Hirano under fire for calling tsunami victims 'idiots'

TOKYO —

Tatsuo Hirano, the minister in charge of post-disaster reconstruction, is under fire for remarks he made Tuesday about tsunami victims being “idiots” for not moving to safety faster.

Hirano made the remarks at a meeting of lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture. Fuji TV reported that Hirano told the gathering, “There were those who moved to safety and thought ‘We’ll be safe here.’ Then there were idiots like my old classmate who didn’t take shelter. He’s dead now.”

Many firefighters were killed by the tsunami because they stayed behind to try and close levee gates. Referring to them and other victims of the March 11 disaster, Hirano said the government needs to examine why so many people left it too late to flee, in order to be better prepared for future disasters.

After Japanese media widely reported his remarks about his friend, Hirano apologized, saying, “I had long wondered why my friend didn’t escape and I let my personal opinion slip out. I apologize if my remarks upset anyone,” Fuji TV reported.

Hirano was appointed to his position in July after his predecessor, Ryu Matsumoto, was forced abruptly to resign after just nine days in the job. Matsumoto stepped down after making remarks widely criticized as offensive during a visit to the tsunami-devastated northeastern coast, where he refused to shake the Miyagi governor’s hand, berated him for being late to a meeting, and threatened to withhold aid. Matsumoto was also heard telling the governor of Iwate, “We won’t help municipalities whose leaders don’t use their common sense to come up with good ideas for rebuilding.”

Japan Today

  • -1

    naruhodo1

    I kinda like this guy for his blunt comments

  • 2

    some14some

    the minister in charge of post-disaster reconstruction

    seem's an unlucky post (ministry), find new title/word and meanwhile Hirano should resign voluntarily.

  • 1

    smithinjapan

    Well, at least he's apologizing for himSELF for a change. Before he had to apologize daily for comments or incidents from or involving Hatoyama.

  • 6

    paulinusa

    His old classmate's surviving family must be thrilled with his remarks.

  • 9

    zichi

    some people had less than 10 to 15 minutes from the end of the earthquake until the time the tsunami struck. The announcement was given that people would be alright on the second level which many were not.

    To be fair, there wasn't much anyone could have done, people's fate played it's part. 270 firemen killed from drowning trying to close manually operated flood gates. They died hero's as many others did too.

    Hirano needs to learn to be more sensitive to people's feelings other he'll be the idiot out of a job!

  • 6

    NetNinja

    Well, there you have it folks. Straight from the horse's mouth. I noticed he didn't refer to TEPCO as idiots. No, he decided he would punk some down on their luck survivors. Big man.

    He should be fired from this position. This is a time when the victims need compassion. The don't need some suit from Tokyo coming down to belittle them.

    No matter what, it's clear to see Tokyo's position and who they are siding with. It's all about Deep Pockets and the boys in radiation suits.

  • 2

    marcelito

    Here we go again - lets see how long before LDP blows this out of proportion and issues statements like " We can not co-operate with DPJ anymore until he resigns " and " Noda should fire him and then take responsiblity for appointing him " etc...Lets the political circus begin again..

  • -2

    JapanGal

    What does Ozawa think about this. He must love it.

  • 0

    Johannes Weber

    This minister's post has an awfully important function: it gives us the impression that six months in office for a (prime) minister is a rather long time.

  • 2

    Reckless

    Well, judging from the typhoon last month I am not surprised. Seems to me half of Tokyo finally decided to evacuate when the typhoon was just about to hit. Not very smart. If you wait to see if the tsunami is really coming you found out this time that it really was coming. Can't judge anyone though. A once in 500 year event, and I probably would have stuck around for one reason or another. I feel worst for the kids though, who were assembled in schoolgrounds to wait for parents to pick them up instead of immediately evacuating to higher ground.

  • -2

    Miyagidad

    IDIOT

  • 0

    LH10

    WTF?! what a moron! he's the idiot.

  • 3

    taj

    Well, I will wait to hear HOW he said it before condemning him. Just the words don't give enough. I would not have guessed from Matsumoto Ryo's words alone just how truely dispicable his comments were. The tone and posture carried most of his contempt. I can imagine Hirano's words being said in a sad and grieving way - speaking of a lost friend with an affectionate "baka". I won't be surprised, though, if I later find he is just as mindless as so many career politicians.

  • 10

    stayinginplace

    Poor translation - "baka" also is used in an affectionate way, particularly by men, to refer to friends. I have heard people (again, mainly men) use this term to refer to friends or family members who got sick or died before them. Even most of the Japanese media is backing off after reading the comments in context.

    Hirano is from the earthquake/tsunami area and has worked ceaselessly since the disaster. He has a good reputation with many people in the area and is known for being very careful with his comments. Maybe the hard work and lack of opportunity to express deep feelings got the better of him.

    Should he be replaced by someone who doesn't know the job well and lots of work and effort have to be reduplicated because of this remark? I for one don't think so...

  • 4

    Mahiru Shiratori

    I agree with stayinginplace. BAKA is used in an affectionate way sometimes. For example, if a father lost his son with car accident or whatever, the father would say "Ore yori sakini shiniyagatte, aitsu wa hontoni BAKA da!!!" Very close friends would also say something like this. What Hirano said could be acceptable among his friends and his friends families that lost their family, but the problem is he is a politician and he has to be careful what he says in public.

  • 2

    tmarie

    Well to be honest, he's right in in many cases. Many people did not listen or follow the evacuation orders and died as a result. All? Certainly not but more than enough. Calling them stupid is harsh but at the same thing, a little more thinking on the part of individuals wouldn't hurt. Reckless points this out well with examples of how people here react to typhoons - stay at work, wait until it is too late to leave as they won't tell the boss where to go.... Heck, look at all the people "demanding" to be allowed to go back to their homes in the Fukushima area even though the areas aren't safe.

  • -2

    NuckinFutz

    Scratch another loser off the list!

  • -3

    realist

    This idiot should resign immediately. He is not fit for Office, much less for the Reconstruction post. His remarks about the tsunami victims are unforgivable, "proper translation" or not.

  • 5

    Uwe Paschen

    I agree that the minister needs to learn to be more sensitive. But I think I know what he felt losing a friend in the tsunami and wondering what if, "Why did the idiot not get out sooner...?" I said the same thing a decade ago losing a friend in a fire we tried to put out on his farm. We are humans even if we are ministers we are still humans and such losses can be weigh a lot on once mind.

  • -7

    Barbara Reder

    fire him!!! what an idiot!! I hope his friends family will sue him!! what is japan coming to ...

  • 1

    warnerbro

    Many tsunami victims were killed by government incompetence. People who did what the bloody government manuals and rehearsals called for ended up dead because the designated evacuation sites were not nearly high enough. The baka are the ones in charge of this country, the parliament and bureaucracy.

  • 2

    Laguna

    The Japanese バカ - which I assume is the word he used - has a variety of meanings, one of which would be closer to "foolhearty." Since he was discussing this in the context of the death of a friend, he probably was lamenting the foolhardiness of those who chose not to save themselves.

    Whatever - time doesn't allow for petty tit-for-tatism. Let it go and let him get on with his job.

  • 4

    Himajin

    Poor translation - "baka" also is used in an affectionate way, particularly by men, to refer to friends. I have heard people (again, mainly men) use this term to refer to friends or family members who got sick or died before them.

    Yes, this is correct.

  • 0

    Foxie

    The area around Sendai is very flat unfortunately so it would have been impossible anyway to evacuate on higher ground since there is none.

  • -4

    herefornow

    Good thing Japan has such a great education system. Otherwise it would produce idiots capable of making stupid comments all the time.

  • -1

    Notthesame

    Doesn't he understand that they were in fact extremely clever for farting around after the quake?

    Please! Take PC out back and shoot it in the head! I am so sick to death of everyone's little sensitivities! Truth is truth. Suck it up princess!

    Every one of adult one of them of sound mind are idiots in the first place for living on the east shore of Japan of all places! Ever saw a ukiyoe print of tsunami?? Yeah, that stuff is for reals fool! You live on the shore of this country and you have a quake, you are not even terribly bright for waiting around for an announcement to evacuate. But if you get it and you putter around, then you are old and infirm, crippled mentally or physically, an elementary school student or younger, or an IDIOT. And most were idiots! And death has not upped their IQs!

    But we all know the politician is being misquoted and mistranslated, unless of course you are also an idiot!

  • 1

    skroknog

    marcelito@ Here we go again

    My sentiments exactly.

  • -1

    Onniyama

    Where do they get these people? How does someone like this ever hold a position of power? Sad.

  • 0

    trinklets2

    @staying in place, I agree with you. I remember seeing a video while the tsunami was underway, and a dog was desperately running for its life yet it was engulf finally with the waves. I felt a sense of sadness and helplessness and I could almost say baka koto na yet inside me I was not really swearing at the dog. I never know anybody personally though I worked somewhere in Fukushima yrs ago but I feel despair for them.

  • -2

    Chinchan Zu

    what an insensitive idiot he is

  • -1

    issa1

    what to expect from politicians who were elected with from illegal foreign money and strong link with gambling.He should resign,after saying something so stupid.

  • 0

    ExportExpert

    Not alot of smart people in positions of power, very often they should think before the words fall out of their mouth's, but the trouble is the thinking part doesnt function very well. Idiots well there are many

  • 1

    CrazyJoe

    Prime Minister Yoshida said バカヤロー(baka yaro) during a budget committee of the Lower House as recently as 1953. He was being questioned by a member of the opposition Socialist Party. He did retract the statement immediately though. As for Hirano he has no malicious intent. For him to think of his old classmate as バカ (baka) is not wrong, but to say that in public is not right.

  • 1

    Notthesame

    I suppose the people who got to the evacuation areas but were still swept away could not be called idiots. It was the idiots in charge who got them killed.

  • -1

    just-a-guy

    Hirano was right, whats wrong did he made?

  • -1

    just-a-guy

    The Noda government is 'extremely' fragile, he is a 'prolonged outgoing' PM from the first day in PM office, his cabinet cannot substain any 'blows'!

  • -1

    BurakuminDes

    Hirano should either resign or be sacked. Not fit for this position. Some of the leaders in this country need to take lessons in speaking with diplomacy - sure, they have probably been brought up to be very direct - but in this situation what he said is unforgivable. Noda should follow him out the door very soon if he doesn't improve his own act - he has personally chosen a bunch of buffoons posing as ministers. Noda will be gone by spring.

  • 1

    Ranger_Miffy2

    Taj and others are right. This just may be a problem with the word "idiot/baka" in print with no reporting on the emotional coloring. Reporters should have done a better job.

  • 0

    gogogo

    Poor translation, baka can translate as foolish as well.

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