Viral social media posts in Chinese claimed former Japanese politician Yasuhiro Sonoda died of cancer in 2020 in Palau, alluding that it was due to the “nuclear-contaminated” water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant he drank on camera in 2011.
“The verdict is finally out. Yasuhiro Sonoda already died in 2020 from multiple myeloma,” a post said on Aug. 26, for example. It claimed that Sonoda was diagnosed in 2018 and received medical treatment in the U.S. and hospice care in Palau at the end of 2019 but eventually died in August the following year.
Similar claims of various lengths spread on China’s popular social media, including Weibo, Bilibili, and Douyin, just days after the Tokyo Electric Power Company began releasing treated wastewater at its plant in Fukushima.
Other Chinese news sites and forums were also flooded by articles carrying the same or similar claims, which were also seen on X (formerly known as Twitter), YouTube, and Quora in English and Japanese.
However, these claims were not substantiated with any evidence or facts.
Annie Lab asked a reporter from Japan’s Kyodo News Agency to help locate Sonoda last week, and he subsequently interviewed the 56-year-old former lawmaker who came on record with Kyodo, denying the rumors about his death.
We also made a follow-up inquiry to Sonoda’s personal email address. We will update this story once we hear from him.
Sonoda’s alleged death is a recurrent rumor that changes details. The previous one, debunked by MyGoPen in July, said he died in 2015, four years after his on-camera performance, but it did not make sense because he was the CEO of Alliance Cargo Direct Inc., a subsidiary under All Nippon Airways, until he stepped down in 2020.
During a televised press conference on Oct. 31, 2011, Sonoda was seen drinking a glass of water collected from the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, after a journalist challenged him to prove the water’s safety.
Sonoda, who was serving as the Cabinet Office’s parliamentary spokesman at the time, told reporters during the conference after the performance that “drinking [decontaminated water] doesn’t mean safety has been confirmed. Presenting data to the public is the best way,” according to a BBC report.
Sonoda subsequently ran for the House of Representatives in 2012 and 2014 in Gifu prefecture but failed to secure a position. The last update of his personal Twitter account shows his campaign trail also stopped in Dec. 2014.
Prior to Kyodo’s interview, Sonoda was last interviewed by CoinVoice in July 2019 to talk about ACD’s business in China as its CEO. He was also photographed while giving a roadshow talk in Chengdu that year.