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Hi Blog. Just before the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima Disasters, let’s revisit a topic Debito.org covered some years ago in this blog post:
Veteran journalist Roger Schreffler has contacted Debito.org to release the following information about the snow job that the person heading up the investigation, a Mr. Kurokawa Kiyoshi, carried out when this report was released in English blaming “Japanese culture” for the disasters (he also blamed foreign inspectors, believe it or not). It’s a supreme example of successful Gaijin Handling, and most of the overseas media bought into it. But not everyone, as Roger exposes below. Read on. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
DISCLAIMER appended March 12, 2016 JST: Debito.org has given this issue space because 1) one of our missions is to provide a voice to underrepresented views, 2) we have reported in the past that having two different versions of the Fukushima Report based on language was odd, and 3) Roger has made his claims under his name and is thus taking responsibility for the contents. The reportage culture of the FCCJ is also coming under scrutiny in this post, and as a former member of the FCCJ myself I have been a target of bullying and censorship, so it is possible there may be a “there” there in this case. That said, the views below are Roger’s, and not necessarily those of Debito.org as a whole. Moreover, again, Roger has put his name to his views to take responsibility, and those who do not comment under their actual names will not have their comments approved IF they direct their criticisms at people by name. Thus commenters’ names and their claims will be subject to the same level of scrutiny as the names they mention. (That means in the comments section, “War Dog” has had his posts edited or deleted for engaging in personal attacks.)
March 8, 2016
I don’t think we’ve met, but I am aware of who you are because I authorized an invitation for you to speak at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan between 2000 and 2005.
I believe the following information may be of interest to you. The Fukushima commission never concluded that Japanese culture caused the Daiichi plant meltdown.
Kiyoshi Kurokawa worked with a PR consultant, Carlos Ghosn’s former speechwriter, and altered the preface to the overseas edition of the report.
More than 100 media organizations, mostly unwittingly, quoted Kurokawa’s introduction as if it were part of the official report. It was not, of course.
I pitched my article to the press club’s Board of Directors. No response. So now I’m doing it the old-fashioned way – contacting everyone who erroneously reported individually.
Kiyoshi Kurokawa will speak at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Thursday, March 10, the day before the fifth anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident.
Kurokawa spoke at the club in July 2012 as chair of a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the causes of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. More than 150 foreign news organizations, government agencies and NGOs attributed blame to ‘Japanese culture’.
It was an invention.
Nowhere in the 641-page main report and 86-page executive summary can one find the widely quoted expressions “Made in Japan disaster” and “ingrained conventions of Japanese culture (including) reflexive obedience, groupism and insularity.”
In fact, all references to culture (文化) involve TEPCO – TEPCO’s corporate culture, TEPCO’s organizational culture, and TEPCO’s safety culture.
It turns out that Kurokawa retained a PR consultant to hype the report’s English edition for overseas distribution including to foreign media organizations such as AFP, BBC, CNN, Fox News and more than 100 others (see attached list).
I have reported this matter to the Board of Directors of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan because the consultant, a former speechwriter for Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, was working as publisher and editor of the club’s magazine at the time of the news conference; in fact, on the day of the news conference.
It may be true that Japanese culture is to blame for the Fukushima disaster. But it isn’t what the commission concluded and submitted formally (in Japanese) to the Diet on July 5, 2012.
Attached are records showing the commission’s hiring and financial relationship with the consultant (click on links to pdf files):
1. Attachments for report
I have downplayed the FCCJ’s involvement because it is my hope that the club’s Board of Directors will address this matter in an open and transparent way. Unfortunately, the current BOD is under attack because they settled three litigations last December (two by staff and one by members) over the firing of 50 employees.
I proposed an article to the club’s magazine in August 2013 in which I summarized evidence that had been submitted to the courts. I was refused. But had the magazine published my article, there is a good chance that the lawsuits could have been settled then, saving the club nearly ¥25 million in legal fees. That’s nearly $200,000.
This time again, I have asked for space in the magazine. No response.
If you read the club’s notice, you won’t find a single reference to the fact that Kurokawa hired a club fiduciary to help alter an official, taxpayer-funded report. Or that there was controversy over the translation.
Mure Dickie of the Financial Times is the only reporter who reported the translation discrepancies on the day of the FCCJ news conference: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/94fba34a-c8ee-11e1-a768-00144feabdc0.html
Dickie, of course, didn’t know that these weren’t ‘translation’ mistakes.
It is not uncommon for newsmakers to hire PR consultants to help with their messaging. What is uncommon – and almost without precedent – is for the consultant to be an editor of a publication that has an interest in the news event in question – and that publishes a report about that event.
As you are aware, Asahi Shimbun took a brutal beating for altering the testimony of the late Masao Yoshida, the Fukushima Daiichi plant manager.
How is this different?
Kurokawa signed off on the rewrite; it wasn’t a translation. But the commission didn’t approve. I contacted the commission two weeks after the news conference. They said: “Refer to the Japanese, the official.”
The club’s magazine was founded by two AP legends – Max Desfor (pictured on the lobby wall with his Pulitzer Prize winning Korean War photograph) and John Roderick (pictured with Mao Zedong).
I shudder to think of what they would say if they knew that the magazine was now in the hands of a PR specialist and a one-time tabloid magazine editor who, by extension, now decide what constitutes ‘news’.
For your reference: I am a 30-year veteran journalist, have never worked for a major news organization though did plenty of freelance work. I also served as FCCJ president (once), vice president (twice) and BOD director (twice). I chaired the club’s speaker program for five years and signed off on 800 press luncheons including the last sitting Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, on Sept. 14, 2001.
Sincerely, Roger Schreffler, Providence RI & Tokyo
FCCJ Writeup on Kurokawa Kiyoshi Presser on March 10, 2016:
Press Conference: Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Author of “Regulatory Capture”
5th Anniversary Series for 3.11 Disaster
Five years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan is in the process of restarting more reactors and has made some progress in the cleanup and decommissioning of the wrecked plant. Meanwhile, there are still some 100,000 evacuees from around the Fukushima site.
A new independent nuclear watchdog has also been set up along with new regulations prompted by Fukushima. But the Nuclear Regulatory Authority is under pressure from politicians and utilities to process restart applications more quickly and to be less strict on seismic issues and other matters. Equally important are the questions as to what lessons plant operators have learned from the unprecedented triple meltdown. Recent problems with restarts and disclosure by the utilities, among other issues, aren’t reassuring.
At this critical juncture, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the former chairman of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, will come to the Club to talk about his new book “Regulatory Capture,” and answer questions about what has happened since the Fukushima accident. In the introduction to his 2012 Diet report, Kurokawa was scathing in his criticism of regulators and utilities, saying, “It was a profoundly man‐made disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.”
In his new book, in addition to describing the set up of the commission and its investigation of the Fukushima accident, he talks about Japan not learning the necessary lessons from it and applying them to prevent accidents in the future.”
“If there are major accidents or problems in areas other than nuclear power, Japan will make the same mistakes again, become isolated and lose the trust of the international community. The Fukushima nuclear accident is not over yet. Japan must seize the opportunity to change itself, or else its future will be in danger,” he says.
Dr. Kurokawa, MD and MACP, is an adjunct professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, chairman of the Health and Global Policy Institute, chairman of the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.Please reserve in advance, 3211-3161 or on the website (still & TV cameras inclusive). Reservations and cancellations are not complete without confirmation.
Professional Activities Committee
UPDATE MARCH 11, 2016 JST, FOLLOWING FCCJ PRESS CONFERENCE, FROM ROGER SCHREFFLER:
As a followup: The moderator asked Kurokawa [at the FCCJ on March 10, 2016) about the differences in the English and Japanese version of the report’s executive summary. Kurokawa admitted that the ‘content’ was different. What this means is that the content turned over to the Diet on July 5, 2012 (both houses) was different than what he reported to the nonJapanese-speaking world.
Listen for yourself to his answer [to a question from the AP, who moderated the meeting, available on the FCCJ website for members only. Here’s an audio file of the question (an excerpt from minute 34 on the recording, for 3:26, in WMA format. Kurokawa press conference and .mp3 format:
where he now blames other factors on the outcome, such as a lack of time, him summarizing his own personal opinion for the report, and the lack of concision in the Japanese language.]
Later on, Kurokawa equated his Japanese cultural references to Ruth Benedict, Samuel Huntington, Karel van Wolferen and John Dower.
Which leaves one unanswered question: Who wrote it?
The Associated Press followed up with a question about the translation team. Kurokawa mentioned an acquaintance of his, Sakon Uda, who was ‘managing director’ of the project and currently works for Keniichi Ohmae at Ohmae’s graduate school of business.
I don’t know if the AP will follow up. But the AP was one of only three media organizations, the other being the Financial Times and The New York Times, that pointed out discrepancies in the Japanese and English reports in summer 2012.
The rest – even those who attended Kurokawa’s July 6, 2012 news conference where he admitted to there being differences in the ‘translation’, but not ‘content’ – followed like a herd and didn’t report that there was a discrepancy between the ‘official’ and the one for ‘gaijin’.
Following is the translation of the official Japanese introduction. Kurokawa talks about ‘mindset’ (思いこみ and マインドセット) but not ‘culture’.
Best, Roger Schreffler
Preface of Kurokawa Kiyoshi’s Statements (from the full text)
THE FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ACCIDENT IS NOT OVER.
This large-scale accident will forever remain part of the world’s history of nuclear power. The world was astounded at the fact that such an accident could occur in Japan, a scientifically and technologically advanced country. Caught in the focus of the world’s attention, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) revealed, in their response to the disaster, some fundamental problems underlying Japanese society.
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was the third nuclear power plant to start commercial operation in Japan. Japan began to study the commercial use of nuclear power in the 1950s. Following the oil crisis of the 1970s, nuclear power generation became part of Japan’s national policy, unifying the political, bureaucratic, and business circles into one entity promoting its use.
Nuclear power is not only the most incredibly powerful energy ever acquired by the human race, but a colossally complicated system that requires extremely-high levels of expertise as well as operational and management competence. Advanced countries have learned lessons through experience and from many tragic events, including the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents. Authorities in charge of the world’s nuclear power have maintained a basic stance of protecting people and the environment from all sorts of accidents and disasters, while nuclear operators have evolved in sustaining and enhancing the safety of equipment and operations.
Japan has itself dealt with a number of nuclear power plant accidents, small and large. Most of these were responded to, but without sufficient transparency; sometimes they were concealed by the organizations concerned. The government, together with TEPCO, the largest of the country’s ten utilities, promoted nuclear power by advocating its use as a safe energy source, while maintaining that accidents could not occur in Japan.
Consequently, the Japanese nuclear power plants were to face the March 11 earthquake totally unprepared.
Why did this accident, which should have been foreseeable, actually occur? The answer to this question dates to the time of Japan’s high economic growth. As Japan pushed nuclear power generation as national policy with the political, bureaucratic, and business circles in perfect coordination, an intricate form of “Regulatory Capture” was created.
The factors that contributed to this include: the political dominance by a single party for nearly half a century; the distinct organizational structure of both the bureaucratic and business sectors, characterized by the hiring of new university graduates as a group; the seniority-based promotion system; the lifetime employment system; and the “mindset” of the Japanese people that took these for granted. As the economy developed, Japan’s “self- confidence” started to develop into “arrogance and conceit.”
The “single-track elites”—who make their way to the top of their organization according to the year of their entry into the company or the ministry—pursued the critical mission of abiding by precedent and defending the interests of their organization. They assigned a higher priority to this mission over that of protecting the lives of the people. Hence, while being aware of the global trends in safety control, Japan buried its head in the sand and put off implementing necessary safety measures.
We do not question the exceptional challenge entailed in the response to the vast scale of the disaster created by the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear accident on March 11, 2012. Furthermore, we understand that the accident occurred a mere eighteen months after the historical change in power, the birth of a new (non-Liberal Democratic Party) government for the first time in some fifty years.
Were the government, regulators and the operator prepared to respond to a severe nuclear accident? Did they truly understand the weight of responsibility they bore in their respective positions? And were they fully committed to fulfill those responsibilities? To the contrary, they showed questionable risk management capabilities by repeatedly saying that circumstances were “beyond assumptions” and “not confirmed yet.” This attitude actually exacerbated the damage that eventually impacted not only Japan, but the world at large. Undeniably, this accident was a “manmade disaster” that stemmed from the lack of a sense of responsibility in protecting the lives of the people and the society by present and past government administrations, regulators and TEPCO.
Nine months after this massive accident, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission was established by a unanimous resolution of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors of the National Diet, which represent the people of Japan. It is the first investigation commission in Japan’s history of constitutional government, and is independent both from the government and from the operator, as set up under the National Diet of Japan.
To investigate what was at the center of this accident, we could not but touch upon the root of the problems of the former regulators and their relationship structure with the operators. The Commission chose three keywords as the bases of our investigative activities: the people, the future and the world. We defined our mission with phrases such as “conducting an investigation on the accident by the people for the people,” and “to submit recommendations for the future based on the lessons learned from the mistakes,” and “to investigate from the standpoint of Japan’s status as a member of international society (Japan’s responsibility to the world.)” This report is the fruit of six months of investigative activities carried through with a few constraints.
About a century ago, Kanichi Aasakawa, a great historian born and raised in Fukushima, blew the whistle in a book titled Nihon no kaki (“Crisis for Japan”). It was a wake-up call concerning the state model of Japan after the victory in the Japanese-Russo War. In his book, he accurately predicted the path that Japan, with its “inability to change,” would take after the war’s end.
How now will Japan deal with the aftermath of this catastrophe, which occurred as a result of Japan’s “inability to change”? And how will the country, in fact, change subsequently? The world is closely watching Japan, and we, the Japanese people, must not throw this experience away. It is an opportunity, in turn, to drastically reform the government that failed to protect the livelihood of its people, the nuclear organizations, the social structure, and the “mindset” of the Japanese—thereby regaining confidence in the country. We hope this report serves as the first step for all Japanese to evaluate and transform ourselves in terms of the state model that Japan should pursue.
Last but not least, I strongly hope from the bottom of my heart that the people of Fukushima—particularly the children upon whose shoulders rest the future of Japan—will be able to resume their lives of peace as soon as possible. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to the people all over of the world who extended their warm assistance and encouragement in the wake of this devastating accident. My sincere thanks also go to the many people who kindly cooperated and supported our investigation, the members of the Diet who unswervingly strove to make this National Diet’s investigation commission a reality, and all the staff of the commission office for their many days and nights of work.