The Great Train Photo Robbery

Despite one newspaper’s effort, Japan can’t make its radioactive waste “disappear.”

From information provided by Kurumi Sugita, Jon Goman, and Fukushima 311 Voices.

After the disastrous events of the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear meltdown in Japan, France-based Kurumi Sugita, a retired Japanese social anthropologist, and her American partner, Jon Goman, started a website for the French citizens group, Nos Voisins Lontains, 311 (Our Far Away Neighbors 311.) At first published only in French, it is now also published in English and Japanese at Fukushima 311 Voices.

In a particularly revelatory article last October, the pair highlighted the extent to which efforts to “normalize” the devastating consequences of the nuclear disaster are pervasive in Japan.


Tomioka train station when it was still closed due to high radiation levels

They detailed how the Mainichi Shimbun ran a story about the reopening of a stretch of railway line that had been closed since the Fukushima accident. The photo that accompanied the piece showed a train in the background. But the foreground of the picture was dominated by row after row of black trash bags filled with radioactive waste.   (Shown in headline photo at the top of the article.)

Apparently, the radioactive trash bags photo at the train station caused some public (or possibly corporate) protest. The photo abruptly vanished from the Japanese online version of the paper (but not the English language one), to be replaced by a picture showing cheerfully smiling train personnel and passengers on the station platform.

Rows of such radioactive waste-filled bags now litter that region of Japan, sometimes stretching as far as the eye can see. Watch RT’s extraordinary drone footage of waste bags.

They are a reminder of the impossibility of effective “cleanup” after a radioactive accident. In a desperate attempt to restore confidence among exiled residents, top soil and other debris was scooped up intro trash bags in the name of “cleanup”. However, all this achieves, if the bags are ever “disposed of,” is to move the radiation somewhere else.

The story is one small example — but nevertheless a poignant one — of the extent to which the Japanese public are being subjugated, silenced and even threatened into an acceptance of the widespread radioactive contamination of their country.


Rows of trash bags containing radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster now litter the area.

Here is the original October 30, 2017 blog post from Fukushima 311 Voices, published in English and Japanese.

Newspaper changes an “annoying” photo

When we are outside of Fukushima, or of Japan, it is difficult for us to realize to what extent it has become difficult to speak of radio-contamination and the risk of exposure.


To illustrate this, we are reporting on the case of a photo replacement in the Mainichi Shimbun. This took place only in the Japanese edition. The original photo seems to have remained in the English edition.


On October 21, the Mainichi Shimbun reported the reopening of a part of the JR East line under the title: “JR East partially reopens line halted since 2011 nuclear disaster”. In this article, the Mainichi published a photo of a train leaving the newly opened Tomioka station. (If it is impossible to open the article, here is the web archive).


Radioactive waste bags and train passing

At left is the original picture (used also in the Japanese 1st version) with the caption : “A train leaves Tomioka Station in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, after services on the JR Joban Line were resumed between Tomioka and Tatsuta on Oct. 21, 2017. (Mainichi)”.

As you can see, the picture clearly tries to attract the attention of the readers to the black bags containing contaminated waste. In fact, the Japanese caption mentions also: “In the foreground, a temporary storage site of bags containing decontamination waste”. You can see other pictures here by the same photographer.



The photo above received a large number of complaints and protests. People basically complained: “why stain the joyful event with such a picture?”.


Here is the link to the togetter (in Japanese) through which you can see in what kind of language these people protesting against the first picture express themselves. They are pointing out crudely “the malicious intention” of the Mainichi Shimbun to devalue the event and the reconstruction of Fukushima.


The result is that the Mainichi Newspaper replaced the original photo with the one below.


Replaced train photo

The replaced photo is now only available on the web archive).


Read more about Kurumi Sugita and Jon Goman and their Fukushima 311 Voices blog.

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