November 9, 2013

One of the long-standing tenets of the antinuclear demographic is that their “evidence” is largely unknown to most people. They feel that if their concepts were widely reported, the world would necessarily turn against their great Satan – nuclear energy. It seems that a young antinuclear lawmaker in Japan has fallen prey to this concept and performed a taboo act that has cost him dearly.

Taro Yamamoto, former actor and unwavering antinuclear activist, violated proper Japanese behavior and violated his nation’s constitution by handing the Emperor an antinuclear letter in the Imperial Garden. His act has touched off a major public outcry. The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s No. 1 newspaper, called his behavior “outrageous” and “unprecedented”. The constitution says the Emperor is to be kept out of any political issues. Since the end of WWII, it has been taboo for anyone to include the Emperor in politics. The monarch himself is not allowed to express any view that could be construed as political.Plus, boldly approaching the Emperor like this…literally unannounced…just isn’t condoned in Japan. It is no wonder that politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties condemned Yamamoto’s action.

Why would anyone in Japan do such a thing? Yamamoto insists that informing Emperor Akihito of his personal opinion about nuclear energy does not constitute political exploitation of the Emperor. “I didn’t think that (my action) would cause such trouble. I feel sorry about that. I was not aware that (such an action) was violating the rules.” He subsequently tried to blame the resulting national uproar on the news media, “[My action] has been denounced as one intended for political purposes because the matter was played up by the media. The mass media are the ones that are using [the Emperor] for political purposes.” The ploy didn’t work.

Yamamoto knew exactly what he was doing! It was the deed of a former entertainer seeking free publicity…and he got it, albeit not the kind he envisioned. He confronted the Emperor in the midst of an imperial garden party attended by some 150 national and local politicians, and nearly 2,000 members of the public. The event was rife with Press coverage, and the cameras were capturing every move Emperor Akihito and his wife made. There would be no better place and time to perform a bold act and accumulate some free publicity. What Yamamoto didn’t expect was the severely negative reaction of the Press and his fellow solons.

Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura said Yamamoto’s behavior “is something that deserves resignation as a Diet member.” Upper House Chief Masashi Waki told party executives that the LDP should consider proposing a Diet resolution demanding that Yamamoto resign from the Upper House. Land Minister Akihiro Ota said Yamamoto’s action was “inappropriate” and that he lacks the proper decorum of a Diet member. LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba said the Diet should take strict steps because Yamamoto’s deed “cannot be overlooked.” Jin Matsubara, chairman of the minority Democratic Party of Japan’s Diet affairs committee, said, “I share the idea that he should resign as a lawmaker.”

On Friday, Yamamoto was formally banned from Imperial events and ceremonies by the Upper House Steering Committee. Such punishment is unusual because his deed violated no formal laws. But Yamamoto had violated the constitution and needed to be disciplined. The ruling was handed down under the right to “maintain order” because of an atypical breach of protocol (Mainichi Shimbun) The House also warned Yamamoto to “always keep in mind that you are a lawmaker and do nothing to dirty the name of parliament.” The Imperial Household Agency also criticized the politician, saying his actions were “inappropriate” and defied common sense. (Japan Daily Press)

It should be noted that Yamamoto has a few supporters from within the antinuclear community who say his action has brought the plight of Fukushima’s children into the open and may ultimately be seen as a watershed moment in Japan’s nuclear controversy. This was to be expected considering the fanatical level of fear and hate displayed by the more extreme fringe of the antinuclear demographic in Japan, and the Press’ penchant to accommodate the antinuclear persuasion at every turn. But, the vast majority of those approached by the Press find Yamamoto’s act to be rude and repulsive.

When I first read of Yamamoto’s action, I literally could not believe it. I had to wait until the next day to see how Japan’s Press would react, to see if my incredulity was “just me” or not. When I found that almost all of Japan was outraged, I asked myself what would ever possess a 38-year-old fledgling public official in Japan to do such a thing.

In my honest opinion, Yamamoto fell prey to the long-held antinuclear paradigm that most people have not been exposed to their evidence. They are convinced that once their “side” is heard, their “no-nukes” goal will become a reality. Yamamoto must have convinced himself that the reason the Emperor had not become vocally antinuclear was because he had no idea of the antinuclear version of “truth”. Yamamoto must have felt the only way to expose the monarch to his paranoiac version of Fukushima health effects was to make a bold move in front of the Press. Although clearly unwise, Yamamoto knew exactly what he was doing. As a result, he made a horrible mistake.

Does Yamamoto think the Emperor doesn’t follow the Press? The Japanese news media bends over backwards to make the antinuclear persuasion well publicized. Even the most innocuous events at Fukushima are disseminated widely from the scariest angles possible. The world knows what the Japanese antinuclear demographic is positing. The Emperor is surely aware of their fears and phobias.

Does Yamamoto believe the Emperor has been brainwashed by the Tokyo government and Tepco? Perhaps. The naïve notion of a covert conspiracy between the government and the nuclear utilities in Japan to “cover up the truth” is firmly believed by all antinukes in the island nation. It is also shared to international antinuclear luminaries, both explicitly and implicitly.

Or, was it merely a publicity stunt intended to bring the fledgling politician into national prominence? In my honest opinion, this was his intent from the start. There’s an old adage among entertainers that there is no such thing as bad publicity. This is one time the axiom has failed.




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