The “faceless Fukushima 50”, they’ve been called. They’ve also been banned from talking to the media, although some are obviously defying the ban (or is this a deliberate leak?).

I haven’t been keeping a beady eye on non-Japanese media reports about these, so I’m not sure how they have been reported, but no doubt there will be (or perhaps have been) the usual, predictable slew of “Cover-up!! Government lies!!!”-type articles. It sells newspapers and attracts eyeballs, which is what “media” is all about.

A group of Japanese women I spoke to recently about the “faceless Fukushima 50” did not jump to this conclusion. What was their conclusion? That TEPCO was not revealing names in order to protect the workers. After all, everyone is guessing that the workers have been exposed to high levels of radiation. What happens to them after they come home? If they try to change jobs? Chances are high that they will be ostracized.

Voice of America reporter Steve Herman, who traveled around the quake-hit area for 7-10 days after the earthquake and whose reporting focused on the Fukushima nuclear crisis, tweeted on his return to Tokyo that everyone was glad to see him back but no-one wanted to hug him!

Imagine how it might be for those TEPCO workers if they were “outed”.

I have no evidence to prove that this is, in fact, TEPCO’s motivation for keeping their workers anonymous. However, if my past experience is any guide, the typical, Western, knee-jerk conclusion is wrong, more often than not, when it comes to interpreting Japanese behaviour. The parameters are different.

This Japan Times article says Murata has stayed at the plant since March 11, but an earlier Japan Times article (April 3) reported “In regular rotation, groups are bused out to three-day shifts of punishing work at the water-logged, radiation-spewing complex.”

“I can’t tell you. It’s personal information,” said Yasuki Murata, a 44-year-old worker from the plant’s planning and public relations section, batting away repeated questions about his radiation exposure in an interview Wednesday.

Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant, causing it to spew radioactive materials into the environment, Murata has been staying on the plant’s premises in a two-story quake-proof building whose few windows are covered with lead plates to keep out radiation.

via Nuke plant worker mum about own exposure to fallout | The Japan Times Online.

TEPCO workers in happiers days

TEPCO workers in happier days (click photo for source)