In March 2011, Paul Blustein was one of the notable few foreign journalists in Japan who didn’t give in to the trend of writing scare stories about the Fukushima nuclear accident. One of his most notable pieces was an Op-Ed for the Washington Post that sensibly defended his decision not to flee the country.
In the years since, he has written other informative pieces about Fukushima. If anyone hasn’t read his September 2013 article on “Fukushima’s Worst-Case Scenarios,” please check it out before reading the rest of this post. It’s a great contribution to the fight against sensationalism and fearmongering.
In an article published today by the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan, Blustein denounces reporters who continue to parrot claims that have long been shown to lack credibility. Foremost among them is former Prime Minister Kan’s statements about how he thought Tokyo was in danger, which were little more than a non-expert’s fearful reaction to a situation that he didn’t fully understand, but are nonetheless still paraded around as proof that Tokyo just barely survived.
The latest iteration of this storyline is an Al Jazeera broadcast describing Fukushima as “the disaster that could have turned Tokyo into a ghost town.” The report features former Prime Minister Naoto Kan recounting how experts told him that a severe deterioration of conditions at Fukushima Dai-ichi would necessitate the evacuation of all 50 million people living within 250 kilometers of the plant.
Captivating as this storyline may be, it is massively at odds with the facts. Propagating it is not just misinformation; it can now be fairly deemed an act of journalistic malpractice. And FCCJ members are prominent among the guilty.
The FCCJ printed rebuttals from two journalists who could probably be considered among the most famous foreign reporters in Japan. The first in Martin Fackler of the New York Times, whose “quality” writing about the Fukushima disaster earned a prize from an organization funded by major oil companies. The second is David McNeill, a journalist who helped with the Al-Jazeera program that made the “ghost town” claim about Tokyo. Both rebbutals are, quite frankly, weak. They mention the existence of some American officials who overreacted, as if it makes any American source questionable. They are both dismissive of the idea that actual scientists and experts on radiation are a far more trustworthy source than a politician who was under immense pressure and was largely ignorant of nuclear matters. McNeill even presents a scary quote from Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida, as if adding another politician’s statements will somehow override the conclusions of scientists.
Even before Garin Dart outed himself as having abandoned his pregnant wife and child without a word or warning and fled to Thailand with company money, the Tokyo police doubted foul play and his family asked people to stop publicizing his disappearance and taking up his cause. His family and friends close to them quietly asked concerned Tokyoites to not distribute flyers asking about his whereabouts. His wife, Yukako, and mother, Finella Dean, declined to answer questions for the press regarding his disappearance and his mother did not bother meeting with police even after travelling all the way to Tokyo.
“We are not actively moving [on this],” said Superintendent Hiroshi Kozono of the Tokyo MPD. They said that they have confirmed from immigration that Dart had left Japan, with his destination still not clear at this point. “There is a possibility of embezzlement,” Kozono added.
The police discovered that Dart had withdrew ¥6,000,000 from his company’s bank account on the day of his departure. Some was then deposited into Dart’s personal bank account, and some taken in cash. You can only move the approximate cash equivalent of $10,000 across borders without formally declaring it. If you fail to declare and you’re caught, the cash can be confiscated by immigration.
Neither his company nor the Tokyo police filed any charges against Dart because the Japanese family of Mr Dart’s wife offered to repay the full amount that went missing from the Bluesilver accounts.
Many have expressed doubts publicly about the story and his motives published in the Daily Mail.
According to The Telegraph:
the British business community in Tokyo has dismissed Mr Dart’s claims that he fled Japan because he was being threatened by gangsters as “pure fantasy” and “like something from a bad novel.”
“His story is absolutely ridiculous,” said Mark Spencer, who employed Mr Dart as an area manager for the Hobgoblin Japan chain of pubs.
“The sort of thing he is claiming went on just does not happen in Japan,” said Mr Spencer, who fired Mr Dart after money had allegedly gone missing from a company safe. “The story reads like a bad novel.”
Jake Adelstein, long time Japan resident and journalist that specializes in Yazuka related stories, expressed doubts both on twitter and in a Japan Times article about the claims that his business was successful.
A source close to the matter contacted by The Japan Times, however, blasted the Daily Mail story as a “fictional piece,” while refusing to elaborate because he is “not in a position to speak publicly.” He added he has no knowledge of Dart’s whereabouts and hasn’t seen or spoken to the Briton since his disappearance.
According to other sources close to Dart, he left behind a large number of unpaid debts and bills, contradicting the Daily Mail’s claim that he was running a successful business.
In response to the doubters of his story, Garin Dart had this to say on Facebook:
Garin Dart my real friends will stick by me. the rest of the loosers can go to hell. when your in serious trouble you soon find out who your real friends are Saturday, January 18 at 10:23pm
Garin Dart of course i have regrets. of course i should have gotten in touch with my family a long time ago. but if any of you had any idea what i went through maybe you would understand. having a gun pointed at your head is not a nice experiance. it makes you do things that are extremely out of character. Saturday, January 18 at 10:42pm
h/t Japologism & FG
A group of South Korean men has been caught trying to smuggle treasured historical items that disappeared from the Japanese island of Tsushima:
Three of the men are suspected of stealing a bronze standing statue of Tathagata Buddha, designated an important cultural property by the Japanese government, from Kaijinjinja shrine, and a seated statue of the Kanzeon Bodhisattva, designated a tangible cultural property by Nagasaki Prefecture, from Kannonji temple in October.
Both the shrine and the temple are located on Tsushima island, which lies in the straits between the Japanese mainland and the Korean Peninsula.
A couple days after the March 11th 2011 earthquake, the French government told its citizens to flee the Tokyo region. It was a notorious overreaction to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident. It was based on fear and/or distrust, not on actual information about a credible or serious threat the people of Tokyo. At the time, many of us in Japan harshly criticized the French embassy’s response. The consensus at the time among nuclear experts was that Tokyo was not in danger, and subsequent investigations of the nuclear accident have found that they were right. It was totally unnecessary for people to leave Tokyo.
Nonetheless, quite a few foreign residents of Tokyo fled. Among them were nine employees of the French section of NHK’s Radio Japan. Eight of those employees later returned to Japan and resumed work at NHK. But one of them, Emmanuelle Bodin, was fired. She is now suing NHK for 22.17 million yen ($250,000) in damages, claiming that they unfairly dismissed her:
“In order to protect my family, I decided to temporarily leave Tokyo. . . . Prior to my departure I followed the required NHK work procedures, which included obtaining permission from my management,” Bodin said in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, where she and one of her lawyers, Kazuyuki Azusawa, held a news conference.
NHK claims otherwise. They say that she did not request leave, but instead “unilaterally” informed her managers that she was leaving Japan. Other foreign contractors who temporarily fled had given at least a day’s notice to NHK before leaving. Bodin apparently informed her boss just 3.5 hours before she was scheduled to work on a radio program.