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  • Letters from J human rights groups to the visiting Olympic Committee re Tokyo 2020: Discrimination in Japan violates IOC Charter

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on March 5th, 2013

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    Hi Blog.  I received this two days ago and am reposting (as is) with permission.  The International Olympic Committee is currently in Japan considering Tokyo as a venue for the 2020 Summer Games.  In light of recent events that point to clear examples of discrimination and advocacy of violence towards, for example, Koreans (see below), human rights groups in Japan are advocating that the IOC understand that these actions violate the Olympic Charter and choose their venue accordingly.  Articles, photos, and letters follow from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren), Tanaka Hiroshi in the Mainichi Shinbun, and sources demonstrating that, for example, all GOJ educational subsidies for Korean ethnic schools have been eliminated as of 2013 from government budgets.

    Academic Tessa Morris-Suzuki might agree with the assessment of rising discrimination, as she documents on academic website Japan Focus the protection of xenophobic Rightists and the police harassment of their liberal opponents.  Her conclusion: “But there is no rule of law if the instigators of violence are left to peddle hatred with impunity, while those who pursue historical justice and responsibility are subject to police harassment. There is no respect for human rights where those in power use cyber bullying in an attempt to silence their opponents. And democracy is left impoverished when freedom of hate speech is protected more zealously than freedom of reasoned political debate.”  Have a look.

    SITYS.  This is yet but another example of Japan’s clear and dangerous swing to the Right under PM Abe.  And granting an Olympics to this regime despite all of this merely legitimize these tendencies, demonstrating that Japan will be held to a different standard regarding discrimination.  Wake up, IOC.  Arudou Debito

    REPORT BEGINS:

    ////////////////////////////////////////////

    Date: 2013/3/3Dear Sir/Madam,

    I am … an activist against racism. I hope you to know about
    racism against resident Koreans, especially  emergent crisis of Korean
    ethnic schools by the central and local governments’ oppression in
    Japan, even though the governments would invite the Olympic Games 2020
    to Tokyo.

    I’ve attached a letter to you below.

    The International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission arrived in
    Tokyo on last Friday and it is going to inspect Tokyo from 4th to 7th
    March.

    It would be great honour if you handle this issue.
    All the best, [redacted]

    Japan Network for the Institutionalization of Schools for
    Non-Japanese Nationals and Ethnic Minorities

    Email: sangosyo@gmail.com

    //////////////////////////////////////

    Tokyo – a city which discriminates against Korean children
    January 2013

    We hope to inform you that Tokyo is not an appropriate city for the
    Olympic Games based on the Fundamental Principals of the Olympics,
    especially that of anti-discrimination.
    The main reason for this is that the central and Tokyo governments
    officially discriminate against Korean children who attend Korean
    schools, which are key to maintaining the Korean communities in Japan.

    Koreans in Japan are an ethnic minority who were forced to come to
    Japan under the Japanese colonial rule of Korea and settle there even
    after WWII. Throughout their enforced stay here they have faced
    various difficulties. After the liberation from the Japanese colonial
    rule, Koreans in Japan established their own ethnic schools in various
    places in Japan in order to maintain their own language and culture
    that had been deprived from them under the Japanese colonial rule.

    Although the Japanese government has not recognized Korean schools as
    regular and official schools and has been imposing institutional
    discrimination upon them such as exclusion from a financial support
    scheme of the central government, the Korean community has been
    sustaining their schools on their own for more than 60 years. The
    total number of Korean schools in Japan is approximately 70, including
    kindergarten, primary to high schools, and university. Nearly 10,000
    Korean children whose nationality is South Korean, North Korean and
    Japan are learning in those schools today, even though 80-90 % of
    Korean children attend Japanese schools.

    The new Democratic Party administration proposed the plan of a
    so-called “Free High School Tuition” system in October 2009 as soon as
    it was established. The then plan intended not to collect tuition fees
    from students of public high schools in Japan and to supply students
    of private schools and minority schools authorized by local
    governments as “vocational school” including Korean schools with a
    subsidy of the amount equivalent to the tuition fee of public high
    schools.

    In March 2010, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of
    Racial Discrimination expressed concern about the approach of some
    politicians who had suggested the exclusion of Korean schools from the
    bill of “Free High School Tuition” due to the diplomatic issues
    between Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The
    reason for this concern was the discriminatory effects of such a
    policy. However, the policy was instigated in April 2010 and since
    then the central government has been discriminating against Korean
    school students. They have been excluded from this system for nearly
    three years, although students of 37 minority high schools including
    International schools, Chinese schools and Brazilian schools have been
    supplied with subsidies through this system.

    On the other hand, all 27 prefectural governments where Korean schools
    are located accepted them as “vocational schools” and have been
    providing subsidies to Korean schools for decades, even though the
    central government requested prefectural governments to not accept
    them as any kind of schools in 1965.

    However, the decision of the central government to exclude Korean
    schools from “Free High School Tuition” has led to the new
    discriminative situation in which five prefectural governments
    including Tokyo have stopped their subsidies to Korean schools. Tokyo
    had supplied financial aid to Korean schools for at least over 15
    years. In 2009, it provided about 27,000,000Yen (190,000 Pound);
    however, Tokyo has stopped its subsidies to Korean schools since 2010
    without providing a clear rationale.

    In addition, the then Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro officially said
    that he would reconsider the accreditation of Korean schools in Tokyo
    as “vocational schools” in March 2012. If the accreditation of
    “vocational school” is revoked, it will cause extensive damages to
    Korean schools. For instance, Korean schools will become completely
    exempt from the “Free High School Tuition” system and there will be no
    possibility to receive any financial support from local governments.
    Furthermore, Korean schools will be forced to pay consumption tax for
    tuition fee.

    In December 2012, as soon as the Liberal Democratic Party won the
    General Election and established its new government, it declared it
    would revise an ordinance in order to exclude Korean schools due to
    political tensions between Japan and North Korea, primarily the
    abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea.

    In January 2013, Korean schools and school children in Osaka and Aichi
    prefecture brought a lawsuit before the court, and Korean school
    children in Tokyo are preparing lawsuit concerning these
    discrimination.

    Racism in Japan is generally increasing, encouraged by the racial
    discrimination by the central government. The number of demonstrations
    repeating hate speech against Non Japanese nationals, especially
    Korean, communities has been increasing in Japan (Annex1). The police
    are just gazing at the demos without restricting them because there is
    no anti-discrimination law nor hate speech legislation in Japan so
    that the demos has been unchecked.

    ENDS

    ///////////////////////////////////////////

    REFERENCE MATERIALS:

    List of Annexs

    1, The images of demonstration by anti-Korean racists in Korean Town of Tokyo

    2, The Statement of President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations objecting to exclusion of Korean Schools from applying Free High School tuition policy

    3, The Article of The Mainichi Shimbun (23 February, 2013)

    4, The situation of the cut of the subsidies to Korean schools from local governments in Japan

    ///////////////////////////////////////////

    Annex 1: The Images of Demonstration by Anti-Korean Racists

    (February 2013, in Korean Town of Tokyo)

     antikoreandemosShinOhkubo020913

    Video URL: http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2136038266418742101

    ///////////////////////////////////////////

    Annex2: Statement of President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations objecting to exclusion of Korean Schools from applying Free High School tuition policy

    The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) announced a proposed amendment to ministerial ordinance on December 28th, 2012, which amends a part of enforcement regulations regarding free tuition for public high schools and subsidies for private high schools. As for the high schools where foreign students are enrolled such as international schools and ethnic schools, the current enforcement regulations define the subject for the policy as either high schools that are confirmed through its embassy to have curriculum equivalent to that of high schools in its native state, or high schools that are certified by international evaluation body, while the rest of the schools that are evaluated as having curriculum equivalent to that of Japanese high schools can be the recipient of the subsidies, whether or not Japan has diplomatic relations with its native state, after the minister of the MEXT designates each school individually. The proposed amendment is to delete the grounds for the individual designation.

    Regarding the purpose of this revision, the minister of MEXT, Hakubun Shimomura, stated at the press conference on December 28th, 2012, that the proposed amendment is aimed at deleting the grounds for designating Korean schools because there is no progress to resolve the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) abduction of Japanese citizens, which makes it clear that this proposed amendment is aimed at excluding Korean Schools from applying the Free High School tuition policy.

    As we stated in the “Statement on Subject High Schools of the Free Tuition Bill” on March 5th, 2010, the main purpose of this bill is “to contribute to the creation of equal educational opportunities by alleviating the financial burdens of high school education”, which is also demanded by Article 28 of Convention on the Rights of the Child. Considering the fact that Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as International Bill of Human Rights (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) guarantee the right to receive education with ethnic identity being maintained, the current ministerial ordinance which would include international schools and ethnic schools is in a right direction. Furthermore, it is revealed through the process of the deliberation on the bill that, as the Government’s collective view, the designation of high schools for foreign students should not be judged by diplomatic concern but should be judged objectively through educational perspective.

    On contrary to that, this proposed amendment is to refuse to provide subsidies based on the grounds that there being no diplomatic relations between Japan and DPRK or no progress to resolve the DPRK’s abduction issue, either of which has nothing to do with the right of the child to receive education. It is a discriminative treatment which is prohibited by Article 14 of the Constitution of Japan.

    Korean Schools in Japan completed applying for the designation based on the current bill legitimately by the end of November, 2011, this upcoming amendment is to extinguish the regulations considered as the grounds for applying and refuse the Korean Schools’ application retroactively after more than two years from the application, which poses serious doubt on its procedure.

    The Japan Federation of Bar Associations strongly urges that the proposed amendment be withdrawn whilst the review of the application from Korean schools be concluded promptly based on the current law and screening standard.

    February 1st, 2013

    Kenji Yamagishi, President

    Japan Federation of Bar Associations

    ///////////////////////////////////////////

    Annex3: The Article of The Mainichi Shimbun

     

    Discrimination against Korean Schools need be reconsidered

    Hiroshi Tanaka

    Honorary Professor at Hitotsubashi University

    24 February, 2013 

    Since the host city for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics games will be determined in September, the Governor of Tokyo Metropolitan, Naoki Inose, has started Bids for Olympics in earnest. Under such circumstances, would it be right for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Japanese Government to continue discriminating Korean Schools in Japan?

    At the time of Nagoya bid for the 1988 Summer Olympics, Nagoya City had “Nationality Clause” for the employment of teachers at public school which has been open to foreigners in Tokyo or Osaka, thus preventing foreigners from applying. A nongovernment human right committee in Nagoya sent an English letter to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), urging IOC to consider the serious issue on human rights of Nagoya City and to be sufficiently concerned about the improvement of moral qualification in the Olympic Movement to determine the host city. It was Seoul that was chosen as the host city in September, 1981. Though it is uncertain whether or not the letter had anything to do with the decision, it must be remembered that discrimination is unforgivable matter in the international community.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government had previously been providing subsidies worth of 15,000 yen per a student to each of 27 schools for foreign students. However, the Metropolitan Government has stopped providing subsidies to Korean Schools alone since 2010 and not on the budget next year either. There has been no illegal act on the Korean Schools side. The education of the child should not be confounded with international affair.

    So called “Free High School tuition law” was implemented in the same year 2010, which was applied not only to Japanese high schools but to vocational schools and high schools for foreign students as well. Students from each of 39 high schools, such as Brazilian Schools, Chinese Schools, (South) Korean Schools and International Schools were provided with subsidies equivalent to the tuition for the public high school.

    Nevertheless, the decision over whether or not (North) Korean Schools would be applicable to the policy still remains unmade and students at Korean Schools have already graduated without ever receiving subsidies over the last two years.

    Following the birth of Abe Cabinet, the Minster of the Ministry of Education, Culture, sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Hakubun Shimomura (aka Hirohumi Shimomura) amended the enforcement regulations of Free High School tuition law with the purpose of excluding Korean Schools alone from the policy because there is no progress to resolve Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens. The law’s main purpose is “alleviating the financial burdens of high school education” and “to contribute to the creation of equal education opportunities”. Doesn’t this amendment to the enforcement regulations go beyond the limitation of a delegated order?

    UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)  expressed its concern about the exclusion of Korean Schools from Free High School tuition policy in the Concluding Observation in March, 2010, after reviewing the report submitted by Japanese Government and recommended Japan to consider acceding to the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (adopted in 1960, 100 signatories). The concern of CERD became realized by Abe Cabinet.

    The report from Japanese Government to the UN Committee on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights is to be reviewed in coming April. List of Issues from the Committee says “Please provide information on the impact of the measures taken to address the persistent discrimination against children belonging to ethnic minorities and migrant families, in particular children of Korean origin”. Female students at Korean Schools used to go to school wearing chima jeogori, the traditional Korean form of dress. It’s been a long time since it became unseen in order to avoid harassment and assaults by heartless Japanese citizens.

    Olympic Charter states “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” Discrimination against Korean School is incompatible with Olympics.

    Discrimination against Korean Schools need be reconsidered.

    /////////////////////////////////////////

    Annex4: The situation of the cut of the subsidies to Korean schools from local governments in Japan ( 2009 – 2013 )

    2009

    2010

    2011

    2012

    2013

    Prefecture

    (start date of subsidy)

    Total amount of subsidy

    Total amount of subsidy

    Total amount of subsidy

    Total amount of subsidy

    Total amount of subsidy

    Tokyo

    (1995)

    23.5 million

    0

    0

    0

    Cut from the budget

    Saitama

    (1982)

    9 million

    0

    0

    0

    Cut from the budget

    Osaka

    (1988)

    185 million

    87 million

    0

    0

    Cut from the budget

    Miyagi

    (1992)

    1.5 million

    1.5 million

    0

    0

    Cut from the budget

    Chiba

    (1985)

    5.6 million

    5.6 million

    0

    0

    Cut from the budget

    Hiroshima

    (1992)

    13.8

    million

    10.1

    million

    9.6

    million

    0

    Cut from the budget

    Kanagawa

    (1977)

    72.5

    million

    63

    million

    63

    million

    63

    million

    Cut from the budget

    Yamaguchi

    (1992)

    2.4

    million

    2.4

    million

    2.3

    million

    2.2

    million

    Cut from the budget

    Based on a survey by The Association of Korean Human Rights in Japan

    All the currency unit is Japanese yen ( 1 euro≒123 yen, 1 dollar≒93 yen [as of 22 Feb 2013] )

    ENDS

    18 Responses to “Letters from J human rights groups to the visiting Olympic Committee re Tokyo 2020: Discrimination in Japan violates IOC Charter”

    1. j_jobseeker Says:

      Debito,

      Glad some of this documentation is going to be making it into the hands of the IOC. However, do you know if there are any reports about the progress or lack thereof in cleaning up and recovering from Fukushima; the obvious long lasting effects both in ground, air and sea need to be considered in deciding a host country for the Olympiad where many visitors might be exposed to lingering amounts of radiation. Also, they need to be informed of the recent abuse of athletes (even on the Olympic level) that was exposed just recently.

    2. s.w.b Says:

      How would one go about supporting these concerns made by various human rights groups in Japan? For example, is there an online petition that can be forwarded to the IOC?

    3. Bruno Says:

      Really hope this report is taken in consideration by the Olympic Committee. Sure wish we could compile loads more for their perusal before they consider bringing the games to Tokyo.

      It’s about time some International organization made it very clear to Japan that they can’t just play by international rules when they want things and then blatantly disregard them when there is no one looking.

    4. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      Now, the problem is that even if this is enough to kill Tokyo’s bid, chances are the local media won’t cover it that way. The blame won’t fall on discriminatory policies or hate speech, it will no doubt be reported as some white-man’s circle within the IOC.

    5. Mark Hunter Says:

      I may get slaughtered for this, but I just don’t buy the argument that Japan could conceivably not get the Olympics because of the Olympic committee’s potential awarenes of human rights abuses in Japan. China got the Olympics. Russia has the next winter Olympics. Brazil has the Olympics. Ideally, none of these countries should have the right to host the Olympics based on their human rights records, but the Olympic committee thinks first about a country’s ability to put on a successful games – everything else is secondary (except perhaps bribe money). Sadly, I feel we are deceiving ourselves if we think any form of idealism by the committee is part of the decision making process.

    6. Jim Di Griz Says:

      I fully applaud the above organizations for transmitting this information to the IOC.

      However, I have some concerns. Firstly, it has a sole focus on the plight of ethnic Koreans in Japan, and neglects the vast discrimination against all other NJ (whose plight should also be reported to the IOC).

      As for the IOC, I remember watching a UK BBC documentary in the run up to the 2012 Olympiad that uncovered a huge amount of corruption within the IOC itself, putting it on a par with the mafia (or indeed, the LDP itself!). I am sure that if the IOC are forced to take note of the anti-eth ic Korean discrimination issue in Japan, an especially bulging manilla envelope will be all that is required to make the problem go away.

      Where is all the other inflammatory and discriminatory stuff? where’s ‘Little Black Sambo’, and ‘Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu’? Where are all the black-face TV talento? Where are all the ‘Japanese Only’ signs? Where are all the ‘foreign crime wave’ racial stereo-typing posters? Where are Blinky’s rants?

      All of that needs to be sent to the IOC.

      And even then, that’s not enough to ensure action.

      All of that evidence should be sent to the tabloid news outlets in the other candidate cities countries (Spain and Turkey). I am sure that the mass media in those countries will be happy to highlight why Tokyo should be dismissed from consideration. With that kind of negative publicity, it will be all the more difficult for the IOC to hush it up and take a bribe from Sick-note.

    7. Colin Says:

      I have a feeling Turkey will win it anyway. It is in the top list of most visited nations for tourism already. The Olympics would probably just increase those numbers.

    8. Baudrillard Says:

      Mark Hunter is right. Human Rights records alone will have nothing to do with being awarded the Olymipics. However, safety issues might get Japan disqualified.

      If there are hooligans threatening to kill every Korean, then surely the Korean team would not want to attend.

      And there is always the trump card of Fukushima. The conversation is actually quite tiresome so simply saying “Fukushima” should be enough to close any discussion on why Japan is a safety country, the next Olympic host, blah blah.

      “Fukushima Japan” has potential as a negative brand to counter other attempts at branding such as “Safety Japan” and “Yokoso Japan”. I suppose it is why it is such a taboo topic and why non press club journalists are harassed in China, sorry I mean Japan.

      Actually the new brand is “Kowaiso Japan” a kind of post 3/11 Japan as victim. This, according to Blinky’s supporters, is the main appeal of Tokyo to being awarded the next Olympics (even though, according to the same sources, Tokyo is completely unaffected by 3/11, so why not hold the Olympics in Sendai?).

    9. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Off topic:

      Mexican baseball players feel less than welcome in “papers please” Arizona.

      http://sports.yahoo.com/news/team-mexico–including-world-series-hero-sergio-romo–feels-hostility-amid-arizona-s-immigration-fight-024742833.html

    10. debito Says:

      According to Reuters/Asahi, we have an as-yet unfixable situation in Fukushima involving environmental contamination and refugees which requires massive budgetary outlay. Wouldn’t you think that should take a higher priority than hosting an Olympics? Hasn’t history demonstrated that bread and circuses in troubled times are not sustainable?

      ====================

      INSIGHT: Japan’s ‘Long War’ to shut down Fukushima
      ASAHI SHIMBUN/ REUTERS
      March 06, 2013

      http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201303060015

      Just months after Quince was deployed to inspect Japan’s tsunami-devastated Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the $6 million robot got trapped in its dark and winding pathways.

      Seventeen months later, the high-tech soldier is still missing in action–a symbol of a daunting decommissioning project that will take decades, require huge injections of human and financial capital and rely on yet-to-be developed technologies.

      “It’s like going to war with bamboo sticks,” said Takuya Hattori, president of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum and a 36-year veteran of Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., known as TEPCO.

      The war began after a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck northeast Japan on March 11, 2011, triggering a huge tsunami.

      Walls of water 13 meters high smashed into the Fukushima plant north of Tokyo, knocking out its main power supply, destroying backup generators and disabling the cooling system.

      Three reactors melted down as a series of hydrogen explosions rocked the plant.

      In the ensuing weeks, hundreds of Japanese workers and soldiers battled to contain the crisis.

      Their arsenal of weapons was often improvised, low-tech and underpowered. Helicopters dumped buckets of water over the plant to cool it.

      Electricians laid a cable to connect the plant to a power source miles away in what may have been the world’s longest extension cord.

      The world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl a quarter century earlier called into question Japan’s vaunted reputation for bureaucratic competence and leading edge technology.

      The reactors were declared to be in a stable state called cold-shut down in December 2011. But now Japan faces an unprecedented clean-up that experts say could cost at least $100 billion for decommissioning the reactors and another $400 billion for compensating victims and decontaminating areas outside the plant.

      TEPCO said in November the costs of compensation to residents and decontamination of their neighborhoods might double to 10 trillion yen ($107 billion) from a previous estimate. That did not include a forecast for decommissioning.

      Two years after the disaster, cleanup of communities around the plant is haphazard. Much of the work has been handed to Japanese construction companies with little relevant experience.

      Townships around the plant say the cleanup is behind schedule, while contaminated dirt, leaves and rubble removed by cleaning crews pile up all over Fukushima with no government decision in sight over its final storage space.

      The Japan Center for Economic Research, a Tokyo-based think tank, has estimated that decontamination costs alone in the Fukushima residential area could balloon to as much as $600 billion.

      Shutting down the 40-year-old Fukushima plant itself poses unique challenges.

      A TEPCO-government roadmap envisages starting to extract spent fuel from the most badly damaged of the station’s seven storage pools, which contain 11,417 new and used fuel assemblies, only later this year. Melted fuel debris is to be removed from the reactors from 2021 and the entire project wrapped up within 30 to 40 years.

      Officials say the project is mostly on schedule and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government wants to speed up the timetable. Experts, however, say it may already be too ambitious.

      “It’s a pipe dream,” Michio Ishikawa said of the four-decade target shortly before he retired last year as chief adviser at the Japan Nuclear Technology Institute, adding it could take decades more.

      Reuters reporters visited the plant three times since February 2012 and interviewed dozens of experts, officials, engineers, workers and industry executives to compile the first comprehensive report on the decommissioning project.

      Many of those interviewed expressed serious concerns about a lack of vital technology, a potential labor shortage and the vast amount of funds Japan’s heavily indebted government will need to spend.

      FOG OF WAR

      At the leafy campus of Chiba Institute of Technology’s Future Robotics Technology Center east of Tokyo–nerve center for Fukushima robotics projects–students and engineers are working flat out to create machines to go where none has gone before.

      Some nap on make-shift beds surrounded by robot parts at the Center’s airy loft-like building while others slurp noodles as they stare at computer screens or fiddle with smartphones.

      A slim 20-something research scientist uses a simple joystick to make an advanced version of the lost Quince robot climb stairs, turn around in a narrow landing, and descend.

      Quince was first deployed in June 2011 and was carrying out a survey of one of the reactors when the operators lost contact with the machine later that October. Attempts to retrieve the robot have failed, though developers conjecture one day they will find Quince and it could give them valuable information about the effects of prolonged radiation on electronics.

      The new version, called “Sakura” or Cherry Blossom, can navigate narrower spaces and, unlike its predecessor, plug into a battery charging station on its own.

      Technology, however, must still be developed to accomplish even the most basic first step–the ability to find and repair leaks in the reactors and fill them with water to shield human workers from high radiation emitted by the debris.

      “It’s like the fog of war,” said John Raymont, president of U.S.-based Kurion Inc., which supplied a water treatment system briefly used to filter contaminated water at the plant. “They are only now getting to know what the problem looks like.”

      So far, TEPCO has only managed to insert remote controlled cameras, similar to endoscopes, into outer vessels of the reactors.

      The effort has obtained little useful data on the fuel debris, a vital first step before technology to remove it can be developed.

      One potential device being considered is a fish-like swimming robot that would glide inside the doughnut-shaped suppression chambers filled with water to create detailed maps.

      A key reason for the belated effort to develop such technology was Japan’s reluctance to acknowledge the possibility of atomic disasters. Doing so would have contradicted a decades-old myth of nuclear safety.

      Robots developed after a 1999 nuclear accident at the village Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture ended up in science museums after research was abandoned.

      “The government didn’t spend more money after that to develop robots. That’s because people were obviously going to ask, ‘Wait, is there going to be a situation so dangerous that humans can’t enter the plant?’,” said Eiji Koyanagi, vice director of the Future Robotics Technology Center.

      The first robots into the plant were U.S.-made Packbots, which were deployed just after the disaster to enter areas heavy with radiation.

      TEPCO’s most immediate challenge is to remove spent fuel from pools at the plant, starting with reactor No.4, where more than 1,500 rods rest inside a pool that was exposed to the atmosphere after an explosion blew off the top of the unit’s building.

      Debris from the top of the reactor building, where radiation levels are too high for humans, has had to be removed painstakingly using cranes and other lifting equipment to get to the spent fuel pool.

      That project has a special sense of urgency given concerns another big quake could further damage the building, although TEPCO says the structure was reinforced to withstand shaking as intense as in the March 2011 quake.

      Another fraught task is to treat and store the contaminated water that results from cooling the reactors to keep them in a stable state at below 100 degrees Celsius. The contaminated water is flooding reactor building basements and threatening to seep into the ocean and groundwater.

      WOUNDED WARRIORS

      Fukushima No. 1 plant sits like a carbuncle on Japan’s northeast coast 240 km from Tokyo. Its damaged reactors still seep radiation, although at a rate of 10 million Becquerel per hour for cesium versus about 800 trillion right after the disaster.

      Becquerel per hour measures the amount of radiation emitted or the rate of radioactive decay. As atomic isotopes decay, they spin off energized particles that can penetrate human organs and damage human cells, potentially causing cancer.

      To minimize the dangers to human health from radiation, the government is enforcing a 20-kilometre no-go zone around the plant.

      Every day the roughly 3,000 workers who will enter the plant assemble at a base camp – a former sports complex called J-Village – on the edge of the exclusion zone.

      There, they don full-body protective suits, rubber gloves and plastic shoe guards. Once at the plant, they put on face masks to keep from inhaling radioactive particles.

      Front-line workers, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, complain about working in the stifling protective gear, the relatively low pay, loneliness – and stress.

      About 70 percent of a sample of workers surveyed by TEPCO late last year made more than 837 yen per hour, while a day laborer in that part of Japan can earn as much as 1,500 yen per hour.

      Wages are lower than those offered locally for other jobs requiring similar skills, including decontaminating and rebuilding areas further from the plant, said Junji Annen, a professor at Chuo University who last year chaired a panel on TEPCO’s finances.

      “The money is getting worse and worse, and who would want to come and work under these conditions?” a heavy machinery operator in his 40s said as he unwound in the Ai Yakitori bar in Hirono, a town about 40 km from the plant, where dormitories have sprouted up for workers.

      “I get stomach aches. I am constantly stressed. When I’m back in my room, all I can do is worry about the next day,” added the worker, employed by a small subcontractor. “They should give us a medal.”

      Mental health experts compare the stress to that suffered by soldiers at a battle front. Moreover, public outrage at TEPCO has spilled over into attitudes toward workers.

      “TEPCO workers are at risk of following in the steps of Vietnam veterans, many of whom were rejected by society on their return, became homeless, committed suicide or got addicted to alcohol and drugs,” said Jun Shigemura, a lecturer in the psychiatry department of the National Defense Medical College who conducted a survey of 1,500 TEPCO nuclear workers.

      The decommissioning plan says authorities can supply enough workers through the decades ahead, but signs of potential shortages are evident, partly because workers are “burning out” by reaching their radiation limits.

      As of the end of December 2012, 146 TEPCO workers and 21 contract workers had exceeded the maximum permissible exposure of 100 millisieverts in five years, TEPCO data showed.

      Eight workers have died at the plant, including two on the day of the tsunami. None of the deaths were caused by radiation.

      GROPING IN THE DARK

      The industry faces a shortage of nuclear engineers as well as blue-collar workers in the decommissioning work for both Fukushima No. 1 and other ageing reactors.

      Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party-led government has scrapped its predecessor’s plan to exit atomic energy by the 2030s but has yet to map out an alternative energy program. Public safety concerns persist–a recent poll showed 70 percent want to abandon atomic power sooner or later–clouding the industry outlook.

      For example, at the University of Tokyo, applications for advanced nuclear engineering degrees fell about 30 percent for the year from April from the previous year and Tokyo City University saw a similar decline in applicants for its undergraduate nuclear engineering program in the academic year starting in April 2012 from 2010.

      “Who will clear up the mess after the accident? It will be young people like us,” said Yuta Shindo, a 25-year-old master’s student at Tokyo City’s nuclear engineering department. “We are the ones who will be working on this decades from now.”

      Cleaning up the mess will mean total demolition of the four damaged reactor facilities and disposal of the nuclear waste in a yet-to-be determined site, an end-game likely to face opposition from potential host communities.

      Japan has rejected the “sarcophagus” option used at Chernobyl, where the damaged reactor was encased in a massive concrete envelope.

      This is partly because of the difficulty of monitoring an entombed facility to ensure safety, said Kentaro Funaki, director of the industry ministry’s office in charge of decommissioning.

      Estimates for total costs are mostly guesswork. “Only God knows,” said Chuo University’s Annen.

      Whatever the final bill, Japanese consumers are likely to end up paying much of it, either through taxes, higher electricity rates or both, even as Japan’s government struggles with massive public debt and the costs of an ageing population.

      That may be unpopular but also inevitable.

      “This kind of job has never been done,” said Keiro Kitagami, a former lawmaker who headed a government task force overseeing R&D for the project. “The technology, the wherewithal, has never been developed. Basically, we are groping in the dark.”
      ENDS

    11. Jim Di Griz Says:

      This is interesting….

      Yesterday (7th March), ailing Sharp announced the sale of 3% of shares to Korea’s Samsung (who need to ensure Sharp stays in business to help them meet their huge demand for tablet and phone screens).

      Subsequently, Sharp is bombarded with anti-Korean comments from on the net, forcing Sharp to tweet ‘Even if you hate me, don’t hate my products’;
      https://twitter.com/SHARP_JP/status/309279191013134336

    12. Blue Says:

      I was having a discussion with one of my more en-lightend students about the olympics and he shocked me with his views on not wanting the olympics in Tokyo because he said “foreigners would come to tokyo and stand out side and cause trouble trying to get tickets illegally “. I did point out it would cost someone a lot of money just to come Japan and stand outside a stadium, when there are better ways to spend a thousand dollars.

      I have no Idea what some of the J-media is saying but it really shocked me that one my best students, had these sort of views and felt no problem airing them in front of me. Suffice to say I didn’t let him away with it.

    13. Loverilakkuma Says:

      If I were teaching Japanese students public speaking class and had students making foreigners-are-criminals kind of speech, I would penalize them for that regardless of their fluency in English. Why?—because that’s totally inappropriate for the main objective of class. Imagine a conversation with a petulant J student like this:

      Me: Sorry X, you will receive zero on your speech assignment.

      Student X: What!? What’s wrong with talking about badly mannered foreigners? It’s true!

      Me: Here you go. Because this is Japan, and that gives you privilege to talk whatever you want in my class!? Sorry, doesn’t matter. Read the syllabus once again. This is a persuasive speech assignment, and you are required to cite at least 5 minimum credible sources–not blubber-mouthing taken from someone’s personal blog. It doesn’t count. Also, I have explained to my class dos-and-donts in speech assignments several times. And I warned you what’s gonna happen if you broke the oath.

      Wish NJ teachers deserve the rights to write their own policy in class.

    14. DR Says:

      Well, I wouldn’t stop just with visiting IOC members, I would sent everything I could find to IOC HQ too, care of the President, Mr. Jacques Rogge. Address: Château de Vidy, Case postale 356, 1001 Lausanne, Switzerland. Or call & fax: Phone +41 21 621 61 11, Fax +41 21 621 62 16

      I’d also send copies to Ishihara’s & the Tokyo 2020 offices too. The best thing for the whole sorry saga is to be openly exposed to the disinfection of bright sunlight. If you’re chummy with one or more of the members of the IOC (names on their site) then copy those people too. Spead the love around! “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good wo/men to do nothing.”

      My take is that this whole thing will become moot anyway, and soon. When the extent of the radiation in Japan is finally exposed, and the number of real casualties hits siren-levels on the external media, like: http://enenews.com/japan-radiation-expert-after-311-dont-just-leave-tokyo-leave-the-country-if-possible-journalist-im-losing-my-words-video ,or, http://fukushima-diary.com/category/dnews/ the decision on where to hold an Olympiad elsewhere will make itself. It will be a no-brainer.

    15. Adam2 Says:

      The latest article I found:

      http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/387357/Two-years-after-the-Fukushima-nuclear-disaster-is-Japan-facing-a-cancer-time-bomb

      I`m finally leaving J land. Enough radiated air my lungs absorbed during 2 years.
      Next big earthquake will come sooner than people expect (probably Summer 2014,Tokyo M7.8~) I don`t really want this to come regardless of what I think about this country. This is tragedy and I don`t want anyone to suffer. There are many wonderful people after all. I will be watching from Europe big news

    16. Kaerimashita Says:

      Insensitively timed and naive comments like this from the bid CEO might force the IOC’s hand, or at least it should.

      http://sports.ndtv.com/othersports/othersports/206395-after-boston-marathon-blasts-tokyo-promises-safe-games

      After Boston marathon blasts, Tokyo promises ‘safe’ games
      Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Summer Games, lost its bid for the 2016 edition to Rio de Janeiro, the first South American city to host an Olympics.

      Agence France-Presse | Last updated on Tuesday, 16 April 2013

      Tokyo: Tokyo’s Olympic bid chief vowed Tuesday to ensure safety if the city wins the 2020 Summer Games, as the sporting world reeled from twin blasts at the Boston Marathon.

      “First of all, Tokyo is one of the safest cities in the world,” Masato Mizuno, chief executive officer of the city’s Olympic bid committee, said. “We’ll do our best to prevent any of those wrongdoings.”

      He also played down the possibility of random bombings at the Olympics in which more than 200 countries take part.

      Mizuno, a former chairman of sporting goods giant Mizuno, said groups that conduct such acts of violence know it is “not very clever” to target the Olympics and become the “enemy of the whole world.”

      He said the bid committee needed to know what has actually happened in Boston before considering whether to review their security plan.

      Mizuno was speaking after a luncheon with the US and British chambers of commerce in Japan, both of which have expressed their support for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic bid against Madrid and Istanbul.

      Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Summer Games, lost its bid for the 2016 edition to Rio de Janeiro, the first South American city to host an Olympics. Istanbul could become the first city with a predominantly Muslim population to host the Games.

      Mizuno told the luncheon: “We have much stronger city function.”

      “Now Rio’s preparation is very, very late,” he said. “More and more IOC members want a safe pair of hands.”

      The 101 IOC members will vote to choose the 2020 host city on September 7 in Buenos Aires.
      ENDS

    17. john k Says:

      Interetsing twist:
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23779561

      “..A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated…”

      No surprises there then!

      Concludes:

      “..”The Japanese have a problem asking for help. It is a big mistake; they badly need it.”…”

      Again no surpirses there.

      So why this here?…this part is most telling:

      “..The “worsening situation” at Fukushima has prompted a former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland to call for the withdrawal of Tokyo’s Olympic bid. In a letter to the UN secretary general, Mitsuhei Murata says the official radiation figures published by Tepco cannot be trusted. He says he is extremely worried about the lack of a sense of crisis in Japan and abroad”…..”

      No sure about the “abroad part” everyone is concerned, save for the Japanese. But now saying please dont host the Olympics!!….watch this space..

      – Yes, quite a few articles coming out these days demonstrating that TEPCO bungling was as bad or worse than we anticipated here on Debito.org (to great criticism and accusations of deliberate scaremongering, of course). Well, SITYS. Debito.org Readers are welcome to append a choice article here under the proper blog entry. “It’s time for the naysayers to capitulate regarding the Fukushima Crisis; referential articles”, Debito.org, August 25 2011, at http://www.debito.org/?p=9314 (Of course, there will be no capitulation, even now.)

    18. DeBourca Says:

      @17:

      The terrible thing is that accusations of scaremongering levelled at you and others possibly encouraged people to stay in situations where they and their families were in real danger. I had been in Japan long enough to realise that I couldn’t trust the authorities OR their NJ aplogists/defenders. When it became clear that people in charge had lied about the initial leak/meltdown, and that the crisis was ongoing, I took my young family out of the country, as I didn’t want them to be exposed to massive amounts radiation consistently over the long term.

      Unfortunately, it seems that many NJ (and Japanese) have chosen to stay in the general locality due to misleading reports on the state of Fukushima Daiichi.

      For the record, if one takes into account food and air contamination (as well as water), I don’t think any part of Japan north of Tokyo is unaffected and is potentially unsafe, especially for young children and pregnant women.

      On a separate note, enjoy your well earned holiday Debito!

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