AP Interview: Japan Nuke Probe Head Kurokawa defends his report, also apportions blame to NJ for Fukushima disaster!

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Hi Blog.  Here’s something interesting.  A Debito.org Reader submits an article about an AP interview with the head investigator behind the Fukushima Nuclear Disasters, Kurokawa Hiroshi, who in his report on what caused the disaster (depending on which version you read) not only points a finger away from “specific executives or officials” (rather blaming “ingrained conventions of Japanese culture“), but also rather subtly points a finger at NJ.

As written below, part of the responsibility also lies within the international community.  Quote:

He said [his six-month investigation] showed that bureaucrats brushed off evidence of tsunami risks that had been clear as far back as 2006, and that representatives from international watchdog groups took travel money from the utilities.

Gosh, travel money as hush money?  That must have been quite a lavish journey.  As the submitter notes:  “NJ allowed themselves into being bribed by TEPCO, and therefore, failed to make sure TEPCO was acting properly?  Total blame shifting. Why didn’t he say that in his English presentation to the FCCJ?”

Perhaps because “Kurokawa made similar points in other parts of the report,” sort of thing (see below)?  Or maybe it’s the flip side of “we’re all victims” now:  “We’re all to blame.”  Arudou Debito


AP Interview: Japan Nuke Probe Head Defends Report
Thu, 09/13/2012 – 11:25pm
YURI KAGEYAMA – AP Business Writer – Associated Press, courtesy of JDG


The head of a major investigation into Japan’s nuclear disaster is defending his report against criticism that his panel avoided blaming individuals and instead blamed elements of the nation’s culture.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a doctor who headed the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, said he sticks with his view that the catastrophe was “Made in Japan,” underlining collusion among the regulators and the utility that had set off the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. He said his panel intentionally stopped short of naming individual culprits.

“No one takes responsibility in Japan, even those in positions of responsibility,” Kurokawa told The Associated Press this week at his commission office in Tokyo. “This is unique to Japan, a culture that stresses conformity, where people don’t complain.”

People are complaining, however, about the commission’s report, not only for lacking specifics on responsibility but for making statements on Japan’s culture that appeared in the English-language version of the document but not the Japanese version.

The 641-page report, released in July, compiled interviews with 1,167 people and scoured documents obtained from nuclear regulators and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operated Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

A devastating March 2011 tsunami set off by a 9.0 magnitude quake destroyed backup generators and sent Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant into multiple meltdowns and explosions. About 150,000 people were evacuated from a 20-kilometer (12-mile) no-go zone. Fears remain in Fukushima about cancer and other sickness from radiation.

The independent panel of 10 experts, including a lawyer, former diplomat and chemist, was appointed by the legislature. It is a style of investigation common in Western nations but was unprecedented in Japan.

The panel’s report has drawn criticism from Japanese and overseas critics.

“One searches in vain through these pages for anyone to blame,” Columbia University professor and Japan expert Gerald Curtis wrote in an opinion piece submitted to The Financial Times. “To pin the blame on culture is the ultimate cop-out. If culture explains behavior, then no one has to take responsibility.”

Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of the government Atomic Energy Commission, which promotes nuclear technology, was critical of the differences between the English and Japanese versions of the report. He said it appeared to be putting on one face to the Japanese people, while presenting another abroad.

The preface of the English version said, “What must be admitted — very painfully — is that this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan.’ Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program;’ our groupism and our insularity,” he wrote in the English version.

The passage wasn’t in the Japanese message. But Kurokawa said he made similar points in other parts of the report in Japanese.

He said he wanted to reach a global audience by pointing to the longtime practice of handing plum jobs to retired bureaucrats, the half-century domination by a single party, and elitist employees taking lifetime jobs for granted as a peculiar “mindset” that fosters irresponsibility, slow decision-making and dubious governance.

“I didn’t want to say it, but it is ‘Made in Japan,'” Kurokawa said. “This is about Japanese culture and values. There is nowhere else quite like that.”

Tokyo prosecutors recently accepted a request by a group of lawyers to carry out an investigation into criminal charges of professional negligence against regulators and the nuclear plant’s management. If prosecutors move ahead, their power to subpoena records, raid offices and question officials would be far greater than that of Kurokawa’s panel.

Kurokawa said such an investigation was welcome as a sign of a “healthy democracy.” He said his six-month investigation offered plenty of fodder for a criminal inquiry. He said it showed that bureaucrats brushed off evidence of tsunami risks that had been clear as far back as 2006, and that representatives from international watchdog groups took travel money from the utilities. He said it may not have the names, but the dates and circumstances are there so all the investigators have to do is check, he said.

Japanese media have reported that prosecutors waited for Kurokawa’s report before deciding to take up a criminal investigation. The report’s finding that the accident was preventable and manmade made it more likely the prosecutors would investigate.


9 comments on “AP Interview: Japan Nuke Probe Head Kurokawa defends his report, also apportions blame to NJ for Fukushima disaster!

  • This is unique to Japan, a culture that stresses conformity, where people don’t complain.”

    1. ZZZZ, that old chestnut. I see nothing unique here; many countries like Japan have suffered under single party governments for a long time; it breeds corruption.

    2. When an official says that people do not complain, this puts pressure on the people with a stake in the system who do complain to fall in line. The only ones impervious will be those so alienated (ref. Weber) to not give a monkey’s, but they will not be aken seriously as they are “outside people”.

    Wait a second, “outside people”, I seem to have heard this term in Japan before. Oh yes, Ishihara said it “He is a gaijin so his opinion does not matter”.(^ Tokyo Governor and His Shocking Response to a Question Regarding the 2016 Tokyo Olympic Bid, YouTube, July 7, 2009, retrieved April 15, 2012
    ^ Minamiyama, Ning)

  • “representatives from international watchdog groups took travel money from the utilities.”

    I’ve been reading the NAIIC report and I’m not seeing where this claim appears. Which page is it?

    — I was taking a page out of his logic within the article when it said, “The passage wasn’t in the Japanese message. But Kurokawa said he made similar points in other parts of the report in Japanese.” It’s a joke on my part, sorry for the confusion.

  • A Man In Japan says:

    No big deal here.

    If he pointed the finger at anybody, it’s the “it’s someone else’s fault” that Japanese people always do.
    Which is exactly what JAPAN does.

    He most certainly won’t be liked after saying such a “negative” thing about “innocent Japan”.

  • I think that this has to be seen in the context of Kurokawa playing up to (an thus reinforcing) Japan myths.

    The first is the statement in the English language version of the report only, that states that this was a ‘disaster made in Japan’. This is pure tatamae for the benefit of the international community. On the face of it, it is a caught ‘red-handed’, it’s a fair cop guv’, I’ll come quietly, admission of guilt, that also plays on the incorrect belief that many foreigners hold, that Japan is ‘unique’ ; this happened because of Japan’s beautiful and unique culture. If you try to criticize that statement, you are automatically a ‘Japan-basher’.

    Then there is Kurokawa’s statement in the AP interview (which was conducted in Japanese, and therefore, presumably taken to be not meant for NJ eyes) that claims that the international watchdog organizations were too busy enjoying bribes to do their job. This plays into another Japanese myth; first, it admits that J-regulation and management failed, but, crucially, then goes on to lay the blame at the foot of the international community. After all (as the reasoning goes) shouldn’t the rest of the world have been constantly watching over the Japanese nuclear industry (like parents watching over toddlers)? You know what happened? The final safe guard failed! Those pesky gaijin should have been doing their jobs properly, and this would never have happened! Those gaijin, they don’t care about poor, little, Japan! They just want to get the bribes and leave us in trouble! Untrustworthy gaijin! Japan is the victim of them (as always).

  • Look, I think we can all agree that travel money being paid to foreigners is the main culprit here, right?

    Otherwise, how would the facilities have been so unprepared for environmental disasters? Huh? Answer me that!

  • The example above relates to corporate decision makers, but you can experience this at all levels of Japanese society.
    I especially like this example because it also demonstrates the type of “gymnastics” often involved in order to shift the blame.


  • Mike, I am interested in the process of such gymnastics, I feel it may relate to postmodern conditioning Japan received after WW2, would you care to expand on it?

  • “..Japan government panel ‘suggests Tepco break-up’..”

    “..The operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant should be broken up, a committee is set to propose according to unnamed sources.
    The ruling party panel wants part of the Tokyo Electric Power Company in charge of cleaning to be separated….Some will no doubt worry that Tepco is being let off the hook,…”

    * http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24739264

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