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The reality and unreality of Tokyo amidst the hype of the media

The reality and unreality of Tokyo amidst the hype of the media

Modern Tokyo Times

Lee Jay Walker


Many media outlets have been involved in scaremongering since the earthquake struck Japan on March 11.  Indeed, comments made about Tokyo have not only been “over-hyped” but it is hard to fathom where the ideas came from in the first place because they have either been dramatized or the generalizations have been shocking.

According to Rupert Wingfield-Hayes you would believe that all Tokyoites are panicking and are in a flux because of events since the devastating earthquake.  He states in his article called “The eerie quiet of Tokyo hides Japan’s shock and anxiety,” which was published by the BBC, that “The threat to Tokyo’s 30 million people is invisible.  Everyone is now asking themselves the same question.  When does the crisis unfolding at the Fukushima nuclear plant 150 miles (240km) to the north cross that invisible line when you decide the risk of staying here is too high?”

I, and millions of other people in Tokyo, apparently have not asked the same question because the fear of Fukushima depends on your individual perception of what is really happening.  Therefore, millions of people in the Tokyo region are going to work, shopping for clothes, and doing the usual things in life.

It is true that some companies have either closed temporarily or they have reduced the working time because of various factors, and this applies to possible blackouts and the need to reduce electricity.  However, it must be remembered that many of these measures are temporary and gradually Tokyo is returning to normal and the vast majority of companies are functioning and in the morning the train system is jam packed like normal.

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes commented about an “invisible line” and “when you decide the risk of staying here is too high?”  I find this either scaremongering or it is based on sensationalism and when he stated “everyone” then the statement enters the role of mass generalization because some people are clearly worried but millions of other people are not.  

To be fair to Rupert Wingfield-Hayes he is not the only journalist to spread over hyped comments and he does make good points about northern areas which have been devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.  Yet why comment about Tokyo in a way which seems out of place with reality?

Japan needs to get back on its feet and I find it ironic that the train service in Tokyo after nine days of a devastating earthquake is functioning better on most lines than the average morning in London or Manchester.

Millions of Tokyoites have not asked themselves about “the risk of staying here is too high?”  This is because people fully understand that the real tragedy happened in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and other coastal areas. Also, despite the situation in Fukushima being complex it is abundantly clear that Tokyo is very far from the nuclear plant in Fukushima.

The British Government’s Chief Scientific Professor, Sir John Beddington, commented about the nuclear crisis in Fukushima and he stressed “…what I would really re-emphasise is that this is very problematic for the area and the immediate vicinity and one has to have concerns for the people working there. Beyond that 20 or 30 kilometres, it’s really not an issue for health.” 

Therefore, it is clear that the real threat from the Fukushima nuclear plant is to the people who reside in the surrounding area and it is abundantly clear that Tokyo is very far from Fukushima and for people in Tokyo according to Sir John Beddington “…it’s really not an issue for health.”

Yes, it is factual at the moment that Tokyo is not the usual 24 hour buzzing city but this is because of power constraints and other factors, therefore, it is true that by 9pm it is relatively quiet in Tokyo.

However, let us not forget that a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit Japan and this was followed by a destructive tsunami which killed thousands and then the issue of the Fukushima nuclear plant happened.

Therefore, I find it remarkable that Tokyo is functioning so well and the reason why Tokyo is functioning so well is because the vast majority of Tokyoites are working like usual and are focused on every day issues.

At the same time Tokyoites understand that Iwate, Fukushima, Miyagi, and other areas hit badly by recent events, need economic support and they also understand that they are lucky to have escaped the ravages of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake.  (please visit)


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Fukushima and the radiation crisis continues to ebb and flow

Fukushima and the radiation crisis continues to ebb and flow

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Panic Buying caused by Fukushima, the earthquake and tsunami

Panic Buying caused by Fukushima, the earthquake and tsunami

The nuclear plant in Fukushima continues to ebb and flow from optimism to fear and many experts are saying different things.  This is leading to greater panic in the Fukushima region and further afield, for example many people in Tokyo are worried and the same applies to other prefectures like Kanagawa, Saitama, and a host of other prefectures, which are concerned about current events.

Between March 15th and March 16th several strong earthquakes have been felt in Shizouka and in the Pacific just off Chiba and both reached the magnitude of 6.0.  At the same time people in Sendai, which was badly hit by the original earthquake and the tsunami which followed, are worried about the effects of radiation.

This applies to the wind and the fear of rain carrying radiation.  Therefore, nature is once more adding to the sense of uncertainty because if radiation outputs did increase and the wind was strong and rain began to fall, then the crisis and alarm bells would ring even louder.

The government of Japan and some experts are stating that radiation is not so serious because the radiation amount is too low and people should not worry.  Despite this, the psychological nature of radiation is creating fear and uncertainty, even if this is based on wrong information it is difficult to calm the nerves of many people.  Therefore, the ongoing uncertainty in Fukushima is spreading to other parts of Japan and the government which is giving daily updates, appears to have a strong battle on its hands in order to win over the people of Japan.

I reside in Tokyo and empty supermarkets and a strange quietness can be felt and many people are rushing home from work or hoarding food.  This does not apply to all Tokyoites and many are putting a brave face on and getting on with life.

Apparently the government of France is telling its nationals who reside in Tokyo to either return to France or to move to southern areas in Japan.  Also, other reports have stated that some foreign nationals are leaving Tokyo because fear and uncertainty appears to have got the better of them.  I, and other international citizens, have no intention of leaving Tokyo because Japan is our home and people need to pull together and get a sense of reality.

It is difficult to comprehend that tens of thousands have been killed in Iwate and Miyagi because of the earthquake and tsunami which struck so violently; and then equate this with the relative safety of Tokyo.  Therefore, the general public and some foreign nationals in Tokyo appear to be in “a panic bubble” while the reality is that tens of thousands have died in Iwate and Miyagi.  

Latest news about Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is that radiation levels did increase dramatically and staff had to be evacuated because of precautionary measures and to protect the workers from radiation contamination.  Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary, is giving many briefs about the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and it is clear that radiation levels are ebbing and flowing by the hour. 

Explosion at Fukushima nuclear plower plant

Explosion at Fukushima nuclear plower plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. gave information about a fire breaking out at No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima No 1 nuclear power plant on March 16th in the morning.  This followed on from a hydrogen explosion which happened the day before near the same location.

Yukio Edano stated that radiation levels had fallen from 1,000 millisieverts during the morning of March 16th to between 600-800 millisieverts.  He added that this was still high and over the usual average and that “workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now. Because of the radiation risk, we are on standby.”

Yukio Edano also commented that “A part of the containment vessel is broken and it seems like the vapor is coming out from there. So… [it] appears to be that vapor is coming out from the broken part.”

The nuclear crisis in Fukushima is ongoing and just like the radiation levels which are ebbing and flowing, the same appears to apply to hourly information.  Different news agencies and experts appear to either be talking up events or talking down events and you have a lot of confusion and this is leading to panic in parts of Japan.

Meanwhile, the reality of the earthquake and tsunami is still coming to light and it emerged today that the fate of Otsuchi in the north-east of Japan remains unknown.  The population of the town of Otsuchi is 8,000 and the fate of half of the population remains unclear and sadly the worse is feared.

It is to this backdrop that I am thankful that I am based in Tokyo and Tokyoites should think deeply about the plight of people who have suffered so much.  Therefore, it is essential to pull together and try to move the economy forward.

At the same time the government needs to focus on a multitude of important things in order to restore greater confidence but a sense of reality is also needed to people who reside far away from Fukushima.

This is not downplaying the situation but panic and fear will not help Japan.

The real focus must be on Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and all places which have been badly hit by the earthquake, tsunami, and the ongoing nuclear crisis.  (Please visit)

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Posted by on March 16, 2011 in INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND GLOBAL NEWS, Japan


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