Posts Tagged tsunami

Fukushima residents dump radiated soil in absence of plan – Yahoo! News

I have mixed feelings about this news. On the one hand, it shows an increasing distrust of central government, and a slightly (but not equivalently) increasing self-reliance and personal initiative.And the ruling class, in whatever culture, are always aghast at the idea of “ordinary” citizens taking matters into their own hands. They don’t want this. They want people to do as they are told.

In a recent NHK TV program to discuss the Fukushima nuclear disaster, someone mentioned that some information about release of radioactivity has been censored on the grounds that it is important not to create panic; the commenter asked, what if panic was exactly the response that was required by the facts?

On the other hand, in this situation, experts are surely required.

Japan is an Asian country which is run by the bureaucratic class, rather like the mandarins have run China for the past several aeons. While a free-thinking, democracy-loving Westerner may condemn this, the fact is that clear thinking, expert knowledge, and the ability to manage people are not skills that everyone is blessed with. Some decisions, perhaps, are best left in the hands of knowledgeable and able people.

Of course, that group does not include politicians.

More than three months after a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear meltdown at a nearby power plant, Fukushima residents are scrambling to cope with contamination on their own in the absence of a long-term plan from the government.

As increasingly panicked residents take matters into their own hands, experts warn that their do-it-yourself efforts to reduce contamination risk making matters worse by allowing radiation to spread without monitoring and by creating hotspots of high radioactivity where soil is piled high.

via Fukushima residents dump radiated soil in absence of plan – Yahoo! News.

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Japan’s Soft Power Chance | Flashpoints

Kyle Mizokami over at The Diplomat makes some interesting suggestions regarding a future role for Japan’s SDF, although he fails to mention any specific equipment for dealing with a nuclear emergency.

Capitalizing on its recent experiences and those of other countries, Japan can build a pioneering fleet dedicated to disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, for both home and abroad. Such a fleet, under civilian control, would be a welcome sight both in Japan and abroad, in the aftermath of regional catastrophes and in regular visits to isolated Pacific communities that would welcome medical and technical assistance.

A large ship of a naval design would be an ideal platform for responding to Japan’s natural disasters. Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands, and more than a third of Japan’s population lives within ten kilometers of the coast.

A DR/HA vessel for Japan should have several qualities. First, the ship should have medical facilities on par with most hospitals.

Another valuable feature is a full-length flight deck, similar to those on aircraft carriers, or the MSDF amphibious vessels of the Oosumi-class. Several local airfields in the earthquake or tsunami zone were damaged or knocked out, and MSDF and US Navy vessels, particularly the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, were used to refuel search and rescue helicopters that could not be serviced on shore. The ability to embark and service a large number of helicopters would be critical, at least until airfields on shore were re-opened.

via Japan’s Soft Power Chance | Flashpoints.

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Japan tsunami and earthquake: Pictures of recovery 3 months later | Mail Online

Japan tsunami and earthquake: Pictures of recovery 3 months later | Mail Online.

Remarkable photos tell their own story.


But then there’s another side to the story:

90,000 in shelters; most debris still uncleared 3 months on says the Daily Yomiuri this morning. The entire article consists of “buts” (quoted below). And here’s another DY article headline, “Fewer want to return home / Delayed recovery dampens evacuees’ hopes for the future”.

And more upbeat news: “150 police officers and riot squads to attend Tepco shareholders meeting, June 28th”. Bit over the top, isn’t it? I mean, what could possibly go wrong? The Japanese are always so polite and always apologizing for everything, aren’t they?

According to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, a total of 28,280 temporary housing units for survivors had been completed as of Friday in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Chiba, Tochigi and Nagano prefectures. However, only about 40 percent, or 12,028 units, had occupants as of Wednesday, due partly to their inconvenient locations or other unfavorable conditions, the ministry said.

About 52,500 units are expected to be built by mid-August.

The number of evacuees in shelters fell by about 27,000 from a month earlier to 90,109 as of Friday. However, this figure is still considerably higher than the about 50,000 people living in shelters three months after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.

A total of 468,653 people were staying in shelters on March 14.

Electricity has been restored in most areas, but 57,900 households in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures are still without running water, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The Environment Ministry estimated the disaster left 23.92 million tons of debris in these three prefectures. As of Friday, about 5.19 million tons–just 22 percent–had been moved to temporary storage spaces.

In Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, the city that had the most debris dumped on it by the tsunami, only 7 percent had been cleared, the ministry said.

Many transport networks are still feeling the impact of the March 11 disaster.

The Tohoku Shinkansen line resumed full operations by April 29, but train services remain suspended over a stretch of 344 kilometers on regular lines, mostly in coastal areas.

A 16-kilometer section of the Joban Expressway between the Hirono Interchange and the Joban Tomioka Interchange remains closed due to the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The Japan Red Cross Society and three other organizations had received donations of about 251.4 billion yen as of June 3. About 82.3 billion yen of this had been passed on to Tokyo, Hokkaido and 13 prefectures affected by the disaster in a first round of distribution, but only 37 billion yen had actually reached survivors.

According to the Cabinet Secretariat’s Volunteers Coordination Office, at least 387,900 people had taken part in volunteer activities in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures as of June 5.


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“Technology and organization – the central themes of the modern era”

Stop Screwing Around and Get Organized

Stop Screwing Around and Get Organized By fitzage on Flickr


  1. “I feel that the government needs to attach itself to a project that would be popular with the citizens of Japan. The notion of sacrificing, or the attempt to go above and beyond the call of duty, is a Japanese trait ingrained in the mindset of the older generation of the Japanese populous. The people of Japan are starting to lose hope in their government, and the government needs to reassure them that they are trying their best to rectify the disaster that has struck the Tohoku area. One can see that the “suicide corp”, as Hosono has idiotically dubbed, is somewhat controversial, and with the backing of several politicans, it can gain more momentum and allow for others to join their cause. That said, Japanese people love their legal, political red tape more than the average bear, and this is just another example of it.” [A comment left on this blog]
  2. “We have been conditioned to regard the nuclear issue as something so political and unrelated to our daily lives that it’s only for experts to deal with, not for us to even think about. But it took just one business enterprise to point out to us, in words that were completely devoid of sensationalism or hyperbole, that it is actually our own responsibility to get involved.” [Novelist Genichiro Takahashi, writing in the Asahi Shimbun, May 27th, 2011: POINT OF VIEW/ Genichiro Takahashi: Finding post-disaster hope in people who avoid ‘big words’]
  3. “What they’ve been taught is this: everything is created from above already; there is no more room; the individual invents nothing.” [from John Rappoport Music]
  4. “The central theme of the modern era is: technology and organization. It was not always seen to be that. But the men who are riding the biggest horses of organization in this world today… have come to realize that… domination can be achieved just through improving the functioning of their organizations. Their ant colonies… in the long run it doesn’t really matter what car or movie or CD or medicine or cosmology or God or law enforcement system is sold as the product of a given organization. Yes, it has to be interesting and functional up to a point, but whatever wild desire and surmise once motivated an inventor or a theologian or a president to start one of these organizations, and make a product, a service, a particular THING for the public, much of that is gone now, that passion is gone and it doesn’t matter. What matters, to an alarming degree, is making the public PERCEIVE that it likes the product. What matters is that the public… have somehow deadened their own perception of reality so that they can become passive enough to accept organization as the ruling force of the world, so that they can accept what organization gives them as consumers and demands of them as employees without blinking or rebelling. And individual creation, and small-group creation are the magnificent trumping answers to that. Undeadening perception and expanding the scope and power of the creative imagination… Let’s break out. As the writer William Burroughs used to say, Wouldn’t you?” [Jon Rappoport, Full Power, 91-2.]

Notice how item #1 and #2 are about perception: it’s important that the people of Japan perceive their government as popular, as backing popular projects , begging the question, if they’re popular, why is the government necessary? People need to perceive something as “legit”. In item #2, the questions going begging  are, “We have been conditioned” … by whom? Who is “we”? And are we pure victims, or (as the commenter noted in #1) has the Japanese people’s love for legal, political red tape made them willing participants in their own conditioning?

There is a certain irony in item #2: that he was under the spell of one organization was an insight prompted by anOTHER organization! Organizations are competing for customer loyalty, not just for their particular products but for allegiance to their particular brand of organization,; perhaps loyalty to the idea of organization as the legit, ruling force; in this case, that politicians and experts are best left to manage the important aspects of our lives.

The March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis seem to have banged a big hole in a lot of people’s loyalty, indeed to their very idea of “loyalty”, i.e. meekly accepting the decisions and directives of the politicians and the elites. This acquiescence was based on an assumption: that those in charge have our best interests at heart, that the authorities are fundamentally on our side. Is this assumption justified? It seems many people, prompted by the March disaster and its aftermath, are asking themselves this question.

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U.N. cites ‘synchronous’ infrastructure failure – Japan Times Online

NEW YORK — The March 11 killer tsunami that hit the Tohoku coast following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdowns revealed the fragility of Japan’s infrastructure, according to a recent U.N. report on natural disasters.

via U.N. cites ‘synchronous’ infrastructure failure – Japan Times Online

Is this really saying anything?

“The earthquake, its aftershocks, the tsunami and the nuclear emergency illustrate what a synchronous failure looks like: a multisectoral system’s collapse,” says the 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.

No shit, Sherlock.

It also describes how the disaster disrupted “critical sections” of Japan’s power grid, including the power supply needed to cool the spent fuel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and how backup systems were disabled, thereby resulting in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Who’d a thunk? I’d never have known! (sarcasm). “Well, we’ve been paid a lot of money for this junket, so I spose we’d better produce some kind of report. Hey! Naoki! Run the ol’ “UN Report Template” and type these key words. Shouldn’t take more than few minutes.”

“As the March 2011 nuclear crisis in Japan shows, governments should also invest time and resources in anticipating emerging risks,” the report says.

Holy Cow! And they got paid to write this tripe??

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Preparation saved one island’s residents | The Japan Times Online

Is there a lesson here? I think there is. Underline it.

none of the approximately 80 residents on the island was killed by the tsunami, thanks to a disaster prevention map and an evacuation route created more than half a century ago.They had also prepared for the possibility of disaster by conducting emergency drills over and over.In the scant 30 minutes that elapsed between the quake and the arrival of the massive tsunami, town officials knocked on the doors of every home, urging residents to evacuate.Using a special 2-meter-wide evacuation route that local residents had cleared through a bamboo grove, they fled to a local elementary and junior high school that was built on higher ground.The disaster prevention map was drawn up with the help of Toyohiko Miyagi, a geology professor at Tohoku Gakuin University in Miyagi Prefecture. The map listed an evacuation route for every resident on the island.”As an island, we can’t depend on the government for a quick rescue and aid operation in emergencies,” one of the residents said.

via Preparation saved one island’s residents | The Japan Times Online.

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Not an unsung hero any more

Follow-up to the Unsing Hero story:

Visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed gratitude Saturday for the actions of a man in Miyagi Prefecture who lost his life after helping 20 Chinese trainees escape the tsunami triggered by the March 11 earthquake.

News photo
Lifting spirits: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (third from right) and Prime Minister Naoto Kan talk to evacuees at a shelter in the city of Fukushima on Saturday. KYODO PHOTO

“He helped them regardless of nationality. I highly praise his act,” Wen

via Wen lauds man who saved trainees | The Japan Times Online

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Photos of tsunami striking Japanese nuclear plant – Yahoo! News

The photos were front-page news in today’s (May 20th, 2011) Mainichi Shimbun. Why do these photos surface now, over 2 months later? They got swept away in the tsunami and have only just been recovered? Right.

Photos of the recent Japanese tsunami battering the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been released by TEPCO, the Japanese power company that runs the stricken facility.

In the images from the March 11 disaster, a massive surge of water triggered by the 9.0 earthquake breaches the seawall that protects the plant, and pours into the facility. One shows cars bobbing in the water.

via Photos of tsunami striking Japanese nuclear plant – Yahoo! News.

And check out the video of the inside of the Fukushima plant showing some of the aftermath of the tsunami.

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Japanese Officials Long Ignored or Concealed Nuclear Dangers –

Hamaoka nuclear plant, Japan

Hamaoka nuclear plant, Japan (image from Wikipedia. Click to visit Wikipedia page)

The stuff is starting to come out of the woodwork about the supervision of the safety of Japan’s nuclear power plants. To borrow a Japanese diplomatic understatement, it is “unfortunate” (残念zan-nen) that it took a 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami and the 20-years-to-clean-up Fukushima nuclear disaster to flush this kind of information out.

I was not happy about the government’s heavy-handed and unilateral decision to shut down the Hamaoka plant – where’s the electrical energy going to come from, then? – but after reading the following, I’m now in favour, tho I don’t like that it is the government which has this kind of power. The lawsuits should have won. There should have been a public debate. Instead, it was swept under the carpet by “Japanese officials”.

The problem is not so much the nuclear technology or engineering itself. It’s the integrity and honesty (or lack thereof) of key figures involved. There is no substitute for character and good judgement. No amount of hi-tech can make up for this lack.

Over the last few weeks, a picture has started to emerge of the peculiarly Japanese style of elitism and arrogance. I’ll write about this later, but Japan’s elite schools seem to be good at producing people who seem to think they are gods, above the law, untouchable by human frailty. I recall an American who had been in President Kennedy’s administration commenting on later generations of administration: he said that no-one should be in a position of high office who has not faced a major defeat or downfall at some time in his life. I can’t recall where I read this. Damn! It’s going to bug me, now, until I find it!

The article below came from the NY Times. I sincerely hope this information is being written up and publicized in the Japanese media.

If such a quake struck, electrical power could fail, along with backup generators, crippling the cooling system, the lawyers predicted. The reactors would then suffer a meltdown and start spewing radiation into the air and sea. Tens of thousands in the area would be forced to flee.Although the predictions sound eerily like the sequence of events at the Fukushima Daiichi plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the lawsuit was filed nearly a decade ago to shut down another plant, long considered the most dangerous in Japan — the Hamaoka station.

The lawsuits reveal a disturbing pattern in which operators underestimated or hid seismic dangers to avoid costly upgrades and keep operating. And the fact that virtually all these suits were unsuccessful reinforces the widespread belief in Japan that a culture of collusion supporting nuclear power, including the government, nuclear regulators and plant operators, extends to the courts as well.

via Japanese Officials Long Ignored or Concealed Nuclear Dangers –

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Two months later, whereabouts of 9,500 still unknown | The Japan Times Online

There are a number of interesting points about this story from the point of view of someone observing Japanese culture. But read the story first.

More than two months after a devastating earthquake and tsunami ravaged the Tohoku region, about 9,500 people remain unaccounted for.

Police and Self-Defense Forces personnel continue to search the wrecked areas, but as time passes fewer bodies are being found. Identifying bodies is also proving difficult, as the extreme force of the tsunami stripped victims of clothes, IDs and jewelry.

At a temporary burial site on a hill in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, the graves of unidentified victims are marked only with numerals written in kanji.

Of some 330 victims buried there, about 30 have yet to be identified. The small bunches of flowers placed on their graves by municipal officials have started to wither, in sad contrast to the vivid flowers and offerings of food and drinks placed next to grave markers of deceased who have been identified.

via Two months later, whereabouts of 9,500 still unknown | The Japan Times Online.

First, the unidentified bodies are buried. Burial is not the norm in Japan, cremation is. So why are these bodies not cremated? Well, I guess one reason is practical. If the bodies are later identified, the family will have the opportunity to move the remains and re-bury or cremate. Cremation is pretty final: all that’s left is a little pot of ash. Another reason might be that lack of resources including oil, or gas or electricity or whatever crematoria use, is making cremation impossible or very difficult at the moment.

Second, I was surprised to see that the graves are marked “with numerals written in kanji”. These days, Japanese are more familiar with Roman numerals. Kanji numerals are of course still used, but they are not as common as the Roman ones (they can be seen together with the Roman numerals on Japanese banknotes, for instance). When they are used, it is for aesthetic reasons, or sometimes to make a patriotic statement. But that does not explain why the graves would be marked by kanji numerals. No reason for either aesthetic or patriotic sentiment here. I can only guess that the graves are marked with a brush, and kanji numerals, with their straight lines, can be written more easily with such an instrument than Roman numerals, with their curves and circles.

Third, the “offerings of food and drink” on graves might strike Westerners as a little odd, but it is a frequent occurrence in Japanese graveyards. Japanese Buddhist altars are decorated with food and drink, often food and drink that the departed was particularly fond of. After the ceremonies, these offerings (o-sonae お供え) are distributed among the guests. Placing such offerings of food and drink directly on the gravestone itself is therefore not so odd.

This photo that shows a good example. The title says “offerings to a happy afterlife”, so perhaps there is that old Egyptian idea in this custom as well.


By Билл on Flickr

new clock for my bedroom

By nor certitude on Flickr (click image to visit source page)

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