Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Monday, March 21, 2011

MONDAY is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring and a public holiday in Japan. This year spring arrived 11 days after one of the five strongest earthquakes ever recorded and the resulting tsunami killed more than 20,000 people. That was followed by a seven-day period with 262 aftershocks of magnitude 5 or greater.

It was fitting, then, that Monday’s news reports focused on renewal and recovery. Nissan Motors and Sony announced they will restart production this week, and gasoline production and deliveries in the Tohoku region began yesterday. Factories in Kyushu have been operating at full production for nearly a week, particularly in the energy (gasoline), food products, and pharmaceuticals sectors. Yamato has resumed express parcel delivery service in the three prefectures where the damage was the greatest. The website J-Cast reported that radiation readings in the capital region were declining, and were at normal levels at noon in Tokyo.

More important, the SMBEs that are the backbone of all national economies have been picking themselves up off the floor. The Kisennuma, Miyagi sake brewery producing the well-known Fushimi Otokoyama brand got started on the final batch of winter last week. The company was founded in 1912, and their office building, which dates from 1980, was destroyed in the tsunami. The brewery itself, however, was intact, and it took only two people to get it running again. One of them has been sleeping in his car or in the brewery itself.

No one knows when the essential lifeline services will be restored in Kisennuma, and 80% of the city’s liquor merchants, the brewery’s primary companies, have been damaged. That hasn’t deterred company President Sugawara Akihiko:

“This will protect local employment and industry. I want to brew good sake now more than ever.”

In Iwanuma in the same prefecture, the employees of Iwanuma Seiko, a precision machining company, began cleaning up the premises. They have no electricity, the floor is buried in mud, and the only light is that which shines through the plant windows. A truck with relief supplies finally reached them on the 17th.

Company President Chiba Kiyoshi was in Tokyo on a business trip when the earthquake and tsunami hit, but his wife responded quickly to the emergency and all 50 employees escaped harm.

The monetary losses they incurred are incalculable at this point; 60 of their machines were flooded and under water. That’s not how the 63-year-old Mr. Chiba views his situation, however:

“We can buy new machines as replacements. But our employees have stayed with us, and they can’t be bought with money. That’s the best thing…we must absolutely not be defeated.”

Gambare Shiogama was launched two years ago in the Shiogama district of Miyagi to use local traditional techniques and modern equipment for the production of salt from sea water. The disaster occurred just when they thought they had finally gotten the kinks ironed out. Production isn’t possible at moment, but the company finally confirmed on the night of the 17th that their employees were safe. Said plant manager Oikawa Fumio:

“We’ll start again no matter how long it takes. Our original purpose for making salt was to stimulate the local economy. Now more than ever is the time to give it everything we’ve got (gambare).”

Meanwhile, in another time-space continuum, an article appeared in the Western media today with the following headline: “Rich Japan’s Descent into Misery Stuns”.

I like this one better: “Bankrupt Media’s Descent into Irrelevance Stupefies”.

There are also contrasting views in the Japanese media. For example, the headline on the cover of the 1 April special edition of the weekly Shukan Post reads, “Let’s Put Our Faith in Japan.” Here’s what it looks like:

The special edition of the weekly Aera that hit newsstands a day or two ago had a different approach, however. The headline reads, “Here Comes the Radiation”. This is what it looks like:

Neither Japanese language ability nor familiarity with the magazines’ content is needed to know which was published by the media outlet with the left wing political philosophy.

It’s also worth noting that the yellow vertical headline at the right on the Shukan Post cover reads, “Radiation Contamination and False Rumors”.

The Japanese have no doubt about where they stand. Shinhodo 2001 conducted a quick poll in Tokyo and asked the question, “Can Japan recover?” The results were lopsided:

Yes: 94.6%
No: 2.6%
Don’t know: 2.8%

Aera’s publisher Asahi posted an apology on their website today for their choice of cover and headline.

The plums are in bloom here in Kyushu. In another week or two, it will be cherry blossom season.

Any day now, spring will be here for real, not just on the calendar.

UPDATE: Can’t let this post by James Delingpole go by without mention. It’s titled, Whatever Happened to the Nuclear Meltdown?

The best parts aren’t his, though. He quotes Lewis Page:

“As one who earns his living in the media these days, I can only apologise on behalf of my profession for the unbelievable levels of fear and misinformation purveyed this week. I have never been so ashamed to call myself a journalist.”


The Fukushima reactors actually came through the quake with flying colours despite the fact that it was five times stronger than they had been built to withstand. Only with the following tsunami – again, bigger than the design allowed for – did problems develop, and these problems seem likely to end in insignificant consequences….Other Japanese nuclear powerplants in the quake-stricken area, in fact, are sheltering homeless refugees in their buildings – which are some of the few in the region left standing at all, let alone with heating, water and other amenities.

He also quotes from a letter to another website by German astronomer and physicist, Dr Peter Heller:

“Stopping nuclear energy is nothing less than rejecting the legacy of Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr and all others. It is tantamount to scrapping it, labelling it as dangerous – all in a fit of ignorance. And just as creationists attempt to ban the theory of evolution from the school books, it almost seems as if every factual and neutral explanation in Germany is now in the process of being deleted.

“The media suggests a nuclear catastrophe, a mega-meltdown, and that the apocalypse has already begun. It is almost as if the 10,000 deaths in Japan were actually victims of nuclear energy, and not the earthquake or the tsunami. Here again one has to remind us that Fukushima was first hit by an unimaginable 9.0 earthquake and then by a massive 10-meter wave of water just an hour later. As a result, the facility no longer found itself in a highly technological area, but surrounded by a desert of rubble. All around the power plant the infrastructure, residential areas, traffic routes, energy and communication networks are simply no longer there. They were wiped out. Yet, after an entire week, the apocalypse still has not come to pass. Only relatively small amounts of radioactive materials have leaked out and have had only a local impact. If one considers the pure facts exclusively, i.e. only the things we really know, then it exposes the unfounded interpretations of scientific illiterates in the media.”

But we knew that already, didn’t we?

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9 Responses to “Spring”

  1. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    Ampontan: Thank you. The above song represents our feelings. Note that the heart of this song is not about change, but about what remains the same.変わらないもの

  2. Thanks for the post. It sometimes seems to me that the western media is disappointed by the Japanese reaction to the tsunami. When she heard the song you posted by the Candies my wife Ryoko began singing and dancing!

  3. Marellus said


    Sorry … I can’t help myself … Shalom Nippon !!!!!

  4. toadold said

    Mean while one new commentator referenced a “shocking and opportunistic” statement by Warren Buffet. I’m not linking him but here’s the original source on Buffet saying Japanese stocks are a good buy right now.

  5. toadold said

    I’ve been holding off on mentioning this but it looks like there is a possibility that Japanese Child Protective Services could get swamped.
    There is increasing odds that their are going to be children who have lost all family or the family that is left will not be able to take them in. From what little I know the government sponsored orphanages were good but somewhat under staffed before the quake hit. Now I worry how they will cope in the near future???

  6. Marellus said


    Unless I’m mistaken, this writer has a point :

    I’m sorry, but I’m playing devil’s advocate again …

  7. Marellus said


    This as well …

    Click to access armstrong%20testimony%20to%20congress_1996.pdf

  8. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    Marellus: Thank you for your posts. I doubt if Ampontan assess the first one in depth because of a sort of dogmatism here and there, and fundamental flaw of it is that even I can point out it.

    So said, following Mr. Ikeda’s post that I referred to in my previous comment at Yakuza, I started to feel a bit scary – but it all comes down in the end to the degree of people’s responsiveness to changing circumstances – and no nation or society is immune from it. The disaster accelerates something for sure, beyond so-called restoration, but there are so much accelerations in today’s world. Since I am a Japanese, I care for Japan first, and then for the rest. Them, otherwise. If two are so different as they seem, in reality he and me are all connected – see GM and Nokia have to slow down or shut down their production due to lack of parts from Japan. They would re-source them of course – I would just wait and see for the result.

    But he may be right! Who knows, would be my best answer. I leave the rest to A.

  9. Marellus said


    My thanks to you. Shalom 🙂 I do believe that the only way out of this Great Financial Crises, is to re-establish some kind of asset that can extinguish debt. What is happening now, is that the debt being paid off by one sector, is in effect being taken up by other sectors. And the interest on that debt is compounding faster, than it can be repaid.

    There is ALWAYS more debt and interest outstanding, than there is currency in circulation. If you want to create money, you have to create a debt somewhere else.

    To really understand this, you have spend about three hours watching these videos. It is worth it …
    M: Thanks for the note.

    Didn’t Prechter say that the only way to solve deflation and the debt crisis is to stand back and let it work its way out of the system?

    There’s a historical precedent. The American government made a point of not doing anything during some problems in 1921, and they got worked out a year later. Of course now the problems, one of which is government intervention, are greater.

    – A.

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