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'Good thing it was Tohoku': Social media puts positive spin on gaffe

The words of recently resigned disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura that it was a "good thing" that the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster had hit the Tohoku region rather than the Tokyo area has been turned around into a positive force on social media.

Imamura made the comment at an evening Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) function on April 25, prompting his resignation the following day. While the immediate response on the web to his gaffe was largely that of anger, many posts put a positive spin on the statement, instead celebrating the "good things" about the Tohoku region.

"It was a good thing I was born in Tohoku," "The scenery and cuisine of Tohoku was a good thing" -- posts like these celebrating the love and charm of the Tohoku region and photos introducing the scenery and unique specialty products flooded social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram under the hashtag "Tohoku de yokatta" (It was a good thing it was Tohoku).

Imamura's comments were first broadcast after 6 p.m. on April 25, and after public broadcaster NHK's evening news at 7 p.m., angry posts calling for him to stop talking and resign exploded on social media. But according to an investigation by the Mainichi Shimbun, the posts made a positive turn at about 9 p.m. The reason for the change in the tide appears to be the victory of the Pacific League professional baseball team the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in an evening game. A fan, turning around Imamura's words, tweeted, "It was a good thing the Rakuten (Golden Eagles) are from Tohoku."

In response to the spread of the hashtag, many netizens made positive comments such as, "When I saw the news of the minister's rude comment I thought a lot of different things, but seeing so many amazing tweets warmed my heart." Twitter Japan's official account also praised the movement, tweeting, "There is an amazing collection of tweets. They may be useful in planning (Golden Week) getaways." At an April 26 press conference, Imamura's successor to the post of reconstruction minister, Masayoshi Yoshino, hailing from the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki, praised the posts as well.

According to a PR representative of Twitter Japan, as of 8 p.m. on April 26, the number of tweets with the "It was a good thing it was Tohoku" tag had reached roughly 130,000 and was still growing.

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