Fry's Japan visit axed over QI row


Stephen Fry has dropped plans to film in Japan

Stephen Fry has dropped plans to film in Japan for a new BBC series following a furore caused by his panel show QI.

The broadcaster and wit was due to visit the country for his forthcoming series Planet Word about language.

But the backlash created by a light-hearted discussion of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – which led to a BBC apology – has meant the planned trip has now been shelved.

The BBC said “the strength of feeling” in the country led to the change of plan.

The controversy blew up over an edition of the Fry-hosted QI in which panellists discussed the case of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who survived both of the bombs which were dropped three days apart in 1945.

Stars of the show – including Alan Davies and Bill Bailey – discussed how they were amazed the train network was still functioning after the attack. But it led to a complaint from the Japanese embassy in London, accusing the programme of making light of the tragedies. The daughter of Yamaguchi – who was 93 when he died last year – also spoke out.

Fry had made it known he wished to clear the air during his visit. In a message on Twitter in January, he said: “I’m coming to Japan the week after next as it happens, and I’ll certainly let my regret known (if they let me in).” Fry is currently in Singapore as work on the project continues.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “Due to the strength of feeling in Japan at this time, we have decided to alter the filming schedule and itinerary of Planet Word.”

Roland Kelts, a half-Japanese author who had been due to work on the parts of the production due to be filmed in the country, suggested the reaction to the QI comments had been over the top.

“In video footage, one can easily see, if one speaks and understands English fluently, that the hosts are tiptoeing around the obvious offence, trying to strike a balance between humour and respect.” He added: “In this age of instantaneous visual language, all subtlety was lost, especially on reactionary right-wing Japanese folks keen to kick up a fight.”

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