Japan angered by French Fukushima cartoons

Japan angered by French Fukushima cartoons
A cartoon depicting sumo wrestlers with extra limbs competing in front of a crippled nuclear plant, published in La Canard Enchaîné
France's satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé kicked off a storm this week, angering Japan with cartoons that take a mocking look at the impact of the Fukushima disaster on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Japan voiced anger on Thursday over cartoons published in a French newspaper that took aim at the decision to award the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo, despite the ongoing nuclear crisis at Fukushima.

Satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné published a cartoon depicting sumo wrestlers with extra limbs competing in front of a crippled nuclear plant, which said the disaster had made it a feasible Olympic sport.

Another cartoon showed two people standing in front of a pool of water while wearing nuclear protection suits and holding a Geiger counter, saying water sport facilities had already been built at Fukushima.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the satirical jabs give the wrong impression about Japan. The government has repeatedly claimed the accident and its waste water problem are under control and should not affect the Olympics.

Japan is traditionally sensitive to opinions about it expressed in foreign media and has been angered that a crisis that brought such human tragedy has become the subject of caricature.

"These kinds of satirical pictures hurt the victims of the disaster," Suga told a news conference.

"This kind of journalism gives the wrong impression about the waste water problem," he said, adding that the government will officially lodge a protest with the French weekly.

The incident comes after similar case less than a year ago in which French media made light of the nuclear disaster and its effects.

TV channel France 2's "We're not lying" programme showed a doctored photo of Eiji Kawashima, the goalkeeper of the Japanese national football squad, with four arms.

The show explained that it was the "Fukushima effect" that had allowed Kawashima to keep goal so effectively in Japan's shock defeat of France.

The station later expressed its regret for the gag and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reportedly apologized.

While no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the radiation released by the triple meltdowns at Fukushima, tens of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes. Many may never be able to return.

Unlike many European countries, Japan does not have a vigorous tradition of satire. Its cultural emphasis on the importance of social harmony also discourages public ridiculing of others.

*An earlier version of this article made reference to La Canard Enchaîné's publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed. However these drawings were published in another satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo and not La Canard Enhcaîné. We apologise for the error.

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