No End to Crank Calls Made over Fukushima Treated Water Release

Ichiro Ohara / The Yomiuri Shimbun
A video posted on social media in China shows a person making a crank call to Japan.

Crank phone calls apparently from China show no sign of stopping even after the first round of the discharge of treated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant completed Monday.

The calls began after Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. started releasing treated water from the plant into the ocean on Aug. 24.

Urota, a ramen shop in Fukushima, was bombarded on the night of Aug. 24 with telephone calls from people saying in broken Japanese things such as “nuclear tainted water” and “you idiot.” The owner of the restaurant unplugged the phone the next day before the start of business hours. He has not plugged it in since then.

The restaurant had been receiving harassing calls at least every 30 minutes. Because of the crank calls, the restaurant cannot take orders for takeout.

“I wonder who is making these calls and for what purpose,” the owner said with a sigh.

According to the Fukushima prefectural government, more than 10,000 crank calls have been made to entities in the prefecture, including the prefectural government, municipal governments and schools. A medical institution received 30 such calls a day, disrupting services.

“I’m very concerned about the situation,” Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori said at a press conference on Sept. 4.

Municipalities are stepping up efforts to address the situation.

The Fukushima municipal government rejects incoming calls from late at night to the early morning because otherwise officials on the night shift are unable to nap.

When operators at the Tokyo metropolitan government receive harassing calls, they play an automated voice message in Chinese that explains the safety of the treated water. While there were nearly 20,000 crank calls a day at the peak, the number has declined to about 200. However, such calls still account for around one-sixth of total incoming calls.

A cultural center run by Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward rejects incoming international telephone calls.

“If things go back to normal, we may receive crank calls again,” an official at the center said. “Since our facility has nothing to do with the treated water, I hope people stop this harassment.”