Fukushima Joke on French TV Triggers Outrage in Japan, Apology

A soccer-related joke on public network France 2 saw Japan file an official complaint.


PARIS – The head of French public network France 2, Jean Reveillon, had to formally apologize to officials at the Japanese embassy in Paris after a soccer joke from TV host Laurent Ruquier that referred to Fukushima offended the Japanese.

Ruquier’s daily TV show on France 2, On n’est pas couches(Up All Night), owes much of its longevity and success to its provocative tone. Guests are regularly submitted to ironic exchanges and banter with a jury-like panel of hosts. The show's focus has always been on a politically incorrect treatment of the news.

But the host went too far on Tuesday with a joke about the Japanese soccer team's goalkeeper, Eiji Kawashima. The French team had lost 0-1 in a friendly match against Japan, thanks in part to the performance of Kawashima.

A quick montage during the French program’s intro showed him with an extra set of arms, which the host said may be related to the “Fukushima effect.”

Although the host showered the French players with much sarcasm, it was Japan that filed a protest over the image.

Last year, there was a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.

"We are deeply sorry for having hurt your fellow citizens. Laurent Ruquier did not want to be disrespectful to Japan and the Fukushima victims," Reveillon told the Japanese embassy. "Given the emotions that this has sparked, France 2 presents its regrets and reaffirms our friendship to the Japanese people."

Kawashima also was the target of in-stadium distractions during a recent game against Belgium, with Belgian supporters singing “Kawashima Fukushima." The goalkeeper left the field before the end of the match.