Posts Tagged initiative

Initiative – entrepreneurs in Tohoku

There’s still a lot of gloom-and-doom, finger-pointing and anxiety-spreading “news” out there (some of it on this very blog no less), but I’m getting tired of that. Aren’t you? What I find interesting these days is initiatives like this one.

Japan’s major convenience store operator Family Mart is this month launching a newly-developed fleet of mobile convenience store trucks to provide services across the northeast Tohoku region.

With their bright neon lights and open-all-hours policy, convenience stores – known as “konbini” in Japan – have long been a key fixture in Japanese communities, both rural and urban.

In the aftermath of the March 11 disaster, a number of major Japanese convenience store operators toured the region in makeshift trucks to provide essentials to displaced victims.

However, the new Family Mart mobile trucks are a specifically designed project which the company was planning even before the March 11 disaster, with a view to gaining access to the most remote regions in the country.

via Shops-on-wheels to launch across tsunami-hit Japan – Telegraph.

Then there’s “social entrepreneurs”. Say, what? The Nikkei explains: Read the rest of this entry »

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Radiation in food: Radish Boya to Set Its Own Cesium Standard | EX-SKF.

The bottom line is forcing more and more businesses to take matters into their own hands instead of relying on the government.  The rice farmers of Fukushima, judging by this unconfirmed but unfortunately not implausible story, apparently don’t need to worry about the bottom line.

Radish Boya, an online grocer who first alerted Shizuoka Prefecture that one of the Shizuoka contained radioactive cesium exceeded the provisional limit by its own testing, is going to set its own standard for cesium in food and drinks that it sells, which is one-tenths of the national provisional standards.

via Radiation in food: Radish Boya to Set Its Own Cesium Standard | EX-SKF.

See also this June blog entry,  quoting a Japan Times article about online mail-order food-delivery companies promising pesticide-free, organic food: Irradiated food poses moral dilemmas.

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Fukushima schoolchildren get dosimeters 福島の小学校。新学期で登校して …

Via Tweeter @yoshida1028, a report (from NHK news, but I haven’t found the original source) that primary school children in Fukushima (city? Or prefecture?) will be given radiation dosimeters. Yoshida comments that thus children are doubling up as nuclear power-station workers. A teacher is quoted as saying, “If these dosimeters help protect the children (then they’re a good idea)”, to which Yoshida comments, “Protect the children? Come off it!  This country is going insane.” Or is this an example of local initiative?

NHKお昼のニュース。福島の小学校。新学期で登校してきた子供たちに線量計を配布。子供たちが原発労働者とだぶる。教師のコメント「線量計が子供たちのお守りになればいい」。なるわけ無いだろう。この国は狂ってる。

via Twitter / @yoshida1028: NHKお昼のニュース。福島の小学校。新学期で登校して ….

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Many Kesennuma evacuees fled tsunami by car : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE The Daily Yomiuri

”However, people probably jumped into their cars because they wanted to escape as quickly as possible.” No s**t, Sherlock! Ya think? Ya think they maybe knew a tsunami was on the cards soon after an earthquake like that?

More examples of people taking their own initiative.

The Kesennuma municipal government had called on its citizens to evacuate on foot whenever an earthquake occurred.  However, people probably jumped into their cars because they wanted to escape as quickly as possible.

Cars were also necessary to evacuate elderly people and children, and some evacuation sites were a fair distance away.

On March 11, a tsunami swept over the city’s streets and a number of bodies were found in cars inundated by the tsunami.  A municipal government official said, “Learning from this, we want to expand the width of roads and set up large parking lots at evacuation centers.”

Asked how they received evacuation orders on the day of the disaster, 54 percent said they got them through the local administration’s disaster-prevention wireless system; 9 percent from the radio; 6 percent from cell phones; 3 percent from TV and 17 percent said they did not hear any warning. Among the four districts in Kesennuma, 34 percent of people living in the Motoyoshi district said they did not hear any warning.

The municipal government had set up receivers in houses in areas with poor wireless reception. However, some of these receivers may not have worked due to a power outage or because they became disconnected. The survey was conducted to provide the basic data to develop a restoration plan.

via Many Kesennuma evacuees fled tsunami by car : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE The Daily Yomiuri.

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Tepco now says reactor seawater injection wasn’t halted – Japan Times

Discussing this with my wife this morning, she said probably the man in charge of Fukushima, the man on the ground there, Yoshida, probably decided to keep pouring the water into the reactors, whatever the government or anyone else was saying, on his own initiative, and this shameful fact was then hushed up. For obvious reasons. It goes without saying that Yoshida would have been hauled over the hibachi for acting unilaterally, and not consulting every Taro, Jiro and Suzuki and their pet carp. (Click here for more pearls of wisdom on this blog about taking initiative in Japan.)

Or maybe everyone’s just playing “pass-the-parcel” with this hot potato: whoever ordered the halting is now, in the public mind, guilty of causing the meltdown.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. in an apparent flip-flop Thursday claimed it did not temporarily stop the injection of seawater into the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 12, a day after the deadly earthquake and tsunami.

On Saturday, the utility announced that the injection of seawater into reactor unit 1 had been suspended for close to an hour.

The media reported that Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered Tepco to stop due to the risk of starting a chain reaction in an event known as a “recriticality,” and suggested the halt may have caused the situation to deteriorate. Kan later completely denied the allegations, saying he nor the government gave such orders.

via Tepco now says reactor seawater injection wasn’t halted – Japan Times

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Prosecutor transferred for releasing crime suspects after quake+

Didn't you know initiative is forbidden around here???!!! Photo by Stephen Poff on Flickr (click photo to visit his page)

A lot of ink has been spilled in writing about slow or inadequate responses by Japanese governmental and other officials to the earthquake/tsunami/Fukushima nuclear crisis. However, such slow response is built-in to the system. The fact is, personal initiative is not highly valued in Japan. On the contrary, it often gets you into deep doo-doo, so that folks quickly learn it ain’t worth the risk.

This is the downside to the much-vaunted “consultation” ethic of the Japanese: when in doubt (or even if you’re not!) consult with others before taking action.

This news item shows what can happen when someone takes personal initiative. Note that no-one is complaining that what the former head of the District Prosecutor’s Office actually did was wrong, inappropirate or even illegal. No. His “crime” was that he failed to sufficiently consult with others before acting. Why is this so wrong? I’ll give my answer below. Feel free to add your comments. Here’s the news item.

The head of the Fukushima District Public Prosecutors Office has been transferred to a post at the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office effective Monday, the justice ministry said, in an apparent punitive move for releasing 31 crime suspects shortly after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

“His act was not illegal but he failed to sufficiently consult with the local high prosecutors office, the supreme prosecutors office and police,” a justice ministry official said. “Since the investigation on the matter is almost complete, we have decided on a personnel change.”

At the instruction of its chief Akira Nakamura, the Fukushima prosecutors office decided to let the suspects go on the grounds that it was difficult to investigate them in the midst of the unfolding disaster.

via Prosecutor transferred for releasing crime suspects after quake+.

The reason it’s such a crime in Japan to act without properly consulting others (even if what you did was perfectly ok and absolutely appropriate and correct), is that such actions can result in others losing face, a major no-no in this country.

Let me give some examples.

  1. In Japanese schools, Western teachers very quickly notice that if they ask any student a question, the student will rarely immediately answer (even if they KNOW the answer). Instead, they’ll turn to their right and their left and consult. It drives Western teachers nuts! But the students know the risk of just answering straight out: “Did you see that show-off? Putting herself first! What a big-head!” Yes, the collective in its wisdom, will stamp on such behaviour pretty darn quick.
  2. A teacher in a school has trouble with some particularly talkative and obstreperous students. No matter how many warnings they get, they won’t shut up. Finally, the teacher pulls his last card, and bans them from the class for good. Result? Major panic! Why? The students leave the room and go straight to the office and ask “What’s going on?”  Naturally the good folks in the office don’t know and can’t answer. They look silly. Right or wrong, they blame the teacher. Why didn’t he warn them ahead of time? Or better still, consult with them or with his boss about this: “I’m having trouble with these students, what can I do? Throwing them out of the classroom doesn’t work. Can I ban them altogether? Do I have that authority? Do I have the school’s backing if I do?”
  3. A small group of teachers in a school, with the co-operation of the library, finally manage, after a lot of negotiation and planning, to set up a special section where graded readers are kept. The teachers are proud of this and want to take photos and post them on the school website for PR. One of them asks the library about this. The librarian says they can’t decide: the teachers should ask the PR department. No personal initiative allowed here. We all move forward together as a group, see, or not at all.
  4. A new teacher has arrived. She is attending her first department meeting (what joy!). A number of items are discussed which the chair wants everyone’ s opinion on. The chair (a man and not a Japanese) asks the new teacher (a woman; ladies first,  you know) for her opinion first. The woman is flustered. She feels a trap of gigantic proportions opening up right before her feet. How can she possibly give an opinion without hearing what others think? That is an invitation to professional suicide! She begs to be excused, on the grounds that she still needs to learn the ropes (otherwise she might hang herself with them!).
  5. A teacher of English has some old books he wants to get rid of. While he could just trash them, it occurs to him to temporarily put them on show outside his office, with a sign telling people to just take what they want. He finds an old bookshelf and places it in the corridor. The next day, he gets a message from the boss, not directly but passed on through a colleague, to “get rid of the bookshelf fast”. Why? What’s so wrong about an English teacher offering English books for free to students and colleagues? He balks. The next day, he finds his bookshelf and the books have been taken away. His “crime”? He didn’t consult with anyone before putting the bookshelf in the corridor.

Consultation is not a bad thing, of course, but it slows down the decision-making process, and in emergencies that can be fatal. Another, perhaps unintended consequence of this consultation fetish is a profound self-censorship, where folks end up unable to act on their own initiative because they’ve learned that the price for doing so is too high.

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One Time One Meeting: Join “Operation Yashima”!!

A Nara Lady English Blogger writes about Operation Yashima. Her blog includes beautiful photos of Nara, and today of a beautiful weeping cherry tree in Nara city which is now in full bloom. I heard about it yesterday and went to visit it today with my wife and daughter. It looks every bit as wonderful as in the photos.

It has been 25 days since the deadly catastrophe hit northern Japan – earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear plant crisis. Always thinking of the people in suffering, we began to do what we can do. Especially young people’s energy and contribution are the greatest.  They are  genius in using Internet or social network. 

The fans of “Evangelion“, which is extremely popular animation as well as manga (comics), started “Operation Yashima” shortly after unfathomable disasters hit Tohoku area, Japan. This operation is to call for people to save energy so that more electricity can be sent to the stricken area, and the message has been sent through Twitter. In “Evangelion” , people need a huge energy to fight against the enemy attacking to destroy human beings. All energy in Japan is collected, so the whole Japan is blacked out. This is named “Operation Yashima” in the story.

via One Time One Meeting: Join “Operation Yashima”!!.

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