An interactive and taboo-free journalism based in Japan

Welcome to TokyoFreePress Thursday, March 23 2017 @ 11:17 PM JST

3/11 was the Final Wake-up Call for Stakeholders of Japan

On April 15, TEPCO's president Masataka Shimizu
(center) offered a sincere apology. No one could
tell to whom he offered it, and what about because
it was just part of a ritual.
As of April 16, 13,551 have been identified as dead and 14,563 as missing. Obviously there are another thousands for whom even missing person reports haven't been filed. Are they all who have suffered from the disaster? Not at all. There are some 500,000 evacuees who have been confined in shelters for more than one month, and the 241 faceless/nameless personnel who have been left inside the premises of TEPCO's Fukushima No. 1 Plant to perform an inane suicide mission there.

And don't forget that dozens of people who had survived the quake and tsunami have died in shelters.

And of course these TEPCO employees and subcontractors are not alone in being heavily exposed to radioactive materials. There can be thousands or tens of thousands of people who were, or are going to be killed by radiation. For instance, recent reports from foreign media have it that there are an unknown number of corpses of tsunami victims lying on the ground near the power plant. But who knows the real cause of their death?

Actually the list of those who suffered from 3/11 goes on and on.

As recently as April 15, the Prime Minister told the TEPCO to work on a blueprint to end the crisis. This was yet another telling evidence that from the beginning Kan had not used a systematic approach toward the crisis. TEPCO's response was equally stupid. President Masataka Shimizu, who had holed up in a "hospital" for weeks, appeared before press corps to offer "sincere apologies." As to the blueprint, he said to the effect that his company would develop a specific action plan "as soon as possible." In short, they didn't know what for they ordered these 241 employees to risk their lives inside the facility of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant. This is why I have likened these guys kamikaze pilots.

Now that things are getting real ugly across the nation, let me recapitulate what exactly happened before, on, and after March 11.

Before 3/11: Naoto Kan was already faltering because of his total incompetence. But still he could withstand calls for his resignation because of the strong backing from the major opposition Liberal Democratic Party and the U.S. government which thought the inept Prime Minister was the ideal person to carry through the plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' air station from Futenma to Henoko against the will of the Okinawans. Under the special circumstances, the big quake and tsunami were a real manna. The Japanese traditionally call such a blessing kamikaze, or divine wind.

3/11: As Mr. Takashi Hirose has already pointed out, what happened on that day was not a once-in-a-millennium calamity. The magnitude of the tremor was artificially inflated to 9.0 but it was actually 8.3 or 8.4. Tsunami was not unprecedented, either. Initial reports had it the maximum height reached 33 ft. Later it was unofficially revised to 75 ft. But Hirose has reminded us that in 1896, for instance, a 125 ft tsunami was observed.

After 3/11: It's quite natural that Kan's administration, which had not been able to manage even the pre-quake "normal" situation, was now at a loss over how to handle the post-quake emergency. Defying every rule of crisis management, he acted in a haphazard way and at a snail's pace. Also he failed to prepare his people for the worst case scenario, by constantly disseminating his wishful thinking. On the other hand, members of Kisha Kurabu (the press club) physically attached to the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Company, along with other reporters, editors, and their favorite "experts," kept covering up or fabricating critical information. No wonder that the natural disaster quickly turned into a full-fledged man-made catastrophe.

Obviously, Kan, looters and charity-swindlers are not alone in benefiting a lot from the disaster. As we saw in the vacuum of laws of the postwar era, there are a lot of "legitimate" business opportunities for corrupt construction companies and many others. But on the other hand, hundreds of thousands of survivors are still going through the horrible plight in evacuation centers because of the inaction on the part of the government. Kan and his men have talked a lot about relief measures but they have delivered practically nothing on their promises.

It is true that there are a small number of individuals and organizations in Japan and foreign countries such as Taiwan, Israel and China that have offered genuinely spontaneous and selfless support. It's really heartwarming to see them. Especially I was touched by Mr. Masayoshi Son, founder of SoftBank. When the ethnic Korean announced that he would donate 10 billion yen ($120 million) plus all salaries and bonuses he will receive until his retirement, many cynics said that 10 billion is practically nothing for the richest Japanese. But they were absolutely wrong; it's these second-rate musicians who are giving charity concerts, those who attend them, or those who are complacent about their lip service and token donations that are doing nothing.

Unfortunately, though, real altruists are rare exceptions.

The climate where a false sense of unity and solidarity prevails has made me feel like playing devil's advocate. That is why I wrote on this website: "30,000 estimated dead? That's too bad, but it's not a big deal." This really brings me to the issue with suicide, although I know you think it's totally irrelevant here.

Actually most of you think those who have a tendency toward killing self are mentally ill, and in that sense, they deserve to be dead this way. But how can you be so sure that you are mentally sound? That's nothing more than an opportunistic self-diagnosis. If you are one of those people who have never pondered about the life-and-death issue in your lifetime, you better shut your mouth not only over those who committed suicide, but also those who got killed by quakes and tsunami in order to save your crocodile tears. And if you think those thousands of kamikaze pilots, who sacrificed their lives for the bastard in the Imperial Palace, were just mentally ill, you should stop talking about history, too.

In 2010 alone, 31,690 Japanese committed suicide. Japan's suicide rate was more than twice as high as in the U.S. and almost double that of China. Moreover, as John Nathan quoted Yoshi Yamamoto, Director of the Mental Health Center of Yokohama Hospital, as saying in his 2004 book titled Japan Unbound, "some 5 million Japanese are contemplating suicide at any given moment."

I hope you can do simple arithmetic here. Aside from these potential suicides, which number is larger, more than 30,000 who kill themselves every year, or another 30,000 who were victimized by the "once-in-a-millennium" disaster? According to my calculation, the former is 1,000-times larger.

Let's face it; this is exactly where lies the real problem with Japan. In this failed nation, the poorer the leader performs, the longer he can stay in power. Had it not been for his incompetence amplified by the disaster, Kan's administration would have fallen apart months ago. The administrations of Abe, Fukuda, Aso and Hatoyama were so short-lived simply because no major earthquake hit this nation during their aborted tenures.

The same applies to the entire nation.

It's none of my business, but if I were one of those Americans who hold monetary. ideological or emotional stake in this country, I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to write it off altogether. ·

Story Options


Trackback URL for this entry:

No trackback comments for this entry.
3/11 was the Final Wake-up Call for Stakeholders of Japan | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
3/11 was the Final Warning to Stakeholders of Japan
Authored by: samwidge on Saturday, April 16 2011 @ 10:16 PM JST

The concept of apology is a mysterious one. We are advised that the Japanese make formal apologies and that those are largely ceremony regardless of the real sentiment, a kind of adjunct to that “inscrutability” we once heard so much about.

Your own culture is very different from mine but, more than that, we don't understand apology among ourselves. Nobody cares to find it in a dictionary because it is too simple a word to admit a failure of understanding.

I can tell you that apology here is also largely ceremony; When one is sorry for a mistake we sense that that sorrow should not need words... but we say the words anyway. Apology at its best is always perfunctory, a meaningless show.

I remember a bus-load of Japanese visitors on their last visit to my hometown. One of the locals waving to friends aboard the parting vehicle stubbed a toe and screeched sadly. Upon seeing this, the Japanese all pretended to cry.


You said, “Now that things are getting real ugly across the nation ...” I think that this phrase is a kind of British understatement. In this sense, the things that any of us say seem always covered with some kind of ceremony that is acted because of some crippling custom and not because of need.

Thereby you have the symptoms of failures in leadership, failures in communication, failures in understanding.

I have thought at length about your disasters and wondered if I had the kind of skill to lead people out of such trouble. What would I say? Who would I ask to serve? Who would I tell to leave?

Your criticism of your people may be just and valid but I find myself wondering just who could do better.

I see twin problems:

1. A failure to properly anticipate tsunami in a tsunami-prone land
2. A failure to “keep the main thing the main thing.”

Focus is now your national challenge. You can forgive weak structure until after everything possible has been done to recover. You can forgive mistakes if those mistakes can be used to build better next time.

If things had been different and command was held by Mr. Yamamoto Yuichi, then what might the people say after calm was restored?

Would I tell my radio audience;

The mayor of Tokyo is stepping up to the microphone amid wild cheers.

“Ladies and gentlemen. We are here to honor the man who saved our nation from its biggest disaster in 130-years. He is the one who kept commerce running and kept people alive. This one man anticipated the ocean's power and demanded that all nuclear sites be beefed up. He was stalwart in the face of powerful national bitterness over the expense. He stood his ground.”

“And when disaster did strike, this fine man had already gathered a crack response team. Every worker knew what to do and when to do it. The nation knew how to pay for trouble even before it hit.”

“This one man fought the press and demanded criticism before trouble hit. He forced media to integrity in warning and in guidance in advance. He taught reporters to anticipate and help in every kind of disaster.

“Ladies and gentlemen... Japan... the world... I give you Mr. Yamamoto Yuichi.”

I can see hundreds of teenagers massed around the podium as the handsome Mr. Yamamoto comes to the microphone. Applause and cheering are thunderous.

Wait! Some of Yu-san's fans have fainted.

Yet Mr. Yamamoto anticipated even this. His emergency crews are advancing now to help the fallen youngsters.

Well. What do you think? Could you have brought it off that well?
3/11 was the Final Warning to Stakeholders of Japan
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Sunday, April 17 2011 @ 12:39 AM JST


I found your feedback very interesting in that it is a typical American response.

As to apologies, I doubt the American people will ever quite understand them. To begin with, I have never seen an American offer an apology. One year ago, for instance, Obama said in Prague that America has a moral obligation, as the only country that has used nuclear weapons, to reduce its nuclear arsenal. But he wasn't apologizing to anyone. Instead he was preaching about a nuke-free world. This made him look good. And he felt good. In Japan, anyone who is in a position to apologize is supposed to cry.

As I have said in June 2010, if you draw the Old Maid, you would have to offer an apology by bending your waist 45 degrees for what you are not responsible for, and to nobody. This is not just perfunctory. Instead, this is just a ritual particular to Shinto.

In other words, when things went wrong, nobody is considered to be at fault - just like nobody was responsible for the quake and tsunami. So I am not precisely talking about someone's failure in this post.

I don't know if you are making fun of this self-righteous blogger, but you ask, "Who could do better?" My answer: Nobody.

It seems to me this question involves too many what-ifs; what if Commodore Perry hadn't come along, what if samurais had been courageous enough to kick him out of Japanese waters, what if Japan had won the war, what if MacArthur hadn't acquitted the Emperor, Nobusuke Kishi (main architect of the postwar political system) and the media of war responsibility, what if I had majored in laws in the university, what if I hadn't divorced my sons' mother, what if I were in my 40s and so on and so forth.

The only thing I wanted to say here is that if I were an American, I would disinvest from this country. Actually, I couldn't care less if they couldn't break financial, ideological or emotional attachment to these people. That is none of my business because I am a person who can't be committed to two different causes at a time.

Yu Yamamoto
3/11 was the Final Warning to Stakeholders of Japan
Authored by: Diogenes on Tuesday, May 03 2011 @ 06:49 PM JST
More bowing and apologizing, this time the head of Sony for the 100 million people whose personal data was hacked. The national TV news here in the U.S. had a guy on who claimed that Sony is 10 years behind in security of their websites. That's not just stupid, it's incompetence throughout the entire management chain.