Japan is suffering from “Fuhyohigai” or harmful rumors about radioactive contamination from the crippled Fukushima plant in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami. The ever-increasing economic damage from the harmful rumors hits a serious blow to the country which is in the process of overcoming the largest disaster in its history. Many farmers and fishermen were forced to abandon their businesses and evacuate in order to avoid being exposed to radiation. Even those who managed to stay on are thrown into the situation where their own survival is at stake when consumers refrain from purchasing the products from Fukushima and its surrounding areas, despite the confirmation of the safety of their products. The harmful rumors have brought serious consequences not only on produce from Fukushima, but on the whole nation of Japan in the fields of tourism and international trade. The number of tourists to Japan has plummeted since March 11th, and the looming fear of radiation has exacerbated foreign trade, which had already been weakened by the strong yen even before March 11th.
The government should provide accurate scientific data on produce from Fukushima and its surrounding region to ensure food safety, and actively promote that produce which has met safety standards. At the same time, the government should make greater efforts to dispel the negative impression of the whole nation being associated with radiation by delegating spokespersons overseas to promote both tourism and importing goods from Japan. Though we consumers are expected to pay attention to safety, being overly sensitive to everything related to Tohoku will not help rejuvenate the region but further hamper our economic activities. We have to be equipped with a critical mind to carefully evaluate the safety of products we buy based on reliable data, not on prevalent groundless rumors. I for one am anxiously awaiting the first delivery of a twelve months’ set of local specialities from Tohoku I ordered online – a humble gesture to show my support for Tohoku.