previously undisclosed record of the accident reported in the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun on Tuesday reveals employees abandoned the nuclear plant after being ordered to keep working. On March 15, four days after the plant was hit by a tsunami, managers and workers fled the plant as they feared the core of the plant’s No. 2 reactor could melt through the containment vessel, releasing massive amounts of radioactive materials into the environment, the New York Times reports.

Based on a series of interviews conducted by government investigators, the report quotes Masao Yoshida, the manager of the Fukushima plant at the time of the incident, describing how the workers had gone to the still-functioning Fukushima No. 2 power plant, 10 km. away. “Actually, I never told them to withdraw to 2F,” the newspaper quoted Yoshida as saying. “When I was told they had gone to 2F, it was already too late.”

The March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster was a failure at the power plant resulting in the meltdown of three of the six nuclear reactors. The accident was caused after the plant was hit by a tsunami caused by a powerful underwater earthquake, and it became the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Yoshida, who died of cancer last year at the age of 58, is widely regarded as a hero in Japan for defying the order to pour seawater on the reactors. In his account, he described how 650 workers and midlevel managers fled to another nuclear plant six miles away and left him and 68 employees to try and regain control of the plant’s runaway reactors.

If true, the account challenges the way the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) recounted the day’s events. The company says it evacuated almost everyone except a small team of dedicated workers risking their lives to try and contain the crisis. The new report, coming out three years after the fact, could stoke new criticism of the government and of Tepco. The government didn’t challenge the veracity of the report, and a spokesman said the report hadn’t been disclosed because it wasn’t intended to be seen by the public. But a spokesperson for Tepco disputed the report, saying Yoshida issued an vaguely worded order to retreat to “low radiation areas,” which could have meant the neighboring plant six miles away.

[NYT]

TIME Music

Paul McCartney Cancels His First Budokan Appearance Since 1966

The 71-year-old ex-Beatle says he was "really looking forward to playing in Japan again" but a South American tour has left him feeling unwell

Paul McCartney has canceled the remainder of his Japanese tour, including a much awaited appearance at Tokyo’s Budokan.

The legendary musician has yet to recuperate from an unspecified virus that had already caused him to miss two concerts.

“I was really looking forward to playing in Japan again after we had such an amazing time here in November,” McCartney said in a statement, which mentioned that the cancellation was “unavoidable.”

The 71-year-old arrived in Japan on the back of a strenuous tour in South America, and had three concerts planned for the coming week.

One of them would have been his first appearance on the Budokan stage since the Beatles became the first pop band to play there in 1966 — a set of gigs that led the way for a host of famous Budokan live recordings by the likes of Bob Dylan, Deep Purple and Santana.

[AFP]

TIME movies

‘Godzilla’ Means ‘Gorilla-Whale’ and 7 Other ‘Zilla Things You Didn’t Know

With 30 feature films, Godzilla's movie resume is almost as tall as he is.

+ READ ARTICLE

Godzilla, the King of Monsters, has amassed quite a bit of canon over 60 years of film. From Japanese pop-duo The Peanuts summoning Mothra in Godzilla vs. Mothra, to the comic relief character Godzooky in the 1980s Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Godzilla’s lore extends far beyond his nuclear origins. Before Godzilla terrorized San Francisco in 2014′s iteration of the film, he fought King Kong, found a replacement and even tempted North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to kidnap the ones behind the monster movie magic.

Watch the above video for more ‘Zilla facts.

TIME Japan

Japan Is Desperate to Rescue Its Economy from an Early Grave

General Images of Economy Ahead Of Nationwide Quarterly Land Price Data Release
Pedestrians cross an intersection in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. Kiyoshi Ota—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Any less than 100 million people would spell doom for the nation's economy, officials warned, while neglecting one glaringly easy fix

Japan’s battle against gray hairs took an unusual turn this week when the Ministry of Commerce set the very lowest acceptable bound for its aging population: 100 million people. Beyond this point, there lays a “crisis.”

Or so warned Akio Mimura, head of Japan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Mimura urged the government to make 100 million the official population target, backed by policies that would promote childrearing. “If we don’t do anything, an extremely difficult future will be waiting for us,” Mimura said.

His concerns are well founded. Japan has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, with each woman bearing an average of 1.4 children. At that rate, demographers project a plunge from 127 million people today to 87 million by 2060, sapping the workforce of its vital young workers and putting an enormous strain on state finances.

The shrinkage has already begun. In 2013, Japan’s population declined by a record-breaking 244,000 people.

All of which has led to some rather creative policy proposals from the Chamber of Commerce, such as retaining 70-year-old’s in the workforce, doubling government expenditures on childcare and encouraging men to ask working women out on a date.

But once again, policymakers dodged the quickest fix, namely to import workers from abroad. The island nation has an outstandingly small number of immigrants. They form less than 2% of the population, compared with a wealthy country average of 11%. Japan could triple the number of foreigners and still not approach the norm among wealthy nations.

Migrants
Source: UN Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Of course there’s a reason for policymakers’ skittishness around the issue. Immigration reform consistently takes a beating at the polls. One recent survey by Asahi Shimbun newspaper asked respondents if they would accept more immigrants to preserve “economic vitality.” Even with the positive spin, 65% opposed.

Japan Immigration Bureau’s motto is, “internationalization in compliance with the rules.” A simple rule rewrite could alleviate Japan’s demographic fix. It certainly would be easier than prodding the nation’s families to have another 13 million babies. But judging from this week’s presentation from the Chamber of Commerce, it remains politically stillborn.

 

TIME marketing

Japanese Sports Drink Headed to the Moon

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co.

Because why not? Obviously

Rejoice, astronauts of the moon landings to come. A Japanese sports drink company has a treat in store for you.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. announced Thursday their plan to land a can of their sports drink Pocari Sweat on the moon in October 2015, making it the first commercial beverage to reach the lunar surface, according to the company.

Otsuka says it hopes people who land on the moon in the future will mix the Pocari Sweat, which ships to the moon in powdered form, with lunar water to make the sports drink. The powdered drink mix will be accompanied in a Pocari Blue-shaped time capsule by messages written by thousands of children around Asia.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Otsuka declined to reveal the cost of shipping a can of Pocari Blue to the surface of the moon.

 

 

TIME Japan

Best-Selling Author Feels the Heat in Japan’s History Wars

People mourn the of Nanking Massacre on August 15, 2012 in Nanjing, Jiangsu, China TPG/Getty Images

Just when you thought the battle over Japan’s wartime history couldn’t get any weirder, a best-selling author was forced to issue a denial about a previous denial — in his own book – that Japanese troops had committed one of the worst atrocities of World War II. That is, he said, they didn’t.

Henry Scott Stokes, a leading Western journalist and longtime defender of Japan’s right wing, told Kyodo News Service last week that he was unaware that the Japanese-language version of his book includes an assertion that the infamous 1937 “Nanking Massacre” had never occurred.

He called that assertion “straightforward right-wing propaganda.”

The book, whose title translates as “Falsehoods of the Allied Nations’ Victorious View of History, as Seen by a British Journalist,” has sold more than 100,000 copies since it went on sale in December.

It comes amid a boom in publications that cater to right-wing views in Japan as well as nasty historical disputes with Asian neighbors. It was released only in Japanese.

Stokes, 75, is a former correspondent and Tokyo bureau chief for the New York Times, Financial Times and Times of London.

Although the book presents a largely – if not overwhelmingly — sanitized view of Japan’s wartime conduct, Stokes, who said in recent interviews he does not read or write Japanese, told Kyodo that the Nanking denial had been inserted in the translated version of his book without his knowledge.

Late Friday, he sharply reversed course.

In a carefully worded joint statement with publisher Shodensha, Stokes, who suffers from advanced Parkinson’s disease, said there is no disagreement.

“The author’s opinion is: The so-called ‘Nanking Massacre’ never took place. The word ‘Massacre’ is not right to indicate what happened,” the statement said.

In an interview last month, Stokes had said “ghastly events” had occurred at Nanking, but that the Japanese were not alone responsible.

Stokes has long been a darling of Japan’s right wing. He moved to Tokyo from London in 1964 and served as bureau chief for major U.S. and British newspapers in the 1960s and ‘70s. He published a well-received biography of nationalist icon Yukio Mishima in 1974 and remains on friendly terms with conservative leaders and activists.

Because his illness makes it difficult to write or type, his “Falsehoods” book was based on more than 170 hours of taped interviews. Written essay-style, the book was assembled from those interviews by Hiroyuki Fujita, a translator closely associated with conservative causes.

Stokes said in a recent interview that he had not read the finished book. He told Kyodo that he was unaware of the apparent turbulence concerning Nanking until Kyodo brought to his attention.

Fujita said the controversy centered around just two lines in the 250-page book. Fujita said that after discussions with Stokes and Shodensha officials it was jointly decided that no changes were necessary.

“What Henry has in mind and what is written in Japanese in his best-seller book have the common implication behind them: We should not say ‘Nanking Massacre’ to understand what really happened in Nanking,” Fujita said in a written statement.

Still, not everyone is convinced that the book accurately portrays Stokes’ views.

A Tokyo journalist hired to transcribe the taped interviews for a potential English-language edition said she quit in protest. She said she became convinced that the interviews had been taken out of context.

“I felt that what you said in the transcripts was completely different on important points from what is written in your book,” transcriber Angela Erika Kubo wrote in a May 4 email to Stokes.

Although estimates vary for the number of victims, mainstream historians agree that many tens of thousands of civilians were killed by marauding Japanese troops in Nanking over a six-week period beginning in December 1937.

Stokes’ association with leading Western news organizations – he is now a freelance writer — undoubtedly appealed to his publishers and helped give the book mass-market appeal, said Jeff Kingston, a professor of Asian Studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo.

“They knew that he bestowed a credibility that they would never have on their own. They would be dismissed as right-wing crackpots, while Henry Scott Stokes has a rich pedigree,” Kingston said.

Sven Saaler, an associate professor of Japanese history at Tokyo’s Sophia University, said the controversy is not surprising. Nor do the brisk sales necessarily mean that right-wing views have broad appeal in Japan.

“These kind of publications have always been around, and always have been selling a few ten-thousand copies to a certain audience. But the revisionist views of history have yet to reach a broader segment of society. The revisionist views are deeply rooted in parts of the Japanese elite, particularly in the political class, so there is a gap between historical views,” Saaler said.

Lucy Birmingham, president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, said the foreign press corps in Japan has come under increasing attack from conservative news media for alleged anti-Japanese bias in recent years, and pressure to toe the line is likely to continue.

“It’s difficult to know exactly what Henry Scott Stokes’ views are. He has been quoted as saying diametrically different things in different publications,” says Birmingham, a freelance writer who has written for TIME and other publications.

“Foreign journalists in Japan are in the crossfire. It’s coming from a small, but loud minority of right-wing writers and publishers who are testing the media waters on their extreme views … It’s the attitude, ‘If you’re not with us, you’re against us.’”

TIME Photos

Feel Good Friday: 12 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From rainbow-colored umbrellas to Miley Cyrus, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

TIME Japan

Strong Quake Rattles Tokyo but Few Injuries Reported

Japan's highest peak of Mt. Fuji and Shinjuku skyscrapers in central Tokyo, on Dec. 16, 2013.
Japan's highest peak of Mt. Fuji and Shinjuku skyscrapers in central Tokyo, on Dec. 16, 2013. Kimimasa Mayama—EPA

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake centered 100 miles south of Tokyo shook the Japanese capital early on Monday; however, no deaths or major damage have been reported in the tremor’s wake

A powerful earthquake rattled the nerves of Tokyo residents in the early hours of Monday morning, but failed to cause any substantial damage.

Local authorities reported that at least 17 people were injured as a result of the 6.2-magnitude earthquake, according to the Associated Press.

Japan’s national broadcaster NHK reported that Monday’s quake was the strongest seismic convulsion to shake the capital since powerful aftershocks hit Tokyo in the wake of the massive 2011 earthquake that struck off the country’s northeast coast.

[AP]

TIME movies

The Japanese Are Fat-Shaming the New Godzilla

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Poster for the upcoming reboot of "Godzilla" Warner Bros.

The Hollywood reboot of the Japanese monster film hits theaters on May 16, but Japanese fans are already annoyed by how "massive" the monster appears in trailers

Many Americans are waiting in anticipation for the May 16 premiere of Godzilla, a Bryan Cranston-starring reboot of the 1954 Japanese horror classic. And the recent string of trailers has only increased excitement.

But in Japan, fans of the original film aren’t exactly thrilled with the look of the new Godzilla. In fact, some fans are down-right annoyed with how fat the monster appears in the American trailer. “When I finally saw it, I was a bit taken aback,” Godzilla fan Fumihiko super-fan Abe told the AFP at a Tokyo exhibition of paintings of the monster. “It’s fat from the neck downwards and massive at the bottom.”

Other fans joked online that the American version of the monster had “done a ‘super-size me,’” calling it “a calorie monster” and “Godzilla Deluxe.” And perhaps the most cutting insult of all, posted to a Japanese forum, read, “He’s so fat, I laughed.”

Luckily for Japanese fans, who will get the opportunity to judge the reboot in theaters in late May, it sounds as if the Hollywood version of Godzilla doesn’t actually feature that much Godzilla, fat or otherwise. Vulture reports that the monster is an “elusive presence” in the film.

[AFP]

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