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Puppet show orchestrated by TEPCO

March 25, 2013



'Housewives' educating children on energy linked to TEPCO PR firm




A puppet theater troupe advertising itself on its website as "started by a group of housewives concerned about energy" was in fact founded by staff from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s PR firm, the Mainichi has learned.

According to the website of the puppet theater troupe in question -- Kappa no Kawataro Ichiza -- in 2000 a group of housewives set up an online "energy club" to exchange their views on energy after taking their "children to visit a nuclear power plant and discovering the great efforts being taken to supply energy to private households."

The puppet troupe was launched after club members decided they "wanted to pass on the importance of energy to (their) children," the website continues. In 2002, the troupe was certified as the Japan Industrial Location Center (JILC)'s "energy theater caravan nonprofit organization project."

According to a leading member of the group, however, all five members of the troupe belong to a research firm doing publicity work for TEPCO. Their PR work involves holding parties at their homes for fellow housewives and informing participants of the necessity of nuclear power. One troupe member threw approximately 300 such parties at her home.

Upon hearing from participants at the parties that they wanted their children to learn the same information, the group responded to a JILC call for theater troupes to educate young children about energy. Group members said they made a presentation at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy -- which commissioned the JILC competition -- before the public competition, and were promised assistance on the spot. The members did not explain, however, whether they went to the agency on their own initiative or were encouraged by another party to do so.

One puppet show plot entails "kappa," a creature from Japanese folklore, receiving a letter from a polar bear asking for help. The kappa set out to find that melting ice has separated a baby polar bear from its mother. While the mother and cub are reunited, the kappa are dumbfounded to hear about global warming. Another of the group's shows features a trip to the Edo period (1603-1868) in a time machine to get a glimpse of life without electricity and an understanding of how convenient life has become because of it.

Through 2005, the troupe received up to 2.5 million yen a year in assistance as part of the agency and JILC program, performing at schools in areas hosting nuclear power stations, and at events in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Each member received 7,000 yen per performance. After financial assistance subsequently plummeted to 600,000 yen per year, however, the group chose to cut off its affiliation with the project. Since the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the troupe has performed for children at the request of the Atomuseum in Niigata Prefecture.

The members admit to some feelings of discomfort with their dealings with TEPCO PR officials.

"TEPCO employees sometimes come to our parties for training, but they say they want us to keep their presence a secret form the people we've invited," one member said. "There are things (TEPCO) won't tell even us."

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