Scoop Articles Records

Atomic exposure in the Bikini Atolls (March 1954)

In the early morning of March 1, 1954, the Japanese fishing boat "Daigo (fifth) Fukuryumaru" encountered a U.S. hydrogen bomb test in the South Pacific Bikini Atolls, and 23 crew members were exposed to radiation. After the boat returned to its home port of Yaizu in Shizuoka on the evening of March 15, reporter Mitsuyasu Abe of The Yomiuri Shimbun's Yaizu regional reporter's office caught wind of this radiation exposure from an acquaintance. Abe advanced the coverage in conjunction with our City News Department in Tokyo, and it made the top headline of the City News page on the morning edition of May 16 (front page top article in the Osaka region). This scoop became known around the world, and Abe was awarded the third Kikuchi Kan Prize, which is given to excellent news reporting in Japan.

Detection of sarin residues in Kamikuishiki village (January 1995)

We reported on the top of the front page on Jan. 1, 1995, that residual material from synthesizing the highly toxic gas sarin had been detected by police authorities in the then Kamikuishikimura, Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo. This residual material had also been detected in the previous year in June at the scene of the sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, where 7 people died immediately and 1 later. This led to suspicion of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, which had a facility in Kamikuishikimura, for their involvement in the sarin attacks. This scoop became the forerunner for multiple news reports of incidents caused by the cult.

From the reporter in charge

Akihiko Misawa
Akihiko Misawa
Yomiuri Light and Humanity Association Executive Officer/ General Manager
(then reporter for the City News Department, The Yomiuri Shimbun)

I did have hesitation. The wrong timing for breaking the scoop as an article would be bad. I had always told this to myself. In November 1994, five months after the Matsumoto sarin incident, sarin residues were detected in Kamikuishikimura, Yamanashi Prefecture. However, it was hard to get a good picture of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, and the police were moving slowly. We thought the cult may suddenly increase its activity, so we should perhaps wait for the investigation to be completed. However, we decided to publish after much thought that we should inform the public that a crisis was imminent. Therefore, we chose to publish the article in the paper on New Year's Day, which is an edition that points at the direction for the year.

After these press reports, the cult discarded a large amount of sarin. However, the Tokyo subway sarin incident happened afterward. In this incident, sarin was sprayed in the Tokyo subway, leaving 13 people dead and more than 6,000 injured. I still ask myself whether it may have been possible to prevent the cult's violent act.

Secret nuclear agreement document found in former Prime Minister Sato's house (December 2009)

We reported on the evening edition of Dec. 22, 2009, that a secret agreement regarding the return of Okinawa, signed by then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and then U.S. President Richard Nixon in secret at their meeting in November 1969, had been kept by Sato's surviving family. Okinawa was occupied by the United States after World War II. This document, titled "agreed minutes," gave permission, if contingency situations arose after the return, to bring back in nuclear weapons. Japan's Foreign Ministry had denied the existence of such a secret agreement, and the unearthing and reporting of it by The Yomiuri Shimbun contributed first-class historical material regarding postwar history, revealing a long-concealed historical aspect. Kiyohisa Yoshida of The Yomiuri Shimbun's Political News Department, who broke the news of the existence and content of this document, won the fiscal 2010 Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association award for excellent reporting.

From the reporter in charge

Kiyohisa Yoshida
Kiyohisa Yoshida
Editor, Medical News Department
(then reporter for the Political News Department, The Yomiuri Shimbun)

I was informed of a very important fact. When Shinji Sato, second son of the former prime minister, confided to me that he had a "secret nuclear agreement document," my heart began to throb wildly. However, he refused to have this published as an article, saying that he "did not want to affect Japan-U.S. relations." I guessed that since he was talking to a newspaper reporter, he may be willing to publish this in time. I tenaciously persuaded Mr. Sato for five years to give consent to report on the document. During this time, I elicited the facts one by one on how the document was discovered and its contents. It was work to shed light on the darkness buried deep in history.

Regarding secret nuclear agreements, many media outlets had already found relevant documents and reported on them, but the Foreign Ministry denied the allegations each time. This Yomiuri article became irrefutable evidence of the secret agreement, and put an end to the futile controversy.

In the TEPCO female office worker incident, someone else's DNA found from the victim's personal effects (July 2011)

Regarding the murder of a Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) female employee in 1997, the Tokyo headquarters staff of the City News Department discovered the existence of DNA test results indicating that the Nepalese man imprisoned for life for the crime had been falsely accused, and reported on this on the front page of the July 21, 2011, morning edition. These test results were decisive in the Tokyo High Court decision in November 2012 to acquit the man. The staff was awarded a fiscal 2012 Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association award.

From the reporter in charge

Manabu Hayasaka
Manabu Hayasaka
Deputy Editor, City News Department, The Yomiuri Shimbun

Even after the man was found innocent more than one year after our scoop, we were not able to rejoice completely. In the course of reporting on this DNA testing, our crew found that the police and prosecutors had made serious mistakes in their investigations. They had detected a blood type other than that of the accused from the body of the female victim, but had hidden the fact during the trial. When we reported on this fact, the prosecutors lashed back harshly. They claimed that the evidence was "just not necessary to prove the case, and was not hidden."

However, if this blood type test result had been submitted as evidence during the trial, the man may not have been imprisoned in a foreign land. Fifteen years lost for the crime of innocence. I cannot stop asking myself why both the criminal justice system and the press could not save him earlier.

8 died after laparoscopic surgery at Gunma University Hospital (November 2014)

We reported on the scoop that eight patients died after they underwent a highly difficult laparoscopic liver resection surgery, not covered by insurance, at Gunma University Hospital in Gunma Prefecture, in three and a half years since 2011. The report was published on the front page of the morning edition of Nov. 14, 2014. Through the example of Gunma University Hospital, the reporting crew revealed that noninsurance-covered surgery had been repeated without ethics examinations or sufficient explanations to patients. These articles raised problems about the opaque application of cutting-edge medicine. This series of reports had a large impact, and became the motivating force for responsible organizations and the medical field in general to move toward improvement. The staff was awarded the fiscal 2015 award from the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association for excellent coverage.

From the reporter in charge

Yukiko Takanashi
Assistant editor, Medical News Department, The Yomiuri Shimbun

Coverage of medical accidents, plagued by the difficulty of concretely establishing proof of the problem, often does not see the light of day. For the problem at Gunma University Hospital, we were able to pile up externally observable facts such as the difficulty of this surgery not covered by insurance and the lack of ethical review by the hospital, and we were thereby able to cut to the heart of the problem.

In our series of reports, we covered not only mismanagement at one hospital, but also tried to shed light on the challenges facing modern medicine that became clear through this medical accident, from multiple perspectives. As a result, many medical facilities took the opportunity to review their medical ethics and medical safety, and to change course toward improvement in these matters.

  • The affiliations of the reporters in charge, as well as their titles, are as of January 2016