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Paying Homage to the Spirit of Japan seen in the Fukushima 50

Paying Homage to the Spirit of Japan seen in the “Fukushima 50”

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The March 11 earthquake which triggered the brutal and devastating tsunami which in turn created the nuclear crisis in Fukushima remains vivid in the memory. This tragic day will never be forgotten in Japan and the same applies to the international community which witnessed the tragic events which followed.

Sadly, despite enormous reconstruction and redevelopment taking place in the worse effected areas you still have many ongoing problems. This applies to the nuclear facility in Fukushima and radiation issues which remain, to more natural daily issues of people living in temporary accommodation and trying to find employment.

Any government in the world hit by this tragic event would be challenged to the full and in fairness to Japan, a lot of support mechanisms have been put into place but of course for people hit by this tragic event then so much more is needed.

In the midst of the nuclear crisis you had the “Fukushima 50” who did everything in their power to prevent a nuclear meltdown. These brave souls should never be forgotten because during the height of the crisis they worked day and night and at any time they could have been killed. Also, the reality of radiation means that we still don’t know if many of these brave souls will die from cancer in the future caused by radiation.

Irrespective if you are anti-nuclear, pro-nuclear or you believe that nuclear energy is a practical choice, it is clear that the “Fukushima 50” deserve the support of everybody. While alarming comments were being made and very natural dangers could have killed all members of the “Fukushima 50,” they merely got on with everything and worked around the clock in order to protect local citizens and to prevent a complete nuclear meltdown.

In an earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times which was published on March 18 it was commented that “Images of Fukushima have spread all over the world but the people who are trying to prevent a nuclear meltdown remain faceless and out of sight.  Therefore, they have been named the “Fukushima 50” in honor of their valor and loyalty to the cause.”

“All members of the “Fukushima 50” understand that death awaits them if the internal conditions become uncontrollable.  However, for the “Fukushima 50” they are thinking about the people of Japan and they understand that they are in the frontline and that if they perish, then countless others will follow from the worst case scenario.”

“Of course you will have tens of thousands of other “faceless individuals” who are giving everything in order to help people and many are working in dangerous and terrible conditions.  In this sense, but not from the personal danger that the “Fukushima 50” face; the “Fukushima 50” represent all individuals who are working against the clock in order to help the people of Japan.”

The article was written within 7 days of the March 11 tragedy and being based in Tokyo then Modern Tokyo Times tried its best to support Japan. After all, many embassies were closed and many people left Tokyo in panic. However, at all times the core of Modern Tokyo Times remained in the heart of Tokyo and visits were also made to Fukushima and other areas hit.

However, unlike the “Fukushima 50,” we had the luxury of being based far away and the admiration of these brave souls can’t be overstated. After all, how many people would risk their-own-skin in the face of so much carnage? This collectively applies to the knowledge that the high radiation may give you cancer in the future or that at any time the plant could have just blown up completely.

In the “valley of death” the “Fukushima 50” walked tall and showed the beauty of humanity. 

It matters not if you are pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear; the real issue is their bravery, dedication and giving everything in order to protect the people who reside in Japan.

They must never be forgotten because unlike the “heroes on television” who are actors and actresses, the “Fukushima 50” are real heroes and in the “valley of death” they never flinched. 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com  

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/03/18/spirit-of-japan-seen-in-the-%e2%80%9cfukushima-50%e2%80%9d/

 
 

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Nuclear crisis in Japan is a legacy of political meddling because of the Amakudari system

Nuclear crisis in Japan is a legacy of political meddling because of the Amakudari system

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

In Japan the current crisis within the nuclear sector and other areas of the economy can squarely be pinned on the relationship between the political bureaucracy and its love-in relationship with electricity suppliers. 

The Amakudari system enables senior bureaucrats to find important executive posts after leaving the government and it is reported that 68 high ranking bureaucrats went on and resumed senior positions with the energy sector. 

Therefore, given the relationship between government and electricity suppliers it appears that this all inclusive policy means that when serious issues arise, then it may be pushed under the carpet? 

It is important to state that not all “amakudari” bureaucrats will be inefficient and each former high ranking bureaucrat will respond differently.  Also, many will be highly skilled and it is over simplistic to believe that all will either have ulterior motives or seek to cover up major problems.

However, it is also clear that the relationship between the political bureaucracy and electricity suppliers; could lead to complacency and for the general public it may appear to be both inefficient, corrupt, and about preserving a comfortable relationship.

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is new to the power process of the amakudari system but former high ranking political leaders in the DPJ who were former LDP politicians, will know all too well about this system. 

Obviously the DPJ knows about this system because for 50 years and more, the LDP have followed the same procedure in various sectors of the economy.  Democracy and “open business” is rather flawed because you have so much inter linkages and not all the blame can be pinned on politicians because the keiretsu system is embedded within the business community.

Conformity and continuity alongside strong inter-relationships is all too powerful within the Japanese system and inter-linkages and connections is the bottom line for the business and political model in Japan.  Of course, not all companies follow this system but in general it is part and parcel of the business environment in Japan and in South Korea they have a similar system called chaebol.

Turning back to the current crisis in Fukushima then the relationship between industry and government regulators would tend to point in the direction of complacency.  This applies to data by TEPCO not being scrutinized to the full when questions were raised about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant being vulnerable to a possible tsunami.

Government hands run throughout the system and this applies to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.  After all, this ministry is involved in expressing the importance of nuclear energy, helping Japanese companies to find major business contracts in the international arena, and regulating the safety of the nuclear sector in Japan.

The promoter and regulator conflict within the system was separated in France because of the fear of complacency several years ago.  In America the government understood this weak point in the system; therefore, changes were made over 30 years ago in order to safeguard the nuclear sector from conflicting interests.

The government and TEPCO merry-go-round can be summed up by Tokio Kano.  He joined TEPCO and became a leader within the nuclear unit in 1989 and in 1998 he entered parliament.  Once he was elected to parliament then Tokio Kano helped to rewrite Japan’s national policy related to energy and not surprisingly the conclusion was that nuclear energy was the way forward. 

After being involved within the political system for more than 10 years he then returned to TEPCO.  Therefore, Tokio Kano is an extreme example of the system in Japan.

The amakudari system is defended by some because you will not have many high quality candidates who have powerful knowledge of this complex sector.  Therefore, it is argued that it may appear to be inefficient and based on complacency; however, the system does enable utilities to get high quality candidates who not only bring their expertise but also their strong contacts within an important sector of the economy.

http://moderntokyotimes.com (please visit)

 
 
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Posted by on May 4, 2011 in Japan

 

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Golden Week in Japan: holiday, fashion, and helping in tsunami hit areas

Golden Week in Japan: holiday, fashion, and helping in tsunami hit areas

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Shopping in Ginza

Golden Week is to begin in Japan but this year it will be different for many people.  The earthquake, tsunami, and radiation crisis continues because thousands of dead bodies have still not been found and radiation problems persist at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

It is worth pointing out that much of Japan remains unchanged and if you visit the trendy and vibrant Namba area in Osaka then it is hard to comprehend that you have a major crisis in northeastern Japan. 

The same could be said about other major cities and everything is ticking in Hiroshima, Kobe, Nagoya, and other major cities.  Tokyo is a little different because the aftershock was strong on March 11 and power shortages to scaremongering about the radiation crisis in Fukushima did hit many people.  This in turn led to many embassies running for cover and leaving Tokyo but now nearly all have returned and Tokyo is returning to normal.

Northeastern Japan was devastated by the earthquake which then unleashed the tsunami and the radiation crisis continues.  Therefore, things are very much different in northeastern Japan and the Kanto plains which felt the power of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake.

Therefore, regional variations will be very different and the city of Kobe will also be unique because the people of this city understand the tremendous loss of life from natural disasters. 

Usually Golden Week is about holidays, meeting the family, visiting friends, and enjoying luxury time by doing what people enjoy the most.  This year will be different for many people because tens of thousands will volunteer and help out in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and in other coastal areas which were hit by the earthquake and tsunami.

Many volunteers will be reluctant to visit Fukushima because of the ongoing radiation cloud and many areas are out of bound because of the exclusion zone.  However, Iwate and Miyagi will witness tens of thousands of people from northeast Japan, the Kanto plains, and from all over Japan; who will volunteer and spend their precious time by helping to rebuild areas which have been devastated.

Miyagi after the earthquake and tsunami

Of course, for other people it will be time for a long holiday in either stunning parts of Japan or visiting Europe or other distant places.  Also, for other individuals it will be a time to relax with family and friends or to venture alone by yourself and go shopping, hiking, putting your feet up at home or whatever the individual desires.

Individuals will reflect on recent events differently and for the government of Japan and the economy; then it is essential that shoppers and tourists spend their money otherwise the recovery is going to be too slow and more people will suffer in the long term.

Therefore, Golden Week will be a stark reminder to reflect on current events in Japan but for others it will be breathing space from the stress of life.

One thing for sure is that this Golden Week will be a mixed bag and this applies to regional differences and how people respond to current events.

For people who have lost family members, friends, and had their homes destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami; then clearly this Golden Week in 2011 will be about sadness, getting down to rebuilding, and trying to overcome the many difficult obstacles that so many individuals face.

However, for others it will be about drinking a beer and watching sport or buying exquisite clothes in trendy areas. 

People are complex and you have no true mechanism on how to respond to tragic events but in the back of the mind will remain the ongoing crisis in northeastern Japan.

http://moderntokyotimes.com (please visit)

 
 
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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in Japan

 

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