TOKYO — A journalist finds his nose doesn't stop bleeding after visiting the meltdown-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. He also learns others suffer similar symptoms.
The scene from popular manga comic "Oishinbo," published last month, has set off a hot public debate in Japan — a nation still traumatized by the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Local governments immediately protested the comic, saying it fosters unfounded fears of radiation.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe chimed in over the weekend, reassuring the public there was no proof of a link between radiation and such illnesses. "The government will make the best effort to take action against baseless rumors," he said.
Undeterred by the ruckus, Tokyo-based publisher Shogakukan added a special 10-page segment to weekly Big Comic Spirits magazine, published Monday, featuring criticism it had received as well as opinion from radiation experts.
Editor Hiroshi Murayama acknowledged he had been unsure about publishing the manga, subtitled "The Truth of Fukushima," because he anticipated people would be offended. But he had decided that voice needed to be heard, he said.
"We hope the various views on the latest 'Oishinbo' will lead to a constructive debate into assessing our future," he said in the special segment.
"Oishinbo," a hit series usually about gourmet food, which began in the 1980s, will be discontinued temporarily in the magazine. But the publisher said that had been the plan even before the controversy. It is not clear when it will run again.
So far, there has been no confirmed illnesses related to radiation among nuclear plant workers or residents of Fukushima. The nuclear disaster began three years ago in March 2011, when a giant tsunami disabled backup generators at three reactors. Entire towns around the Fukushima plant remain no-go zones.