Japan to Protest French Paper’s Fukushima-Olympics Cartoons

Japan plans to complain to French satirical paper Le Canard Enchaine after it published cartoons poking fun at Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

One cartoon published in the Sept. 11 edition of the paper shows two emaciated sumo wrestlers with extra limbs battling it out with nuclear reactors in the background. The caption reads: “Thanks to Fukushima, sumo has become an Olympic sport.”

Tokyo won the right to host the Games for the first time since 1964, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew to Buenos Aires last weekend to give a final presentation to the International Olympic Committee. The last few days of the campaign were dogged by questions about radioactive water leaking into the sea from the crippled Fukushima plant. Abe has vowed to resolve the issue before the Games.

The cartoon was “extremely regrettable,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said today.

“This kind of cartoon hurts the feelings of those who suffered in the disaster and gives an incorrect impression of the problem of contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant,” he told reporters in Tokyo.

Suga added that the government would complain to the magazine via the Japanese embassy in Paris and would instruct the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discourage inappropriate media coverage of Japan in future.

Canard Response

Another cartoon in the paper showed what appeared to be a tank of contaminated water at the ruined nuclear plant. “We have already built our Olympic swimming pool at Fukushima,” reads the caption.

Louis-Marie Horeau, one of two editor-in-chiefs of Le Canard Enchaine, said in a telephone interview that the newspaper doesn’t plan to apologize.

“We don’t see any reason to apologize,” he said. “Satire is a long-standing French tradition and it will continue. The representation of an anorexic sumo wrestler may not be funny to some people but I don’t see how it has hurt Fukushima victims.”

He said a charge d’affaire from the Japanese embassy in Paris called the newspaper today to convey how “upset” the government was by the caricatures. A formal protest from Japan is also expected, which would be a first for the weekly, he said.

The newspaper and its political cartoonist Cabu were “taken by surprise by the Japanese reaction,” Horeau said. “Cabu actually loves Japan, he goes there often and knows it well.”

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