Earthbound designer Shigesato Itoi sent out a fairly simple tweet: “If you go to Fukushima, you can buy peaches like this.” The remarks were accompanied by the above photo. Online, some people got pissed.
Besides Earthbound, Itoi also voiced the father in My Neighbour Totoro. He’s primarily a copywriter and an author, but has appeared on Japanese variety shows and in commercials. With over 600,000 Twitter followers, he’s quite famous in Japan.
Fukushima, of course, was the site of a nuclear disaster in 2011. Traditionally, the prefecture has been known for its fresh produce, especially its peaches. Fruits and vegetables from Fukushima are currently sold throughout Japan. In 2011, however, many countries banned the import of fruit, milk, and vegetables from Fukushima, as well as Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, and Chiba. Some countries, like Singapore, have lifted the ban, deciding that the food was safe. Other markets, such as Hong Kong, have not. In Thailand, however, Fukushima peaches have become luxury items, selling for around US$8 a peach. “The buyers likely placed trust in Japan’s screening system and made rational decisions,” Koichi Okamoto from the Japanese Embassy in Thailand told Asahi News.
At home in Japan, however, some shoppers have been reluctant to buy Fukushima produce — according to ST Asia Report, 15 per cent of Japanese shoppers refuse to buy food from Fukushima, which can also be spun as 85 per cent will. The food is screened, and according to Japanese health inspectors, safe to eat. So, why is Itoi even tweeting these peaches? Itoi is from Gunma, an agricultural area impacted by the ban. Perhaps he feels it necessary to help promote East Japan’s fruits and vegetables in any way he can, no matter how small, like a simple tweet.
The reaction among some online to Itoi’s tweet has not been good. “I’d rather not buy these,” wrote one Twitter user in Japanese, while a different Twitter user quipped, “You can buy ’em, but don’t eat ’em.”
“I think I don’t want Shigesato Itoi doing this kind of PR,”added yet another. One Twitter user wrote, “Mr. Itoi, please move from Tokyo to Fukushima!”
“Shigesato Itoi is a horrible person,” chimed in another, while a different Twitter user wrote, “Make jam, eat it, and quickly enter the afterlife.”
On game blogs, like My Game News Flash, a few commenters had a more measured response: “If he eats them, then whatever.” Then again, you’d also see “osen” (汚染) or “contamination” copied and pasted over and over in the comments.
On 2ch, Japan’s largest bulletin board, several commenters wished he would spend his time doing other things. One wrote, “Who cares, go make a new Earthbound game.”
Itoi responded to the outrage, saying that there was a group of people who had the same reaction that they did three years ago. “It’s like you’re mocking the people who have thoughtfully addressed the uneasiness and steadily investigated this issue so that safe and delicious produce could be made available.” That, of course, sent some Twitter users off, including one accusing Itoi of spreading misinformation.