Playwright Oriza Hirata (48) has got himself into some hot, ahem, water while on a trip in Seoul. The Seinendan chief honcho made the “controversial” pronouncement that the contaminated water released by TEPCO into the sea was done following U.S. pressure.
The trouble is not that Hirata is a university teacher and award-winning dramatist and director — since most regular people won’t have heard of him — but that he holds a government position, and was speech writer for ex-PM Yukio “loopy” Hatoyama. It should not be shocking in the least that a writer speaks out publicly about the Fukushima issues, though anyone searching for a leading voice of dissent amongst the country’s intelligentsia is likely to be disappointed.
Well, what Hirata actually said, in a response to a question after a lecture on May 17th, was:
The released water had a very low concentration [of contamination] and the amount [of water] was also low…That was released after a strong request from the American government.
The context (or question he was answering) is not being reported — or at least I haven’t read it yet — but even without the framing the statement is still hardly outrageous. However, there are now calls for Hirata to retract his comments, which likely he will do. (Compare Ken Clarke’s recent off-the-cuff remarks in the UK about date rape not being as serious as other forms of rape. Understandably the insensitivity of his words, regardless of their veracity, has provoked a furore.)
The water released into the sea by TEPCO in April, said to be a hundred times the legal limit of radioactivity, has particularly worried Japan’s neighbours, who were not warned or consulted in advance. Personally I don’t really understand fully why America would
demand request TEPCO to dump the water but the channels of politics are no doubt murkier than the now radioactive sea around the Fukushima power plants.
Interestingly I read on some bulletin boards anger towards Hirata specifically for making the statement abroad; if he was privy to this information and fancied himself in the Assange mould, then it seems he should have told the Japanese people directly (as opposed to a Korean audience). However, there was also bafflement that he held a position working for the government in the first place. Perhaps that is the real controversy.
Hirata is known for his realism and his recent experiments with using robots in plays. His work is best known internationally in France. See Performing Arts Japan for an in-depth interview with him.