We are Japanese, think positively, think positively.

Some of what is being reported in the foreign media, such as that Japan is “sinking,” is a little unfortunate.  Of course negative content is much more attention grabbing than learning the truth, however since we don’t know when or where the same type of event might occur, we want there to be calm and level-headed coverage.  While foreign countries are ordering their citizens to return to their home countries, it drowns out the serious messages of support that groups and individuals from foreign countries have sent to Japan.  We want the media to refrain from broadcasting disturbing content.  

Criticism of the Japanese government and TEPCO’s extremely slow response regarding the nuclear power plant situation is inevitable.  Despite the fact that this a high-alert situation, the actions of the costly nuclear power plant that we’ve come to care so much about are probably a corporate mind created by a consumer society.  There is no use in criticizing this right now and we want things to be done above what can be done.  It is with this shared feeling that the intense rescue efforts are continuing to prevent the worst case from occurring.

In economic growth, countries facing large populations have been given the challenge of dealing with possible future energy and power supply shortages.   Although a major economic power, the course that resource poor Japan has followed in the past is a risk.  It is said that the risks can be avoided, however these are things that happen.  Though it’s not my intention to talk about environmental problems, saving energy is essential.  

Roads, ports and airports in the disaster area have slowly reopened and shipments to these areas are gradually improving.  Items have not yet reached many evacuation centers, and we can only pray that necessary fuel, medical supplies and food will be delivered as soon possible.   Since the day before yesterday, 
the disaster areas have been hit with cold weather and more extremely cold days will continue.  However, we are encouraged by the victims who are repeating “Think positively.  Think positively.” in their TV interviews.  No matter the challenge, the heart of the Japanese people is something of which we are extremely proud.  We are Japanese, think positively, think positively.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Japan is facing its greatest crisis.  From March 12th, news of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant worried people across the nation.  Hydrogen explosions in the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors were shocking, but information of today’s explosion of the No. 2 reactor seemed different, and at TEPCO’s morning press conference there were only things that TEPCO had done wrong.  The announcement was filled with the word “seems” and even to the untrained eye, it was clear the truth was not being told.  We were able to read the unusual situation from their attitudes and their holding of a press conference. 

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located in the town of Okuma in the Futaba District of Fukushima Prefecture. 
Operation start date and plant prime contractors are as follows.  (From the TEPCO website.)

No. 1 March 1971 GE


No. 2 July 1974 GE and Toshiba


No. 3 March 1976 Toshiba


No. 4 October 1978 Hitachi


No. 5 April 1978 Toshiba


No. 6 October 1979 GE and Toshiba

Japan’s first maritime accident in 1978 with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant  (No. 3 reactor)  has been published about 30 years after the accident.  Even if the extent was not to the level of this accident, if Japan and TEPCO continue to proceed with the same response, because times are different, we want them to get rid of their old fashioned way of thinking. 

On another subject: TEPCO’s website.  As of 10am on March 15th, according to the site, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on the nuclear power page was all in operation (as represented by smiley face icons).  ※When checked at 10:50am this had been edited.  Because this is a situation, and maybe they are not in a position to do something, however we feel that as a company, they should be a little nervous and take appropriate action. 

According to NHK news regarding the No. 2 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, there was an explosion noise in the vicinity of the facility that adjusts the pressure of the containment vessel that holds the reactor, and the containment vessel pressure decreased.  Because the amount of radiation around the site has risen sharply, some of the employees began to leave the facility under the direction of the plant director.  At that time, radiation was 16 times the limit when tested around the main gates of the plant.  
The information above came from Prime Minister Kan’s morning press conference.

The extent of the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake and the tsunami were of a scale unforeseen by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, however from its 1971 beginnings major earthquakes have taken place both in Japan and abroad, and so we have to wonder about the experts answering that it was “unforeseen.”    Just as Japan is promoting being a technological powerhouse,  falling into a situation that calls into question risk management technology/capability is unexpected.  The assumed time is supposed to be adequate.  Even with this kind of damage, so that the general public is not affected, it is said that Japan is a true technological powerhouse.  From what various experts have said, it is assumed that this can be handled.  Even if other countries and the foreign media criticize them, the situation is self-invited.  Japan’s downfall is that it is a capable country, but sometimes it doesn’t do anything, and situations arise where nothing can be done.   Perhaps it is the nature of the Japanese people, however with this accident things won’t be dismissed with this explanation. 

Written on March 15th morning

The Tohoku Pacific Earthquake: Day 4

March 11th.  From early morning to around 1pm, I was doing some work and had taken a late lunch.  I have a habit of watching the Diet proceedings live on television, and on this day Prime Minister Kan responded to the House of Councillors Budget Committee regarding foreign donations.  Foreign Minister Maehara just recently resigned regarding this same problem.  He received 250,000 yen in illicit donations and Prime Minister Kan 1,040,000 yen.  Although not a significant donation, illegal is illegal, and he was pressured to resign.  It was during this House of Councillors Budget Committee session when news of the earthquake broke.  An unfamiliar alarm rang out and echoed as the earthquake hit Japan from Tohoku to Kanto.  The breaking news was about Tohoku, which was a relief, however the shaking was unlike anything I had ever felt and I moved to a place in my home where things would not fall.  The shaking was long, and the earthquake that we thought would eventually come had finally come. 
From Shibuya to Setagaya wards in Tokyo, the extent of the earthquake was mostly limited to items falling off of bookcases.  Even within Tokyo, the shaking and amount of damage differed depending on which area one was located.  Immediately after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake, large aftershocks hit.  I called my mother at her home in Tokyo and was able to contact her using a landline phone, however following the large aftershocks, the calls stopped going through.  The internet continued to work as usual, and I was able to send emails to my family.  In Setagaya ward cell phones stopped working immediately after the quake.  Because landlines and cell phones continued to be out of service, I was able to use Skype to contact others.  It was possible to call a landline number from Skype, however it would not connect to a cell phone number. 

The coverage after the breaking news flash of the earthquake was quite impressive.  The station quickly switched from the live Diet session coverage to a special news program.  They quickly ran footage from after the quake as well as of the widespread damage caused by the tsunami.  Despite the fact that even Tokyo experienced tremendously strong aftershocks, the NHK announcer’s (Taisuke Yoko) demeanor was very strong and he conveyed the situation in Tohoku in a calm manner.  Although only a short time had passed, the information was conveyed in a well-organized manner.  The response and information provided by other stations was also good, yet a little more chaotic.  All of the Tokyo stations switched their schedules to special programming.  ※In Tokyo (excluding cable, CS, etc.) there are a total of 7 channels, including commercial stations.

After the damage caused by the shaking came the tsunami.  Inconceivable images came flooding across the screen.  Immediately after the earthquake, we saw images of the tsunami flowing back at the mouth of the Natori River in Sendai Prefecture, and fields and homes being swept away.  Just when we imagined that the damage could not get any worse, images of other damage and devastation from an ever-widening area continued and there were many people who did not know exactly what to do.

Aftershock and massive tidal wave alarms continue, which is affecting the quick response of rescue operations.  Currently, alarms and warnings for tsunamis have been lifted and rescue operations by the Japanese Defense Force are moving ahead at a rapid pace.  There are many who had been stranded and rescued, and the number of people who sacrificed their lives grows by the day.  The number of people confirmed dead or missing is now at 3367, but this will continue to rise.  In Miyagi Prefecture alone there are said to be 10,000 people still missing.  This earthquake was the largest ever-recorded in Japan and the fourth largest ever in the entire world.   

Prime Minister Kan’s actions on March 12th began with him traveling to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from the disaster area.  At the plant, malfunctions were found, which have become just as serious as the earthquake and tsunami.  Japan is a natural resource conservation country and promotes nuclear power, which together with Japan’s technology is sold to other countries.  There are many countries besides Japan who promote nuclear power, and even with different technologies, the desire to avert a large accident is the same.   As the coverage continues from the day before yesterday, hydrogen explosions have occurred in the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, where the box-shaped outer wall was blown away and only steel left.  The government announced that reactor containment structures and pressure vessels are sound.  
The evacuation of nearby residents was expanded to a 20km radius and according to the latest government announcement, the possibility that a large amount of radioactive matter will scatter remains low.  Over 190 people have been exposed, but expert agencies said at a press conference that the exposure was “not at a level hazardous to health.”  The number of people is expected to increase and we can only pray that this situation is resolved quickly. 

Related to the problems at the nuclear power plant is the worry of insufficient power from Tohoku down to Kanto, etc.  Yesterday TEPCO held a press conference about the government’s approval of planned power outages.  There are clearly many people confused about the situation due to the discrepancies in the planned outage area information given to the media and that on TEPCO’s website.  The main discrepancy was related to Tokyo’s 23 wards, where the information provided by the media listed only Arakawa ward, when in fact other areas were included.  The areas scheduled for outages are divided into 5 groups, with power outages of up to 3 hours at specified times.  I was shocked at last night’s 20:00 announcement because certain areas were scheduled for outages beginning the following morning at 6:20am.  
However, this morning there were no planned outages as the government and TEPCO were able to supply the power.  Many railway companies cancelled trains during the scheduled blackout time periods and decreased the number of trains running.   
The announcement regarding rolling blackouts during the morning rush hour had a tremendous impact.  Horrible crowding occurred at stations that remained open, and there were limits placed on movement toward the platforms.  Trains took more than one hour and to get to their offices, many people took routes different from usual.  Also, it took many two to three times as long to get to work.  Many people used buses and taxis from the stations that had been closed.  Even by taking the long way or detours, many Japanese salarymen (businessmen) on their way to their offices took buses and taxis to get near stations that remained in operation.  This is a picture of the Japanese people’s seriousness. 
 The thing that makes me wonder is why wasn’t emergency contact made with each company’s employees at the time of last night’s announcement by the Japanese government and TEPCO.  The railway companies’ announcements were also late, however besides having the internet, to the extent possible employees should continue to go to work.  Some companies have taken temporary days off, however we want them to consider flexible responses.  The rolling blackouts are scheduled to take place this evening in certain areas.  A further announcement regarding tomorrow onward will be made, however there are cases in which the blackouts may continue for a month.  Even in the Tohoku region rolling blackouts are scheduled to take place.

The aftershocks are still occurring and there is a 40% possibility that they will continue.  Although the situation remains unstable, we hope that those isolated in the devastated areas are rescued as soon as possible.  We want those who were lost due to the tsunami to be able to quickly rest in peace.  It will surely take time for the lifelines to the quake-hit areas to recover, however because it is still quite cold in the Tohoku region, we can only pray that the response is quick.  
The latest news is available on NHK.  Japanese: http://www.nhk.or.jp/ English: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/ (Japanese site is more detailed.)

Written on March 14th

Japanese Animation (Anime): Ghost in the Shell S.A.C.

Japanese animations, after being evaluated overseas, become popular pieces of work.  This year, a new piece is being released as a 3D movie.  The comic was originally written by Masamune Shirow and appeared in 1991 in the Shukan Young Magazine.  It was made into a movie in 1995 and following AKIRA, became a topic overseas. http://www.kokaku-s.com/

The reason that this piece has become popular can be traced to the word “GHOST” in the English title.  On Wikipedia, words used in the works are introduced, however the explanations are very short and the spiritual part of man, ego and consciousness, and parts like emotions are like the snap of a finger. 

It’s set in the 2020s after nuclear war.  The stage is the cyberized society of Japan.  With cyber technology the brain can directly access the internet and information network in a world where whole or parts of bodies can be cyborgs and prosthetic technology is widespread.  Because people, prosthetics and androids are all together, “crimes” are becoming sophisticated.  The characters are part of the Public Security Section 9 under the Japanese Ministry of Home Affairs.  The title, Ghost in the Shell, is their other name.  Spider-like robots with artificial intelligence are active with the characters. 

One interesting point of the story is that even in the world of 2020, not everything can be set right by being cyberized.  There are also areas that feel Japanese.  Two pieces that I like are ”Automated Capitalism” and “Tachikoma Runs Away/The Movie Director’s Dream.”  The former is about a high-profile investor computer that continues to work after his death and seems as if it will appear in the near future.  The latter is about an unnamed movie director who makes his own brain into a computer network, which when accessed (being shown in a movie theatre) is unable to be separated from the world of film. 

It is widely known that Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. was influenced by the movie, Matrix, the 1999 film directed by the Wachowski brothers.  The ideas from the Matrix, such as accessing the internet and networks, as well as taking over prosthetic people’s brains were used.  There are likely other similar scenes from other science fiction films.  Not anime, but the live-action version production rights are said to be held by Steven Spielberg.  As science fiction movie material, it seems that there is little left to use, however I hope that there will be newly produced stories. 

I don’t recommend watching anime works from the middle.  Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd GIG and the released movie, etc. can be seen on the BANDAI CHANNEL.  *They are generally pay programs.  There are also some parts that are free.

On another note, news almost certainly appears on the internet as seen in topics such as Facebook and Twitter usage being recently affected by the situation in the Middle East, and the problem of prep-school students using cell phones to post examination questions on Yahoo’s Chiebukuro, etc.  Although we can’t directly access the brain, within human consciousness, the boundary between virtual and real worlds has disappeared and the responses to matters by governments and organizations of “being used” seem to be lagging.    

S.A.C. stands for Stand Alone Complex.  Within the information network, there are isolated individuals, but because information is shared or made parallel expression seems to develop into a collective action.  A certain individual sends a signal and unconsciously another person assumes that it is a message addressed to him, which is what these pieces portray.