Crying TEPCO chief joins Cavalcade of Sad Guys

Managing Director Akio Komori of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company that manages the more or less totally Fuk-ed Fukushima nuclear plant in northern japan, wept as he left a press conference today. During that press conference, he conceded that the ongoing radiation leaks were serious enough to cause injury or death to those in the highest area of danger, closest to the damaged plant.

Some will observe this moment as a genuine display of human grief. Others, including some folks in Japan via Twitter, have expressed anger: TEPCO is responsible for the disaster, the logic goes; they've been less than forthcoming as it unfolded, the situation grows more dangerous each day the crisis remains unresolved, and he might save the tears for after they have fixed it. What's more, thanks to documents leaked by Wikileaks, we now know that TEPCO has a history of mendacious, profit-seeking and safety-risking corporate conduct.

I have added him to the Ultimate Cavalcade of Sad Guys.



  1. Send him to the site.

    May his tears cool the rods like an [asian weather-related metaphor] from Heaven.

  2. I would separate Akio Komiri from most of your selected images: something very bad is happening, and he is genuinely sorry.

    I cannot imagine how he will live after this, and it seems that he cannot either.

    Why waste time making jokes when people will be dying?!

    1. IIRC, three of the original engineers designing that plant quit in protest. And, as usual for these things, I suspect we will hear of a long litany of ignored warnings.

      For example: The fuel tank for the backup generator was above ground. In a tsunami zone. Even a lowly civilian gas station keeps its tank underground!

      The coolant pumps failed because the backup generator needs fuel that the tsunami blew away.

      Even a much smaller earthquake would have caused this crisis.

      (Note to Xeni: I also suspect that Japanese CEOs are not overcompensated…)

      1. I didn’t say he was right, just that he didn’t belong in that photo collection of jerks.

        He will, of course, belong in a special section of Hell.

        And regarding your note to Xeni: i would be willing to bet every tooth in your head that Japanese CEOs are paid more poorly than the guy that runs the American Bank branch next to you.

        1. I didn’t say he was right, just that he didn’t belong in that photo collection of jerks.

          He is the managing director of a company who is (1) using 40 year old technology (2) in a tsunami/earthquake zone who (3) has been warned and aware of the design flaws inherent in the reactors and (4) has been less than forthcoming in trying to control this crisis.

          In general, one should never ever ever apologize for criticizing business owners or major companies. If you feel that they have done you wrong or are behaving in a way that put others at risk, you should speak up. General rules of social politeness hold no bearing when dealing with folks who see you as a profit source and do not care about your well being.

          1. Glenn Beck and John Boehner are manipulative assholes who cry for theatrical effect, they have a lot to feel sorry for, and I’ll bet money they don’t feel bad about any of it.

            Whereas, Akio Komori seems overwhelmed with well-placed remorse for all the people he helped to kill, maim, and displace and all the land he helped to despoil. If anyone deserves to be wracked with guilt, it’s this guy.

            If only Tony Hayward of BP had the moral sense to feel a fraction of the guilt and shame that was coming to him over the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

            So, I agree, he doesn’t seem like a natural fit for the Cavalcade of Sad Guys.

        2. Boo:

          i would be willing to bet every tooth in your head

          A warning, this sort of talk will get you banned by our mods. Please compose yourself.

  3. Ugh – you could have picked a better source than the Daily Fail. They couldn’t even spell the guy’s name right. It’s Akio Komori.

    1. I’m occasionally tempted to write a Safari extension that automatically warns you when following a link to the Daily Mail.

  4. My takeaway of Cavalcade Of Sad Guys is that it’s historically accurate. For the most part, men are responsible for the mayhem that occurs on this planet. They *should* grieve.

  5. i have to agree with boo here — this guy knows he’s now responsible for the health & life (or lack of) of many, many people. japanese pride takes such blows much deeper than we’d expect. i hope he doesn’t do anything drastic in atonement. that being said, i just love Shocked Cat.

  6. One thing that stands out to me in that picture is just how fake Glen Beck’s crying looks. (Almost typed “lying” instead of “crying.” How appropriate.)

    1. Dculberson, that photo of Glenn Beck crying is indeed fake. It was a staged shot for a magazine article (I think it was GQ). I caught one of his shows where he actually did start to cry while talking about George Washington and he looked like an even bigger dope than he does in the staged photo. Big pasty-faced friggin’ crybaby.

      1. Dculberson, that photo of Glenn Beck crying is indeed fake. It was a staged shot for a magazine article (I think it was GQ).

        Yeah, from GQ, there’s a little article on the story of that photoshoot (including footage of stuff being put under his eyes to get up a good fake cry) here. I guess Beck would say that he did it as a kind of self-parody (kind of like Rush Limbaugh playing himself on Family Guy, these radio guys want to prove they have a sense of humor), but as you said his “real” crying seems just as fake.

  7. I think that any sensible person wouldn’t hate an individual just because they work for a company. Maybe TEPCO could have done a better job; I think we can leave that to the Japanese to figure out. I’m not going to use a Daily Mail piece to heap scorn on anybody.

    This just sucks on so many levels for everyone in Japan. I don’t think using Three Mile Island is a good example of how bad it is, they got that under control relatively quickly and nobody died from it (that we know of).

    1. I think that any sensible person wouldn’t hate an individual just because they work for a company.

      Unless I know someone who works for a company I hate personally, I could care less how they feel when they act as an agent of a company.

      Sure, I’ll treat them as a human being if I meet them in the flesh. But get real. You do not know the TEPCO folks and neither do I. They are folks paid to—and entrusted to—running their business safely. When they don’t do that, they should be hated. The vast majority of the world only knows them as such.

  8. To be honest, I find this article/picture just offensive given the gravity of what is going on.

    How dare we, or the author of this, presume to understand what is going on in that man’s head. If we could walk a mile in his shoes we would have the right to judge him, but we don’t.

    This man, through accident or misconduct, may be partially responsible for what is currently tied as the 2nd greatest nuclear disaster in our history, and could still become the first. The grief and agony this man is surely be experiencing must be immense. I defy your readership to have ever been in similar shoes. I defy the author to even have the experience or wisdom to truly understand this man’s plight.

    Yet this article joyfully pounces upon the suffering and grief of not just an entire nation, but the entire world, and makes fun of a man who deserves our support. There will be plenty of time for condemnation when the crisis is over, but even then, tasteless humour like this will still be inappropriate and seriously lacking in any form of respect or good judgement.

    1. If any TEPCO staff are reading BoingBoing and are upset at this should really be mocked. Because they should be working to fix this mess instead of reading posts on an American blog.

      1. Of course, this disaster is not the result of human error.

        But for that tsunami, this would not be happening.

        1. Of course, this disaster is not the result of human error. But for that tsunami, this would not be happening.

          True. Folks didn’t know about problems with Ford Pintos blowing up until they were rear-ended. Point made. Point taken. You win!

          1. Taken from turn_self_off from another thread here at Boing Boing, but of relevance to your point wrt engineering foresight:

            “So the engineers sit down, check the documents about earthquakes in the area, find out how bad it can get, add maybe 10-50% to that and build something that can take that kind of abuse and not have a catastrophic breakdown. This only to find nature throwing them a event that is maybe 52% above historic cases.

            Should engineers basically be expected to take all historic worst cases, square those and then use that as a kind of “best case” for building safety?”

            I would only add, that the Pinto matter has so far resulted in a far greater loss of life than this matter has to date.

      2. I live in Canada. Has anyone ever told you that old adage regarding assumptions? :) (Hint, look for tells in my spelling.)

        I am certain their employees are doing what they can, but many could also be sent home, in hospital or otherwise not on-site, so your comment comes off as a tad bit insensitive in saying they should be mocked.

        It seems to me that your stance says that American opinions matter, but the opinions of the people in Japan, specifically the TEPCO employees, should they choose to post them on an American service, do not. Your rights for free speech extend only to those you deem acceptable. Food for thought.

        If I am reading your intent wrong, then you may want to clarify. However, you represented yourself very clearly as far as I am concerned.

        1. It seems to me that your stance says that American opinions matter, but the opinions of the people in Japan, specifically the TEPCO employees, should they choose to post them on an American service, do not. Your rights for free speech extend only to those you deem acceptable. Food for thought.

          Does that straw man keep you warm at night? Because that is not my stance at all. My stance is in the realm of companies versus individuals, I could care less about companies. In this case, I could care less about TEPCO’s personal feelings since it has none. It is a company. A company that Akio Komori works for, whose management he is a part of, whose salary is funded by and whose responsibility is a part of the job. In this case the warnings were in place, they fully knew they were working with outdated technology and did nothing other than cover-up safety records and falsify accident reports.

          And now this.

          Is Akio Komori and TEPCO the sole cause of this mess. Nope. That was the cause of the tsunami. But TEPCO and it’s management—which includes Akio Komori—is 100% responsible for ignoring engineers warnings and the warnings of others.

          Covering up records isn’t a sign of confidence. It’s a sign of incompetence.

          And I have no personal ire towards Akio Komori or any other management wonks at TEPCO. But I could also care less about their personal feelings and emotions.

          While their salaries are not as high as others in the U.S. and Europe, they still are focusing on the bottom-line and not the long term.

          Anyone caring about the long term would not have outdated plants in operation in a sensitive area like this. TEPCO is fully responsible for this mess because of their lack of planning.

          1. They still don’t deserve to be mocked. It is just insensitive and disrespectful and you know it full well.

          2. They deserve to be mocked. Companies do not deserve free speech. And if someone is an agent of a company engaging the world as such, that person is not so special they deserve to have some “slack” cut for them.

            Their lack of competence in nuclear energy management is disrespectful to the health and safety of the energy consumers they are more than glad to take money from.

  9. When an corporation or government is talking about a problem that would result in them to losing money or power (oil spills), the problem is much worse than they say. When they’re talking about a problem that will cause them to gain money or power (drugs, terrorism), the problem is nowhere near as bad as they say.

  10. The fact that he is truly sorry doesn’t absolve him (or any others bearing responsibility) of criticism. From what I understand, profit, through massive industry lobbying, was privileged over safety here (as is so often the case).

    Tim Shorrock here on TEPCO and some of the history of nuclear in Japan :

    1. As to the profit motive to cut corners: this is the reason these plants ought to be wholly publicly-owned, if not operated: we ultimately bear the costs of errors, and thus we should be the ones to reap the benefits and profits.

      Plus: it removes that reason at least for cutting corners on safety.

    1. I think Keanu is comforting him with the soft, gentle words of “It’s okay. I know kung fu…”

  11. Noooooo! He’s hiding sad shoulder-Keanu!!

    Put him in front of shocked kitty; it doesn’t fit the mood AND it’s a female cat anyways!

  12. Wow, you deleted a comment criticizing your taste in
    mocking this gentleman.

    I’m impressed.

    1. No, I deleted a comment containing an offensive racial epithet. I’m not so impressed.

  13. To clarify the director’s position, let’s scale his situation down to a sort of “everyman” level.

    Let’s say you’re driving your car along the highway during a light rain shower. You hydroplane and slam into a minivan in the next lane, driving them into a guard rail and killing everyone on board. An elderly lady, her adult daughter and two small children. All dead. You make it out with no physical injuries.

    Emergency personnel arrive to clean up and assess the situation. The police inform you that your tire tread was awfully low. If you’d replaced your tires before they reached such a state, you likely would not have hydroplaned. You also might have avoided the hydroplane if you’d been driving 5mph slower. In other words, it sounds like they’re going to charge you with the deaths of four innocent people.

    As they load you into the squad car, you see the paramedics wheeling a gurney to the ambulance with a white sheet covering what appears to be a small body. You break down and cry, realizing the magnitude of what has happened.

    Are you a stupid c*cksucker for crying about this? Do you deserve to be hated and mocked by the well-insulated and distant strangers who hear of your situation? After all, the accident WAS your fault. It was scandalous of you to spend your money on new accessories for your bike instead of new tires for your car. Are you a hateful monster or a human being who made a terrible error?

    Let’s scale the situation back up now and look again at our bereaved TEPCO director. Scale up the complexity of his job, the stakes he’s dealing with and so on. Do you really suppose this is all his fault? Do you think he designed the reactors and cackled madly as he dropped hot fuel rods into it? Or do you suppose he’s trying to fix a series of fuck-ups perpetrated by MANY people over the last 40 years and it’s beginning to wear him down?

    I’m not saying the man is a saint. But it’s wrong to tell him he can’t be upset at the loss of life and the misery he knows he helped create, whether he meant to or not.

    1. The issue here is not assigning fault to anyone, it’s obviously not that simple.
      It would be nice to get away from the mentality that dictates that simply because one analyses a tragedy and tries to find out exactly what happened that one is necessarily demonizing someone. We should be objective and not let the terrible tragedy glaze our eyes over and prevent us from looking at this thing clearly, that’s all.
      Obviously, no one has ever said that TEPCO people remote-controlled the tsunami into Eastern Japan…

      These events don’t happen in a vacuum, and aside from the somewhat unpredictable geological (earthquake) aspects and the strictly nuclear technology aspects of this (plant design, enrichment, cooling and safety systems, the needs of Japan to be energy independent, etc.) there is also a political and economic context in which the events take place which cannot be ignored.

      It is a broader problem, and there has been ample discussion here and elsewhere that not everything was done in a transparent and honest manner, and precedents, past incidents, etc. When you’re dealing with nuclear energy, especially in a country where there are such dense population centers, you owe it to everybody to be as transparent as possible.

      TEPCO has set targets for corporate profits and financial
      improvements in order to realize our management vision. Details of
      TEPCO´s business objectives (averaged over three years from FY2002
      to FY2004) are as follows:
      · Ordinary Income: more than ¥300 billion
      · ROA (Return on Assets): more than 4%
      · ROE (Return on Equity): more than 9%
      · Free Cash Flow: more than ¥550 billion
      · Interest-bearing Debt: Reduction of more than ¥400 billion
      · Equity ratio: Approx. in the range of 17% ( at the end of FY2004)
      Yes, obviously it is easy to criticize when things go wrong, but that doesn’t mean the criticisms are without merit.

      If I were him, I’d be crying too, by the way.

  14. This is Japan, where a prime minister took responsibility for a recession by taking a job as a dishwasher and living only on that salary.

  15. Do you really suppose this is all his fault?

    He is the face of a faceless organization who has a long history of covering up safety records and who has not been 100% transparent in the severity of damage to the facility he is in charge of in this case.

    There are millions of people on Earth. This guy is the person who has decided to take a salary representing an organization whose behavior has come to haunt them right now. Cutting corners and lying in the past has come to haunt TEPCO and exacerbate this mess. TEPCO and it’s employees deserve all the support they can get to fix this mess but their lack of foresight cannot be ignored.

    1. I would agree that there seems to be some room for improvement, but who can honestly say that is not so of themselves as well?

  16. Shocked cat is shocked, not crying. Its inclusion in the photo upsets me. So much that I am…in tears.

  17. I’m almost as sensitive on behalf of these emotional guys as I should probably still be re: the Quake-Tsunami-Meltdown. Seriously, regardless whether some of the individuals in this group are scumbags or whether their expressions of emotion are sincere, doesn’t it bug anybody that making fun of them is a kneejerk macho reaction for their failure to uphold traditional gender roles? Hell, Julian Assange and Keanu aren’t even crying in these pictures, but they deserve some kind of derision because they seem sad?

    1. doesn’t it bug anybody that making fun of them is a kneejerk macho reaction for their failure to uphold traditional gender roles?

      Probably, but it sure doesn’t bug me. I’ve always applauded the recent-ish erosion of the “strong, silent” stiff-upper-lipped male archetype, and it’s been a good thing that men have been encouraged to shed tears and otherwise show a little emotion now and again.

      That said, let us examine the above-displayed crybabies. We see before us the reliably classy Jon Hamm portraying the occasionally despicable Don Draper, bawling his eyes out because the one woman who really knew and understood him and forgave him his many, many, many faults is (spoiler alert) dead. The hurl-stain on his shoulder is just physical evidence of only one or two of those many, many, many faults.

      Then you got your Bawlin’ Beck. Taking advantage of the recent movement liberating men’s tear-ducts and our nation’s encouragement of masculine emotional displays, in order to shed crocodile tears for the sheer love of his god-fearin’ red-state country. Golly, doesn’t it make him seem so much more sincere?

      And Boehner’s waterworks. He, too, mops his cheeks because he’s just so emotionally overwhelmed with adoration for his country and the political institutions attendant thereto. He’s not sad, not grieving, not particularly wrung out, nor has he been chopping onions. He’s just leaking because he’s so honored to be, you know, Leaker Speaker Boehner.

      Iron Eyes Cody, fake Indian, cries because of litter. Fair enough.

      Dude crying over the public treatment of Britney Spears. This is precisely why they coined the phrase, “Aw, for cryin’ out loud!”

      Van der Beek ain’t cryin’, he’s just smelling Boehner’s lunch. Keanu’s moping to the tune of several million per movie, Assange is just cold, and can you blame Our Lord for having a migraine?

      Excepting the Savior, do any of these fellas do service to the idea that men should be able to shed tears freely when emotional circumstance warrants it? Or do every last one of them abuse this idea, in the service of grabbing hold of our sympathies and exploiting it to serve their own ends?

      This here’s the point of this post: none of these guys have earned the right to receive a hug and a “there there… let it all out now” from us. Real sadness and grief and emotional stirring enjoy that privilege.

      When we wanna say, “snap out of it and get ahold of yourself, man… you’re embarrassing us,” it’s to guys like these.

  18. To be fair, Bill Clinton is the father of modern male crying-at-the-drop-of-a-hat.

  19. “TEPCO is responsible for the disaster”

    TEPCO is no more reponsible for the disaster than Poseidon himself is responsible for calling the tsunami.

    The distinction here is that TEPCO is responsible for FIXING the disaster. I am sure they’re doing the best fucking job they can to avoid it from becoming any worse. There are some deeply selfless and heroic deeds going on there RIGHT NOW.

    We should not be angry at those in charge of mopping up this shitstorm when they behave like the human beings they are.

    1. We should not be angry at those in charge of mopping up this shitstorm when they behave like the human beings they are.

      There was a car accident in front of my building a few years back. Some asshole decided to do a u-turn, slammed into the drivers side of a taxi sending the driver to the hospital with a broken ankle. The driver who hit the taxi was walking around crying. 100% nobody cared. The jerk caused the accident, damaged the life of someone else, and he’s crying for what?

      Grow up and learn responsibility. I don’t mock Akio Komori over crying, but I could care less about his pain or his tears. Lives have been destroyed. His tears mean nothing to me.

  20. People do not deserve to be mocked. It is something a child does, not a mature and intelligent individual. Say what you like, defend your lies to save face, whatever works for you, but you and I both know the truth.

    I won’t be returning to this, I’ve said what I felt I needed to.

    1. Public shaming is a major deal in Japan. If you think “mocking” him is disrespectful from a guy in the U.S. like me, I hate to tell you but few people in Japan have any respect for TEPCO or their management.

    2. Chief, you might want to contact Japan’s prime minister and ask him why he is being so “disrespectful” to TEPCO:

      In an angry confrontation with executives at Tokyo Electric Power on Wednesday, Naoto Kan, Japan’s prime minister, demanded to know “what the hell was going on” at the utility’s critically damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. He also delivered a warning: “If you abandon the plant, I guarantee Tepco will collapse.”

      The government and regulators will have to answer their share of questions too. Katsunobu Oanda, a journalist who has written a book on Tepco, says a dangerously cosy relationship exists between the utility and state overseers. “The regulator and the regulated are old classmates,” he says.

      Both sides of what he calls “Japan’s nuclear power mafia” are motivated by a desire to defend atomic power from its critics. The result, he says, has been a closed and defensive corporate culture at Tepco, where managers focus on protecting themselves instead of the company, let alone the country

  21. These seem like real tears of horror and contrition, and there’s a decent chance that this guy will commit suicide. Does that absolve him or TEPCO of responsibility? No. But at a human level, should we for a moment divorce our anger about Fukushima from our ability to show compassion to another person? Probably. Accountability is one thing and empathy is another. We need them both, especially in a tragedy of this magnitude.

  22. I find this in extremely poor taste. I always find boingboing articles extremely worthwhile; it’s one of my favorite sites. That said, your narrow-mindedness in this grave situation leaves me re-evaluating this position.

    Yes, I’m of Japanese ethnicity. Both of my parents (and every one of my relatives for over a millenia) are from Japan. Yes, I’m sure it affects my sensitivity toward this subject. I can still objectively state that you have very bad judgment, and ask that you think twice before making light of possibly tens of thousands of human beings that have lost their lives.

  23. I have to agree with Kirk and others that this was an unnecessary and fairly insulting post, even if unintentional, to all of the people who are affected by this crisis. Why is he crying? Because the Japanese people are experiencing a tremendously horrible shit-storm right now. That’s what those tears are for, I have no doubt. By extension, having a laugh at this is, by extension, having a laugh at the situation in more general terms, I think.

    I will add that I’m the last guy to say injecting bits of dark humor into terrible situations to add a bit of levity is totally uncalled for. But, this was not a good way of doing it, especially for a news-oriented blog that has looked, for days now, like it is trying to behave in a truly “journalistic” fashion. This post discredits those efforts.

    Oh and PS, apparently Kianu is a really cool, down to earth guy in “real life,” gives away a huge amount of his money, and may, legitimately, have things going on his his life from time to time that would bring any of us down. I, for one, like the guy.

  24. Can anyone say “BP gulf oil spill”. This reminds me of the way BP and the US Government (miss) handled the all the info that was given to the American public.

  25. Whoa, where did Smoakes’ comment go? I agreed with it, and it didn’t use inappropriate language. I’m also tired of the shaming of men who cry, whether or not it’s at the drop of a hat. There are other, legitimate criticisms of some of these men (Beck), and others deserve to be allowed their feelings without public comment (Reeves). I don’t know enough to say whether Komori’s distress and tears are genuine or not, and therefore I wouldn’t presume to criticise. Jeez.

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