Monthly Archives: March 2011

Mighty Harajuku Project: fashion sector responds to the devastating earthquake

Mighty Harajuku Project: fashion sector responds to the devastating earthquake

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times  


The usual image of all major cities in the centre will see major dividing lines and Tokyo is no different. Therefore, in Tokyo you will have places like Edogawabashi where you have stunning parks and Chinzan-so is a place where the Japanese garden comes alive and old statues to the various Shinto gods can be found.

Alternatively, Harajuku is famous for fashion and even within Harajuku you will have notable brands and highly expensive fashion shops in the Omotesando Hills area.  However, you can also find many fashion outlets which cater for individualistic styles, which flow with current fashion trends amongst the younger generation, highly experimental, and you will find many smaller exquisite fashion shops throughout Harajuku and the Omotesando backstreets area.

It may appear that the streetwise fashion youngsters are very distant from the wider society where conformity often dominates. Or if you see an individualistic young lady or boy who are dressed in a very striking way then it may appear that these individuals are obsessed by fashion and that they have little in common with the usual salary man in Tokyo.

Also, the streets of fashion in Tokyo may appear to be miles away from the rural areas of Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi.  However, if you scratch under the surface then the vast majority of citizens in Tokyo, irrespective of age or fashion sense, are deeply shocked and saddened by the recent earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear crisis hanging over Fukushima.

Therefore, the fashion conscious in Harajuku have organized the “Mighty Harajuku Project” which is aimed at generating capital in order to help the people of Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and other areas hit by the recent tragedy which engulfed the north-eastern Tohoku region.

The “Mighty Harajuku Project” is the brainchild of Sebastian Masuda who is the founder of 6%Dokidoki.  Sebastian Masuda cares deeply about Harajuku and 6%Dokidoki provides an abundance of brightly colored accessories and like Harajuku itself the company is vibrant and individualistic.

Sebastian Masuda was shocked by the events which engulfed the north-eastern-Tohoku region on March 11 and which continue to beset the region.  This applies to the huge loss of life, the ongoing homeless problem, whole communities being destroyed, thousands of bodies being washed up along the coast, and the ongoing nuclear cloud hanging over Fukushima and creating a major radiation problem.

In Harajuku the creativity of this place which Sebastian Masuda genuinely cares about also uniquely provides its own distinctive community.  Irrespective if this applies to locals, people who often visit Harajuku because of the buzz it creates or to workers who commute to Harajuku.

Therefore, Sebastian Masuda focused on all the positives and energy of Harajuku and came up with the “Mighty Harajuku Project.”  The purpose of this project is to help the disadvantaged who have suffered so much since the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11; and to give encouragement and support to people who utilize the energy and environment of Harajuku because so many people are still bewildered by recent events.

At first the staff of 6%Dokidoki, customers and others all chipped in and gave donations but this was just the initial stage. After this, Sebastian Masuda wanted to provide a positivity about Harajuku despite the recent worries and concerns and then to let other areas throughout Tokyo and Japan know that Harajuku is baring up and focused on the future – despite understanding the dire nature of events in Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi and the radiation fear which is felt by many.

Also, Sebastian Masuda wanted to reach out to the youth of Tokyo and to assure the younger generation that Harajuku was a haven amidst all the chaos, sorrow, anguish, and sense of foreboding.

This image of positivity which is based on care and support was also important to show the world because Harajuku is famous for fashion and an economic recovery is needed in order to help people who have suffered so much.

The “Mighty Harajuku Project” also shows you the heart of the younger generation and that fashion companies have a serious side which desire to reach out in times of need. 

Therefore, this project is helping people who need assistance in order to overcome so much tragedy and at the same time it is creating positivity within Tokyo and Japan.

Also, it is important that the outside world knows that Japan is not only ticking but it is fighting back against adversity.  Recently, tourist numbers are down and some business companies have pulled out of Tokyo in the short-term. 

However, it is vital that the economy of Japan is supported and the energy of the “Mighty Harajuku Project” is a way of showing everybody that Tokyo is ticking and churning out fresh ideas.

At the same time, the people of Harajuku want to show their compassion and sense of solidarity because they know that you have so much pain and sorrow in places which were hit by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis.

                                                                                                                                                                  (personal blog)   (Please visit this fashion website)  (Harajuku fashion)


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The persecution of the Shia in Yemen and the regional Sunni-Shia divide

The persecution of the Shia in Yemen and the regional Sunni-Shia divide 

Lee Jay Walker 

Modern Tokyo Times

Shia children killed in Yemen
Shia children killed in Yemen

Currently you have many political and religious convulsions throughout North Africa and the Middle East.  However, for the Shia of Yemen it is apparent that the nation state of Yemen is at odds with many Shia Muslims who suffer systematic persecution.

Saudi Arabia is worried about the power base change in Iraq because after the demise of Saddam Hussein the Arab Sunni stranglehold was broken and now the main power brokers are the Shia and Kurds in the north.  Therefore, recent political tensions in Bahrain and Yemen are causing alarm in Saudi Arabia because the leaders of this nation desire to preserve a dominant Sunni political power structure throughout the region.

If we focus on Afghanistan then the Sunni Islamic fanatics of the Taliban and Al Qaeda shared the same Sunni Islamic theme of power and control.  This policy of victimizing and persecuting the Shia was factual and you had many massacres of the Shia by the forces of the Taliban and Al Qaeda before the invasion of Afghanistan.

Sunni Islamic extremists deem the Shia to be heretics and non-Muslim and the same hatred towards the Shia can be found in Pakistan.  Even in so-called moderate Malaysia the government is anti-Shia. However, unlike the massacres of the Shia which have taken place in other nations it is state sanctioned discrimination in Malaysia which holds the Shia at bay and forbids their religious buildings.

The Sunni-Shia issue is very potent and the Shia are second class citizens in Saudi Arabia because they face centralized policies which discriminate against them.  Therefore, Saudi Arabia is meddling in many nations and the people who suffer from this policy are the Shia and in Yemen many massacres have taken place in the past but most of these went unreported.

Also, while truces have been agreed upon in Yemen these truces rarely last and often it appears that the centralized state is just making the most of the breathing space in order to unleash more violence against the Shia minority.

James Haider, Middle East correspondent for The Times (UK), stated on November 5, 2009, that the Shia “…accuse Saudi Arabia, a conservative Sunni Muslim country, of backing the Yemeni army, fearing the emergence of a strong Shia militia similar to Hezbollah in Lebanon.” 

“In turn, the Yemeni Government in Sanaa has accused Iran, a Shia theocracy, of supporting the Huthi rebels as part of a campaign to spread Tehran’s influence across the region. The Government said last week that Yemeni troops had seized five Iranians on a boat loaded with arms in the Red Sea”. 

James Haider also comments about the fleeing Shia during a major military assault in late 2009.  This military assault led to 150,000 Shia Muslims fleeing their homes in order to escape the military clampdown against their community.

The military bombardments led to the killing of many innocent Shia Muslims who were caught up in the fighting.  Therefore, many civilians were killed and the blood flowed.

If we concentrate on the bigger picture it would appear that Sunni Islamic elites do not desire to build bridges with the followers of the Shia faith.  Instead the Sunni Islamic elites desire either the status quo or to maintain power by further marginalizing the Shia throughout the region.

Rannie Amiri’s, whose article was published in the weekend edition of Counterpunch, (Feb 19-21, 2010) called The Shia Crescent Revisited, commented that “Should the Arab Shia be prohibited from freely airing their grievances and demanding accountability for past injustices? Stopped from speaking out against the crimes perpetrated against them under Saddam (in which many in the Arab world were complicit)? Prevented from attempting to lift the heavy hand of institutionalized discrimination levied against them in Saudi Arabia? Barred from seeking an end to their disenfranchisement in Bahrain – where they make up at least 70 percent of the population yet constitute no part of the government or security services? Forbidden from asking why the language of sectarianism was used to justify and amplify the carnage in north Yemen?” 

It is a fair question and despite the “Iranian card” which is being manipulated and used in Saudi Arabia it is apparent that the global jihadist network is based on the followers of radical Sunni Islam.  After all, the terrorist attacks behind September 11, Madrid, Kenya, Bali, Uganda, and other global jihadist attacks, were all done by Sunni Islamic extremists.

Despite the Mahdi Army under Muqtada al-Sadr who attacked American forces in Iraq; it is clear that the Shia in Afghanistan and Iraq have gained from outside military forces taking action against Sunni Islamic zealots in Afghanistan and against the regime of Saddam Hussein which also played the anti-Shia card. 

Therefore, will Yemen become the next brutal war which will drag in outside forces and lead to the growth of radical Sunni Islam?  After all, it is clear that the al-Shabaab in Somalia desire to turn Somalia into a fundamentalist nation and this extremist Sunni Islamic organization often beheads the followers of Christianity and women also face being stoned to death for adultery.

The Somalia syndrome may happen in Yemen because it is obvious that outside Sunni Islamists have used Somalia in order to spread their version of Islam.  However, for the Shia of Yemen then they may face a “dual policy” whereby Sunni Islamic fanatics are allowed to enter the fray from many nations but at the same time the centralized state in Saudi Arabia will boost the nation state of Yemen.

Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, February 11, 2010, stated that “Even as it fights a U.S.-supported war against al-Qaeda militants here, the Yemeni government is engaging Islamist extremists who share an ideology similar to Osama bin Laden’s in its own civil war, adding new complications to efforts to fight terrorism.” 

The writer continues by stating that “Yemen’s army is allying with radical Sunnis and former jihadists in the fight against Shiite rebels in the country’s north. The harsh tactics of those forces, such as destroying Shiite mosques and building Sunni ones, are breeding resentment among many residents, analysts said, and given the tangle of evolving allegiances could build support for al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, which plotted the Christmas Day attempt to bomb a U.S. airliner.”

Abdel-Karim al-Iriyani, a former prime minister is clearly alarmed by current events in Yemen.  He states that “Using these extremist people, if they are with you today, they are prone to be against you tomorrow.”

Therefore, the Shia inYemen will continue to suffer and Western nations will do little to challenge Saudi Arabia and the same applies to Bahrain because Saudi Arabia will do everything it can in order to prop-up the Sunni elites.

Saudi Arabia will use any means possible in order to preserve Sunni Muslim power and this also applies to state sanctioned policies which will encourage the forces of radical Sunni Islam in Yemen and boosting the military of Yemen. Therefore, the Shia in Yemen will be attacked by Sunni Islamic militant organizations and by the military of Yemen and this dual policy will be used in order to crush the Shia but in the past the Shia have been tenacious and events are unpredictable.   (military action in Yemen)   (Attacks against the Shia)  (Attacks against the Shia)


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Amidst the suffering of the earthquake; please remember the left-behind parents

Amidst the suffering of the earthquake; please remember the left-behind parents

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 The hidden children of Japan

March 11 was a day which altered many coastal areas in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and other coastal regions.  Tens of thousands of people have died and so many are still unaccountable but presumed dead.  The tragedy and ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima is also hindering the rescue and restructuring process because parts of Fukushima have come under the nuclear exclusion zone. 

You still have isolated communities whereby the true extent of what happened is still sketchy but the Japanese military, police, fire services, volunteers, and the American military are making inroads. 

Amidst all this pain and suffering you have “a hidden anguish” and this applies to left behind parents, grandparents, other family members, and friends, who have suffered from so many children being kidnapped to Japan. The problem also exists within Japan because of internal flaws within the Japanese legal system, which discriminate against foreign nationals.

Sadly, you now have so much pain, suffering, anguish, and utter disorientation in places like Ishinomaki, Otsuchi, and other places; whereby thousands of people have died in small communities because of the tsunami which swept over these areas.

Also, amidst all this pain and suffering you have news about the bravery of so many people and this certainly applies to the fire brigade in Otsuchi who sacrificed themselves in order to help the entire community.

In my article called the Fire brigade heroes of Otsuchi who died during the tsunami in Iwate I stated that “…..for the fire brigade heroes of Otsuchi they gave everything and sadly some fell while the onrushing force of the tsunami was heading straight towards them.  These brave souls, some who died during the tragedy and others who managed to survive, should be honored and remembered for their love of humanity in the face of an unrelenting force which would soon engulf Otsuchi.” 

I also stated that “…..Fujio Koshida was still sounding the warning bell while the waves were about to engulf him and sweep him away from this world.”  

This bravery and love of humanity is clear for all to see and today hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless by the ravages of the earthquake, tsunami and for people in Fukushima because of the nuclear exclusion zone.

Obviously, another bleak reality of this crisis is that many children will be orphaned by this tragedy. 

Yet amidst all this pain and suffering people should also spare a thought for foreign parents, grandparents, other family members, and friends, who now are worrying every day about “the hidden children of Japan” who are being alienated from their roots, culture, religion, and are being completely alienated from their past.

The anguish that Japanese nationals are witnessing on television is all too real.  It is based on utter devastation, children being orphaned, whole communities being destroyed, and old people who feel very vulnerable.

This pain is also being watched by thousands of foreign parents who have lost their children and have had no contact with their children or very sporadic contact because of a legal system which discriminates against them in Japan.

Of course, many of the children who have been kidnapped to Japan or who have been taken away from the foreign spouse in Japan, will not be based in places like Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima or other places which were hit by the earthquake and tsunami.

However, for some parents, then this will not apply and their children will be in these regions or near to.  Also, because of the sporadic nature of contact or no contact over many years; then some of these children may have moved to these parts of Japan because in truth, they have simply “disappeared from the radar.”

The “disappearance from the radar” applies to the alienation of children from the left behind parent because of the Japanese parent who decides, and who is allowed, to break international law when it comes to international court cases. 

Also, the “disappearance from the radar” applies to the internal Japanese legal system which discriminates against the foreign parent during internal legal cases within Japan and even if the Japanese court decides to give certain rights to the foreign parent then the legal system does not have any enforcement powers.  Therefore, the Japanese parent can simply ignore the court order and clearly both the internal and external legal system is being used by the Japanese parent in cases involving mixed marriages because the Hague Convention is not ratified in Japan and the internal legal system does not have the power of enforcement.

The “disappearance from the radar” also applies to biased coverage of this reality and even more painful to say; too many international governments have simply done too little in order to protect their own nationals Therefore, Japan was allowed to flaunt international law because of economic and political factors; or simply because international governments have higher priorities or because they simply do not care enough to help left behind parents.

Getting back to the deadly earthquake and tsunami then it is clear that you have an abundance of love and humanity in Japan.  The brave fire brigade service in Otsuchi who sacrificed themselves will be an event which will have happened in other areas because so many Japanese people have given everything in order to help people who faced either immediate danger or who have lost everything.

At the same time millions of foreign nationals have donated to Japan and many national governments have provided both economic and other forms of support.

The world is getting smaller and mixed marriages will continue to grow and the same applies to international culture spreading far and wide.

Therefore, Japanese political leaders and lawmakers should understand that many international people think highly of Japan because this nation in the past gave so much economic aid to poorer nations and continues to help many nations today.

Given this reality, it is time for Japanese politicians and lawmakers to understand the pain and suffering which is being felt by thousands of international parents who have been left behind and who face so many barriers because of the flawed legal system in Japan.

It is essential that the political hierarchy and lawmakers in Japan should understand that you have an enormous amount of goodwill towards Japan in the international community.  However, this “legal blind spot and political blind spot” when it comes to implementing international law and creating an internal legal system based on equality and enforcement; is creating a negative impression of Japan and the humanity of Japan is being hindered by a legal system which is clearly biased and unjust.

Therefore, please remember “the hidden children of Japan” and the anguish, pain, sense of utter alienation and desperation, of their left behind parents, left behind grandparents, and all other family members and friends who feel such sorrow.

It may not seem appropriate to highlight this issue because at least 20,000 people in Japan have just been killed because of the earthquake and tsunami.  However, the only “small silver lining” during this ongoing tragedy is that nations and people have come together in order to support each other.

It is hoped, even if naively, that Japanese politicians and lawmakers will understand that human rights, dignity and equality are based on humanity.  Therefore, the humanity which is being shown by so many and the humanity of ordinary Japanese nationals during this tragedy is clear for all too see and the same applies to successive Japanese governments providing enormous economic support to poorer nations.

Therefore, it is time to stop this “legal blind spot and political blind spot” and to help “the hidden children of Japan” because recent events are a clear reminder of how families support each other in times of crisis. 

However, for left-behind parents they can do nothing apart from wait and hope and sadly some parents will collapse mentally, others may think about suicide, some grandparents and parents will die naturally, and so forth – it is a real tragedy which can only be understood by people who have suffered so much and continue to suffer every day.

This is simply not good enough and it is hindering the reputation of Japan and I, and the Modern Tokyo Times, and so many other people, desire to create an image of positivity because you have so much goodness in Japan.

The one small positive from the recent tragedy in Japan is that collectively both people and nations can work together during a time of crisis and ethnicity, religion, gender, and so forth, is not important. 

The legal system in Japan should be based on the same and ethnicity and gender should not dictate on who takes the child or children; instead both parents and family members should have rights within the legal system and cultural alienation and parental alienation should not be tolerated.  (Please visit to find out more about child abduction in Japan)   (Please visit to find out more about child abduction in Japan)


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Radiation crisis is ongoing in Fukushima but TEPCO should not be the scapegoat

Radiation crisis is ongoing in Fukushima but TEPCO should not be the scapegoat

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

TEPCO and the nuclear crisis in Fukushima
TEPCO and the nuclear crisis in Fukushima

The nuclear crisis in Fukushima is never ending and this is creating a huge cloud over Japan and the nuclear industry itself.  On March 20 it appeared that events were going in the right direction because Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced that progress was being made.  However, it is now March 28 and the last 7 days have been mainly frustrating because it is a case of one foot forward and then two steps back or sometimes progress is being made and then other problems come back to haunt TEPCO.

It is easy to jump on the bandwagon and paint a dark picture of TEPCO during this crisis but that would be too simplistic.  After all, TEPCO is in a difficult situation and given the reality that Japan is not endowed with natural resources of energy then the nuclear option appeared to be the right solution and other nations like France have gone down the same path.

It is also easy to condemn after the event but difficult to foresee a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggering a huge tsunami with such brutal and destructive force.  Yes, TEPCO fully understands that Japan is on an earthquake fault-line and that tsunami’s are a reality in Japan and in other parts of the world.

Yet given the need for energy and with Japan being a modern nation where usage and enormous output is needed; then the nuclear option, despite the obvious dangers in Japan, was deemed to be a viable option.

Of course many anti-nuclear protestors and other people who question the nuclear sector will state that other forms of alternative energy were possible and that the nuclear option was always risky.

This is especially true given the factuality of earthquakes in Japan and the tsunami which was generated by the enormous power of the 9.0-magnitude was also a distant possibility; even if A, B, C, and other equations, had to come together in order to generate the current crisis it was a possible reality even if it seemed to be most unlikely.

Therefore, the 9.0-magnitude earthquake which unleashed the deadly tsunami came together and this was met by the reality of human failure because it is obvious that all safety mechanisms were inadequate and TEPCO seems to be going around in circles.

However, the responsibility of the current crisis does not solely belong to TEPCO or anyone.  After all, successive governments and local governments have supported the nuclear policy and tens of millions of people have benefitted every day from the power it generates in Japan. 

Also, the construction of the plant was done by other companies and clearly TEPCO is in a difficult situation. However, TEPCO itself is not to blame for Japan being prone to earthquakes and the same applies to the deadly tsunami which killed tens of thousands in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and other coastal regions hit by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

I am sure that the media will come up with an individual or two which forewarned the possibility of what is happening now in Fukushima; however, the reality is that successive governments, companies, and individuals, have all benefitted from nuclear energy in the past and currently do so in other parts of Japan.

Turning back to current events, then clearly no nation could adequately deal with the current situation once the Fukushima nuclear plant was damaged to such a severe degree. 

Yes, other nations may have believed that the risks were too high and that the nuclear option was always too risky in a nation like Japan given the reality of earthquakes and a potent tsunami from time to time. 

Armenia, for example, must be worried because this nation is prone to earthquakes and the nuclear plant which supplies much needed energy is clearly vulnerable. 

The tsunami in Japan added the real risk of “a possible nuclear meltdown” if all the unlikely equations came together; sadly, all the negative equations have come together and now it appears to be abundantly clear that TEPCO and Japan itself is ill-prepared to deal with the dire consequences once all the equations come together.

Therefore, while attention is badly needed on helping so many people who have been made homeless and suffer from the reality of limited amenities, alongside the psychological reality of bereavement, bewilderment, despair, hopelessness and poverty; the nuclear cloud and the fear of radiation is adding to the nightmare for people in Fukushima and other surrounding prefectures.

On March 27 the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima once more hit the headlines because of the potential lethal levels of radiation which were detected and the fear of “a nuclear meltdown” remains.

Therefore, sixteen days after the tragedy of March 11 is witnessing the highest radiation count and this applies to readings of 1,000 millisieverts in No. 2 reactor. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this figure is alarming because they state that a single dose of such potent radiation could lead to hemorrhaging.  

Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary, and a politician who is growing in political stature because of his transparency and dedication during the crisis; commented that “We did expect to run into unforeseen difficulties, and this accumulation of high radioactivity water is one such example.”

The ongoing nuclear crisis is going to hang over many prefectures which have suffered so much pain and suffering.  Fisheries and the agriculture sector in the entire area is going to suffer and whole communities which face so much hardship are going to be hindered by recovery plans because the nuclear cloud is going to remain in the immediate future.

Yukiya Amano who is the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency clearly painted a picture which was critical.  Yukiya Amano stated that the current crisis could last weeks and months and that “This is a very serious accident by all standards……..And it is not yet over.”

TEPCO have made some progress because apparently two of the six reactors are now deemed to be safe but it is clear that serious problems remain and the lingering crisis is leaving “a dark cloud” over the nuclear sector within the minds of so many people; however, the comfort it generates and other factors mean that this battle will continue in many nations and you have no easy solution.

For now the psychological impact is much greater than reality.  After all, over 20,000 people have been killed by the earthquake and tsunami and currently you do not have one person being killed by radiation from the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima.

However, the reality of “a nuclear meltdown” is still a possibility, even if some deem this to be unlikely; therefore, while the situation remains fraught with danger the invisible nature of radiation will not only impact on the local environment and wildlife; it will continue to hinder the economy of Japan and lead to many psychological problems.

I hasten to add that the worst case scenario is more bleak and until the stricken nuclear plant comes under control then all possibilities can happen and for people in Fukushima, and surrounding prefectures, this is one long nightmare and it is they who face a daily nightmare.

In distant Tokyo, Kobe, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Nagoya, Osaka, and other major cities; the current radiation threat is not a reality with regards to loss of life and any drifting radiation is too weak to cause alarm.

However, for the people of Fukushima and surrounding prefectures the crisis at the nuclear plant is serious and this is impacting on their quality of life.

At worst the radiation legacy may reveal tragic long term health statistics near to the nuclear plant but for now the psychological impact is great and the local environment is also suffering.

It can only be hoped that TEPCO can regain control and the sooner the better; however, long term questions remain and serious measures need to be taken in the future in Japan.

This applies to either seeking or boosting other forms of energy; or implementing real changes within the safety mechanism structures of nuclear energy; or a mixture of both in order to create an energy policy which takes into account all possible situations but does not hinder the progress of Japan.

It is clear that you have no easy solution and opinions will be divided; however, the current policy and safety regulations have failed.

The finger is being pointed at TEPCO but it is too simple because tens of millions of people and companies have benefitted from nuclear energy and construction design companies must also be scrutinized and the same applies to successive governments who supported the nuclear policy.

Japan does not need a scapegoat which may cover up the cracks; instead, real soul searching is needed and all areas need to be studied.

However, this can only happen once the Fukushima crisis is resolved; until then, the psychological war remains and the radiation cloud and possible consequences are severe.


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Fashion in Lumine is buzzing in Ikebukuro despite the so-called gloom of Tokyo


Fashion in Lumine is buzzing in Ikebukuro despite the so-called gloom of Tokyo

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Stylish Lumine in Ikebukuro - Modern Tokyo Times image
Stylish Lumine in Ikebukuro – Modern Tokyo Times image

According to reports in many media outlets, the fashion scene in Tokyo is feeling a little gloomy and the same applies to people having a good time.  However, in Lumine in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, trade and shopping is buzzing and recent serious issues appear to be distant.  Therefore, unlike the impression of many media agencies outside of Japan, Lumine in Ikebukuro was vibrant and full of energy.

Indeed, the photo image of Ginza in the New York Times in the article called Less Appetite for Luxury did not resemble the Ginza that I witnessed and it must be remembered that certain changes are only to be expected.   However, if you visit Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Ginza, then you will see a multitude of shoppers and fashion conscious individuals who continue to visit these vibrant parts of Tokyo.

It must be remembered that many companies are closing earlier because of constraints on power and other factors.  Therefore, it is true that areas look quieter at night but the reasons are based on necessity and for every photo which is published which shows doom and gloom; you could alternatively show a different photo which shows energy and vibrancy.

I visited Lumine in Ikebukuro on March 26 and the crowds were very large on each floor and clearly people were browsing many high quality companies in this shopping complex. 


Fashion lovers in Lumine in Ikebukuro - Modern Tokyo Times image
Fashion lovers in Lumine in Ikebukuro – Modern Tokyo Times image

Young ladies were dressed in their finest and browsing around elegant and stylish shops in Lumine.  Each different shopping area was full of life and all staff members were dressed so stylishly. Therefore, you could see one beautiful lady after another and clearly they were focused on high quality fashion and the finer things in life.

Different shops within the complex had different color schemes and styles.  Stunning striking red garments, followed by exquisite pale blue dresses and an abundance of choice. 

The hordes of female shoppers also matched the stylish and elegant atmosphere of Lumine which is modern, sophisticated, buzzing, radiant, and stylish. 

Indeed, if you feel gloomy and despondent about the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Fukushima, then Lumine is a magical place to visit because of its energy and panache.

Yes, I am sure that shoppers know full well that many people are suffering in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and other badly hit areas; however, in order for Japan to get back on its feet and to rekindle the economy then it is vital that normality returns.

This is not based on selfishness or shallowness; after all, I am sure that nearly all the shoppers will have given donations, offered prayers, phoned distant friends, and a minority will have offered to be volunteers. 

Yet it is vital for the psychology of Tokyo and Japan to be focused on the future, while understanding the seriousness of now.  The economy needs to tick, just like restructuring and helping individuals and companies which have lost everything.

Therefore, the atmosphere of Lumine was based on vitality and energy and it showed you that “the Dunkirk spirit” is alive and well.  After all, so many doom-mongers want to paint a picture of desperation and foreboding; however, all I witnessed in Lumine in Ikebukuro was hope, beauty, and people returning back to normality.


Elegant displays in Lumine in Ikebukuro - Modern Tokyo Times image
Elegant displays in Lumine in Ikebukuro – Modern Tokyo Times image

Yes, they know that suffering is happening and that some prefectures are in crisis.  However, just like the Japanese government invested trillions of yen into the money markets; then it is also vital that shoppers return to buying and helping the economy because rebuilding Japan needs many different areas to work together.

It may seem that fashion is trivial given the current reality of tens of thousands of people dying in Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi.  However, unless the economy picks up then the crisis will only deepen and while trade may suffer in the short-term it would appear that a pick up will eventually follow.

Therefore, the atmosphere in Lumine in Ikebukuro was a huge boost from the daily news about radiation and how Japan faces serious hardship. 

If people outside of Tokyo want to see the real images of Ikebukuro, Ginza, Shibuya and Shinjuku; then maybe the international media is the last place to search if you want to find the real answer to the current reality of Tokyo.

In Lumine in Ikebukuro it was all about energy, stunning displays of ladies fashion, workers being primed in beautiful clothes, female shoppers taking deep care about their looks and fashion sense; in truth, it showed the real spirit of Tokyoites and the freshness of a city which is famous for quality fashion.  (please visit this website)  (3rd article from the top shows some images of Lumine in Ikebukuro.)


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The ongoing Fukushima crisis and the psychological war in Tokyo

The ongoing Fukushima crisis and the psychological war in Tokyo

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Radiation fears

Radiation fears

The ongoing nuclear crisis at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is creating a hefty weight and this applies to the psychological impact.  It still remains to be seen what the long-term consequences will be but the psychological impact is impinging on many parts of Japan. 

It is abundantly clear that more than 20,000 people have been killed by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake which unleashed a potent and deadly tsunami.  Therefore, while the tsunami was the “real killer” in Iwate, Miyagi and others prefectures hit by the tsunami. It is apparent that for many people in Tokyo and other prefectures which escaped the deadly tsunami, that the “psychological war” is radiation.

It may seem absurd to some people that many Tokyoites, and people from other prefectures including Kanagawa and Saitama, are so scared by the possibility of radiation entering the environment. 

However, it is clear that the ongoing crisis at the nuclear stricken plant in Fukushima is generating many problems, even if these problems are not realistic or based on factuality.  This is because of the mass uncertainty surrounding radiation and how it can impact on people and their health.

Therefore, even miniscule readings in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama, are setting off alarm bells and this applies to some Japanese nationals leaving for a small break; foreign embassies closing and relocating to other parts of Japan; an increase of foreign nationals leaving Tokyo and the surrounding region; a huge reduction of tourists who were going to visit Tokyo; a scramble for bottled water because of a minor radiation reading which was not deemed dangerous and a host of other factors.

It is also true that other Tokyoites are not worried and many people are just trying to focus on the lighter side of life or focusing on bread and butter issues. 

However, the impact of possible radiation and the never ending saga at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant is creating unforeseen problems and this applies to companies relocating, a huge reduction of tourists visiting Tokyo and other factors which are hindering the economy.

I am sure that people in Iwate, Fukushima, and Miyagi, must be wondering about “how surreal events are in Tokyo” compared with the huge loss of life which was unleashed on so many towns and villages along the coast. 

Also, for people in Fukushima within or near the exclusion zone, it is obvious that the impact is a million times more severe for them and clearly Tokyoites have escaped the real ravages of the earthquake, tsunami, and radiation leaks from the stricken nuclear plant.

Yet just like the huge reduction of tourists who are refusing to visit Tokyo it is all about the psychological damage and irrespective of what government ministers are saying; it is obvious that people are divided about the real impact of the radiation crisis in Fukushima.

Therefore, while some people are hoarding bottled water and other essential products in Tokyo it is also abundantly clear that many people are not. 

On March 25 the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency stated that high level radiation was detected in the reactor’s turbine of the No. 3 reactor.  The main spokesman, Hidehiko Nishiyama, did reassure people that currently it appears that no cracks or damage to the reactor vessel appears to have happened.

According to Nishiyama the high level radiation which led to workers being contaminated was because of overheating fuel rods which are believed to have melted partially.  Nishiyama also made it clear that further verification is needed before concrete conclusions can be given to why workers were exposed to very dangerous levels of radiation.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan stated that “The current situation is still very unpredictable. We’re working to stop the situation from worsening.  We need to continue to be extremely vigilant.” 

Therefore, while police officers and the Japanese military are looking for dead bodies in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and other coastal regions where the earthquake and tsunami struck; the psychological war continues in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures.

Many people will be relaxing with friends this weekend in Tokyo but others will be hoarding bottled water.  The surreal nature of everything at the moment is beyond understanding and fashion shows and exhibitions will continue to be held across Tokyo.

In Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, the smell of death is factual and so many have been killed and thousands of families and many communities have been torn apart.   

The deadly tsunami killed more than 20,000 people but not one person appears to have died from radiation.  However, the huge reduction of tourists and people leaving Tokyo is not because they fear a tsunami but it is because of the psychological war which exists within many people.

Therefore, while real tragedy storks northeastern Japan and the impact of radiation is strong in Fukushima; the soft underbelly of Tokyo and people in distant lands is factual and until the nuclear crisis is resolved then little can be done to end the psychological war within many people.

I and millions of others fear little in Tokyo but for millions of others it is different; however, when all is said, it is clear that Tokyoites are lucky to escape the ravages of March 11 and the real menace of radiation which is infringing on the people of Fukushima.  (please visit)


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Fire brigade heroes of Otsuchi who died during the tsunami in Iwate

Fire brigade heroes of Otsuchi who died during the tsunami in Iwate

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 Otsuchi and many towns have been destroyed
Otsuchi and many towns have been destroyed
Many foreign embassies have pulled out of Tokyo and some foreign nationals in leafy Tokyo have gone back home and of course some Japanese nationals have moved out of Tokyo.  However, while Tokyo escaped the ravages of the earthquake and tsunami the brave fire fighters of Otsuchi gave everything and died while trying to warn people to flee. 

The contrast could not be more different; you have people facing little danger who have fled Tokyo on either a whim or a false rumor or because it is all about the self and nothing about supporting Japan. 

However, for the fire brigade heroes of Otsuchi they gave everything and sadly some fell while the onrushing force of the tsunami was heading straight towards them.  These brave souls, some who died during the tragedy and others who managed to survive, should be honored and remembered for their love of humanity in the face of an unrelenting force which would soon engulf Otsuchi.

The local fire brigade at No. 2 branch in Otsuchi in Iwate could see the tsunami unfolding and they knew that the consequences would be severe and devastating.  Therefore, they tried to secure the barrier which was meant to protect the coastal town or to limit the impact of any resulting tsunami.

Yet the power of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake which unleashed such a powerful and deadly tsunami could not be predicted and nor could it be repulsed. 

Despite the unfolding tragedy and the limited time available, the No. 2 branch of the fire brigade did not flinch or think about personal survival.  Instead they did their best to warn residents about the disaster which was about to engulf Otsuchi because they knew full well that this tsunami was going to sweep away this town.

It is known that four members of the fire brigade died during the disaster which killed so many in Otsuchi and it appears that another seven may also be dead because seven more members have not been found.  However, what it not known to many people is that the fire brigade service did everything to help the people of Otsuchi.

It was the duty of the No. 2 branch fire brigade in the Akahama district of Otsuchi to close the storm barrier gates when an earthquake struck the region.  Yet their bravery was unforeseen, just like the power of the earthquake and tsunami was unforeseen because the 9.0-magnitude earthquake unleashed a tsunami which was unstoppable.

It is reported that Fujio Koshida was still sounding the warning bell while the waves were about to engulf him and sweep him away from this world.

The earthquake had shut down the power supply therefore the warning system was not functional and Kunio Tobinai had been thwarted by this.  When he returned and told Fujio Koshida he was told by him to “get going and evacuate everyone.”

The last time Kunio Tobinai saw Fujio Koshida was with him holding a fire bell and this fire bell could be heard from a distance.  Takeyasu Tobai, the former head of the same branch of the local fire brigade, stated that he could hear the bell that Fujio Koshida was ringing in order to warn people.

Sadly, Takeyasu Tobai stated, “I guess he could see the sea” and “It was a sad sound. I can still hear it.”  

Fujio Koshida and other members of the local fire brigade in Otsuchi gave everything. At the moment it would appear that 11 members died but currently only four bodies of the eleven have been found.

It is hoped that these brave individuals, unlike the fleeing members of some embassies in leafy Tokyo, will be honored and always remembered for giving everything.

Fujio Koshida and all members of this fire brigade, irrespective if they died or survived, did everything in their power to help the people of Otsuchi and for this I take my hat off and bow to all the members of this brave and dedicated fire brigade. (please visit)    (Information about Otsuchi)


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Tokyo is surreal: from radiation in tap water to shopping for fashion

Tokyo is surreal: from radiation in tap water to shopping for fashion

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Seijo Train Station in Tokyo -  Modern Tokyo Times image

Seijo Train Station in Tokyo – Modern Tokyo Times image

The situation in Tokyo is surreal at the moment because on the one hand you have trendy ladies shopping in the capital but on the other hand you have reports about radiation in tap water.  It is difficult to fathom what reality is at the moment because some people feel deeply anxious while others are just getting on with life and enjoying the usual luxuries that Tokyo provides.

During March 23 you could feel the power of further earthquakes in the Fukushima region in the morning but is seems so natural these days because of the frequency.  It is factual that Japan is hit by earthquakes throughout the year but many are minor and cause no damage; however, since March 11 it appears that it is never ending.

The earthquake of March 11 caused fear and alarm in Tokyo and this was despite escaping relatively unscathed unlike the tragic tragedy which hit Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and other coastal regions in this part of Japan. 

However, the recent earthquakes in Fukushima and so many other places are not creating the same fear because they are not so potent and destructive.  Also, the 9.0-magnitude earthquake which struck on March 11 is very rare and the tsunami it unleashed was beyond my imagination.

Yet the daily tremors are adding to the surreal nature of life in Tokyo because each tremor reminds you about the tragedy of Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and coastal regions which were hit by the tsunami.  However, when you visit the centre of Tokyo you see people shopping, buying new fashion clothes, eating out, chatting with friends, and the usual things that happen during times of normality.

One minute I am in Lumine in Ikebukuro and browsing around many fashion shops and the next minute I am checking my computer and reading about radiation in tap water in Tokyo.  At the same time I meet a client who is a little anxious but the next client cares little and says that things will get back to normal.

Therefore, confusion reigns and this applies to over-hype and under-hype and the Fukushima issue is the same.  The British Embassy in Tokyo issues directives which state that currently the situation in Fukushima is not dangerous to Tokyo.  However, other embassies have told or warned their nationals about the threat of radiation and other side effects from the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant crisis in Fukushima.

Officials today announced that tap water is unfit for babies because the radioactive iodine level in parts of Tokyo, have reached around twice the recommended safety level.  Therefore, this news will set off new alarm bells to parents with babies and the knock on effect will generate fresh fear in some adults.

Of course the situation in Fukushima is much more dangerous and officials have announced that certain vegetables must be avoided.  It is difficult to know if this announcement is based on real heightened concerns or if it is a precautionary measure because the pundits once more appear to have “no single voice.”

In Fukushima the radioactive iodine is around three times the usual level and this applies to the exclusion zone part of Fukushima.  While contamination outside the 20km zone applies to milk and some vegetables but according to government officials the current levels do not pose a threat to health

Ibaraki is also causing concerns and milk and parsley have been forbidden from being sent to the open market.  While in Fukushima local producers have been told to keep their goods and not to send them to market because of radiation factors. 

Yukio Edano, the Japanese Cabinet Secretary, commented that “Even if these foods are temporarily eaten, there is no health hazard.” 

“But unfortunately, as the situation is expected to last for the long term, we are asking that shipments stop at an early stage, and it is desirable to avoid intake of the foods as much as possible.”

The government is also trying to make it clear that safety limits for radiation is extremely low and because of this it is essential that people do not come up with exaggerated claims or fears. 

However, several nations are worried about the radiation factor and possible contamination therefore different nations are responding to the ongoing crisis in Fukushima. 

The United States announced that milk, milk products, fresh fruits and vegetables are to be stopped from entering the market of America and this applies to four prefectures in Japan.  The prefectures that have been listed are Fukushima, where the nuclear crisis is ongoing, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi. 

Other nations have also issued statements related to Japanese food imports. Nations in northeast Asia have began rigorous checks and the ongoing crisis in Fukushima is clearly going to be detrimental to local producers of food and other goods which are generating concerns.

However, turning back to Tokyo and the surreal nature of life it often appears that nothing ever happened to Japan.  This applies to ladies dressed amicably, fashion stores being full of shoppers, watching children playing football or baseball, and enjoying a cup of coffee in Seijo and a delicious chocolate cake.

Also, while residents in Fukushima are worried about radiation and eating local produce I have just entered the Odakyu Ox shop in Seijo, Tokyo.  All around I can see high quality produce in the supermarket and happy shoppers.

Shopping in Odakyu Ox in Seijo, Tokyo - Modern Tokyo Times image

Shopping in Odakyu Ox in Seijo, Tokyo – Modern Tokyo Times image

Life is certainly surreal because while Seijo in Tokyo is a wealthy area I know full well that around half a million people have been made homeless by the destructive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Fukushima.

I also know that so many people are in shellshock in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and in coastal areas of other prefectures which were hit by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11.  Therefore, you have mass numbers of grieving people and of course some towns and villages have been erased from the map along the coast. 

The surreal nature of events can be found in the reality that while thousands of bodies are still missing in the worst hit areas of Japan; it is business like usual for millions of other people and buying the latest fashion brands in high quality shops can be seen all over Tokyo.   (Good photo images of Seijo)    (Seijo Shopping Centre


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Global market confidence despite civil strife and devastation in parts of Japan

Global market confidence despite civil strife and devastation in parts of Japan

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Global economy is rebounding despite the chaos
Global economy is rebounding despite the chaos

The Middle East and North Africa remains volatile and the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and violent tsunami in Japan caused enormous loss of life and the nuclear crisis at the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima is still unresolved.  Added to this you have major tensions in the Ivory Coast, events in Southern Sudan do not bode well and piracy is still a major concern near Somalia.

Also, while recent news is focused on Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia in North Africa and on Bahrain and Yemen in the Middle East; it is clear that convulsions could erupt in other nations like Saudi Arabia and Iran remains divided because the opposition is clearly against the current government of Iran.  It is also possible that these political shockwaves could spread further and many nations remain jittery at the moment because political convulsions can either die quickly or open up a can of worms therefore 2011 is clearly chaotic.

Despite this, you have clear signs that the global economy is about to pick up and while recent events have been dramatic and led to countless carnage and political changes; some form of normality appears to be returning to the global market and confident is returning.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is forecasting global economic growth this year of 4.8% and JP Morgan is estimating growth to be 4.4%, therefore, both are optimistic of a stronger global economy this year.

China, Germany, the United States, and other major players, are showing signs that manufacturing is picking up and market confidence is growing on this news.

Therefore, despite all the political chaos, devastating earthquake in Japan, and increasing price of oil and high commodity prices; the manufacturing base of many leading nations is rebounding.

The Institute for Supply Management in America stated that the factory index in February showed strong growth because the index rose by 61.4% and this is the highest rating since May in 2004.  At the same time Europe is showing signs of a recovery because Europe’s service and manufacturing industries are expanding and this is being led by Germany. 

It also appears that the worst fears of the economic crisis in Greece did not cause the damage that many had feared.  Therefore, the banking system in Europe is looking much stronger in 2011 despite internal problems in some European Union member states.

Marc Gross who works at RS Investments in New York commented that “I am not sure if risk is all the way back on to where it was, but the market seems much happier and healthier after a short-term panic attack last week.”

The U.S. Treasury Department which began buying mortgage-backed-securities after intervening in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also announced that it will begin selling up to $10 billion a month in order to wind down the $142 billion which are currently held.  At the height of the 2008 economic crisis in America the government bailed out many financial institutions but now you have renewed confidence.

Jason Pride at Glenmede which is based in Philadelphia commented that “We have a growth economy that seems like it is moving faster than it was six months ago” and “Everything’s pointing in the direction of an economic expansion. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s moving the right way.”

The Japanese stock market also rebounded on March 22 because after the initial shock of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis; it appears that state intervention by Japan and global market confidence is helping this rebound despite major uncertainty in Japan.

Mark Skidmore, who is a professor at Michigan State University in America, comments that As incomes rise in a society, you can devote more resources to safety. So economies that have relatively high exposure to earthquakes or hurricanes start taking the precautions they need. Japan is among the best prepared in the world because they have high exposure and high income.”

The Kobe earthquake in 1995 created mass devastation and over 6,000 people died and unlike the regions of Iwate and Miyagi, the city of Kobe is more instrumental for trade and at the time the port was the sixth largest in the world.  However, Kobe rebounded quickly and was redeveloped rapidly and Japan showed reasonable economic growth despite the 1990s on the whole being negative.

Mark Skidmore also comments about this and he stated that “We don’t know yet how devastating this is going to be economically, or even in terms of human casualties, but Kobe was able to rebound very quickly and I think there is the same potential here.”

It must be stated that unlike Kobe which was devastated by an earthquake and where the area of land covered was much smaller; the same situation is very different because the March 11 earthquake which struck recently was multi-dimensional. This applies to this disaster being based on the initial earthquake, the resulting tsunami, and then the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima.

Also, whole communities have been destroyed along the coast of northeastern Japan and Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima have been severely damaged.  Another major difference is the significance of energy in this area and the fear of radiation is an unknown quantity.  Therefore, the fisheries sector and farming sector is going to suffer in this part of Japan and the radiation issue is going to remain for some time.

Despite this, it is apparent that global market confidence is growing and some benchmarks are positive.  Yet major convulsions may still put fresh breaks on the global economy but for now it appears that dramatic political changes and the devastation of the earthquake in Japan can not dampen enthusiasm.  (please visit)


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Two survive earthquake and tsunami after 9 days in Ishinomaki

Two survive earthquake and tsunami after 9 days in Ishinomaki

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Earthquake and tsunami Earthquake and tsunami

The police in Miyagi prefecture have issued heartbreaking news day in and day out since the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit parts of Japan.  This applies to thousands of people being killed and announcing this news to family members or friends who have survived.  Therefore, when two survivors were found after nine days it was “a ray of sunshine” amidst so much pain, anguish, and sorrow.

Amazingly an 80 year old grandmother and her 16 year old grandson have survived the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami after nine days in harsh and brutal conditions in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture. 

The four police officers who rescued Sumi Abe and her grandson Jin Abe were amazed and Jin Abe was only concerned about his grandmother.  He told the rescuers “save my grandma” and this devoted grandson, despite all the hardship that he had suffered, was only thinking about the wellbeing of his grandmother.

A police sergeant who was amongst the four rescuers was also flabbergasted that people could survive such a grueling ordeal.  Yoichi Seino from Ishinomaki police station stated “I’m astonished that there were people who stayed alive” and “I’m so happy (to hear that).”

Clearly the police officers involved were overwhelmed because after so many dead bodies being uncovered in Ishinomaki it was a much needed pick up and it shows you how dedicated the search and rescue teams are.  After all, the psychological impact of witnessing such harrowing scenes will leave a deep impact.

Therefore, this one glimmer of pure joy will mean so much to everyone involved in looking for any possible survivors in Ishinomaki and in other cities and towns which have been pulverized by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Sumi Abe and Jin Abe were found shivering and apparently they had survived on small leftovers.  The bitter cold and mass uncertainly must have made the nine days seem like years but somehow they got by on yogurt, coke, and a few other things.  Therefore, their survival instincts and strong bond gave them a collective desire to pull together and somehow hold out for nine days.

Sumi broke down with masses of tears when the police officers found them and Jin could only think about his grandmother.  When a police officer asked Jin what he would like to be when he is older he replied “An artist.” 

It was clear that Jin was in a bad condition when he was found but Dr. Michio Kobayashi stated that both were in “good health and eating breakfast well.”  Therefore, both Sumi and Jin have responded well to the care of the Japanese Red Cross Ishinomaki Hospital and Dr. Michio Kobayashi and fellow staff will also feel warm inside because they have witnessed so much suffering.

Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary, commented that “I believe this kind of miraculous event is inspiring news to all the victims who are going through difficult situations as evacuees.”

Therefore, this one “ray of sunshine” in a “torrent of despair” will have warmed the hearts of so many.  Also, amidst all the devastation of Ishinomaki you have a 16 year old boy called Jin Abe who survived and he still dreams of being an artist and showing the world the beauty of this world despite the events that he just witnessed.


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