#TōhokudeYokatta: How Japanese Netizens Transformed a Politician’s Blunder into an Inspiring Message

On April 25th, Tuesday, during a presentation on the March 2011 disaster, a callous remark slipped out of then minister of reconstruction Masahiro Imamura. Revisiting the numbers that represent the damage the disaster had made, Imamura casually pointed out that, “It was a good thing that the disaster hit Tohoku,” as the damages would have been incalculable had it struck anywhere near the capital.

Needless to say, the remark was not well-received. When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took the stage later that night, he began with an apology, stating that Imamura had uttered inappropriate words during his presentation that hurt the feelings of the disaster’s survivors. It was too late to do damage control however, as Imamura’s words had made its way to Twitter, and enraged comments have popped up under the hashtag “TōhokudeYokatta.” (#東北でよかった; Good thing it was Tōhoku)

People called for Imamura’s resignation and by Wednesday night, the minister caved into submission. In the timeline of news stories, this would have been the end—a transgression has been made and accordingly sanctioned, balance has been restored, and people can now move on to the next story.

Except that the hashtag didn’t disappear after that. Once the bearer of bad news and angry messages, #TōhokudeYokatta became a badge of honor, with Twitter users reappropriating Imamura’s words to highlight what’s good about Tohoku. From gorgeous scenery to local cuisine, Twitter was filled with overflowing appreciation for the region. Continue reading