'Oishinbo' editor defends controversial Fukushima story

Hiroshi Murayama, editor of the popular food manga Oishinbo and managing editor of the weekly magazine Big Comic Spirits, defended the series' portrayal of possible radiation dangers in the area around the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was damaged in the March 2011 earthquake.

The story has stirred controversy, resulting in complaints and angry letters from Fukushima government officials and residents, who fear it will lead to prejudice against those who live there and will make Japanese consumers even more wary of food from the region. The series has been suspended indefinitely, although it's not clear whether that was a response to the controversy or a previously planned hiatus.

The third and final chapter of the story arc appeared in this week's issue, and Murayama added an afterword that he feels responsible for the outcry. However, he didn't apologize for running the story. According to The Japan Times,

Murayama said the story line was meant to spotlight the truth that “parts of Fukushima are indeed dangerous and uninhabitable” and “some local people are worried about health problems linked to radioactive fallout.”

Their voices, he said, are rarely heard because they are reluctant to complain of sickness for fear of being branded as “overly squeamish.”

Manga author Tetsu Kariya, who has made repeated visits to the plant since the triple meltdowns, decided that “it’s wrong to ignore the voices of those people just because these are considered in the minority and likely to unsettle others,” Murayama said in the endnote.

“As editor in chief, I decided Kariya’s viewpoint was worth presenting to readers for their opinions,” he said.

The lead character in Oishinbo is a reporter, and in the most recent chapter, he and his colleagues decide they must and resist the temptation to "sugarcoat your language in order to spare the feelings of the residents," as one character puts it. Kariya also wrote about Fukushima on his personal blog, saying, "Trumpeting the safety of Fukushima may have pleased some. But deception is what I abhor most."

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