The Fukushima nuclear crisis: How communities, doctors, media, and government have responded

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Chapter Title: Informal Labour, Local Citizens and the Tokyo Electric Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Crisis: Responses to Neoliberal Disaster Management Chapter Author(s): Adam Broinowski Book Title: New Worlds from Below [extensive footnotes and references on original]
Faced with the post-3.11 reality of government (and corporate) policy that protects economic and security interests over public health and wellbeing, the majority of the 2 million inhabitants of Fukushima Prefecture are either unconscious of or have been encouraged to accept living with radioactive contamination. People dry their clothes outside, drink local tap water and consume local food, swim in outdoor pools and the ocean, consume and sell their own produce or catches. Financial pressure after 3.11 as well as the persistent danger of social marginalisation has made it more difficult to take precautionary measures (i.e. permanent relocation, dual accommodation, importing food and water) and develop and share counter-narratives to the official message. Nevertheless, some continue to conceal their anxiety beneath a mask of superficial calm.
As Fukushima city resident Shiina Chieko observed, the majority of people seem to have adopted denial as a way to excise the present danger from their consciousness. Her sister-in-law, for example, ignored her son’s ‘continuous nosebleeds’, while her mother had decided that the community must endure by pretending that things were no different from pre-3.11 conditions.75 Unlike the claim that risk is evenly distributed, it is likely that greater risk is borne by those who eat processed foods from family restaurants and convenience stores, as well as infants, children and young women who are disproportionately vulnerable to internal radiation exposures. Most mothers, then, have an added burden to shield their children while maintaining a positive front in their family and community.
Some, such as Yokota Asami (40 years old), a small business owner and mother from Kōriyama (60 km from FDNPS), demonstrated initiative in voluntarily evacuating her family. She decided to return (wearing goggles and a mask, she joked) in September 2011 when her son’s regular and continuous nosebleeds (in 30-minute spells) subsided. The Yokotas found themselves the victims of bullying when they called attention to radiation dangers, and were labelled non-nationals (hikokumin 非国民) who had betrayed reconstruction efforts. Her son was the only one to put up his hand when he was asked along with 300 fellow junior high school students if he objected to eating locally produced school lunches. He also chose not to participate in outdoor exercise classes and to go on respite trips instead. When it came time to take the high school entrance exam, he was told by the school principal that those who took breaks could not pass. He took the exam and failed. When he asked to see his results he found that he had, in fact, enough points to pass (the cut-off was 156 while he received 198 out of 250 points). The Yokotas decided that it was better to be a ‘non-national’ and protect one’s health. Their son moved to live in Sapporo.76
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In March 2015, Asami reported that doctors undertook paediatric thyroid operations while denying any correlation (inga kankei 因果 関係) with radiation exposures. They also urged their patients to keep their thyroid cancer a secret to enhance their employment or marriage prospects, although it would be difficult to conceal the post-operation scar.77 Yokota also indicated she knew of students having sudden heart attacks and developing leukaemia and other illnesses.78
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This seems to be supported by Mr Ōkoshi, a Fukushima city resident, whose two daughters experienced stillbirths after 3.11.
While Ōkoshi found that doctors have regularly advised women in the area to abort after 3.11, presumably to avoid miscarriages and defects, they do not discuss direct causes. He also observed regular illnesses experienced by many of his friends, and some sudden deaths. After a friend (62 years old) started saying strange things, he was diagnosed with brain dysfunction. He died quickly. Another friend (53 years old) was advised by a doctor to monitor a polyp in her breast. When she sought second opinions, she discovered she had accumulated an internal dose of 22 mSv and had a rapidly developing liver cancer. She also died quickly.79 There are many more such stories that are being actively ignored by the authorities. As Shiina put it, ‘we’re getting leukaemia and cataracts and we die suddenly. The TEPCO registrar has been inundated with complaints’.80
While radiation contamination is clearly a health and environmental issue, state-corporate methods deployed by executives to protect (transnational) financial, industry and security interests and assets also make it a political issue.81 As things do not change by themselves, rather than turning one’s frustration inward in self-blame, turning to prayer or deceiving oneself into returning to pre-3.11 lifeways in contaminated areas, Shiina states that people, particularly those most affected, must develop political consciousness.
To achieve this ambitious objective is not as complicated as it might sound. Nishiyama Chikako (60 years old), for example, returned to Kawauchi village to run for the local assembly after the mandatory order was lifted in December 2011. She found, as she commented in her blog, a link between TEPCO and the tripling of the Kawauchi budget post-3.11. Subsequently, she reported that her blog was shut down by unknown hackers on several occasions.82
 
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This sort of information and communication control appears to be widespread. After 3.11, the central government hired advertising companies Dentsū and Hakuhōdō (formerly McCann Ericson Hakuhodo) to run a ‘public acceptance’ campaign. Young teams were dispatched nationwide to conduct ‘public opinion guidance’ (yoron yūdō 世論誘導). The teams consisted of casual labour (earning 2,000–4,000 yen per hour) hired under a confidentiality clause (shuhi gimu 守秘義務) to manipulate information (jōhō kōsaku 情報工作) and harass internet users.83
 
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Media professionals have been subjected to similar tactics. The Asahi TV journalist Iwaji Masaki (Hōdō Station), one of the few mainstream journalists covering the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in depth, for example, was intimidated by police for interviewing (December 2012) informal nuclear workers who showed shoddy decontamination practices that entailed contaminated waste disposal rather than removal and the mother of a child with thyroid cancer. Airing the program was delayed until August 2013. Before he could complete his planned segments on the US$1 billion class action for compensation for unusual and serious illnesses filed against TEPCO, General Electric, Hitachi and Tōshiba in 2015 by sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan (which provided assistance quickly after the disaster, and among whose crew 250 were ill and three had died),84 on 29 September 2013, Iwaji was reportedly found dead in his apartment (having suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in a sealed room as he slept). Much speculation followed on social media, including both plausible reasons for suicide and testimonies from friends that knew him well that Iwaji himself stated he would never commit suicide, but the story was conspicuously ignored by major news channels.85
The former mayor of Futaba village Idogawa Katsuichi was harassed on social media for calling attention to illnesses and for the resettlement of pregnant women and children. When Kariya Tetsu characterised Idogawa in his popular manga series (Oishinbo 美味しんぼ), and depicted the manga’s main character as suffering from nosebleeds after visiting Fukushima, Kariya’s editors shut the series down following accusations of ‘spreading rumours’ from some readers, media commentators and high level politicians. Similarly, Takenouchi Mari, a freelance journalist and mother who evacuated from Fukushima in 2011, received thousands of slanderous messages and threats to her two-year-old son and her property after criticising the co-founder of Fukushima ETHOS on her blog in mid-2012. She too reported that her internet account was suspended and her request for a police investigation ignored. She was counter-sued for harassment and subjected to a criminal investigation and civil law suit.86
Among the activists who have been arrested for anti-nuclear protests, the academic Shimoji Masaki of Hannan University (9 December 2012) was arrested by Osaka Prefectural Police and charged with ‘violating the Railway Operation Act’ for walking through an Osaka station concourse while participating in a demonstration against radioactive waste incineration (17 October 2012). Shimoji had reiterated that residents, due to radioactive incineration (which was due to commence in Osaka in February 2013), would be forced to bear the burden of air, food and water contamination.8
Despite such obstacles to developing a political consciousness as well as the obvious difficulties in permanently resettling large populations, it has been not only evacuees who have had to think about their fundamental life priorities after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear distaster. Some have adopted real (not only psychological) self-protection mechanisms. The  voluntary Fukushima Collective Health Clinic (Fukushima Kyōdō Shinryōjo 福島共同診療所), for example, is founded on three principles: respite (hoyō 保養), treatment (shinryō 診療) and healing (iryō 医療). Co-founder Dr Sugii, advocates a return to the 1 mSv/y limit, and seeks to inform those who for whatever reason cannot move from contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture.88 This is modelled on Belrad, the independent health clinic in Belarus run by Alexey Nesterenko, which prioritises knowledge, safety and open information on radiation and its health impacts. 86
To counteract the misinformation residents were exposed to post Chernobyl, over time and with limited resources, Belrad and other organisations have disseminated information and organised respite trips for children in affected areas. In 2015, for example, subsidised respite trips were organised for 50,000 children, and results have shown that  over  two  continuous years of respite those who accumulated 25– 35 Bq/kg had reduced the amount to 0 Bq/kg. Unlike the flat limit of 100 Bq/kg of Caesium in food in Japan (50 Bq/kg for milk and infant foods, 10  Bq/kg for drinking water), Belrad recommends an internal radiation limit of 10–30 Bq/kg in the body (although it advises below 10 Bq for infants to avoid lesions and heart irregularities).89 It should be noted that these limits do not guarantee safety against the effects of repeating internal radiation exposure from consuming contaminated foods, which is relative to the length of time the radiation remains and its location in the body.
While some communities, such as the town of Aketo in Tanohama, Iwate Prefecture, have struggled to block the siting of nuclear waste storage facilities,90 others are also organising to reduce radio-accumulation in their children through respite trips,91 as well as concentrating on indoor activities, measuring hotspots and decontaminating public areas and pathways, pooling funds for expensive spectrometers to monitor internal exposure and food and water, incorporating dietary radioprotection, as well as finding ways to reduce anxiety
Many local farmers cannot admit the already near-permanent damage to their land (which may continue for hundreds of years) because it would imply the devaluation of their property and produce as well as threatening their ancestral ties to the land, commitments and future plans. While many are keenly aware of their responsibilities, the push by the Fukushima and central governments to identify and gain access to markets for produce from irradiated areas would make it easier to overlook uncomfortable factors. Some have argued that given the reassurances of safety from the highest authorities, these offical figures should therefore relocate to contaminated areas and consume these products regularly. Despite the fairness of this statement, a more utilitarian logic has prevailed. In the name of reconstruction and revitalisation of Fukushima and the nation, the dilution of Fukushima produce with unirradiated produce to return measurements just under the required limits, radiation spikes in soil and food or the mutation of plants as Caesium replaces potassium (K40), for example, tend to be minimised. In this climate, the distribution and relabelling of Fukushima produce for urban and international markets (i.e. in a black market of cut-price bulk produce picked up by yakuza and other brokers) is likely to continue.
To date, the majority of evacuees have refused to return to (de)contaminated areas. Some claim they are yet to receive accurate information to justify it. Independent specialists such as Hosokawa Kōmei (Citizens’ Commission on Nuclear Energy), who develops models for transition to renewable alternatives, anticipate an increase in evacuee populations as they predict increased resettlement of Fukushima residents over 20–30 years.92 As some evacuees recognise the potential for second or third Fukushimas, they have sought to strengthen their collective identities and rights. Through local organisation and alternative life practices, whether in micro-scale ecovillages and transition towns93 with communal occupancies and squats, parallel currencies and local exchange systems (roughly 70 substantive projects), organic food co-ops, self-sufficient energy systems, local production and recycling, carpools and free kindergartens, such groups are seeking to reconstruct and model core social priorities, focusing on clean food, health and community cooperation rather than the internalised and dreary competition for material accumulation.
Although the accountability of authorities with prior knowledge has yet to be properly investigated, one of the largest groups of collective legal actions  to be mounted in Japanese history includes some 20 lawsuits by  10,000 plaintiffs. The Fukushima genpatsu kokuso-dan (Group of Plaintiffs for Criminal Prosecution 福島原発告訴団), formed on 20 April 2012, filed a criminal case (lodged 3 September 2013, Fukushima District Court) against 33 previous and present officers of TEPCO, government officials and medical experts for ‘group irresponsibility’ and the neglect of duty of care, environmental damage and harm to human health. Mutō Ruiko, one of the key plaintiffs, declared the main aim to be symbolic: to publicly record injury, reclaim the victims’ sense of agency and protect the next generation. In short, they were seeking recognition of wrong and harm done rather than primarily financial redress. This moderate aim was undoubtedly tempered by recognition of regulatory capture: those who were cavalier with safety procedures ‘were now in charge of restarts; those responsible for the “safety” campaign were now in charge of the Health Survey; [there has been] no responsibility for the SPEEDI cover-up; and TEPCO is not being held responsible for [faulty] decontamination’.94
The judgement of this case was handed down at the Tokyo District Court on the same day as the announcement of Tokyo’s successful Olympics bid (9  September 2013). The case was dismissed on the grounds that the disaster was beyond predictability (sōteigai 想定外), which made negligence  hypothetical.95 A citizens’ panel (Committee for inquest of Prosecution) overturned the dismissal and renewed the claim against three TEPCO executives on 18 December 2013. They demanded, alongside a  ruling of negligence against three former TEPCO executives, the inclusion of physical, economic, social and psychological harms: illness, paediatric underdevelopment (radiation exposures, excessive isolation indoors), financial losses (unemployment, loss in property value, rental costs of two homes, relocation, travel, etc.), family and community division, ijime (bullying いじめ) and stress. Many plaintiffs also claimed that their disrupted reliance upon nature,96 as inviolable and precious,97 should be recognised as harm. This too was dismissed and again a citizen’s panel found against the three TEPCO executives.98 In May 2015, 10 groups of plaintiffs formed a network named Hidanren (被弾連, Genpatsu Jiko Higaisha Dantai Renrakukai) comprising 20,000 people. The Fukushima kokuso-dan again made a claim to another citizens’ panel, which found in July 2015 in favour of indicting the three TEPCO executives for trial.99 In addition, a civil case filed in June 2015 by 4,000 plaintiffs from Iwaki seeking to prove negligence and not just harm sought to use previously withheld evidence to show fair warning of a 3.11-type scenario was given. This case focused the court on the operator’s calculation of risk probability of a tsunami of that size and, rather than aiming at financial compensation, it sought to deter nuclear operators from future negligent practices if ruled in favour. In anticipation of out-of-court settlements, the Japanese Government increased the budget for compensation payments to 7 trillion yen (US$56 billion). 
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Nearly 60,000 evacuees, 5,623 in temporary housing 7.5 yrs after Tohoku disaster

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A tsunami triggered by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake is seen surging inland in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, in the country’s northeast
 
September 11, 2018
Seven and a half years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan on March 11, 2011, but nearly 60,000 people still remain in evacuation and more than 5,600 people are living in temporary housing because of the quake, devastating tsunami and the triple core meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant.
According to the government’s Reconstruction Agency, about 58,000 people still remained in evacuation as of August, although their number declined by about 15,000 during the past six months. As many as 5,623 people were living in prefabricated houses in the northeastern Japan prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, as of the end of August.
The construction of public housing for victims of the disaster is 96.5 percent complete, with 29,124 units built out of a planned 30,178 in those three prefectures as of late July. The achievement rate is 91.1 percent for Iwate and 98.4 percent for Miyagi. In Fukushima, the figure is 96.3 percent for evacuees from the nuclear accident.
Around the TEPCO nuclear power plant that spewed out a large amount of highly radioactive materials from the melted cores, 11 municipalities received evacuation orders from the central government. Although the orders were lifted in 70 percent of those areas by the spring of 2017, a total of seven cities, towns and villages still have so-called “difficult-to-return” zones with high radioactivity. Even in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, the ratio of actual to registered residents is about 20 percent.
The central government intends to phase out temporary housing in Iwate and Miyagi by fiscal 2020 when its designated reconstruction and revitalization period will end, but the timing will be delayed to fiscal 2021 or later in Fukushima. The preparation of land plots where people affected by the disaster can build their own houses is 90.6 percent complete in the three prefectures.
 
Okawa Elementary School, which was flooded by the tsunami caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, is seen in this Oct. 15, 2016 file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter.
 
As of Sept. 10, the number of those killed by the 2011 disaster stood at 15,896, and 2,536 people remained missing. The Reconstruction Agency says 3,676 people in 10 prefectures, including Tokyo, had died of causes related to the disaster, as of the end of March this year.
(Japanese original by Nobuyuki Hyakutake, Ishinomaki Local Bureau, and Toshiki Miyazaki, Fukushima Bureau)

80% of local heads in nuke disaster areas say they can’t meet population goals: poll

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Weeds grow through the pavement at a derelict gas station in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, in this Aug. 22, 2018
 
September 6, 2018
TOKYO — About 80 percent of 45 administrative district heads inside six municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture with areas rendered difficult to live because of the March 2011 nuclear accident said it is impossible for enough evacuated residents to return to meet population goals at “reconstruction hub areas” set by those local governments, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.
The heads said meeting those goals as part of recovery efforts is not possible because many of the evacuees now have new jobs and homes, and aging is advancing among them. The survey results placed a question mark on the feasibility of the local governments’ recovery plans.
The population goals for the northern Japan municipalities are set for around 2027 or 2028, five years after evacuation orders for difficult to return areas would presumably be lifted in 2022 or 2023. The numbers are calculated based on evacuees’ positive or undecided responses to opinion polls conducted by the municipalities.
The reconstruction hub areas receive national funding for decontamination and will have concentrated residential areas and infrastructure. They were incorporated in a special law for the reconstruction of Fukushima areas affected by the nuclear disaster, and the six municipalities received the central government’s approval for their reconstruction hub plans and their population goals by the spring of this year.
The population goals were 2,000 for the town of Futaba, 2,600 for the town of Okuma, 1,500 for the town of Namie, 1,600 for the town of Tomioka, 180 for the village of Iitate and 80 for the village of Katsurao.
The Mainichi survey of the administrative district heads was conducted by mail and other means from July through August of this year. Questionnaires were sent to 59 heads, and 45 of them responded. Of the total respondents, 37 said it is impossible to meet the goals, while six said it is conceivable, and the remaining two gave other answers.
When asked why they think that the population goals are not feasible, 16 said it is because evacuees established their base of living in new places, while 10 cited fear of radiation. Five said it is because the evacuees are aging.
A local head in Futaba said seven years of life in refuge was “too long,” while an official from Okuma pointed out that young people are especially worried about radiation. Another local leader from Okuma said aged people will not return unless medical and other facilities are available.
Local heads with positive responses said meeting the population goals depends on the influx of new residents who would move to their districts to carry out work decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). The plant’s three reactors leaked massive amounts of radioactive materials after fuel rods in their cores melted because of cooling system shutdowns triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami. The six municipalities around the plant became contaminated by the fallout.
After the nuclear accident, 11 cities, towns and villages came under government evacuation orders. Currently, entry is restricted at all of Futaba and Okuma, where the plant is located, as well as parts of Namie, Tomioka, Iitate and Katsurao. Even in areas where evacuation orders are lifted, populations are around 20 percent of the registered numbers of residents.
Associate professor Fuminori Tanba of Ritsumeikan University, a specialist on social welfare, explained that the population goals reflect the hopeful expectations of those municipalities counting on the inflow of decommission workers and researchers, and they are different from the perception of evacuees. “Town planning should be done by seeking the participation of returning evacuees, those going back and forth between their old and new homes, and new residents including plant workers,” said Tanba. “They should have plans suitable for returnees, and it is important to have plans going beyond municipal boundaries and assigning different roles to towns and villages involved.
(Japanese original by Toshiki Miyazaki and Keita Kishi, Fukushima Bureau)

#Fukushima #Nuclear testimony, #OHCHR #UNHRC #CRIN #Safecast September 2018 Part 1

Posted by Shaun McGee aka Arclight2011
5th September 2018

The plight of the internally displaced people (IDP​s) of Japan has largely gone unrecognised by most media sources. IDP`s though, have been recognised in the last UN Plenary session concerning Japan, here is a link for that;
https://nuclear-news.net/2017/11/17/u-n-body-calls-on-japan-to-improve-protection-of-press-freedoms-and-fukushima-residents-rights/

In this video (part 1 of a series) Junko, a mother and ex decommissioning worker describes the health situation in answer to a question put to her by Rachel Clark (Japanese translator) on behalf of the team at nuclear-news.net and Nuclear Hotseat.
Junko describes the health effects on her children and workers cleaning up the soil in contaminated areas.
This is the first part of a series of testimonies. Please share widely. This video and copy is creative commons with normal attrib.
http://nuclear-news.net/2018/09/05/fukushima-nuclear-testimony-ohchr-unhrc-crin-safecast-september-2018-part-1/

nuclear-news

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Posted to nuclear-news.net

Posted by Shaun McGee aka Arclight2011

posted on 5th September 2018

The plight of the internally displaced people (IDP​s) of Japan has largely gone unrecognised by most media sources. IDP`s though, have been recognised in the last UN Plenary session concerning Japan, here is a link for that;

https://nuclear-news.net/2017/11/17/u-n-body-calls-on-japan-to-improve-protection-of-press-freedoms-and-fukushima-residents-rights/

In this video (part 1 of a series) Junko, a mother and ex decommissioning worker describes the health situation in answer to a question put to her by Rachel Clark (Japanese translator) on behalf of the team at nuclear-news.net and Nuclear Hotseat.
Junko describes the health effects on her children and workers cleaning up the soil in contaminated areas.
This is the first part of a series of testimonies. Please share widely. This video and copy is creative commons with normal attrib.

NOTE ; During the early months of the disaster a health survey was conducted by a…

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Fukushima episode of Netflix’s Dark Tourist sparks offence in Japan

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05 September, 2018,
Government unhappy after programme hints food in region is still contaminated with radiation and host enters clearly marked no-go zone
The recent Netflix series Dark Tourist is a grimy window into areas scarred by tragedy, providing a perspective as rare as it is compelling – but a controversial Japan-set entry in the series may have gone too far.
The country’s Reconstruction Agency is set to hold talks with the Fukushima prefectural government about a unified response to the second episode in the series, which looked at a tour for foreign visitors to some of the areas worst affected by the 2011 tsunami, earthquake and nuclear-plant disaster.
The episode raised hackles in Tokyo and Fukushima after David Farrier, the New Zealand journalist who hosts the series, was filmed eating at a restaurant in the town of Namie – a former nuclear ghost town which reopened its doors to visitors in April 2017 – and stating that he expected the food to be contaminated with radiation.
Farrier was also filmed aboard a tour bus nervously watching as the numbers on a Geiger counter continued to rise beyond levels members of the party had been told were considered safe.
At one point in the programme, which was released on July 20, a woman holding a Geiger counter says radiation levels “are higher than around Chernobyl”.
Farrier also slips away from the group without permission, and enters an abandoned game arcade within the no-go zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
The prefectural government and the Reconstruction Agency, which was set up after the disaster to oversee the nuclear clean-up and rebuilding efforts in the region, are reported to be unhappy that Farrier entered a clearly marked no-go zone and the programme’s suggestion that food in northeast Japan was not safe to eat.
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Authorities are also unhappy the programme failed to specify that the high levels of radiation initially reported in the area have fallen significantly, and only a relatively small area is still officially listed as “difficult to return to” for local residents.
“We are examining the content of the video,” a prefecture official told the Jiji news agency.
The Fukushima government declined to provide further comment on Dark Tourist or the action that it might take.
A spokesman for the Reconstruction Agency in Tokyo told the South China Morning Post a response would be prepared after consultations with the prefectural authorities.
“We would like to provide accurate knowledge and correct information about the situation surrounding radiation in Fukushima Prefecture to the domestic and international media,” the official said. “We cannot comment specifically on the Netflix case at this point.”
An estimated 100,000 foreign tourists have visited Fukushima last year, many attracted by the offer of trips described as “dark tourism”.
Authorities, however, have been working hard to get across the message that the vast majority of the Tohoku region of northeast Japan is perfectly safe to visit and that local food and produce is safe to consume.
Campaigns are also under way to rebuild export markets for local foodstuffs.
The condemnation from authorities comes as Japan acknowledges for the first time that a worker at the Fukushima plant died in 2016 from radiation exposure.
The country’s Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry ruled that compensation should be paid to the family of the man in his 50s who died from lung cancer, an official said.
The worker had spent his career working at nuclear plants around Japan and worked at the Fukushima plant at least twice after the March 2011 meltdowns. He was diagnosed with cancer in February 2016, the official said.

Fukushima government considers action over Dark Tourist episode

September 4, 2018
DARK Tourist has been a global hit, but officials in Japan are not happy with scenes in this episode.
ITS willingness to boldly take audiences to some of the most offbeat, off-putting and downright disturbing places on the planet has made the Netflix series Dark Tourist a global sensation.
The first season of the groundbreaking documentary series, which was released in July, follows host David Farrier’s excursions to grim locations, from a forbidden ghost city on Cyprus to the Milwaukee sites where serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer murdered his victims.
But the series has landed in hot water due to its second episode that was filmed in Japan.
There, government officials are considering taking action against Netflix over footage from inside Fukushima, which was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
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The second episode of Dark Tourist sees host David Farrier on a nuclear bus tour in Fukushima.
 
In the episode, Farrier, a New Zealand journalist, takes a bus tour with other foreign sightseers into areas affected by the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
 
The bus passes radioactive exclusion zones and Farrier and the other tourists become increasingly nervous by the skyrocketing readings on their Geiger counters, which measure radiation.
At one point in the episode, the reading is 50 times higher than levels deemed to be safe.
In another scene, the group visits a local restaurant where Farrier is concerned about eating locally sourced food that may be contaminated.
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Farrier was unsure about eating local food.
 
In another, he comes close to being arrested after sneaking into an abandoned arcade that was deemed a no-go zone by the government.
Now, officials from the Fukushima Prefectural Government said they are investigating the Dark Tourist episode, concerned it would “fuel unreasonable fears related to the March 2011 disaster at Tokyo’s Electric’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant”.
A senior government official told The Japan Times they are working with the Reconstruction Agency in considering how to respond to the footage.
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The camera followed Farrier as he broke away from the tour group and entered an off-limits arcade.
 
“We’re examining the video content,” the official said.
The three issues of apparent concern to officials were Farrier being worried about eating the restaurant’s food, his visit to the off-limits arcade, and the exact location of the bus not being specified when the high radiation readings alarmed the tourists.
Farrier previously said it was “super disconcerting” to visit the areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“Essentially, you’re in the middle of a microwave,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
“You can’t feel anything but this device is telling you that the radiation is way higher than is safe.”
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In the episode, Farrier and the other tourists are concerned about the readings on their Geiger counters.
 
Hundreds of thousands of people fled for their lives when a tsunami swept through Fukushima and set off three nuclear meltdowns at the Daiichi power plant, exposing the region to radioactive material.
The Japanese government has deemed some of the affected areas to be safe to return to, but many remain abandoned. Other areas are still designated as off limits.
But Fukushima’s perceived nuclear danger and its eerie setting have made it one of the world’s most popular drawcards for “dark tourists” — travellers who seek out locations with disturbing histories and associations with death and tragedy.
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Although dark tourism is booming, many area of Fukushima remain no-go zones.
 
So-called nuclear tourism attracted about 94,000 overseas visitors to Fukushima in 2017.
Similar nuclear tours operate in the Ukrainian ghost town of Pripyat, which has been a radioactive wasteland since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urges Australian travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in Areas 1 and 2 near the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and advises against all travel to Area 3 due to “very high” health and safety risks.

Japan’s Fukushima Considering Action Over Netflix’s ‘Dark Tourist’ Nuclear Episode

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August 3, 2018
The local government and the Reconstruction Agency are not happy with portrayals of unspecified high-radiation locations and speculation over contaminated food.
Japan’s Reconstruction Agency and Fukushima Prefectural Government are considering legal action over the episode of Netflix’s Dark Tourist, which visited places still dealing with the aftermath of the March 2011 triple nuclear meltdown.
The episode, the second in the series released on the streaming giant July 20, sees New Zealand journalist David Farrier visit Japan, with just more than half of the program following him on an organized bus tour through areas near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.
Farrier and the other tourists become concerned as the readings on their Geiger counters showed radiation higher than they were told to expect and what is deemed to be safe levels. The group eventually decides to cut the tour short, but not before eating at a restaurant in the area and Farrier leaving the group to enter an off-limit gaming arcade. While at the restaurant, Farrier talks about his concerns about the food being unsafe, before finishing his meal.
“We’re examining the video content,” a senior official from the prefecture told news agency Jiji.
The parts of the video that the authorities have taken objection to are the section showing the high radiation levels, but not saying where they were filmed, the speculation about food contamination and Farrier’s excursion into the off-limits area.
Almost 100,000 foreign tourists are estimated to have visited Fukushima last year on what have been dubbed nuclear tourism tours.
Nearly 20,000 people died in March 2011, when a huge earthquake set off a devastating tsunami that knocked the cooling systems of the nuclear plant out of action, leading to three reactors at Daiichi melting down.
The local and national government have been working to have bans on food produces from the area rescinded, which they have been gradually achieving.
During the episode, Farrier also visits the Aokigahara forest, an area known for suicides. YouTuber Paul Logan faced a backlash at the beginning of the year after posting a video from the forest, where he had discovered a corpse. Farrier also stays in a robot-run hotel and takes a tour to the abandoned Hashima Island. Once a coal mine, the industrial wasteland of the island has attracted tourists and attention in recent years, appearing in the James Bond film Skyfall and the Japanese Attack on Titan live-action movies.
Other episodes feature tourism related to voodoo, drug barons, mass murderers and survivalists.