- in retrospect - one year

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- One Year later -


- The End of the Year 2011 -

March eleven -
the day that changed
my dear Japan

. Remember March 11, 2011, 14:46  


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The end of the year is a time to reflect . . .

We see so many TV features about the destruction in Tohoku, the continuing desperate situation around Fukushima . . .

2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
on 7 April, see April 2011 Miyagi earthquake
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


The earthquake year -
Editorial of the Japan Times

The year of the earthquake and tsunami is how 2011 will be remembered in Japan.
No bounen-kai (forget-the-year party) has passed without thoughts of those who lost so much in the triple earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster on or after March 11. The powerful 9.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the northeast of Japan and left the country in shock.

More than nine months later, some progress has been made on removing rubble and restoring order in Tohoku, but not nearly enough. The meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, in particular, is a serious concern for everyone in Japan, and abroad. A 20-km no-go zone has become a fact of life. Radiation exposure levels are now a regular topic in all Japanese newspapers. Consumers continue to worry about cesium levels in food products. Cleanup of the area has been slow and not helped by the belated, confused responses from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco).

Revelations that Tepco ignored scientific warnings about the plant and then mishandled the response after the tsunami hit have pushed distrust of nuclear energy to record-high levels. Few of the hundreds of thousands of people evacuated and displaced have completely returned to their former way of life. The Yen1.5 trillion it will take to restructure and effectively nationalize Tepco could be better spent on helping those citizens get on with their lives.

The triple disaster continues to reverberate throughout the country, but these issues should be resolved more quickly. The slow response from the government and the nuclear industry must be speeded up. The only truly rapid response to the crisis was the outpouring of support for all those suffering from the disaster. Donations and volunteers from Japan and abroad poured into the area. Without the help from devoted groups and average citizens, the mess would have been far worse.

The costs of the disaster will add to the downward pull on the economy. The bankruptcies, lost jobs and slower business activity will become a burden that may change many of the basic structures of Japan. The hiring of graduates was only slightly above the record low in 2010. By November, fewer than half of high school graduates and only two-thirds of college graduates had received a job offer for next April. Through the summer, an already weakened economy continued to falter with unemployment at high levels. More people are living in poverty in Japan and receiving unemployment benefits from the government than ever before.

Electricity usage was successfully reduced during the summer, and perhaps was a sort of protest. However, the Japanese response to these problems was tepid and certainly did not match the changes taking place elsewhere in the world. Except for a big rally against nuclear power in September, and frequent, scattered protests, nothing on the scale of the Arab Spring revolutions or Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests have occurred in Japan.

Munakata Shiko 棟方志功

Outrage over Tepco and at the loss-hiding scandal at Olympus Corp. failed to ignite OWS-like demands for greater corporate reform. The triple disaster and ensuing problems seem to have stunned most people in Japan. Are people generally satisfied or simply afraid to protest? Perhaps events in 2012 will tell.

The overall down mood of the country was also evident in the continued high suicide rate. The number of Japanese committing suicide has remained over 30,000 a year since 1998. Surveys about mental health have found high levels of depression. In other comparative surveys, only 40 percent of Japanese felt satisfied with their way of life, compared with 60 percent in other countries. Mental health and quality-of-life issues deserve more support from the government, including increased subsidies for mental health care facilities and expansion of treatment programs.

In the midst of all the gloom, though, the Japanese women's soccer team offered one bright spot. The "Nadeshiko" team, named after a strong, beautiful flower, beat the American soccer team in July to win the women's world championship. Their victory thrilled the country and helped bring back a sense of pride and forward motion. The mistaken notion of Japanese women as weak or passive was put to rest once and for all.

Closer at hand, "smart phones" proliferated in Japan this year, though networks failed on the day of the earthquake. The usual Japanese parade of technological pleasantries and pop culture was perhaps a welcome distraction during a difficult year.

Continuing another trend, Japanese are living longer than ever. During the past year, the number of centenarians increased to its highest number ever. Over 47,000 people are over the age of 100! The country continues to become older, but the question remains, has the country gotten any wiser?

Whatever the next year holds, 2011 will be remembered for a long time.
source : www.japantimes.co.jp


Hope, and inspired work,
from despair of March 11


A year of natural disasters in Japan — and elsewhere — has sparked some of the best writing on the nation seen in decades, as everyone from policy experts to ordinary citizens offered their views on the best route to recovery.

Among the best post-March 11 compilations providing kizuna (bonds of hope) was McKinsey & Company's excellent
"Reimagining Japan: The Quest for a Future That Works," which urged wide-ranging economic and business reform, and Jeff Kingston's powerful
"Tsunami: Japan's Post-Fukushima Future",
which showed the folly of ignoring past lessons, concerning both natural and man-made disasters.

Another more personal compilation was the emotional
"2:46 — Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake,"
a collection of survivor tales evoking both sadness and solidarity. Known on Twitter as "Quakebook," the work was the brainchild of the anonymous "Our Man in Abiko," a British teacher living in Chiba Prefecture. Entirely crowd-sourced, it started with a single tweet. "This book was conceived one week after the quake," the introduction explains. "It was written, edited and completed in seven days to tell people's stories while their feelings were raw, memories fresh and futures so uncertain."

As well as raising funds for disaster victims, these and other similar works are worthy additions to the Christmas shopping list for anyone interested in the nation's future, with a variety of views represented across business, government, sporting and other fields.

Policymakers should take note, too, as McKinsey & Company's global managing director, Dominic Barton points out in "Reimagining Japan": "For 20 years, Japan has drifted. To reimagine a brighter future, that must change."

While disaster may have been the tragic theme of 2011, in 2012 look for the emergence of more works on the rise of China and its implications for Japan, the United States and other members of the established order.

For those seeking a preview, perhaps revisit the
"Japan as number one" books of the 1980s and the style will quickly become apparent.
source : www.japantimes.co.jp


2011: a year of disaster in quotes

This year produced more than its share of memorable quotes, many of which were inspired by the March 11 disaster and its aftermath. But figures from other fields, from sports to entertainment, also said things worth repeating. Here is a sampling, in chronological order:

Bouts of soul-searching
"Professional sumo is not a show or an entertainment, but is rather something for everyone to watch, wringing their hands over a hard-fought bout. I feel as though I'm viewing scenery I really don't want to see,"
commented Justice Minister Satsuki Eda on Feb. 4 in response to a sumo bout-fixing scandal.

'Wash away this selfishness'
"The Japanese identity is one of selfishness. We need to use the tsunami to wash away this selfishness. I think it's God's punishment," said Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara shortly after the March 11 disaster.

No, he couldn't
"Japan needs a strong, independent prime minister willing to wrest power from the entrenched bureaucrats who really run the nation. When we actually get one, the entire political establishment thwarts reform and works to oust that leader," wrote Bloomberg News columnist William Pesek in an article published on April 26.

'It's a man-made disaster'
"This crisis at the power plant is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster," said University of Tokyo professor and seismology expert Robert Geller to the Yomiuri Shimbun for a June 12 article in which he criticized Tepco's lack of adequate disaster planning prior to the quake-and-tsunami-induced crippling of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

'You had better shape up'
"(You) entered (the meeting room) after I did, but when you are receiving guests, you must enter the room first and then call in the guests. Listen to me, that is what they do in the Self-Defense Forces where they understand the respect that should be shown to those who are senior. Do you understand? You had better shape up."
..... Disaster Reconstruction Minister Ryu Matsumoto resigned on July 5 .

The Italian job
"Just like Italy, which has decided against nuclear power, Japan should put the matter of whether or not to use nuclear power to a popular vote,"
opined Prime Minister Naoto Kan on July 13.

'The wonder of Japanese women'

"The Nadeshiko Japan ...

'I want to live a quiet life'

"From tomorrow I will become just another regular person. I want to live a quiet life," said TV comedian and presenter Shinsuke Shimada on Aug. 23, when he announced his immediate retirement from showbusiness after admitting to gang ties.

'Cities of death'
"In the central areas of the nearby villages and towns there is not a soul around. They are real cities of death," commented Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yoshio Hachiro on a Sept. 9 ...

'English is the language for business'
"If people cannot speak English in business in the future, it will be tantamount to not having a driver's license even though they have to drive. English is the language for business not only in the United States and Europe but also in Asia," said Fast Retailing CEO Tadashi Yanai ...

Rape, Okinawa, humor don't mix

"Would you give a warning when you are about to rape someone?"
Okinawa Defense Bureau chief Satoshi Tanaka made this off-record response on Nov. 28

'It won't happen in their lifetimes'

"I believe it is possible to save Fukushima. But many evacuated residents must accept that it won't happen in their lifetimes,"
predicted Tatsuhiko Kodama, director of the Radioisotope Center at the University of Tokyo, in a Dec. 11 ...
source : Japan Times


Sunday, December 25, 2011 - NHK

People pay more attention to power-saving

People in Japan are paying greater attention to saving electricity.

A new survey shows there is an increased awareness among people since the March 11th earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in Fukushima.

The Cabinet Office conducted the annual survey between October and November. About 6,200 people aged 20 or older responded.

A multiple choice question asked what had become the primary focus of attention in their daily lives since the disaster.

59 percent said saving electricity.
45 percent said preparing for disasters and
40 percent said family ties.
Another 38 percent said they are trying
not to be affected by unfounded rumors.

51 percent of the male respondents said saving electricity has become their top priority. For women, it was 66 percent.

68 percent of respondents who live in or around Tokyo chose the same answer. That's 9 points higher than the national average.
The greater Tokyo area experienced power shortages in the summer because of the Fukushima accident.

Asked what agenda the government should put priority on,
67 percent said social security should come at the top of the list.
Reconstruction from the March 11th disaster came in fourth with 51 percent, and bringing the nuclear accident under control was ranked sixth with 47 percent.
source : www3.nhk.or.jp


Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012
'Strange' is the new 'normal' for 2012

"Whatever happens won't be strange."

Thus the weekly Shukan Gendai sums up the prospects for the year now dawning.

Shaken by 2011, we face the blank slate that is 2012. Mankind's history of trying to read the future is very long. We've sought clues in animal entrails, the flight of birds, the pattern of tea leaves, the configuration of the stars. Nowadays we look to rational analysis. Is it any better? Not if 2011 is any indication. It was a jolting, jarring year, none of whose defining events, from sovereign debt crises to revolution to nuclear meltdown, was foreseen or prepared for.

Still, a new year begins with predictions. It's a tradition, and a human need. The general tenor of such exercises in Japan over the past 20 years has been pessimistic. Gloom is hard to rise above in a chronically depressed economy. An intensifying environmental crisis doesn't help, nor do politicians, in Japan and elsewhere, who seem pathetically unequal to, and sometimes scarcely conscious of, the world-transforming challenges they are elected to manage.

Analysts typically look at the past year and say, in effect,
"The coming year will be more of the same, only worse."
The formula has served them well for nearly a generation — why abandon it now? "Whatever happens won't be strange" — unless, Shukan Gendai might have added, "whatever happens" is good. Favorable developments are on nobody's radar. Good, as matters stand, would seem to require a miracle. Miracles happen, but analysts don't deal with them. And so the prospects we must contemplate include "world economic meltdown," a "super-high yen" that is ruinous to the giant manufacturing exporters that power Japan's economy, and political turmoil that could see yet another prime minister fall within a year of taking office with no commanding figure in the wings to replace him.

Sunday Mainichi magazine offers its own package of predictions, no less grim — grimmer, in fact, because it includes war. There is "a very high possibility," a researcher it consults says, of the United States attacking Iran before this month is over. On Dec. 4 Iran got its hands on a crashed American drone, with its high-tech secrets intact, to be exploited by Iran itself or perhaps sold to China or Russia. Election-year pressure could push President Barack Obama into a display of toughness. How that would affect America's friendliest ally, Japan, is not discussed. Profoundly, in any case. Japan courts American protection against rising China and increasingly unpredictable North Korea. It also courts oil suppliers, of which Iran is one.

Speaking of North Korea, Sunday Mainichi sees the April 15 100th anniversary of the birth of the nation's deified founding father, Kim Il Sung, as a natural occasion for a grand gesture — a nuclear bomb test, for instance. The magazine went to press before the sudden death last month of Kim's son and successor, "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il, whose own son, young and untried, has abruptly inherited the family dynasty. Does the transition make this poke in the world's eye more likely, or less? "Whatever happens won't be strange."

Here's something strange — or perhaps not.
In Japan, says Sunday Mainichi, masculinity is dying, nearing an extinction as absolute as that of the prehistoric mammoth, of which more in a moment. A commonplace of pop sociology over the past few years is that Japanese men have evolved from "carnivores" to "herbivores." Now the evolution has gone further, the latest emergence being "sweet boys," young men who prefer baking and consuming cakes and cookies to the activities favored by the red-blooded "carnivorous" males of yesteryear, namely drinking and chasing women. One expression gaining traction is that men have been "freed from the spell of masculinity." It will be interesting to see where that leads.

Mammoth bones, remarkably well-preserved, were dug up in Siberia last August. In a few years, a cloned mammoth may walk the very Earth its ancestors last trod 10,000-odd years ago. Japan's Kinki University is playing a key role, extracting DNA from cells in the unearthed bones. A mammoth symposium is slated for Russia in March, with Kinki University scientists among the participants. Woolly mammoth, meet sweet boy.

Sunday Mainichi's and Shukan Gendai's political experts agree on this much: Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, in office all of five months, "is fast approaching his use-by date," as Shukan Gendai puts it. "Not if, but when," says the magazine of Noda's political demise. The issue is the consumption tax, which he is committed to raising. Already nine members of his own Democratic Party of Japan have bolted; the opposition scents blood. Elections this year are seen as a near certainty, as are heavy DPJ losses.

What then? Among a flurry of possibilities, Shukan Gendai raises an interesting one. With neither the DPJ nor the opposition-leading Liberal Democratic Party likely to impress a jaded electorate, the center-right, low-tax, small-government Your Party could emerge from the fringes, its cooperation with either of the larger parties contingent upon its leader, Yoshimi Watanabe, being named prime minister. The person to watch in a Watanabe administration would be less Watanabe himself than his close ally, former Osaka Prefecture governor and current Osaka City Mayor Toru Hashimoto — not a candidate himself because of his recent election to the mayoralty on a pledge to fuse the city and prefectural administrations. Like him or not — and those who dub his governing style "Hashism" obviously do not — he is the most dynamic, charismatic politician on the scene. He would make a formidable éminence grise, biding his time until he can be a formidable eminence period. To discern where a battered Japan goes from here, he looks like the man to watch.
source : Japan Times


One Year after Fukushima:
Defining and Classifying a Disaster

by Lucas W. Hickson - March 7, 2012
This coming week will mark the first anniversary of Fukushima’s multiple meltdown nuclear disaster. There is little data on how badly contaminated the now-abandoned area of forced evacuation is in the 20-kilometer (12-mile) zone around the Fukushima plant.
The mainstream media has already begun trotting out assorted “experts” to assure anyone who might be still interested in Fukushima that all is well and no one’s been harmed by all the radiation the reactors released.
source : www.globalresearch.ca


From the Japan Times

Japan prepares to commemorate Tohoku tragedy

Drummers hope to support earthquake victims

Tohoku's sake breweries one year on

Selling Japan's food and tourism


Daruma from Takasaki 高崎 復興祈願 だるま

Print one out and hang it in your prayer corner!

ganbaro !! Nihon
ガンバロー 日本

がんばろう 日本 Ganbaro Nippon !


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