Japanese screens in Dutch Rijksmuseum

This 24 March 2020 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Our curators are working from home, now that the [Rijks]museum is temporarily closed. 🏠

In the second episode of #Rijksmuseumfromhome our Head of Asian Arts Menno Fitski is shining his light on two painted screens of Mount Fuji made by Yoshida Hiroshi. 🗻 🇯🇵

Japanese women’s victory against mandatory high heels

This 9 November 2019 CBS TV video says about itself:

Women declare war on high heels in Japan

There is an outcry on social media after a number of Japanese companies reportedly banned female employees from wearing eyeglasses to work. The controversy is similar to another, concerning female footwear in the workplace. Lucy Craft reports.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

High heels for female staff of Japan Airlines no longer required

Female cabin crew working for Japan Airlines will no longer be required to work on high heel shoes as of April 1. The women are also allowed to wear trousers from now on. The airline is the first major organization in Japan to change the dress code after an activist campaign that received a lot of attention.

The #KuToo movement opposes official beauty standards for women in Japan. With an online petition signed more than 32,000 times, employers are urged not to force women to wear heels while working. KuToo is a play on words with the Japanese words for ‘shoe’ and ‘pain’ and refers to the international #MeToo movement.

According to Yumi Ishikawa, the founder of #KuToo, women in hotels, department stores and banks are also forced to wear high heels while working. She hopes that these industries will follow the example of Japan Airlines. “It is a big step.”

The change in policy will take effect next month, giving nearly 6,000 female workers the choice of clothes and shoes to wear.

Japanese Mitsubishi corporation not compensating forced labourers

This 20 July 2015 video says about itself:

Mitsubishi apologises for WWII forced labour

The handshake that ends 70 years of suffering.

Mitsubishi has become the first Japanese corporation to offer an apology for the use of American prisoners of war for forced labour during the Second World War.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Mitsubishi refuses to speak to Dutch forced laborers

Mitsubishi will not talk to Dutch people who did forced labour in the Second World War. The new owner of energy company Eneco says that the company was founded in 1954 and is therefore not responsible for what happened during the war under the name Mitsubishi.

That is total bullshit, Messrs Mitsubishi billionaires. After 1945, the Mitsubishi Group had been broken up by United States occupation authorities because of war crimes. However, because of the Korean war, the Mitsubishi Group came together again.

7300 Dutch

The board of the Japanese Honorary Debts Foundation wanted to talk to the multinational corporation, because in the Second World War many Dutch people were employed as prisoners of war in Mitsubishi factories and shipyards in Japan. The foundation asked for help from several municipalities that are shareholders of Eneco.

An estimated 7,300 Dutch people performed forced labor during the Second World War. At least 661 of them did that for mines and shipyards of the Mitsubishi group. Eleven of them are believed to be still alive. The foundation does not only want to talk to the company, but also apologies and financial compensation.

Others did get apologies and compensation

The foundation is disappointed with the news, but not surprised. “I expected this,” chairman Jan van Wagtendonk told Rijnmond local TV. The foundation was informed by letter by alderman Arjan van Gils of the municipality of Rotterdam, who is also chairman of the shareholders of Eneco.

“As a board, we are now looking into the sequel,” says Van Wagtendonk. “I am left with the question: why don’t they want to talk?”

In other cases, the Japanese group has previously apologized and compensated after government pressure or a lawsuit. That has happened to American, Korean and Chinese ex-forced laborers.

Japanese militarism abused ´comfort women´, new film

This 6 August 2019 video from South Korea says about itself:

Japanese-American director Miki Dezaki is in Korea with his ‘comfort women‘ documentary film “Shusenjo: The Main Battleground Of The Comfort Women Issue“. For over the span of 3 years, he had been tracking down vivid stories across Korea, the U.S. and Japan to make his film.

His film is distinguished from existing wartime sexual slavery documentaries in that it contains stories about activists who support the victims and interviews of Japan’s so-called ‘far-right revisionists’. The film had immense repercussions in Japan when it was released there last April.

Through the film “Shusenjo: The Main Battleground Of The Comfort Women Issue”, director Miki Dezaki says he wants to approach ‘comfort women‘ as a women’s rights issue rather than an interstate conflict. We meet with director Miki Dezaki on today’s Heart-to-Heart.

By Isabel Roy in Germany:

Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue: Documentary about war crimes and historical revisionism in Japan

20 March 2020

In late 2019, the documentary Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue, directed by Japanese-American filmmaker Miki Dezaki, was shown at a well-attended screening at Leipzig University in Germany. The film was shown at several European universities last year, following a US tour in 2018.

The valuable documentary treats the so-called “comfort women”, women who were forced into prostitution in military brothels both in Japan and Japanese-occupied territory during World War II. Most of the women came from Korea or China. The subject has been the source of tensions between South Korea and Japan for decades.

In his movie, Dezaki interviews historical revisionists from far-right circles, politicians and historians who have studied comfort women, as well as activists working for the recognition of the victims.

Following the release of his film, which Dezaki completed as his masters thesis and financed through Kickstarter and with his own money, he was sued by five of the interviewees. In the film, the latter deny both the responsibility of the Japanese government for the comfort women and their circumstances in the brothels. Dezaki also received several written threats and his movie’s distributor was sued by a right-wing extremist organisation that appears in the film.

A film festival in Kawasaki (in the Greater Tokyo Area) first announced it was canceling a showing for security reasons in response to threats from right-wingers. This move was criticized by other artists, including Japanese filmmakers Kazuya Shiraishi and Hirokazu Koreeda, and owing to help from volunteers who provided additional security, the film ended up being presented at the festival in November 2019. Shiraishi described the initial decision by the organisers as “an act to kill freedom of expression.” Shusenjo (which means “main battlefield”) opens with a clip from December 2015 in which one of the surviving women, Lee Yong-Su, confronts a Korean foreign ministry official at a press conference. The press conference followed an “agreement” on the comfort women issue between Japan and South Korea.

This agreement was initiated under pressure from the Obama administration, which viewed the conflict between its two most important allies in northeast Asia (South Korea and Japan) as a threat to its confrontation with North Korea and China.

Comfort women interrogated by the US army 1944

Lee Yong-Su is visibly angry and movingly accuses the official: “Who are you? What are you doing? Why do you have to kill us a second time? Are you living my life? Before reaching any agreements, shouldn’t you have spoken to the victims? You think we are old and know nothing.”

The agreement only entailed a very limited, “moral” apology to the comfort women and a donation of one billion yen [$US 9 million] to a fund to be split amongst survivors. The apology did not acknowledge the full responsibility of the Japanese military, even though historians such as Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of Japanese modern history at Chuo University in Tokyo and a founding member of the Center for Research and Documentation on Japan’s War Responsibility, have been able to prove this responsibility conclusively with the aid of historical documents.

Dezaki’s film then moves on to examine the claims made by Japanese historical revisionists and contrast them with the explanations of serious historians and activists.

To give one example, the nationalist-revisionists argue that the testimonies by survivors are “inconsistent” and therefore unreliable. They also claim that although prostitution took place, the women voluntarily chose to engage in it and were “well-compensated” with “luxury goods and restaurant visits”, among other things. They present the comfort women as a South Korean and Chinese fabrication and dismiss it as “anti-Japanese” propaganda. The attendees of the showing in Leipzig were audibly shocked and disgusted by these statements.

Historians and activists in the movie explain that former comfort women from South Korea, among other countries, were faced with terrible social stigma for what they had endured. This led to many of them only speaking out years after the fact.

One particularly gripping interview features a former soldier in the Imperial Japanese Army. On the subject of women’s rights in Japan before the Second World War, he explains to the director: “Women before the war, before the constitution, weren’t quite seen as human. Nippon Kaigi wants to go back to that.” He also describes war atrocities again Chinese prisoners in which he was forced to participate.

Nippon Kaigi (“Japan Conference”) is a far-right organization that advocates a return to the monarchy of the Meiji Era (1868-1912), the abolition of women’s rights, state Shintoism, the remilitarization of Japan and a “patriotic” education in schools. It includes many members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, and Abe himself is a special advisor to the group’s parliamentary wing. Nippon Kaigi and Abe also support state visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japan’s war dead, including 1,068 convicted war criminals of whom 14 are A-Class (convicted of having been involved in the planning, preparation, initiation or waging of war).

Bodies of victims along Qinhuai River out of Nanjing's west gate during Nanjing Massacre

One of Shusenjo’s strong points is the way it illustrates the intertwining of far-right organizations in Japan and the US, the Japanese state and historical revisionists.

Dezaki explains how after the Kono Statement of August 1993, which acknowledged the responsibility of the Japanese imperial army for the comfort women system, ultra-right groups and the Japanese government launched a targeted campaign to relativise the crimes of the Second World War.

In 2006, Abe championed a reform that promoted patriotism as a basic aim of the education system. Additionally, the government initiated the practice of routinely rejecting Japanese schoolbooks produced by private publishers on the grounds of “grave error”, without offering any further explanation. This, in turn, led the publishers to self-censor “uncomfortable” facts that might cause offense in order to avoid financial problems.

This kind of censorship is also prevalent in the media. A notable case was the editing out of victims’ testimony from a television broadcast of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery, held in December 2000. This took place under the pressure of Abe himself as well as right-wing groups.

Hideaki Kase is a central figure in the network of pseudo-historians, far-right activists and politicians exposed in Shusenjo. He is a member of or occupies leading positions in the following organizations: Global Alliance for Historical Truth, Society for Dissemination of Historical Fact, Alliance for Truth about Comfort Women and Nippon Kaigi. Kase (born 1936) has written numerous books and produced revisionist films, appeared on talk shows and was a special advisor to former prime ministers Takeo Fukuda and Yasuhiro Nakasone.

Kase, who—among other things—denies the Nanjing Massacre (in which Japanese military forces slaughtered as many as 400,000 Chinese in Nanjing in December 1937-January 1938), when asked by the director if he knew the two most important historians of comfort women, simply responded: “I don’t read books by other people.” … According to him, Japan’s involvement in the Second World War can be described as “a war of national self-defence.”

As is the case in Germany and other countries, historical falsification is resorted to in Japan because its population is deeply opposed to war. When Abe’s grandfather, the war criminal Nobusuke Kishi, was released by the Allies in 1948, massive protests took place.

During the question-and-answer session after the showing in Leipzig, Dezaki, who grew up in the US, remarked “I had this question I wanted to answer from the very beginning—why are these people trying to erase history? This led me to Nippon Kaigi and I found out it is because they want to cultivate or foster this myth that Japan has never done anything wrong and ‘we only fought wars of peace’. If you were to become a soldier in the future you don’t want to believe that your country fights wars for oil, right? Like the U.S., we fight for freedom, right? The history is being erased so that people will become more patriotic.”

Fukushima, Japan disaster still continuing

This 11 March 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Fukushima: Nine Years Later Still Glowing (w/ Kevin Kamps)

Nine years on from Fukushima, the Japanese government are forcing people to return to their homes, despite the dangers of radioactivity.

The Olympic flame is due to pass very close to the plant. Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist from Beyond Nuclear, joined Thom to update the story.

Fraud suspect billionaire Ghosn’s miraculous Japanese escape

This 30 December 2019 video from Australia is called Carlos Ghosn, ex-Nissan boss, escapes custody and flees to Beirut | Auto Expert John Cadogan.

By Nick Beams:

Many unanswered questions in Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan

3 January 2020

The successful escape of former Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn from Japan, where he was facing four charges, two of which related to understating his pay by more than $80 million in the company’s financial statements, underscore the fact that the rich and super-rich inhabit a world above the law, supported by government and state institutions.

In his latest statement on his escape from the Japanese judicial system issued in Lebanon yesterday, Ghosn said: “It was I alone who organised my departure.”

However, according to the head of his own Japanese legal team Junichiro Hironaka: “A very large organisation must have acted to pull this off.”

Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 on charges arising from financial practices he engaged in as the head of Nissan and was being held on bail of almost $14 million awaiting trial. He had been forced to surrender three passports—Lebanese, Brazilian and French—but apparently had been able to keep a second French passport in order to meet a Japanese requirement that foreigners carry identification.

While the full details of his escape have yet to emerge, he was apparently able to leave Japan on a private jet from Osaka airport which went to Istanbul’s Ataturk airport after which it continued to Lebanon. Turkish police are reported to have opened an investigation into Ghosn’s transit because neither his entry nor his exit was registered.

Interpol has issued a “red notice” to Lebanon asking it to arrest Ghosn, with which it is highly unlikely to comply. According to an Interpol statement issued yesterday: “Each country decides for itself what legal value to give to a red notice within their borders.”

The circumstances of his escape, under conditions where he was one of the most well-known faces in Japan, where his every move was supposedly monitored by authorities, raise the question of how much assistance he had from state authorities in Turkey, Lebanon, France and possibly even from Japanese authorities.

Ghosn was arrested at Tokyo’s international airport on November 7, 2018 as the result of an internal power struggle within the Nissan auto company of which he was the chief executive and the chairman of a global car-making alliance involving the French firm Renault, Nissan and the Japanese firm Mitsubishi.

Ghosn had previously been hailed as a hero of the Japanese business world for his organisation of an alliance between Nissan and Renault at the end of the 1990s that had pulled the Japanese firm from the edge of bankruptcy. Initially working at Michelin, he became known at Renault as Le cost killer for his ruthless restructuring of the company.

Under the deal with Nissan, in which Renault acquired a 43 percent shareholding, he became Nissan’s chief operating officer in June 1999, organising the closure of five of the company’s plants and the axing of 21,000 jobs.

But with the continuing stagnation of the global economy in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, the entire auto industry has been confronting an intensified struggle for markets and the enormous capital costs associated with the production of electric cars and the use of artificial intelligence.

Reportedly under pressure from the French government, Ghosn was pushing for a closer integration of Renault and Nissan. But this move brought a conflict with other Nissan executives opposed to what they saw as a takeover of the company by Renault.

The opposition was led by Ghosn’s former ally at Nissan, later to become its chief executive, Hiroto Saikawa, who was himself removed from his post last September after an internal investigation revealed he had received what it said was improper stock-based performance compensation in 2013.

The conflict over the Renault merger was to lead to the bringing of charges against Ghosn. The head of the Nissan legal department, Hari Nada, began an investigation into Ghosn’s financial dealings and in the summer of 2018 entered a plea bargain deal with Japanese prosecutors that led to the arrest of Ghosn in November.

The main charges against Ghosn are that he falsified company statements by understating his pay by more than $80 million and using company assets for his own benefit. Such charges could only have been brought on the basis of insider knowledge provided by the highest levels of the Nissan company.

Ghosn has insisted that his pay and financial arrangements were known to the company’s board and executives.

In September last year, however, he agreed to pay $1 million to settle a fraud charge brought against him by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that alleged he hid more than $140 million of his pay. Ghosn neither admitted nor denied the charges.

Another charge is that he used a private asset management company during the 2008 financial crisis to transfer losses from a derivatives contract worth $16.7 million to Nissan.

He is also accused of transferring $14.7 million over four years from a Nissan subsidiary account to a Saudi friend’s company. Ghosn has said the payments were made for “legitimate and vitally important business services.”

Last April, further charges were brought when prosecutors claimed that he had diverted $5 million from Nissan to benefit companies with ties to his family. There are also accusations that nearly $20 million of Nissan money was spent on houses used by Ghosn in Beirut, Rio de Janeiro and Paris and there are questions about who paid for a lavish party organised at the Palais de Versailles in honour of his second wife Carole in 2016.

The Ghosn case brought a predictable class response in an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal. Describing the start of the Ghosn saga as “dubious”, it called for “Japan to reform its justice system and corporate governance so they are more appropriate for a modern-day free-market economy.”

In other words, corporate disputes must be kept in-house. Likewise, the appropriation of millions of dollars by the chief executives of the corporate world to finance their lavish lifestyles should be kept under wraps.

Around the world, however, millions of people, no doubt, will contrast the treatment of Ghosn, and the support he has received and continues to receive, with the situation confronting Julian Assange, whose very life is in danger as he languishes in London’s maximum-security Belmarsh prison.

Fraud suspect millionaire escapes in private plane

This 31 December 2019 Bloomberg video says about itself:

There were no signs of Carlos Ghosn at his house in an affluent Beirut neighborhood on Tuesday following the fallen automotive titan‘s escape from Japan. No security guards were present and the windows were open. A shop owner across the street said he didn’t think Ghosn was there, adding he didn’t know what had happened until he saw photographers outside the house. Bloomberg’s Dana Khraiche reports from Beirut on “Bloomberg Surveillance.”

From AFP news agency, 31 December 2019:

Ghosn: A tycoon full of surprises

One of the most precipitous downfalls in corporate history

Tokyo: Former auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn, once-revered boss of three huge car companies, has masterminded an exit from Japan as stunning as his arrest that shocked the world more than a year ago.

The 65-year-old’s journey from one of the world’s best-known CEOs to a Japanese detention cell on financial misconduct charges was one of the most precipitous downfalls in corporate history.

And the man who once caught the media off guard by strolling out of his detention cell disguised as a workman has wrong-footed everyone again by leaving Japan for Lebanon, where he first arrived as a toddler.

Ghosn’s life was turned upside down on November 19, 2018 when Japanese prosecutors stormed his aircraft brandishing multiple accusations of financial crimes, and whisked him off to the Tokyo detention centre.

He languished there for more than 100 days until he was granted bail of nearly nine million dollars. In that time he lost his business empire: sacked from Japanese car giants Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors, he resigned from French manufacturer Renault.

Cost killer

Totally at ease among the champagne receptions of the world’s elite at Davos and on the red carpet at the Cannes film festival, Ghosn came to epitomise globalisation.

A polyglot and holder of three passports,

Brazilian, Lebanese, French

he wrote in an autobiography that “just as globalisation and identity describe Nissan, they also perfectly express my life”.

Born Carlos Ghosn Bichara in Brazil on March 9, 1954 to Lebanese parents, he moved as a very young boy back to Lebanon where he was educated in a multicultural Jesuit school by teachers from France, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.

He completed his education in France, where he gained citizenship, and lived for many years in the United States.

At the age of 24, he was recruited by tyre firm Michelin where he embarked on a brilliant career and earned his nickname as a “cost killer”.

He moved to Renault in 1996, bringing a brutal early-rising work ethic to the French firm and again slashing costs wherever possible.

In 1999, he took a massive gamble on the struggling Nissan with a mandate to turn it around.

A self-confessed “inflexible” boss, he ordered a series of “sacrifices” – five factories closed, 20,000 jobs cut.

After a “honeymoon period when he was admired and seen as a hero”, his authoritarian methods began to grate, according to employees.

Ghosn himself said he did everything he could to ingratiate himself with Nissan.

“For the general shareholders meeting, I had practised bowing at 30 and 60 degrees. But I was there for one reason: to fix the company.”

Tensions mounted when he became head of Renault in 2005 and he added a third hat by becoming chairman of Mitsubishi Motors in 2017 – earning him millions of euros per year.

Lavish displays of wealth did not endear him to the Japanese, whose corporate bosses tend to be less well-compensated than their western counterparts.

In 2016, he threw a huge party at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris, complete with actors dressed in period costume.

From the vast platters of fresh fruit at that reception to the rice-based diet at his detention centre, it was a head-spinning fall from grace.

In January, he gave AFP and a French newspaper his only foreign media interview during his detention, charging that refusal to grant him bail “would not be normal in any other democracy of the world”.

Ghosn is convinced he is the victim of a “plot” by Nissan executives to oust him and strenuously denies the charges he faces of under-reporting his salary and seeking to transfer personal investment losses to company books.

Unplanned path

“I won’t settle in one place. I will travel all over the world. I cannot conceive of spending all my time in just one country,” he said at the time.

“Life has a way of following its own unplanned path,” he once wrote.

But he could scarcely have imagined the route it would take over the past year.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

According to a Lebanese newspaper, Ghosn was in a private aircraft that came from [Japan and] Turkey. A Lebanese TV station reports that he entered the country on a French passport.

Japanese anti-Korean xenophobe fined

This 11 December 2016 video says about itself:

Japan: Anti-Korean nationalist rally met by anti-racist counter-protesters in Tokyo

Hundreds of anti-Korean nationalists marched through central Tokyo, Sunday, to express their anti-Korean sentiment. They were seen carrying ‘Rising Sun’ flags used by the military forces of Imperial Japan during WWII and Japan’s Self Defense Forces.

The nationalists were opposed by a group of counter-protesters carrying banners reading “Tokyo against racism” and “Stop the hate and go home, racists!”

From Japan Today, 28 December 2019:

Man fined ¥300,000 for online hate speech

YOKOHAMA: A Japanese court has ordered a man to pay a fine of 300,000 yen for making derogatory remarks against a Korean resident of Japan in racist posts on Twitter.

The Kawasaki Summary Court on Friday imposed the fine after the 51-year-old man was found by prosecutors to have violated a local ordinance in Kanagawa Prefecture that bans troublesome behavior. It is the first time a criminal punishment has been imposed for hate speech under such an ordinance, the victim’s lawyer said.

“While a criminal penalty serves as a deterrent to an extent, only a small fraction of the damage has been addressed. There need to be laws to punish discrimination itself,” the lawyer, Yasuko Morooka, said during a press conference held in Tokyo.

According to the indictment, the man posted hateful remarks directed at Choi Kang I Ja, a 46-year-old resident of Kawasaki in the prefecture, on Twitter four times between June 2016 and September 2017. Choi’s lawyer said the two had never met.

The posts consisted of remarks such as “the craftiness of showing off their ethnicity pisses me off,” and “I won’t tolerate Koreans living carefree in Japan behind the shield of discrimination. I don’t recognize any of their rights.”

Police had referred the man to prosecutors for alleged intimidation. But they decided not to indict him in February.

Choi then filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors for a suspected breach of the ordinance.

Choi started being harassed online after she advocated against hate speech using her real name in March 2016. The harassment continued until police searched the man’s house in December 2017, according to Morooka.

“It has been a long three and a half years. Even though the posts were written anonymously, (the offender) was identified and he has finally been held criminally responsible,” Choi told the press conference with tears in her eyes.

Earlier this month, Kawasaki became the first municipality in Japan to pass an ordinance bill imposing criminal penalties for hate speech. The new ordinance, to enter into force on July 1, 2020, bans discriminatory language and actions against those from countries or regions other than Japan in public spaces. It makes repeat violations punishable by a fine of up to 500,000 yen.

Japanese right-wing government sends warship, warplanes to Gulf

This 10 August 2018 video says about itself:

Japan to build its first SUPERCARRIER the largest and most advanced in the world

Japan is proposing to develop its first aircraft carriers.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF) largest warship, the so-called helicopter destroyer JS Izumo, the lead ship of the Izumo-class, along with its sister ship, JS Kaga, have already been designed to operate short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) fighters such as Lockheed Martin’s F-35B.

The right-wing Abe government in Japan as part of its neocolonialist militarism, has sent soldiers to oil-rich South Sudan.

As far as the Gulf region is concerned, the Abe government exports Fukushima style nuclear plants and Fukushima nuclear-radiated food to it. Now, a warship and warplanes follow.

Meanwhile, Fukushima clean-up delayed again in Japan.

From Al Jazeera:

Japan to send warship, aircraft to Middle East …

Japan, a US ally, is launching its own operation rather than join a US-led mission … in Gulf region

Under the plan, a helicopter-equipped destroyer and two P-3C patrol planes will be dispatched …

If there are any emergencies, a special order would be issued by the Japanese defence minister to allow the forces to use weapons to protect ships in danger. …

The Japanese government aims to start the operation of the patrol planes next month, while the destroyer will likely begin activities in the region in February, a defence ministry official said.

A European operation … will also get underway next month when a French warship starts patrolling there.

The Abe administration is using the deployment as another opportunity to further its militarist agenda. While Article 9 of Japan’s post-World War II constitution, known as the pacifist clause, legally bars Japanese governments from maintaining a standing military or deploying it overseas, Tokyo has for decades used “reinterpretations” to allow Japan to operate the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), the formal name of Japan’s military: here.

Tokyo Olympics and Fukushima nuclear disaster

This 18 October 2019 South Korean TV video says about itself:

Tokyo Olympics faces difficulties with sweltering heat, Fukushima radiation

The Tokyo Olympics are less than a year away,… but the global sporting event is already being plagued by difficulties.

Tokyo’s notoriously hot and humid summer has prompted the International Olympic Committee to move the marathon to a cooler part of Japan for the safety of the participants.

Choi Jeong-yoon reports.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be held from July 24th to August 9th next year.

At that time of the year, highs in the Japanese capital can hit a sweltering 40 degrees Celsius.

During the same period this year, around 50 people died due to the intense heat and thousands were hospitalized.

In order to protect athletes from the scorching heat, the International Olympic Committee has announced plans to shift the location of the marathon and the walking races to Sapporo, Hokkaido, a cooler northern island in Japan.

Some 800 kilometers north of Tokyo, the region is, on average, five degrees Celsius cooler than the capital.

The IOC’s sudden announcement is causing headaches for the 2020 organizers as they had already scheduled tours taking in spots along the original marathon course and had been preparing to promote it worldwide.

“The plan to move those events from Tokyo to Sapporo was a bit of surprise. To be honest, we only received this news several days ago.”

There are also growing concerns about radiation.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe previously insisted the crippled Fukushima power plant was nothing to worry about when Tokyo was bidding for the Games in 2013.

However, with Typhoon Hagibis striking Fukushima, Japan’s poor management of the contaminated waste was laid bare.

Despite forecasts predicting torrential downpours, storage was not sufficient to stop an unknown number of bags containing contaminated waste from floating away and disappearing.

Local officials insist the incident will not affect the environment, but half of the bags that were retrieved were found to be empty.

Statement of IPPNW Germany regarding participation in the Olympic Games in Japan:

In July 2020, the Olympic Games will start in Japan. Young athletes from all over the world have been preparing for these games for years and millions of people are looking forward to this major event.

We at IPPNW Germany are often asked whether it is safe to travel to these Olympic Games in Japan either as a visitor or as an athlete or whether we would advise against such trips from a medical point of view. We would like to address these questions.

To begin with, there are many reasons to be critical of the Olympic Games in general: the increasing commercialization of sports, the lack of sustainability of sports venues, doping scandals, the waste of valuable resources for an event that only takes place for several weeks and corruption in the Olympic organizations to name just a few. However, every four years, the Olympic Games present a unique opportunity for many young people from all over the world to meet other athletes and to celebrate a fair sporting competition – which was the initial vision of the Olympic movement. Also, the idea of Olympic peace and mutual understanding between nations and people is an important aspect for us as a peace organization.

Fukushima…and no end in sight

Regarding the Olympic Games in Japan, another factor comes into play: the Japanese government is using the Olympic Games to deflect from the ongoing nuclear catastrophe in the Northeast of the country.

The government wants people to think that the situation in Fukushima is under control and people in the region are safe from radioactive contamination. The president of the German Olympic Sports Association, Alfons Hörmann, recently went so far as to say that “the regions close to the Olympic Games are safe from environmental disasters”.

Of course, this is an untenable assertion for a region with extremely high seismic activity. Regarding the situation around the destroyed nuclear reactors in Fukushima, the situation is far from “under control” even today. External cooling water has to be continuously circulated through the ruins of the damaged reactors. Inside, life-threatening radiation doses still prevail. Large parts of the contaminated cooling-water is still flowing into the sea or leaches into groundwater despite major efforts by the Japanese authorities to contain it. The rest of the radioactive wastewater is being stored in huge tanks on site. Their contamination with hazardous radioisotopes like Strontium-90 presents an ongoing threat to the region.

In December of 2018, data regarding thyroid tests were published. The incidence of thyroid cancer among tested children in Fukushima is 15 times higher than the Japanese average for this age bracket.

We are also seeing a distinct geographic distribution, with a significantly higher incidence of thyroid cancer in the most heavily contaminated regions.

With each storm, radioactive particles from the forests and mountains are brought back to the villages and cities – even to those previously decontaminated. International regulations stipulate that the population should not be exposed to more than one millisievert of additional radiation after a nuclear accident. In areas around Fukushima already earmarked for resettlement, the population will be exposed to radiation dosages that can range up to 20 mSv. As an organization of physicians, we have repeatedly pointed out the resulting health risks for the population of the affected regions, which we consider unacceptable.

While the nuclear catastrophe is a daily reality for the people living in the area and will be for many years to come, the situation for visitors is of course different. To answer the question of whether a trip to Japan or participation in the Olympic Games is acceptable from a medical point of view, a variety of aspects must be taken into consideration:

General information regarding radiation risks

Generally, the radiation exposure in the contaminated regions in Japan poses increased health risks. However, especially for short-term visits, these risks can be considered small – as long as individuals are not specifically sensitive to radiation. But it needs to be stressed that there is no threshold in radiation dose, below which it could be considered safe or without negative effects on health.

The individual disposition and the risk for a radiation-induced disease normally remains undetected and individuals themselves are often not aware of their sensitivity. Once a person falls sick, you can draw conclusions by working backward and may find increased radiation sensitivity (e.g. for breast cancer patients with the BRCA-1/2-mutation).

For pregnant women and small children, we generally recommend to refrain from intercontinental flights and to avoid visits to the contaminated areas in Japan to minimize individual radiation doses. Until today, there are still hot-spots, even in the decontaminated regions – places where radioactive particles from the Fukushima meltdowns have accumulated and were overlooked during the decontamination efforts or places that were recontaminated by rain, pollen flight or flooding. These hot-spots pose an ongoing risk for the residents of the region. Even in the greater Tokyo area, hot-spots were detected in the past.

It is important to know that even when radiation exposure limits are met, certain health risks cannot be ruled out. Exposure limits are derived from the politically acceptable risk of disease that the government thinks the population would be willing to accept. The question is not “At which dose can we expect health risks to occur?” but rather “Which health risks are still acceptable for society?”

Radioactivity in any dosage, however small, can trigger a disease – the higher the dose, the higher the risk. As with smoking and other cancer-inducing factors, there is no “safe” dose. Even natural background radioactivity can trigger diseases. While natural background radiation can mostly not be avoided, we recommend trying to avoid additional radiation exposure as best as possible in order to lower the individual risk of contracting radiation-induced diseases such as cancer.

We can only hope that there will be no further recontamination in Japan caused by storms, earthquakes, forest fires, flooding or technical failures at the damaged reactors, which could put the Olympic Games in Japan at risk.

How you travel

For most visitors, the flight to Japan and back will probably present the highest single radiation exposure. Depending on solar activity, length, height, and routing of the flight, the radiation dose for a flight from Europe to Japan is between 45 and 110 microsieverts (μSv) per flight – about the same dose you are exposed to during a normal chest x-ray. The exact radiation dose resulting from a flight can be calculated on the website of Munich Helmholtz-Institute.

Where you travel

While large parts of Japan have remained relatively unaffected by the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, there are still radiation hot-spots in the prefectures of Fukushima, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Miyagi and Chiba. Inhalation or ingestion of radioactive particles with food or water poses a considerable health risk. It is not sufficient to rely on officially published dose measurements, as even previously decontaminated areas can always become recontaminated with radioactive particles from the forests and mountains around Fukushima through pollen, rains, forest fires or storms.

Some areas around Fukushima remain closed to the public due to elevated radiation levels, others have been reopened after decontamination measures were performed. In metropolitan areas, like in Fukushima City, most monitoring posts record radiation levels below 0.2 microsieverts per hour (0.2 μSv/h). This corresponds to common background values registered in other parts of the world. Background radiation is a continuous source of radiation that depends largely on the local geographical soil composition. Background radiation contributes to numerous cancers and cardiovascular diseases worldwide. Unlike background radiation, which can hardly be avoided, manmade radiation stemming from nuclear weapons testing or the nuclear industry can be confronted politically. A regularly updated map of the official monitoring post in the prefecture can be found (in Japanese) on line.

However, these official measurements need to be treated with caution since the authorities have a vested interest in systematically downplaying radiation effects and ambient dose levels. While officially published dose levels can be low, just a few meters away from the monitoring post you can find local hot-spots due to contaminated foliage, dust or pollen.

A discussion regarding the actual radiation levels in Japan is difficult since the Japanese government has forfeited a lot of trust through questionable methods, for example by installing shielding lead batteries in the measuring instruments or positioning the monitoring posts in blind spots and other protected areas. Independent monitoring posts installed by independent citizen groups often register much higher values than the official posts.

Unfortunately, for symbolic as well as political reasons, sport arenas in Fukushima were selected to hold softball and baseball competitions during the Olympic Games 2020. Even the symbolic first competitions of the Olympics are to be held here. At the same time, the competition calendar was arranged in a way to ensure that no western teams would compete here. This may sound cynical, but it seems that the organizers expected problems regarding acceptance of these sensitive venues. Consequently, European visitors and athletes will most likely not have to travel to Fukushima in order to compete or watch their team.

If people do plan to travel to Fukushima, they should avoid trips to the mountains or forests and also avoid close contact with dust, dirt, foliage, or other possibly contaminated substances. In the event of high pollen flight, forest fires or natural disasters such as earthquakes, flooding or storms, they should exercise caution. FFP-breathing masks, as well as staying indoors, can offer relative protection against inhalation of radioactive particles. Visitors should make sure to pay attention to and follow the instructions issued by local authorities.

Japan is a country with high seismic activity and earthquakes are a common occurrence, as are forest fires in the summer and storms at any time of the year. To familiarize foreign visitors with the right behavior during emergencies, the Japanese tourism agency has established a website as well as a mobile app called “Safety Tips” with up-to-date information and safety advice.

What you eat

The official dose limits for radioactivity in food in Japan are currently stricter than those in the European Union. This means that contaminated foodstuff not fit for sale on the Japanese markets could very well be sold in Europe without any special labeling or warnings. The dose limit for general foodstuff Japan is 500 Becquerel (Bq) per kilogram, while in the EU it is 600 Bq/kg. One example of this difference: blueberry jam sold in the EU had to be taken off the shelves in Japan due to excessive cesium levels (originating from the Chernobyl disaster). More information can be found here.

Food controls in Japan are rather meticulous, but naturally, it can never be guaranteed that no contaminated foodstuff reaches the shelf. The individual measurement data can be seen at www.new-fukushima.jp, but it cannot be excluded that conspicuous values were prefiltered and do not show up in the statistics. At best, this website can help understand which foodstuffs are regularly tested in Japan.

We strongly recommend avoiding products bought directly from farmers in the contaminated regions, since they are often not monitored. Also, dubious “solidarity events” specifically offering foodstuffs from the contaminated regions should be avoided. Apart from these exceptions, it can be assumed that foodstuff declared safe for sale in Japan complies with high safety standards.

Summary note

In summary, it can be said that the health risk for visitors and athletes participating in the Olympics for short periods of time is small – as long as there is no specific individual sensitivity to radiation. Pregnant women and small children should avoid long-distance flights and trips to Fukushima to protect themselves against radiation.

At the same time, we should all be aware of the continuing problems facing the population in the radioactively contaminated regions in the Northeast of Japan, who has to live with the ongoing nuclear catastrophe on a daily basis.

The Olympic Games should not be abused to distract from their fate but rather to make sure their needs, worries, and demands are properly addressed. The German affiliate of IPPNW is trying to do just that with its campaign “Tokyo 2020 – The Radioactive Olympics”.

The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), was founded in 1980 and won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. It is a non-partisan federation of national medical groups in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens who share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

This 9 March 2019 AFP video says about itself:

Fukushima evacuees resist return as Olympics near

With Japan keen to flaunt Tokyo 2020 as the “Reconstruction Olympics”, people who fled the Fukushima nuclear disaster are being urged to return home but not everyone is eager to go.

IPPNW has launched a “Nuclear-Free Olympic Games 2020” campaign to call for a worldwide phase-out of nuclear power and to sound the alarm about the Japanese government’s efforts to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to “normalize” the aftermath of the still on-going Fukushima nuclear accident. Here, four members of IPPNW Europe outline the campaign and the reasoning behind it.

By Annette Bänsch-Richter-Hansen, Jörg Schmid, Henrik Paulitz and Alex Rosen:

In 2020, Japan is inviting athletes from around the world to take part in the Tokyo Olympic Games. We are hoping for the games to be fair and peaceful. At the same time, we are worried about plans to host baseball and softball competitions in Fukushima City, just 50 km away from the ruins of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. It was here, in 2011, that multiple nuclear meltdowns took place, spreading radioactivity across Japan and the Pacific Ocean – a catastrophe comparable only to the nuclear meltdown of Chernobyl.

The ecological and social consequences of that catastrophe can be seen everywhere in the country: whole families uprooted from their ancestral homes, deserted evacuation zones, hundreds of thousands of bags of irradiated soil dumped all over the country, contaminated forests, rivers and lakes.

Normality has not returned to Japan. The reactors continue to be a radiation hazard as further catastrophes could occur at any time. Every day adds more radioactive contamination to the ocean, air and soil. Enormous amounts of radioactive waste are stored on the premises of the power plant in the open air. Should there be another earthquake, these would pose a grave danger to the population and the environment.

The nuclear catastrophe continues today. On the occasion of the Olympic Games 2020, we are planning an international campaign. Our concern is that athletes and visitors to the games could be harmed by the radioactive contamination in the region, especially those people more vulnerable to radiation, children and pregnant women.

According to official Japanese government estimates, the Olympic Games will cost more than the equivalent of 12 billion Euros. At the same time, the Japanese government is threatening to cut support to all evacuees who are unwilling to return to the region. International regulations limit the permitted dose for the general public of additional radiation following a nuclear accident to 1 mSv per year.

In areas where evacuation orders were recently lifted, the returning population will be exposed to levels up to 20 mSv per year. Even places that have undergone extensive decontamination efforts could be recontaminated at any time by unfavourable weather conditions, as mountains and forests serve as a continuous depot for radioactive particles.

Our campaign will focus on educating the public about the dangers of the nuclear industry. We will explain what health threats the Japanese population was and is exposed to today. Even during normal operations, nuclear power plants pose a threat to public health – especially to infants and unborn children. There is still no safe permanent depository site for the toxic inheritance of the nuclear industry anywhere on earth, that is a fact.

We plan to use the media attention generated by the Olympic Games to support Japanese initiatives calling for a nuclear phase-out and to promote a worldwide energy revolution: away from fossil and nuclear fuels and towards renewable energy generation.

We need to raise awareness of the involvement of political representatives around the world in the military-industrial complex. We denounce the attempt of the Japanese government to pretend that normality has returned to the contaminated regions of Japan. We call on all organizations to join our network and help us put together a steering group to coordinate this campaign. The Olympic Games are less than a year away– now is still time to get organized.