Friday, May 2, 2014

April 26 to May 1, 2014

"Resurrected" Tojo Causes Stir At LDP Rally

A picture has emerged on social media purporting to show a man dressed as General Hideki Tojo, the prime minister who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor, saluting at a weekend conference, sparking outrage online.
General Tojo was among those executed for war crimes and later honored at the Yasukuni shrine.
The picture that surfaced on Twitter appeared to show a man dressed in period military garb saluting while standing on a campaign car for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)—sparking a backlash online.
“Does this mean the LDP tolerates this?” @hatsunoji wrote.
Said online user @okchibita: “This is not even a bad joke. I cannot believe this was done by the ruling party.”
The picture was believed to have been taken at a weekend conference organized by an Internet broadcaster, which Abe had briefly attended earlier in the day.
The huge two-day event, attended by more than 120,000 people, had dozens of booths sponsored by a wide variety of organisations including political parties, gaming firms and the country’s sumo association.
An LDP spokesman said he was unaware that the unidentified man was dressed to appear like Japan’s wartime leader.
“If we had known that he meant to be dressed up like Tojo, we would have had second thoughts about letting him get up there,” he told AFP.
A person claiming to be the man in the photo apologized on Twitter Monday and claimed he was simply dressed as a military policeman.
“There was the campaign car which people were allowed to climb on,” wrote the person, identified as @vice0079. “I was guided by LDP staff.”
(c) 2014 AFP

Residents of Fukushima Fear Return

Whenever Kazuhiro Onuki goes home, to his real home that is, the 66-year-old former librarian dons protective gear from head to toe and hangs a dosimeter around his neck.
Grass grows wild in the backyard. The ceiling leaks. Thieves have ransacked the shelves, leaving papers and clothing all over the floor so there is barely room to walk. Mouse dung is scattered like raisins. There is no running water or electricity.
Above all, radiation is everywhere.
It’s difficult to imagine ever living again in Tomioka, a ghost town about 10 kilometers from the former Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant. And yet more than three years after meltdowns at the plant forced this community of 16,000 people to flee, Onuki can’t quite make the psychological break to start anew.
His family lived here for four generations. Every time he goes back, he is overcome by emotion. Especially during that brief time in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom.
“They flower as though nothing has happened,” he said. “They are weeping because all the people have left.”
The Japanese government is pushing ahead with efforts to decontaminate and reopen as much of a 20-kilometer no-go zone around the plant as it can. Authorities declared a tiny corner of the zone safe for living as of April 1, and hope to lift evacuation orders in more areas in the coming months and years.
Former residents have mixed feelings. In their hearts, many want their old lives back. But distrust about the decontamination program runs deep. Will it really be safe? Others among the more than 100,000 displaced have established new lives elsewhere, in the years since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami sent three of Fukushima’s reactors into meltdown.
If the evacuation order is lifted for their area, they will lose a monthly stipend of 100,000 yen they receive from Tokyo Electric Power Co, the owner of the Fukushima plant.
A survey last year found that 16% of Tomioka residents wanted to return, 40% had decided never to return, and 43% were undecided. Two-thirds said they were working before the disaster, but only one-third had jobs at the time of the survey, underlining the challenges to starting over.
Former resident Shigetoshi Suzuki, a friend of Onuki, is outraged the government would even ask such a question: Do you want to go back?
Of course, we all want to return, he said. People like him were effectively forced into retirement, the 65-year-old land surveyor said. If he hadn’t evacuated to a Tokyo suburb with his wife, he would have continued working for his longtime clients.
“It is a ridiculous question,” Suzuki said. “We could have led normal lives. What we have lost can’t be measured in money.”
In protest, he has refused to sign the forms that would allow his property to undergo decontamination.
The government has divided the no-go zone into three areas by radiation level.
The worst areas are marked in pink on official maps and classified as “difficult to return.” They are still enclosed by a barricade.
Yellow designates a “restricted” area, limiting visits to a few hours. No overnight stays are allowed.
The green zones are “in preparations to lift evacuation orders.” They must be decontaminated, which includes scrubbing building surfaces and scraping off the top layer of soil and is being carried out throughout the zones.
Tomioka has all three zones within its boundaries.
The green zones are those where authorities have confirmed radiation exposure can be brought below 20 millisieverts a year.
The long-term goal is to bring annual exposure down to 1 millisievert, or the equivalent of 10 chest X-rays, which was considered the safe level before the disaster, but the government is lifting evacuation orders at higher levels. It says it will monitor the health and exposure of people who move back to such areas.
In the yellow restricted zone, where Sukuki’s and Onuki’s homes lie, a visitor exceeds 1 millisievert in a matter of a few hours.
During a recent visit, Onuki and his wife Michiko walked beneath the pink petals floating from a tunnel of cherry trees, previously a local tourist attraction.
The streets were abandoned, except for a car passing through now and then. The neighborhood was eerily quiet except for the chirping of the nightingales.
“The prime minister says the accident is under control, but we feel the thing could explode the next minute,” said Michiko Onuki, who ran a ceramic and craft shop out of their Tomioka home. “We would have to live in fear of radiation. This town is dead.”
Both wore oversized white astronaut-like gear, which doesn’t keep out radioactive rays out but helps prevent radioactive material from being brought back, outside the no-go zone. Filtered masks covered half their faces. They discarded the gear when they left, so they wouldn’t bring any radiation back to their Tokyo apartment, which they share with an adult son and daughter.
Junji Oshida, 43, whose family ran an upscale restaurant in Tomioka that specialized in eel, was at first devastated that he lost the traditional sauce for the eel that had been passed down over generations.
He has since opened a new restaurant just outside the zone that caters to nuclear cleanup workers. He recreated the sauce and serves pork, which is cheaper than eel. He lives apart from his wife and sons, who are in a Tokyo suburb.
“There is no sense in looking back,” Oshida said, still wearing the eel restaurant’s emblem on his shirt.
Older residents can’t give up so easily, even those who will never be able to return — like Tomioka city assemblyman Seijun Ando, whose home lies in the most irradiated, pink zone.
Ando, 59, said that dividing Tomioka by radiation levels has pitted one group of residents against another, feeding resentment among some. One idea he has is to bring residents from various towns in the no-go zone together to start a new community in another, less radiated part of Fukushima — a place he described as “for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
“I can survive anywhere, although I had a plan for my life that was destroyed from its very roots,” said Ando, tears welling up in his eyes. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suffering. I’m just worried for Tomioka.”
TEPCO Reports Huge Annual Profit
The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said Wednesday it booked a 438.65 billion yen annual net profit owing to an electricity rate hike and a massive government bailout following the 2011 disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) was teetering on the brink as cleanup and compensation costs stoked huge losses and threatened to collapse the sprawling utility until Tokyo stepped in with a rescue package.

The company at the center of the worst nuclear accident in a generation said it earned 438.65 billion yen in the fiscal year to March, compared with a net loss of 685.3 billion yen in the same period a year earlier.

Sales rose 11% to 6.63 trillion yen, it said.

The company’s results got a boost from a rate hike, and helped offset a decline in the amount of electricity TEPCO sold owing to warmer-than-usual winter weather, it said.

It also booked a special gain of 1.8 trillion yen based on funds the company received from a government-backed bailout fund as well as asset sales.

But it added that rising fossil fuel costs after Japan switched off its nuclear reactors were pressuring its bottom line.

“The business environment that surrounds us remains very serious,” TEPCO President Naomi Hirose told a news conference.

The Fukushima plant’s cooling systems were swamped by the 2011 tsunami, sparking reactor meltdowns and radiation leaks.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from around the plant with decommissioning of the site expected to take decades.

© 2014 AFP

Russia Promises Revenge After Japan Rejects 23 Visas For Russians

Moscow on Tuesday vowed to hit back at Japan over its decision to deny visas to 23 Russian nationals as part of additional sanctions linked to the crisis in Ukraine.
The Russian foreign ministry said that Tokyo’s decision was “met with disappointment in Moscow, and of course will not be left without a response”.
The Japanese foreign ministry said Tuesday that the Russian nationals on its list—whom it did not identify but who were reported by Tokyo media to include some government officials—were suspected of “infringing the unity of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory”.
“Japan calls on all parties to act carefully with self-restraint and responsibility,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement. “We sincerely hope that the Ukraine situation will be normalised through diplomatic dialogue.”
Tokyo’s announcement came after the United States and Europe expanded their own lists of punitive measures against Russian officials and Kremlin-linked firms.
The Russian foreign ministry described Tokyo’s decision as “a clumsy step taken under the influence of foreign pressure”.
“Attempts by Japan to put pressure on Russia will in no way help de-escalate tensions around Ukraine,” the Russian statement said.
Relations between Moscow and Tokyo have been strained for decades because of the status of four Pacific islands that are known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.
The dispute has hurt the two sides’ trade relations and prevented the signature of a peace treaty formally ending hostilities dating back to World War II.
(c) 2014 AFP

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