Nosebleeds, food, and fear: How a popular manga became the centre of a debate about Fukushima

In the West, comics are often considered predominantly for younger audiences, and adults who spend more time scrutinising the contents of speech bubbles than printed paragraphs might be looked down on by some. But in Japan, comics are considered a perfectly acceptable pastime whatever one’s age.

More often than not, comics, or manga to use the Japanese term, provide their readers with a break from reality, much like a TV drama or soap, and allow readers to peek into the kinds of worlds that they might not ordinarily be able. But there are times when fiction and reality come together, and real-world events become fodder for a writer’s imagination or in some case the main focus of a story. In the case of popular manga series Oishinbo (美味しんぼ), one particular plotline has raised not just eyebrows but objections on a national level, and what was once just a comic about food has become the centre of a debate about health, radiation, and whether the Japanese government is telling the truth about Fukushima.

Today, we delve a little deeper into the “Oishinbo Nosebleed Problem”, as it has become known, and consider whether, after the resulting backlash, this controversial topic is one that the manga’s writer perhaps ought to have left well alone.

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