Tokyo Rad

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Radiation leaks from the damaged nuclear reactor cores at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station have sparked panic as far away as Europe and the United States.

The radiation levels are indeed high, but dangerous (at the moment) only in the area immediately surrounding the plant. Once the weather warms up a bit in Tokyo, Japanese are expected to irradiate themselves normally.



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I was up in Sendai three days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and shot these photographs at Koriyama Junior High School, which was being used as an refugee center. The center had been used by around 600 people in the three days since the quake, with many people returning to their homes during the day to try to clean up and repair earthquake damage. Food was very short when I was there, as the authorities had not yet managed to establish a reliable logistics chain to provide even the essentials to refugee centers. "Milk soup", referenced above, is simply warm milk.

Sendai Gas

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I was up in Sendai three days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and shot these photographs not far from the Wakabayashi District, which was devastated by the tsunami. We stopped at this station to shoot some pictures, then continued in to Wakabayashi. When we returned, several hours later, the station had run out of gas and was closed for the day.

The man in the third and fourth panels was the station manager; the kid sitting on the ground with the battery-powered drill was indeed the most junior man, if you don't include the little girl (second panel) who was manning the cash drawer (and solar-powered calculator).


Think of the Teetotalers

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For those not following along, yesterday Tokyo's tap water was found to contain levels of radioactive contaminants judged possibly harmful to infants. Very soon after the announcement, every bottle of water in Tokyo (and further afield) had been stripped from the shelves. Some took more than their fair share.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

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This one combines today's news - Tokyo government officials advised residents not to give tap water to infants or use it in formula after tests at a purification plant detected higher levels of radioactive iodine - with the catfight among Japan-based foreigners (gaijin) about who's most loyal to Japan, evidenced by whether or not they left Tokyo last week during the (ongoing) uncertainty over the resolution of the crisis at the Fukushima power plant.


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This isn't a comic, but follows from my ongoing (as a resident of the Tokyo area) interest in the battle to bring the Fukushima nuclear reactors under control. Today's news: Tokyo government officials advised residents not to give tap water to infants or use it in formula after tests at a purification plant detected higher levels of radioactive iodine.

Fun for the whole family!

Somewhere in Tokyo: Morning Commute

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As Japan-based foreigners tear one another to pieces like rabid dogs over who's most loyal to Japan, evidenced by whether or not they left Tokyo last week during the (ongoing) uncertainty over the resolution of the crisis at the Fukushima power plant, Japanese residents of the capital – who outnumber foreigners by, I dunno, 99 to 1? – continue to ... not give a shit.

TEPCO Spokesman Statement from Fukushima

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Fukushima 50

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The 70 or so workers who are trying to get the reactor cores and spent fuel storage pools at the Fukushima power plant under control have been celebrated worldwide for their courage in the face of potentially deadly radiation.

In yesterday's Guardian, however, reporter Suzanne Goldenberg revealed that at least one (disappointingly, Goldenberg writes her feature based on only one) of the "Fukushima 50" is not a highly trained nuclear engineer but rather, a local farmer hired to do construction work.


Regime Change

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For those who haven't been following along, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has been Japan's point man during the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown crisis; Prime Minister Naoto Kan has been very much in the background. Kan was a dead man walking before the quake hit, and has not made an effort to resuscitate himself via post-quake heroism. The hero to date has been Edano, whom some believe the Democratic Party of Japan may be positioning to inherit Kan's mantle as prime minister.


Glow-in-the-Dark Whales

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More black humor from the earthquake/tsunami/meltdown zone ...

At the Inaugural All-Japan Wheelchair Races ...

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We interrupt this natural disaster for a moment of humor.


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Seen yesterday in Kyoto ... this geezer killing weeds with a flamethrower.


Fukushima Fallout

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Japan's chief government spokesman said Saturday that higher-than-normal levels of radiation were detected in milk produced in Fukushima Prefecture and spinach from neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture, raising concerns over possible contamination from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

More here.



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I was up in Sendai three days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and saw two cities: the Sendai that was hard-hit by the fourth largest earthquake in recorded history, and which survived – amazingly – nearly intact, and the Sendai near the ocean, which was completely demolished by the tsunami that followed the quake, with tremendous loss of life.

I shot these photographs in "tsunami Sendai", in the Wakabayashi District, where teams of firefighters were working to locate and recovery bodies. These two men were part of a team from Masuda City in Shimane Prefecture, a long, long way from Sendai. I've taken a bit of license with my translation, to distill their conversation down to its essence.



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In my village, around 350 kilometers from the epicenter, yesterday's earthquake was long and slow, but inflicted no major damage. [The major damage was inflicted along Japan's northern Pacific coast, and excellent coverage can be found in many places.] The subsequent tsunami alert prompted some local fishermen to put to sea, but most of the others thought it was too windy to put out safely, so they tried to tie down their boats as well as they could.

As it turned out, we didn't get a tsunami wave of any significance, probably because the village faces in the opposite direction to the epicenter, and is shielded by two peninsulas.

Want to help the earthquake victims? The Red Cross is always a good port in a storm. Japan Red Cross here, but site down now.


The Fight Against Galapagosization

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Following the resignation of Seiji Maehara over campaign finance improprieties, Prime Minister Naoto Kan named Takeaki Matsumoto Japan's new Foreign Minister.

In keeping with the Japanese political tradition of "more of the same", Matsumoto's great-grandfather was Japan's first prime minister. Matsumoto was Deputy Foreign Minister prior to his elevation to Foreign Minister.

Note to those unfamiliar with Japan: galapagosization refers to the Japanese belief that Japanese business practices (and products) develop in isolation from the global business community because Japanese companies are focused nearly wholly on the domestic market. The reference is to the divergent evolution of flora and fauna that can be found on the Galapagos Islands. In the mainstream Japanese view, there's nothing wrong with galapagosization.

The 77-year-old guy does NOT get picked last

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In Japan, Hay Fever Season Is Nothing to Sneeze At

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Hay fever is big business in Japan, as sufferers spend a reported $1.24 billion (103 billion yen) a year on remedies for the sneezing, itchy eyes and runny noses that accompany allergies to cedar and cypress pollen.


29-year-old Yu Kawakami named Best Mature Actress at Japan porn awards

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Yu Kawakami was named 'Best Mature Actress' at the Sky PerfecTV! Adult Broadcasting Awards 2011 that took place Monday night in Tokyo. 'Mature', in Japanese adult video parlance, means "appealing to men who have a bit of an Oedipal Complex". Or so I'm told by those with far more experience of the genre than I ...

[Note for non-native English speakers: learn about jumping bones here.]


In politics, as elsewhere, timing is everything

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara has been brought down by illegal campaign donations received from a "foreign national". Who is a 72-year-old restaurant owner Maehara has known since he was 14.

The Wall Street Journal's Mariko Sanchanta explains: "Hundreds of thousands of Koreans still live in Japan today, a legacy from the Second World War, and most have retained their South Korean citizenship though they speak Japanese fluently. These individuals are not permitted to vote in elections and are still considered “foreigners,” though many have been living in Japan for decades and paying taxes."

More interestingly, when former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto was holding Japan's top office, it was (heavily) rumored that while he had served as Foreign Minister, over 10 years previously, he had had an affair with a woman believed to have been China's senior spy in Japan at the time.

In politics, as elsewhere, timing is everything.


Tokyo Metro Manners: Korean Girl Bands

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The Tokyo Metro has been running a 'manners campaign' for several years, and each month publishes a new poster in stations. Over the months, the campaign has pretty much covered every bit of proscribed activity (don't throw up on your fellow passengers, don't practice your golf swing on the platform with a wet umbrella, etc.) imaginable, and six or so months ago moved on to behavior that is apparently encouraged.

The above images are 'repurposed' from a campaign poster that urges passengers to be considerate of their fellow travelers by not blocking the exit doors. Besides clogged train doorways, middle-aged and elderly Japanese (seemingly the beneficiaries of most of the manners posters) are also facing the inexorable decline of their culture, most recently evidenced by the rising popularity of Korean girl bands at the expense of Japanese ones.

And the vegetarianism reference, of course, is to Japan's "herbivore men".

Yes, it's a difficult time in Japan.

Great thanks to @JM_Leee for the Korean translations and checking!

[To see other cartoons and comics in the Tokyo Metro series, click here or on "Tokyo Metro" in the labels below.]


Japanese Pilots Practice Before Scrambling to Intercept Chinese Fighters Near Senkakus

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Japan scrambled fighters yesterday after radar detected the two Chinese navy planes flying near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Given the Japan penchant for proceeding cautiously, however, interceptor squadron pilots rehearsed their planned actions prior to takeoff, closely following a long-established order of battle.


And THIS Week, We're Seceding from Arizona!

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A handful of disgruntled Arizonans are agitating for Pima County (Tucson is there) to secede from Arizona, and form the 51st American state. Co-chairman of the Start Our State movement is Paul Eckerstrom,former Democratic Party chairman for Pima County and – for a period of around two weeks in early 2009 – former chairman of the Democratic Party for Arizona.

Eckerstrom, you see, won the state party chair, then resigned it via e-mail only two weeks later, saying he'd misjudged the amount of work required to serve as state party chairman, Tucson-based attorney, and husband and father. Good luck with that secession thing, then, Paul. Probably won't take up much of your time at all.

[Seriously, though, Paul, there's not much to criticize about a man who chooses family over a party chairmanship. We're aiming at the secession thing here ... and probably will continue to do so until it slides beneath the waves.]

Baja Arizona: We're on Facebook!

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As Cartoonist-in-Chief for TucsonSentinel.com, I have been privileged over the past couple of years to see a few wacky news stories up close.

The latest is an effort by a handful (okay, the media are reporting several thousand "likes" on the group's Facebook page) of disgruntled Arizonans in Pima County to secede from the state, and form the 51st American state.

Pima County is home to the Pima Indians, who, though they were there first (and hold sovereign lands amounting to some 40% of the country's territory), presumably have not been consulted about the secession.

Col. Gaddafi Plays His Last Card

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Politicomix by Roberto De Vido is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License