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「記録を意識」 漫画「いちえふ」作者・竜田一人さんに再び聞く

2015年03月10日

原稿を描く竜田一人さん=2015年2月27日、石戸諭撮影

 それだけでなく、細かい作業は職人さんたちの腕によって微妙な違いがでてきます。腕が立つ人なら早く片 付く作業も、慣れない人がやると遅くなる。高線量の現場では大野さん(作品中のベテラン作業員)のモデルにした人たちも、すぐにそれぞれの会社で定める年 間の被ばく限度量(「いちえふ」によると、ほとんどの会社は年間20ミリシーベルト以下で設定している。基準に達すると4月1日にリセットされるまで1F での作業はできない)に達してしまう。

 そうすると、その作業を大野さんたちはできなくなってしまい、代わりの人がやることになります。大野さ んは別の現場を探して食いっぱぐれることは無かったのですが、高線量の現場に行って食いっぱぐれることになってしまっては元も子もない。現状、働ける日数 はかなり限られています。これだけでは日々の暮らしで食べていくことができません。ベテランの作業員ほど腕は立つけど、高線量の現場では線量を気にするこ とになります。

 被ばくを避けたい切実な理由は、高線量現場で働ける日数が限られるからです。場所によっては1日1ミリシーベルトに達することもありますからね。

 代わりに来る人の腕が立てば問題はないのですが、みんながみんな腕の立つ職人ではないのはどこの世界で も一緒です。高線量の現場ほど経験が必要なのですが、職人確保は難しくなっています。原発特有の作業についても技術の伝承や実践的なノウハウは現場でない と身につけることはできません。何らかの対策は必要です。ここが現場最大の問題と言ってもいいと思います。

 私も昨年、1Fに行った時で既に高線量現場経験があるという理由で現場リーダーをやりました。少し出世 とも言えますが、一緒に行った仲間の中には「1Fが初めて」だという人もいたのです。経験者も増える一方、未経験者も新規に入ってきているので経験の有無 が重視されているとも言えますね。

 ◇高線量の現場「少し慣れてくるくらいが怖い」

 −−そんな中で、現場に慣れてきたと感じたことはありますか。

 竜田さん そうですね。慣れてよかったというより、慣れてきたための失敗があります。

 現場では無駄な被ばくや放射性物質による汚染を避けることが大原則です。しかし、私も慣れてきたせいか、少し注意が足りずに汚染を避けることができなかった。

 例えば靴下のはき方、靴の脱ぎ方一つとっても注意が足りなかったなと思うこともありました。現場の靴は 履き回しです。靴の脱ぎ方が悪い人がいると、靴の中に放射性物質が入り、靴下に付着します。慎重な人は靴下の上からビニール製の靴カバーをするのでいいの です。でも、私は靴下が二重だったのと、ビニールで蒸れたり、踏ん張りが利かなくなったりするのが嫌だったので、付けていませんでした。そうしたら、案の 定、無駄な汚染が出てしまった。汚染防止は大事。注意が足りないと指摘されても反論できません。慎重に避けるべきことであり、恥ずかしいですね。

 何事も少し慣れてくるくらいが怖い。高線量の現場であることを怖がって用心しているくらいでちょうどよいと思います。「絶対に無駄な被ばくはしたくない」という作業員もいますからね。

 −−作業員の中にもいろんな考え方がある、と。

 竜田さん そうなんです。ちょっと話はずれるかもしれませんが、作業員の中でも「東京電力がホールボ ディーカウンター(WBC)の値を低くしている」といううわさが出回って、本当に信じている人もいるんです。私は実際に自費で他の病院のWBCで検査した のですが、そんなことは無かった。うわさはうわさにしかすぎないのです。

 1Fで働いているからといって、みんながみんな放射線や被ばくについて正確な理解をしているわけではな いというのが面白いところです。案外、調べないで現場に来る人が多い。つまり、仕事なんですね。そこに仕事があるから来ている。勉強してから来るというの は珍しいかもしれませんね。

 ◇福島への愛着「人を通じて深まってきた」

 −−最初の話でも出ましたが、2巻では国道6号開通とか福島の話も多いですよね。竜田さんの福島への思いが、「思い出の町」以上に深まっているように読めます。

「いちえふ」2巻より

拡大写真

 竜田さん なるべく最近の話を入れようとしたので、(昨年秋に)一般車で走れるようになったばかりの国道6号を 縦断した話を盛り込みました。漫画の中の時間の流れは少し無視して、事故から1年数カ月の1Fだけでなく、14年の周辺状況だったり、食事だったり、地域 の話も入れたかったんですね。そうしないと、せっかく14年に福島に行ったのに、リアルタイムの話を届けられない。

 「ここは俺が住んでいたところだ」「懐かしく思いました」という感想もいただきました。皆さんもお時間があれば6号を車で走ってみてはいかがでしょうか。誰も住んでいない街並みを通るだけで感じるものはあります。

 私の場合、愛着は人を通じて深まっていきました。福島では人の出会いに恵まれました。どこの土地にも良 い人もいれば悪い人もいるっていうのは分かっているんだけど、福島で出会った人は良い人ばっかりだった。弾き語りをしたライブバーのマスターも良い人だ し、家探しを手伝ってくれた人も……。こういう人たちとの出会いがあったから、見知らぬ土地にもかかわらず、通っているうちに勝手に「あっちがふるさと」 と感じるようになったのでしょう。

 漫画で「酪王カフェオレ」(福島県の名物カフェオレ)を取り上げたら、今では読者から「これも飲んでみてください」「食べてください」という反応をたくさんいただきました。そうそう、地元産のメヒカリも食べたいですよね。

 ◇鼻血描写と「いちえふ」らしさ

 −−あえて振り返っておきたいのですが「美味しんぼ」との関連で原発事故と「鼻血」の描写についても「いちえふ」が話題になりましたね。このとき、竜田さんがツイッター上で珍しく意見を表明していました。この理由を教えてください。

 竜田さん 前回のインタビュー(毎 日新聞のニュースサイトで5月22日掲載)でも話しましたが、私が作業中に鼻血を出した作業員を見たのは本当です。それを見て、作業員同士で話したことも あった。でも、それをどう漫画で描けるのか。なかなか、答えが見つかりませんでした。あえて描こうと思ったこともありましたが、それが「いちえふ」でやる べきことなのか、と考えた時にそうではないと思いました。

 そこで、(「美味しんぼ」と)対比されたりするのも少し違うなあと思っていました。描写についても実際に何について悩んでいたのか。うまく伝わっていないかもしれないなあという時もあります。

 「いちえふ」は説明的な漫画ではないし、何かの目的のためにメッセージを込める漫画ではない。何かに反論したり、「美味しんぼ」の騒動に影響を受けたような形で描いたりしてもよいものには仕上がらない。あくまで私が見たものを漫画に落とし込んだものですから。

 一言で「見る」といっても、いろんな作業員と付き合って初めて「見えてくる」ものがあります。実際に働 いて、見てきたことを凝縮しています。ぱっと見るだけでなく、いろんなところをしつこく「見てきた」ところをベースにしている。私自身の関心の高低もあり ます。強く印象に残っているものなら掘り下げて描けますが、鼻血の話は正直「ああそんなこともあったな」程度にしか覚えていませんでした。「美味しんぼ」 の騒動があったから思い出したようなものです。

 これだけの材料で漫画にするには無理があります。無理して描くと、そこだけが切り取られ象徴的なエピ ソードして取り上げられてしまう可能性もあります。「いちえふ」のトーンにあわせて、いつも通り描けるなら描きますが、そのためだけに別のトーン、これま でと違う回にしてしまうと、作品自体が変わっていってしまう恐れがあります。そこが最大の悩みどころでした。結果的に描かなくて良かったと思っています。

In the cinematic wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster BY MARK SCHILLING SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES MAR 4, 2015 ARTICLE HISTORY PRINTSHARE In January 2013 Eiga Geijutsu magazine released its annual “Best 10 and Worst 10″ lists. The two worst films of 2012, as chosen by the magazine’s panel of critics, were Sion Sono’s “Himizu” and “Kibo no Kuni (Land of Hope).” The former is about a teenage boy (Shota Sometani) driven to violence by his abusive father, but Sono rewrote the script ― which was based on a manga by Minoru Furuya ― to reflect the human cost of the Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting disasters of March 11, 2011. One addition in the rewrite was an elderly disaster victim (Tetsu Watanabe) who has lost everything but still tries to help the troubled young hero. For “Land of Hope,” Sono wrote a story set in a near-future Japan that has learned nothing from the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. When a similar catastrophe occurs, hazmat-suited men set up a fence around a no-go zone, dividing two neighboring families in a rural community ― to devastating results. Why the bashing from Eiga Geijutsu? “Sono is a good director, but . . . making such films so soon after such a big, shocking disaster is just shallow,” said critic Ken Terawaki in explaining his thumbs-down verdict. He didn’t, however, similarly condemn the many documentary filmmakers who had streamed north after 3/11 and rushed out films, including the 29 that the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival screened in October 2011 ― or, for that matter, the hundreds of 3/11-themed programs made by NHK and other broadcasters local, national and foreign. Why not leave the immediate reporting of this national tragedy to the nonfiction professionals and wait a decent interval until weighing in with a fiction film? Sono’s answer to me, in an interview timed for the October 2012 release of “Land of Hope,” was that the Japanese media reported the public face of the victims, but not their private reality. “When the camera was on, they said something different from what they had told me,” he explained. “I realized that they would be more honest if I didn’t film them and just listened sincerely.” He told me he had talked to dozens of victims before fictionalizing their stories. That didn’t sound so shallow to me. It will soon be the fourth anniversary of the worst calamity in Japan since the atomic bombings of World War II struck Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Has enough time passed to begin making fiction films about 3/11? In fact, films have been made, but none have received the critical drubbing that Sono’s got from Eiga Geijutsu. (Truth be told, the magazine’s critics regularly dump on Sono’s non-3/11 films as well, with the exception of “Ai no Mukidashi [Love Exposure],” which was listed as one of the “Best 10″ films from 2009.) One was “Itai: Asu e no Tokakan (Reunion),” Ryoichi Kimizuka’s docudrama based on the true story of an elderly volunteer (Toshiyuki Nishida) who cares for the dead and their grieving loved ones at a temporary morgue in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture. The film, with its starkly realistic scenes of corpses and rescue workers, was hardly a typical project for Kimizuka and executive producer (now president and COO of Fuji TV) Chihiro Kameyama, who had previously worked together on the megahit “Odoru Daisosasen (Bayside Shakedown)” cop thriller series. Despite the participation of these hit-makers, “Reunion” earned only ¥370 million following its February 2012 release. Another was “Arekara (Since Then),” Makoto Shinozaki’s indie drama about a couple torn apart in the 3/11 aftermath, with the woman stranded in Tokyo and the man suffering a nervous breakdown in the affected Tohoku region. Released in theaters in March 2013, the film captured the anxious mood in Tokyo immediately after the disaster in Fukushima, when everyone was waiting for the nuclear shoe to drop. Still another was Nao Kubota’s “Ieji (Homeland),” which opened in March 2014. As documentarian Kubota’s fiction-feature debut, the film mixed evocative footage of abandoned towns and fields in Fukushima with the story of a farming family living in temporary housing who are slowly going to pieces. Then a long-missing son (Kenichi Matsuyama) returns with a quixotic plan to plant the irradiated family fields. Though the film touches on sensitive topics, such as the long-term dependence of working-age nuclear refugees on government money, its stance is finally closer to resigned acceptance than Sono’s outspoken resistance to the powers that be. Meanwhile, 3/11-themed documentaries continue to be made, such as “Futaba Kara Toku Hanarete Dainibu (Nuclear Nation II),” Atsushi Funahashi’s recently released follow-up to his hard-hitting 2012 documentary on a Fukushima town that once embraced the nuclear plant in its neighborhood, but is now dealing with the disaster’s lasting damage to the local economy and social fabric. Also, NHK veteran Atsunori Kawamura has made “Otsunami 3.11 Mirai e no Kioku (The Great 3.11 Tsunami: Remembering for the Future),” a 3-D documentary opening on March 21 that records tsunami survivors and their communities over a three-year period. And Mayu Nakamura has shot “Naoto Hitorikkiri (Alone in Fukushima),” a documentary about a man caring for abandoned animals in the shadow of the Fukushima nuclear reactors, set for release on April 18. Fiction films, however, remain thin on the ground, which strikes me as unfortunate. The entire 3/11 story is replete with drama, from the story of the “Fukushima 50″ who tirelessly battled ― at the risk of their lives ― to keep the crippled reactors from blowing sky high to the political, bureaucratic and corporate finagling, and bumbling surrounding the Fukushima plant debacle, from construction to cleanup. Instead of a major film about 3/11, however, the local industry is churning out the usual mysteries and teenage romances, as well as WWII dramas to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the conflict in August. The story of Japanese victimization in that long-ago tragedy never grows old. “The theme of nuclear power is still taboo in Japan,” Sono told me two years ago. “Investors here said to me, ‘You can make a movie on anything you want, we’ll finance it,’ but when I mentioned nuclear power, they went, ‘Ah, no, we can’t do that.’ ” Waiting for a “suitable” amount of time to pass, as Terawaki suggested, would hardly soften that resistance. Instead, as the current administration pushes for the restart of nuclear plants and the memories of 3/11 fade, it has, if anything, become stronger. I would love for Toho or any other studio to prove me wrong.

Japan muslim protest against Charlie Hebdo cartoons

By Agence France-Presse, 11:56 am Saturday, 14th February 2015

Muslims living in Japan stage a demonstration near the offices of Japanese publishing company Dai-san Shokan in Tokyo on February 13, 2015. Dai-san Shokan, a small Japanese publisher, on February 10 issued 3,000 copies of a book of cartoons by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, including controversial drawings of Mohammed. Japan's small Muslim population has protested the publication, saying printing the cartoons is an "insult". AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGIMuslims living in Japan stage a demonstration near the offices of Japanese publishing company Dai-san Shokan in Tokyo on February 13, 2015. Dai-san Shokan, a small Japanese publisher, on February 10 issued 3,000 copies of a book of cartoons by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, including controversial drawings of Mohammed. Japan’s small Muslim population has protested the publication, saying printing the cartoons is an “insult”. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI

Members of the Japanese muslim community gathered in front of the office of a Japanese publisher to protest against its release of a book of cartoons by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, including controversial drawings of Mohammed.

A small Japanese publisher issued 3,000 copies of a book of cartoons by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, including controversial drawings of Mohammed.

“Are You Charlie? Isuramu heito ka fushi ka (Is it satire or hate against Islam)” is an attempt to spark debate in Japan on the nature of free speech, said Akira Kitagawa, the head of Tokyo-based Dai-san Shokan.

About 40 cartoons are reproduced with Japanese language translations, including those mocking the Pope, French President Francois Hollande and Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

However, drawings featuring the Prophet Mohammed show his face pixellated. No other characters are depicted in this way.

“There were suggestions that blurring the images would make a bit of a difference for Muslims,” Kitagawa told AFP.

“There are other opinions that it does not make much difference, though,” he added.

Japan’s small Muslim population has protested the publication, saying printing the cartoons is an “insult”.

But Kitagawa says his project comes down firmly on the side of saying that the cartoons are unnecessarily provocative.

“This is a book, clearly, saying Charlie Hebdo is not good,” he told AFP. “It does not make sense that Muslims get angry over this.”

There was a small police presence outside the Tokyo office of the publisher.

Japan does not have much of a tradition of satirical cartoons, something some commentators have put down to the value placed on harmony and a societal emphasis on not upsetting people.

Japanese people were aghast at the attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s office and a Jewish deli which killed 17 people, with many expressing bewilderment at how believers could turn to violence in the name of religion.

Most people in Japan practise a pick-and-mix of imported Buddhism and native Shintoism, depending on the occasion, although few would describe themselves as devout.

Dai-san Shokan has a history of courting controversy, having previously reprinted leaked data on an anti-terrorism probe by police, with much of the information concentrating on Muslims in Japan.

The publishing house also issued the Japanese translation of a biography of Crown Princess Masako in 2007.

“Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne,” originally written by Australian journalist Ben Hills, drew protests from the Japanese government.

The Guardian Winner of the Pulitzer prize home › world › africa middle east europe US americas asia australia UK sport football opinion culture economy lifestyle fashion environment tech money travel all AfricaGuardian Africa network Africa’s political cartoons – in pictures Tejumola Olaniyan founded Africacartoons.com, the first continent-wide digital encyclopaedia of political cartoons by African artists. He talks to African Digital Art about the collection Africa Digital Art, part of the Guardian Africa Network Thursday 19 February 2015 05.00 GMTLast modified on Thursday 19 February 2015 11.12 GMT Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare via EmailShare on PinterestShare on Google+ Shares 171 Comments 0 Mugabe steals the election Tayo Fatunla Nigeria “The primary motivation for starting the encyclopaedia was to stimulate more scholarly interest in African cartoons,” says Olaniyan. “I wanted to compose an encyclopaedia that is comprehensive in its continental coverage.” Illustration: Tayo Fatunla/africacartoons.com FacebookTwitterPinterest Down with your Isms! Ghanatta Ghana “I developed an interest in clipping and collecting political cartoons from the newspapers during my secondary school years in Nigeria in the 1970s. Often, I bought the papers because of the cartoons … Collecting is much easier now, thanks to the internet.” Illustration: Ghanatta/africacartoons.com FacebookTwitterPinterest The People’s Budget Ghanatta Ghana “Politics is the art of managing the way we organise ourselves in society, how we marshal and distribute resources and responsibilities. Politics, as such, will never cease to be a contentious business, and political cartoons are everyday in-the-moment commentaries on how we could still do better, all things considered.” Photograph: Ghanatta/africacartoons.com FacebookTwitterPinterest Mandarin Lessons JG Curtis South Africa “Political cartooning in many African countries has always had a significant influence on popular visual culture and the arts, and vice versa. “In some instances, many cartoonists started out as graphic artists for newspapers — designing advertisements and so on — before shifting to cartooning, and in fact before going to art school and getting any significant formal training in the arts.” Photograph: JG Curtis/africacartoons.com FacebookTwitterPinterest Advertisement Candlelit Dinner Knowleh Mushohwe Zimbabwe “The post-1990s explosion in political cartooning has also encouraged the growth of allied arts such as standup comics, and forms of street tourist art.” Photograph: Knowleh Mushohwe/africacartoons.com FacebookTwitterPinterest Jacob Zuma Knowleh Mushohwe Zimbabwe “There are many truly great cartoonists working across the board. We could name the most influential artists currently practicing as Zapiro in the south, Gado in the east, Ali Dilemin the north, and Tayo Fatunla in the west. Sorry, it’s a gentlemen’s club… Within each region or country, there are, of course, many influential cartoonists.” Photograph: Knowleh Mushohwe/africacartoons.com FacebookTwitterPinterest UNITA’s New Look Lito Silva Angola “Africacartoons.com is a contribution to forms of wider access for our cartoons, by providing a one-stop site where you can learn more about who is working where, see samples of their work, and see links to their personal websites, the papers they work for, and other useful information about them.” Photograph: Lito Silva/africacartoons.com FacebookTwitterPinterest Zimbabwe’s Cartoonists Tony Namate Zimbabwe “There are now many opportunities for African cartoonists in the digital sphere. Many newspapers now also publish online. Anyone anywhere in the world with internet access could view their work.” Photograph: africacartoons.com FacebookTwitterPinterest Advertisement Courtship Victor Ndula Kenya “The cartoonists’ visual styles seem to be determined less by region than by the early influences on the cartoonists, and those influences are generally cross-regional.” Photograph: Victor Ndula/africacartoons.com FacebookTwitterPinterest Race to Class Victor Ndula Kenya “One interesting stylistic issue is the use of single versus multiple panels for political cartooning. It has historically been in single panels across the board in most of Africa’s newspapers. “Multi-panel political cartoons began to appear later, but it remains a minority practice in each of the regions.” Photograph: Victor Ndula/africacartoons.com FacebookTwitterPinterest Abacha Tayo Fatunla Nigeria “The political cartoon is a most utopian art in the most heroic and selfless way. It never praises us, because it believes we can always do better, and it pokes fun at us for not aiming higher.” Tejumola Olaniyan is a professor of English and African cultural studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His africacartoons.com is an online encyclopaedia for the promotion and study of African political cartooning. He is also currently writing a book on the history of the art form in Africa. Photograph: africacartoons.com FacebookTwitterPinterest Sent from my iPad

Africa’s political cartoons – in pictures | World news | The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2015/feb/19/africas-political-cartoons-in-pictures Sent from my iPad

UK Newspapers Mock Charlie Hebdo Attackers With Ballsy Cartoons: ‘Careful, They Might Have Pens’ http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/01/08/charlie-hebdo-attack-cartoons_n_6435900.html

REFERENCE | FYI SATIRE IN JAPAN Japan’s political satire offers comic wordplay ― but rarely any offense BY ERIC JOHNSTON STAFF WRITER FEB 2, 2015 ARTICLE HISTORY PRINTSHARE The tragic murders at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo touched off worldwide debate about what forms of satire in the public sphere are appropriate, and under what conditions. Charlie Hebdo’s lampooning of any targeted topic granted no quarter, so when it ran cartoon caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, a cadre of Islamist extremists sought, and exacted, bloody revenge. In Japan, a chorus of commentators lamented there was no Japanese equivalent of Charlie Hebdo because the kind of acidic, political satire the magazine is famous for is generally lacking in Japanese society. But it would be wrong to conclude that because political satire is hard to find in Japan, there is no political humor. Why does Japan not appear to have the kind of sharp-edged political satire seen in many other countries? Explanations, often backed by academic analysis, abound, but they usually involve one of several basic assumptions about Japanese society and political culture, starting with the traditional reference to people’s deference to authority, and the desire not to cause anyone to “lose face.” But a few studies on the history of Japanese political satire have noted that such deference had less to do with any natural inclination to trust in the wisdom of officials, and more to do with edicts and policies that have discouraged the emergence of a Japanese Jon Stewart or Monty Python troupe. Doshisha University professor Ofer Feldman, writing on political humor in Japan in a chapter of the book “Beyond Public Speech and Symbols: Explorations in the Rhetoric of Politicians and the Media,” published in 2000, notes that during the Edo Period (1603-1867), satire languished as a result of government pressure. Edicts were issued to regulate popular entertainment, especially satire, and “lighthearted” material was denounced as unsuitable for viewing, having little socially redeeming value. Official suspicion of satire and efforts to discourage it hardened further in the early decades of the 20th century, and especially during World War II, when the Special High Police (Tokko) closely monitored the population for any words that might be construed as satire of officialdom, or worse, criticism of the Emperor. Only after the war’s end in 1945 was Japan, officially, free of the kinds of government controls on political satire that had existed for centuries. But social taboos on any number of subjects, starting with the Imperial family, remain unofficially in place partly because of fear of being socially ostracized or even physically harmed. Is this why there is so little political humor in Japan? No. It’s important to distinguish between the kind of political satire that mocks a specific person, group or political event and more general political humor. There is widespread agreement that Japan has little, at least in the mainstream, of the kind of satire one sees in the West. But there is, in fact, quite a bit of political humor here. As Feldman notes, “Japanese seem to prefer laughing at anecdotes and episodes related to politics and politicians rather than making jokes about their governing institutions and individuals.” Japan seems to lack equivalents for America’s “Comedy Central,” France’s Charlie Hebdo or the British magazine Private Eye, so where is political humor expressed? Such humor is often conveyed via traditional comic storytelling forms like “rakugo” and “manzai,” as well as through the composition of 17-syllable, three-line “senryu” poems. Or, historically, by satirizing the lyrics of popular songs, especially government-approved “patriotic” ones. The key to Japanese political humor is often the use of clever wordplay and the substitution of kanji with the same pronunciation. For example, even today, critics of the Gaimusho (Foreign Ministry) may substitute the character “gai,” which means “outside,” with the “gai” that means “harm” to crack a joke about the “Ministry of Harm,” an oldie dating back to at least the war years. And, of course, there are political manga. Weekly tabloids run cartoons poking fun at the prime minister or senior politicians. The Tokyo Shimbun occasionally features such manga on its front page. Of course, local issues can also become the subject of satire. In the late 1990s, Kansai manga artists ridiculed the mayor of Kobe and his obsession with building an airport even though the city was still recovering from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. Manga in NGO-produced pamphlets and fliers depicting the mayor as a silly schoolboy, sitting in his office and playing with model airplanes, drew grim chuckles from airport opponents, but the drawings never found their way into mainstream media. Do musicians and other performers attempt political humor? The eight-man comedy group The Newspaper, which parodies Japanese politicians and even performs a routine called “One Noble Family” ― so named to mitigate the repercussions of poking fun at the Imperial family ― is arguably Japan’s closest equivalent to Western-style political comedy. The group, formed in 1988, travels the country, often appearing at NGO events and on TV, where members do impersonations of well-known politicians. In one skit that skewers the nuclear power industry, the actor who plays former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who is now anti-nuclear, apologizes to the people of Fukushima and adds that “nuclear power was safe. But, just in case, we didn’t build any nuclear power plants in Tokyo Bay.” The Newspaper makes its intentions clear. When non-comedians attempt political jokes, the reaction can be anything but funny. Keisuke Kuwata of the popular band Southern All Stars apologized in mid-January for various attempts at political satire he made during shows in December, including one on NHK’s perennial “Kohaku Uta Gassen” (“Red and White Song Contest”), where he wore what appeared to be a Hitler mustache. But the vocalist also reportedly left Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was in the audience, stunned during a Dec. 28 performance by changing the lyrics of a song to state that it was ridiculous for a politician to dissolve the Diet, which Abe did to call the Dec. 14 snap Lower House election. Of course, the Internet and social media have given rise to all sorts of amateur attempts at satire and humor that Japanese officials since the Edo Period have long feared. Last July, after Hyogo Prefectural Assembly member Ryutaro Nonomura’s public meltdown made international headlines, YouTube mashups of him bawling and screaming at a news conference about alleged financial improprieties quickly appeared. But it’s also true that political satire is usually confined to the Internet because Japan’s mainstream media remain unwilling to risk controversies that could make advertisers nervous and invite political retaliation, which would lead to public embarrassment not for those being ridiculed, but for those doing the ridiculing.

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