Japan from the inside out

Headlines and the reality

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, June 30, 2012

“I was bred and born in the briar patch, Brer Fox,” he called. “Born and bred in the briar patch.”
And Brer Rabbit skipped away as merry as a cricket while Brer Fox ground his teeth in rage and went home.
-Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby

THE English-language media are on the verge of swallowing their tongues in excitement. Here’s the lede from an AFP article that everyone’s running with:

Tens of thousands of people rallied outside the Japanese prime minister’s residence in Tokyo Friday in one of the largest demonstrations held against the restart of nuclear reactors.

Organizers claimed 100,000 participated, but adults in the area said it was more like 20,000. That is a substantial number of people for a Japanese demonstration, but then we do live in a semi-hysterical age.

Now for the reality. The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted a poll of the six prefectures in the Kinki region (served by the Oi nuclear power plants) two weeks ago asking whether people approved or disapproved of the resumption of nuclear power generation.

Here are the results:

49%: Approve
41%: Disapprove

The difference was even greater in Osaka Prefecture: 52% in favor vs. 39% against. Shiga was the only thumbs-down prefecture, and the Kyoto results were a rough 50%-50% split.

More significant than these numbers is the trendline. At one point, the percentage of those who disapproved was around 70%. Opinion on this issue is dynamic, and it isn’t moving in the direction the demonstrators and some in the media would prefer.

A few days ago I ran across a site (in English) in which the author of one post was excited by the anti-nuclear power sentiment in Japan and Prime Minister Noda’s statement that he would consider going nuclear-free — even though he was aware that it was the same Noda Yoshihiko who authorized the resumption of the Oi plant operations.

He thought it was encouraging that some politicians suggested holding a national debate on nuclear power in Japan this summer. Now there’s a man who hasn’t spent much (if any) time in this country in July and August.

Japanese utilities are calling on people to cut back on 10% of their power consumption this summer. (That’s the number in Kyushu, at least.) Kyushu Electric Power has already drawn up plans for two-hour rolling blackouts in 60 districts once a day in the event their surplus disappears.

Americans think the weather on the East Coast this time of year is almost unbearable. My wife and I took our first trip to the US East Coast together one August. It was so hot and muggy during our sightseeing visit to Washington DC that people were moaning, groaning, and staggering over to benches in the shade to limply fan themselves.

“What’s the matter with them?”

I told my wife the heat was getting to them.

“Heat?” She almost snorted. “This isn’t hot. In Japan this is nothing.”

And then she went back to poring over the guidemap to decide where she’d like to go next.

That’s why the politicians want the debate conducted in the summer — when everyone’s dripping with sweat and taking three showers a day and washing the mold off their leather belts and keeping the air conditioner off due to the power cutbacks, and their children (of the generation accustomed to sleeping in cool comfort) are constantly cranky and home all day during school vacation.

A discussion about nuclear power this summer will be like Br’er Rabbit getting the fox to throw him into the briar patch.

And that’s during a normal year. Just think of what might happen during a heat wave.

UPDATE: Here’s some of what Ikeda Nobuo had to say about the demonstration:

“I had thought that classic mass movements of this sort were over in Japan, but perhaps they were revitalized by social media in the manner of Occupy Wall Street in the United States. That in itself isn’t bad, but the objective of stopping the resumption of generation at the Oi plants is nonsense.

“The authorization has been issued and work has begun, so it can’t be stopped without a special order under the law for technical improvements. The demonstration won’t stop it. If the demonstration was to keep other nuclear plants off-line, the economic hit from their idling would continue to grow from the JPY 5 trillion already lost. In other words, the demonstration was held to make Japan poorer…

“The most serious crisis facing Japan now is the threat of becoming poorer tomorrow than we are today. The working population declines by 1% every year, while government debt grows by JPY 50 trillion. Nominal GDP last year was the same as it was 20 years ago, and may turn negative. Thus, the lifetime disposable income of a child born today will be more than JPY 100 million less than that of an aged person who retires today.

“The manufacturing industry is rushing to move overseas to prepare for power outages this summer. Consumer electronics manufacturers and semiconductor makers are already gushing red ink…Talk to businessmen working in the manufacturing industry and the conversation turns to how long they will be able to stay in Japan. A demonstration seeking to halt energy supply during such a time will likely be remembered as the final episode of stupidity in a once-prosperous Japan.”

5 Responses to “Headlines and the reality”

  1. […] released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. I stole some of the text from Amptontan following the terms of this […]

  2. […] another interesting one from Ampontan: Now for the reality. The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted a poll of the six prefectures in the Kinki […]

  3. Marellus said

  4. Ken said

    >Japanese utilities

    This is it. I wonder why utilities are called ‘life-line’ in Japan.
    It sounds like Tel No. for those who are depressed by troubles as consider suicide.

  5. […] were large anti-nuclear protests in Tokyo and other areas over the weekend. Although organizers seem to have vastly exaggerated the size of the protests, they large enough to surprise Prime Minister. But it wasn’t enough […]

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