NYT: Xenophobia in Environmental Ministry re exclusionary Fukushima decontam efforts: “Japanese soil is different”, “NJ assistance might scare local grandmas”

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Hi Blog. As part of a continuing series of how the Post-Fukushima Debacles have laid bare just how irredeemably broken Japan’s system is (see related articles here (item #2), here, here, herehere, here, herehere, and here), the NYT has just reported the latest on the Fukushima radiation cleanup effort.  Within, we can witness a wonderful fusion of corruption, xenophobia, and unaccountable bureaucratic culture that have been symptomatic of why Japan as a society cannot not fix itself (see items #1-3).  And this time, it’s a wonderful capsule summary of why foreign technology and assistance will lose out to featherbedded domestic interests (the Kensetsu Zoku, who are making a right mess of things).  And how there’s no hope of it getting better since the corrupt corporatists who facilitated this system in the first place (LDP under Abe and co.) are back in power as of December with a fresh mandate.  A choice excerpt from the NYT, very, very germane to the purview of Debito.org, follows:

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NYT:  Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge.

“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”

(UPDATE:  Original Japanese question and answer, courtesy of Hiroko Tabuchi (thanks!):

質問:なぜ除染事業に海外の業者や技術が採用されてないのか。
環境省福島除染推進チーム次長 西山 英彦:
(ストリップペイント等の除染技術については)「海外で有効なものでも、日本は土が違ったりしますから」
(除染事業全体を海外の会社が請け負うことについて)「外国人が福島をうろうろしてたら、お年寄りのおじいちゃんおばあちゃんが恐がるでしょう」

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(Here’s a picture of Nishiyama Hidehiko to burn into your memory cells, courtesy of Reuters:)

NishiyamaHidehiko

This is an incredibly racist insult to all the NJ who were both there and who went up there to help the victims of the disasters at great time, expense, and risk to their health — without scaring people.  I have two articles below the NYT from the WSJ which outline what a horrible little fellow this Nishiyama is, and how he keeps bouncing right back into power despite scandal within Japan’s unaccountable bureaucracy.

After that, I have some links to previous comments on this article.  I originally put this up yesterday as an addendum to a previous blog entry, but the comments there (see most of them in context here) are worth archiving here because they express the appropriate amount of outrage.  About a system that is, in the end, betraying everyone.  Kudos to NYT reporter Hiroko Tabuchi for uncovering this.  Arudou Debito

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In Japan, a Painfully Slow Sweep
The New York Times, January 7, 2013
By HIROKO TABUCHI
See photos at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/business/japans-cleanup-after-a-nuclear-accident-is-denounced.html

NARAHA, Japan — The decontamination crews at a deserted elementary school here are at the forefront of what Japan says is the most ambitious radiological cleanup the world has seen, one that promised to draw on cutting-edge technology from across the globe.

But much of the work at the Naraha-Minami Elementary School, about 12 miles away from the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, tells another story. For eight hours a day, construction workers blast buildings with water, cut grass and shovel dirt and foliage into big black plastic bags — which, with nowhere to go, dot Naraha’s landscape like funeral mounds.

More than a year and a half since the nuclear crisis, much of Japan’s post-Fukushima cleanup remains primitive, slapdash and bereft of the cleanup methods lauded by government scientists as effective in removing harmful radioactive cesium from the environment.

Local businesses that responded to a government call to research and develop decontamination methods have found themselves largely left out. American and other foreign companies with proven expertise in environmental remediation, invited to Japan in June to show off their technologies, have similarly found little scope to participate.

Recent reports in the local media of cleanup crews dumping contaminated soil and leaves into rivers has focused attention on the sloppiness of the cleanup.

“What’s happening on the ground is a disgrace,” said Masafumi Shiga, president of Shiga Toso, a refurbishing company based in Iwaki, Fukushima. The company developed a more effective and safer way to remove cesium from concrete without using water, which could repollute the environment. “We’ve been ready to help for ages, but they say they’ve got their own way of cleaning up,” he said.

Shiga Toso’s technology was tested and identified by government scientists as “fit to deploy immediately,” but it has been used only at two small locations, including a concrete drain at the Naraha-Minami school.

Instead, both the central and local governments have handed over much of the 1 trillion yen decontamination effort to Japan’s largest construction companies. The politically connected companies have little radiological cleanup expertise and critics say they have cut corners to employ primitive — even potentially hazardous — techniques.

The construction companies have the great advantage of available manpower. Here in Naraha, about 1,500 cleanup workers are deployed every day to power-spray buildings, scrape soil off fields, and remove fallen leaves and undergrowth from forests and mountains, according to an official at the Maeda Corporation, which is in charge of the cleanup.

That number, the official said, will soon rise to 2,000, a large deployment rarely seen on even large-sale projects like dams and bridges.

The construction companies suggest new technologies may work, but are not necessarily cost-effective.

“In such a big undertaking, cost-effectiveness becomes very important,” said Takeshi Nishikawa, an executive based in Fukushima for the Kashima Corporation, Japan’s largest construction company. The company is in charge of the cleanup in the city of Tamura, a part of which lies within the 12-mile exclusion zone. “We bring skills and expertise to the project,” Mr. Nishikawa said.

Kashima also built the reactor buildings for all six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, leading some critics to question why control of the cleanup effort has been left to companies with deep ties to the nuclear industry.

Also worrying, industry experts say, are cleanup methods used by the construction companies that create loose contamination that can become airborne or enter the water.

At many sites, contaminated runoff from cleanup projects is not fully recovered and is being released into the environment, multiple people involved in the decontamination work said.

In addition, there are no concrete plans about storing the vast amounts of contaminated soil and foliage the cleanup is generating, which the environment ministry estimates will amount to at least 29 million cubic meters, or more than a billion cubic feet.

The contaminated dirt lies in bags on roadsides, in abandoned fields and on the coastline, where experts say they are at risk from high waves or another tsunami.

“This isn’t decontamination — it’s sweeping up dirt and leaves and absolutely irresponsible,” said Tomoya Yamauchi, an expert in radiation measurement at Kobe University who has been helping Fukushima communities test the effectiveness of various decontamination methods. “Japan has started up its big public works machine, and the cleanup has become an end in itself. It’s a way for the government to appear to be doing something for Fukushima.”

In some of the more heavily contaminated parts of Fukushima, which covers about 100 square miles, the central government aims to reduce radiation exposure levels to below 20 millisieverts a year by 2014, a level the government says is safe for the general public. But experts doubt whether this is achievable, especially with current cleanup methods.

After some recent bad press, the central government has promised to step up checks of the decontamination work. “We will not betray the trust of the local communities,” Shinji Inoue, the environment vice minister, said Monday.

There had been high hopes about the government’s disaster reconstruction plan. It was announced four months after the March 2011 disaster, which declared Japan would draw on the most advanced decontamination know-how possible.

But confusion over who would conduct and pay for the cleanup slowed the government response. It took nine months for the central government to decide that it would take charge of decontamination work in 11 of the heaviest-contaminated towns and cities in Fukushima, leaving the rest for local governments to handle.

In October, the state-backed research organization, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, announced that it was soliciting new decontamination technology from across the country.

By early November, the agency had identified 25 technologies that its own tests showed removed harmful cesium from the environment.

A new system to trap, filter and recycle contaminated runoff, developed by the local machinery maker Fukushima Komatsu Forklift, was one of technologies. But since then, the company has not been called on to participate in the state-led cleanup.

“For the big general contractors, it’s all about the bottom line,” said Masao Sakai, an executive at the company. “New technology is available to prevent harmful runoff, but they stick to the same old methods.”

The Japanese government also made an initial effort to contact foreign companies for decontamination support. It invited 32 companies from the United States that specialize in remediation technologies like strip-painting and waste minimization, to show off their expertise to Japanese government officials, experts and companies involved in the cleanup.

Opinions on the trip’s effectiveness vary among participants, but in the six months since, not a single foreign company has been employed in Japan’s cleanup, according to the trip’s participants and Japan’s Environment Ministry.

“Japan has a rich history in nuclear energy, but as you know, the U.S. has a much more diverse experience in dealing with the cleanup of very complicated nuclear processing facilities. We’ve been cleaning it up since World War II,” said Casey Bunker, a director at RJ Lee, a scientific consulting company based in Pennsylvania that took part in the visit.

“There was a little of, ‘Hey, bring your tools over and show us how it works.’ But they ultimately wanted to do it themselves, to fix things themselves,” Mr. Bunker said. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in a consultative relationship moving forward.”

Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge.

“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”

Some local residents are losing faith in the decontamination effort.

“I thought Japan was a technologically advanced country. I thought we’d be able to clean up better than this,” said Yoshiko Suganami, a legal worker who was forced to abandon her home and office over two miles from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. “It’s clear the decontamination drive isn’t really about us any more.”

Most of the clients at Ms. Suganami’s new practice in Fukushima city are also nuclear refugees who have lost their jobs and homes and are trying to avert bankruptcy. She said few expect to ever return.
ENDS

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In Japan Rarity, Nuclear Spokesman Replaced After Affair Allegations

By Yuka Hayashi

Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2011, courtesy of JE

http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2011/06/30/in-japan-rarity-nuclear-spokesman-replaced-after-affair-allegations/

Over the past few months, the world has been rocked by revelations of powerful men caught in sex scandals: Arnold and Anthony Weiner, to name a few. Now Japan has its own version, which this week claimed the scalp of Hidehiko Nishiyama, Tokyo’s former chief nuclear spokesman.

NishiyamaHidehiko
Reuters
Hidehiko Nishiyama was demoted from his role as the government’s chief nuclear spokesman on June 29 after rumors about an alleged affair with a young female employee unfurled.

Unlike the U.S., where online flirting costs politicians their jobs, the public in Japan is generally forgiving of powerful men involved in sex scandals. But not this time.

Mr. Nishiyama, a successful career bureaucrat at the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, was abruptly pushed out of his role Wednesday, less than a week after a news magazine reported an alleged affair between him and a younger female staffer at the ministry. While Mr. Nishiyama, 54, denied having a sexual relationship with the woman through a ministry spokesman, the colorful details reported in the article became a source of incessant  gossip among the city’s elites.

Extra-marital affairs of politicians and business leaders are often viewed in Japan as they are in France – personal matters that should be left alone as long as they don’t interfere with their work — or dramatically offend people’s sensitivities. Some even consider such scandals as something the men should be proud of, as a sign of their power and personal charm.

Take Prime Minister Naoto Kan. In 1998, a news magazine reported his affair with a newscaster. He was called “You idiot!” by his wife, as he himself admitted, but suffered no lasting damage to his career. Paparazzi captured Goshi Hosono, a rising star of Mr. Kan’s ruling party, in a moment of passion with a TV reporter in 2006, but the 39-year-old married politician quickly put his career back on track; he just got appointed as Japan’s new nuclear minister on Monday.

Until recently, Mr. Nishiyama, who is married with two children, was known as a rising star within the ministry, but that hardly made him a public figure. That changed a few days after the March 11 disaster, when he was tapped to moderate the ministry’s daily briefings on the accident. With his articulate answers and knowledge of the power industry gained through his previous assignments, he became a familiar face on national television.

Mr. Nishiyama will now return to his pre-March 11 job in the ministry’s trade bureau, where his primary responsibility is to move Japan toward participating in a controversial regional trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I apologize if (the report) gave the impression or invited concerns that I was not fully committed to my job” Mr. Nishiyama said last week. Yukio Edano, chief government spokesman, said Wednesday Mr. Nishiyama was relieved of his responsibility due to “concerns that (the scandal) would interfere with his duties.”

ENDS

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Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2011

Bureaucratic Fallout

By Yoree Koh and Yuka Hayashi

http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2011/11/18/bureaucratic-fallout/

It has been a punishing day for Japan’s nuclear officials.

Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said Friday he would forgo his monthly cabinet salary of Y1.5 million, or roughly $20,000, to take responsibility for an employee of his ministry dumping radioactive soil sent from Fukushima prefecture near his backyard in Tokyo’s suburbs.

As the minister also overseeing the cleanup of the nuclear crisis, Mr. Hosono said the insensitive behavior exhibited by his staff ultimately falls on his shoulders. (He will continue to collect his Y1.3 million monthly income as a member of parliament).

Penalties were also imposed on the environment vice ministers, who will face a 20% pay cut for two months. Others involved have been transferred to other positions and given stern warnings.

The penalties come the day after Mr. Hosono revealed that an environment ministry employee threw soil with trace amounts of radiation away in a vacant lot near his home last week. The soil was sent to the ministry from a Fukushima resident, who had asked the ministry to get rid of the soil. Tests of the soil detected radiation of about 0.18 microsieverts per hour – a low level deemed safe.

Looking ever more haggard since becoming the central government’s captain in charge of the Fukushima Daiichi accident soon after March 11,  Mr. Hosono said at a press conference Friday: “What is behind this is the feeling among Fukushima residents that the government has not been implementing its responsibility for handling contaminated soil and should be doing more. I do not think I will be able to gain understanding of people in Fukushima with something like this,” according to state broadcaster NHK.

Separately, the environment ministry has taken in a familiar face to help oversee the soil decontamination effort. Hidehiko Nishiyama, a former government nuclear spokesman disgraced by a sex scandal,  has been named deputy chief of a special team for decontamination of Fukushima, set up within the ministry of environment, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Friday.

Mr. Nishiyama, once a rising star at the METI, became a television star soon after the March accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant as a well-spoken, never-tiring spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the ministry’s nuclear regulatory body. But he lost the high-profile job in June after a weekly magazine carried a detailed account of his extramarital affair with a female staffer of the ministry. Mr. Nishiyama apologized at the time for the trouble the allegations had caused. On Sep. 30, the ministry formally suspended  the 54-year-old career bureaucrat for one month for having been engaged in “inappropriate” sexual conduct during working hours at the height of the nuclear crisis.

Mr. Nishiyama still remains an employee of the METI but will now be on lease to the environment ministry.  The 54-year-old elite bureaucrat joined the ministry in 1980 after graduating from Tokyo University. Mr. Nishiyama wasn’t available for comment.

ENDS

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COMMENTS:

AB: Like the classic “gaijin skis won’t work on Japanese snow” absurdity van Wolferen (?) wrote about 20 years ago. Unbelievable this crappola is still going on. Only gonna get worse with LDP back in the saddle. To paraphrase de Tocqueville “a people gets the government it deserves”

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CD: i wonder the extent to which this statement is a convenient misdirection. it’s much easier to spew out some xenophobic nonsense than to publicly admit that fukushima has been written off. i mean, the place was written off the moment they built the plants. but what japanese politician or bureaucrat is going to admit to that? much easier to say grandma and grandpa might get scared by gaijin.

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AB: No one — at least no one IN JAPAN — is EVER going to admit this (even though it’s true). It’s like the same-old same-old — everyone afraid of being tarred with the “Hikokumin brush” and being called “defeatist” or a “dream-destroyer” (yume wo kowasu hito).

Same dynamic that kept everyone with half a brain enough to see what was going on otherwise silent as Imperial Japan lurched toward — then plunged into — a suicidal war in 1941.

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EF: This is private life, [Nishiyama] does with his tin-tin whenever he wants. What concerns us is his racist profile and he attacking foreigners this way again after all foreigners have done for the victims in Fukushima because, at the time of the hard cleaning up, many foreigners were there removing the corpses along with the Japanese and no one seemed scared by our presence.

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GH: [Nishiyama’s] comments are already noted on his Wikipedia page under 日本人論的・差別的発言.

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IJ: Pathological racism. Just like how they couldn’t use the U.S. military’s rescue helicopters in Kobe. The Japanese air is different so the pilots might not have been able to fly in Japanese airspace… and the U.S. and French doctors might have scared the earthquake victims to death. But it was really the swiss search dogs that would have been the biggest problem. Japanese dog food is so different. LOL … What a frigging mess Japan is in. Gladder and gladder I voted with my feet years ago.

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KL: So the local victims have to suffer because of the racism of the authorities?! But I guess the little people don’t matter…

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MN: I know the real reason foreign companies were not invited to take part. I have a relative who works for a major general contractor (maybe even one mentioned in the article). He tells me that ALL (not some, ALL) of their business is carried out in cash for the single purpose of ensuring bribes go smoothly. Foreign companies are not above this. They just don’t know how to play the game.

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JDG: Yet another microcosm for all that is wrong with Japan. If the J-public (especially the victims of the disaster) are going to persist in taking it lying down (and unlubricated!), then I can’t see much hope for the future.

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GP: Instead, there are now armies of cheap laborers washing down buildings with water and scraping topsoil off schoolyards and dumping it in local rivers – simply spreading the contamination even further while they toil to line the coffers of companies with the juicy cleanup contracts – companies that just conveniently are linked to the nuclear industry. And this is a first world country?

The final comment from the environment ministry really said it all though. This almost reads like a sarcastic joke referencing the “Japan has different snow” tactics of yester-year, with a fine dash of xenophobia thrown in for good measure. Can’t have any nasty furriners scaring the oldies!! (Let’s conveniently ignore the fact that hundreds of foreigners if not thousands have already given their time, money and labor to cleanup and rebuild in Tohoku, and by all accounts their assistance was warmly welcomed).

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JDG: ATTENTION APOLOGISTS!

Since you obsessively check this site, please read Debito’s post #23 and explain to me;

  1. How this is simply one small isolated case of government and business collusion in corruption, and does by no means indicate that ‘Japan Inc.’ is broken?
  2. How does this prove that the Fukushima situation is fully safe and under control, and being managed in a transparent fashion?
  3. How does the following statement;’“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”’, prove that rather than racism being endemic in the heart of the Japanese state, I am simply an over sensitive moaner who can’t understand Japan’s unique culture?
  4. How does this article prove that all Japan reporting is shoddy in nature, and biased unfairly against Japan?
  5. How does this statement by a displaced Fukushima resident; ‘“It’s clear the decontamination drive isn’t really about us any more.”’ clearly reek of unfair and scientifically unsound anti-nuclear lobby alarmism?

By all means, please take this opportunity to show us all where we have being getting it so wrong for all these years in our criticism of Japan.
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ENDS

98 comments on “NYT: Xenophobia in Environmental Ministry re exclusionary Fukushima decontam efforts: “Japanese soil is different”, “NJ assistance might scare local grandmas”

Comment navigation

  • It’s interesting to me that the Japanese version of Wikipedia has picked up this issue

    http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/西山英彦

    while a Goggle search for Japanese news articles using the key words “西山英彦” and “外国人” gives me zero hits. Is the Japanese media really so unconcerned with these statements, even after they have gotten a lot of attention in English-language media?

  • The point for me is that if he actually said “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there,” then, well, that’s a massive admission of racism.

    The deeper shame for me was that if he said it like that in that way (I would like to listen to his actual statement and the questions preceding it to make sure) then it doesn’t seem to be in the context of “that’s a bad thing.” The more disturbing thing is that it seems to be in the context of “that’s a fact.” That’s to say HE believes that foreigners doing the work is undesirable, because they are foreigners.

    That makes the GOJ officially making racist, discriminatory statements. We are used to blatant and direct racism by showboating narcissist neo-fascists like Ishihara Shintaro, but this bureaucrat is talking about technical and environmental issues that are of vital global importance, and he’s a professional bureaucrat responsible for showing the world how well Japan is dealing with this man-made disaster.

    Instead of really making this a showcase for the world and a chance for Japan to redeem itself and learn from this mess by cleaning it up, we are effectively getting a foreigners fuck off message from a senior government minister. That after the international wave of sympathy for Japan.

    What a lickspittle spiteful little man. They asked us to “Pray for Japan.” Now we can fuck off.

    ——————

    Normally I would be 50/50 about the “Japanese soil is different” quote; I think there is a case for giving this repulsive man benefit of the doubt. I’m sure he could quite reasonably argue that there are special characteristics (maybe some sort of clay or flaky loam or something peculiar) to large or significant areas that need to be cleaned up.

    Perhaps the quote has been taken out of context: it could have been in response to a question about the non-use or rejection of a particular overseas company’s technology. Perhaps that company has a long track record in desert soils or marine cleanup or something.

    Perhaps there are genuine differences with the local soil that required the development of specific techniques.

    The more I think about it, the more this article might have holes and distortions by ignoring, deleting etc. some highly relevant context.

    But I don’t think so.

    Unless Tabuchi or some hack editor deliberately juxtaposed the two quotes from entirely different contexts, given what we know about Hideous Nishi, I fully expect the odious little man was suggesting exactly what Tabuchi or the NYT is framing him as saying.

    Why give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • Funny isn’t it, just to put things in context, that the MOE is so terribly concerned about the nervous sensitivities of the poor old grannies and grandpas in Fukushima, lest their delicate senses be offended by the sight of a gaijin. But the grannies and grandpas of Okinawa? Yokosuka? Atsugi? Sasebo? Obviously don’t matter.

    Or how about all those lovely old dears that dare to *gasp* approach an international airport! Or watch TV! Or use public transport! My stars, Japan is full of potentially deadly ocasions where your sensibilities might be shocked by the sight of a furriner.

  • See also this story in the Japan times about the “foreign wives” of Tohoku. That’s right. Foreigners who are members of Japanese families, tending to their Japanese husbands and in-laws, and now being trained as carers for the elderly, all apparently without causing heat failure or scaring the grannies.

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20130109f2.html

  • “They asked us to “Pray for Japan.” Now we can fuck off”

    Those of us who are old hands in Japan knew that the “pray for Japan” and other feel good efforts were going to be short lived. For me, the media mind control shut out the world and lock down mentality was more scary than the actual earthquake and tsunami.

  • The Wikipedia article cites the same New York Times article as its source. Presumably the interview took place in Japanese, but it might have been a NYT primary source (the article says “Makiko Inoue contributed reporting from Tokyo”) and not made it into the Japanese media. I would say that this is pretty damn important information for the Japanese public to know (not necessarily the ridiculous racist statements, although that is important, too) that an official is willing to refuse help because of his prejudice or, worse, that a deputy director at the environment ministry believes that Japanese soil is different and is using those sort of stupid arguments as a smokescreen to protect entrenched business interests. Where did criticism in journalism go?

    This is so depressing.

  • It seems that it would be very difficult to host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, since according to GOJ physical laws are different in Japan. In addition, it would be very rude to impose the sight of so many foreigners to the local old people.
    Therefore, I would humbly suggest the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to withdraw its candidacy.

  • What needs to happen is to get the word out about Japan. Public perception in the West must undergo a huge reality-check. It’s not easy to do, because for most people, Japan is simply “that crazy, interesting country far East”.
    The people who have given money and helped otherwise need to be informed what Japan really thinks of them, and how their money ended up. If another catastrophe happens, it would be better if Japan was humbled a bit, into asking for help, instead of the world jumping in in a self-less act. We should make the same waves about helping Japan that the Japanese are making about their contributions to the world (Novel prize winners, football players, etc.)
    If the West knew about the xenophobia and bogus racial theorizing in Japanese canon, it would go a long way in starting a new look on Japan. For example, this country has not deserved to host the Olympics or any other major international event unless they at least establish anti-discrimination laws.

  • So many things wrong with this it’s infuriating. What an absolute scumbag this Hidehiko Nishiyama is. I sincerely hope there will be some reporting of this in the Japanese media so this guy can receive backlash for his absurd comments. I don’t expect much for the racist insinuations, but for refusing expert help so the palms of less competent clean-up companies can be thoroughly greased and therefore most probably putting lives at stake, well that’s unforgiveable.

    Just to say that I went to a town in Sendai about a month after the earthquake, to help with the clean-up (the place is called Tagajo and it had been flooded when the tsunami water forced its way up the river that ran through the town) and I reckon that I got less stares and quizzical looks than I usually get in Tokyo. People obviously knew why there were more people, including more foreigners in the town. It was pretty obvious that those people- foreigners included- walking around in boots and carrying shovels were there to help with the clean-up. I’m guessing that it would be pretty much the same deal with those cleaning up the fallout. I doubt people would be thinking “what the hell are all those foreigners wearing special suits and masks doing in my town”. Pretty obvious, right?! What a joke and what a dumb bastard this Nishiyama fellow must be. Not to mention how thoroughly insulting to all those foreigners who gave their time, effort and their money his comments are.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Can I just play the devils advocate for a minute and paraphrase only slightly numerous conversations I have overheard or had first hand with various Japanese people (not nuclear, or otherwise, experts)

    J person: “Japanese soil/snow IS different
    Me: “how so?”
    J person : well, it just feels different from the snow/soil/etc I experienced on a trip overseas.Feels kind of.. drier/softer/wetter/;…er
    The atmosphere is different. Japanese “sense”is different.

    Has anyone else come across this popular myth, supposedly based on some Japanese person’s experience?

    It is hard to explain what I mean unless you have sensed it first hand, a bit like the old traffic lights are green/blue dichotomy, i.e. the light is Aoi, not Midori.

    It is more a perceived sense. I spent many years trying to empathize with this, the closest I could get is that the sea is green/blue, which is true. But older people may refer to a blue tree (aoi ki) which is of course, plainly in denial of reality. The traffic light IS green, not blue. Isnt it? (the Japanese have got me doubting my own senses now!).

    At worst, this is medieval superstition. Like “radiation is good for you, sunflowers soak it up, wear a face mask” etc.

    And of course, none of these labels or perceptions, or alleged cultural differences, will stop nuclear radiation. Radiation does not care.

    Or, is it JAPANESE radiation? It is different, you know….

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I am trying to hold my own since I just got sad news about a sudden death of my former mentor and, one of the best academic scholars in humanities this evening. It’s just so unfair to see a genuine person like my college mentor passing away, since he’s definitely the one who deserves much more than what he gets paid for his work. He was working his way to build up a brilliant academic career: starting from tenure-track in a small liberal arts college, getting tenured, publishing a couple of wonderful books, moving to research one university to become a full-time professor, publishing numerous scholarly works, receiving top awards from national-level academic organization, and having served as department head (i.e. communication) to survive a difficult time by dealing with a mounting pressure from powers-that-be in college. I am writing this because he teaches his students–both grads and undergrads– and young scholars how to critique the public discourse in various research areas (i.e.,communication/law/sociology/philosophy). I greatly owe my critical thinking skills to his pedagogy which enables me to engage in the issues we share here on the blog. And I think such intangible skills are here for me (and most of us) to discuss what’s wrong with the structure of any cultural/political/social system that we have been dealing with.

    Getting to the topic, I was so stunned when I saw the name of mastermind in the article that I couldn’t keep my mouth shut for a while. The man, Hidehiko Nishiyama, is a disgraceful, flathead fart who made his name as a mouthpiece for a notorious NISA at the time of 3/11 earthquake. He made a full of lies to the international media about the condition of crippled reactors while giving nudges to nuclear businesses and the METI. Many people know he’s not telling the truth at all even though they don’t understand English. He was simply doing s@$t jobs to appear in the media and talk BS in a way to cover up the ground scheme to profit from nuclear cartel until he got discharged from his job on June 2011. The reason? The tabloid magazine reported that he had an affair with an unidentified woman, and it spread out to the news media. The METI took the report seriously and found it inappropriate to have him as a spokesman.

    Nishiyama screwed himself–not once, but twice. This man should be penalized and damned for his disgraceful sin.

  • Maxabillion Slartibartfast says:

    Piglet makes a great point. We should bring this matter to the attention of the Olympic committee. There is no way a country administered by such antediluvian xenophobes deserves the privilege of hosting the Olympics.

  • (UPDATE: By request, here is the original Japanese question from the NYT and Nishiyama’s answer in the original, courtesy of Hiroko Tabuchi (thanks!):

    質問:なぜ除染事業に海外の業者や技術が採用されてないのか。
    環境省福島除染推進チーム次長 西山 英彦:
    (ストリップペイント等の除染技術については)「海外で有効なものでも、日本は土が違ったりしますから」
    (除染事業全体を海外の会社が請け負うことについて)「外国人が福島をうろうろしてたら、お年寄りのおじいちゃんおばあちゃんが恐がるでしょう」
    ENDS

  • Baudrillard says:

    Debito, do you think the UN people you met have some connection to the Olympics committee? It may only take one email…

  • @Baudrillard (#10) That’s the tragedy – there is no scientific (in the Western sense of the word) proof behind any of those statements about a Japanese thing or matter being “unique” or “different” whatsoever – it’s nothing but gobbledygook and superstition.
    What do you expect in a country where astrology is widely seen as a proper science, and people believe in connections between blood type and character? Medieval indeed.
    I am talking about the mainstream, of course. There apparently is a number of Japanese scientists (curiously, mostly living outside Japan) who are not buying into pseudo science. But in the mind of most Japanese, the astrologer lady on the variety show and the Yamanaka ( the guy who recently won the Nobel prize) both work in the same field. The belief in the supernatural and prevalence of pseudo-science in Japan is very, very scary. You can easily picture masses of people being made believe in evil racial theories based on pseudo-scientific “research”. Oh wait, that’s actually happening.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Maxamillion Slartibartfast #12
    I 100% agree with you and Piglet that the IOC should be made aware of this racist attitude held by Japanese government workers, and that Tokyo should have it’s 2020 bid disqualified. Whilst Blinky was governor of Tokyo he commented of NJ Olympians judo at the London Olympics, that it was like ‘watching beasts’ since NJ are unable to understand judo the way a Japanese inherently can, to the detriment of the sport. Yet, that was allowed to slide.
    I am all in favor of an aggressive program of ‘black-propaganda’ regarding the Tokyo bid, on the basis of these comments, and believe we should do everything to impress upon the IOC, and the international public, how inappropriate it is for Tokyo to host the event.
    Facebook page on this issue for starters listing all the racist gaffes, and direct communication with the international media and the IOC’s in every participant nation?
    I think 4 billion Chinese would get right behind it, and we know that no one (except the Japanese) likes to upset China…

  • There’s not a hope on God’s green earth Tokyo will get the olympics. Do you really think the rest of the world would send their athletes to Post 3-11 Japan?

    @Baudrillard:

    I too have been fascinated by the blue/green thing. You can see it in the whole Japan has four seasons thing too. I think it’s similar to the idea that there are seven colours in the rainbow propagated by Newton. We see what we have been conditioned to see especially if we have a limited vocabulary.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    @Baudrillard and DeBourca – Go easy on these older people who call trees and grass aoi. They’re not wrong, and are certainly not perceiving the world incorrectly. Rather, their language reflects the color words in use in Japanese when they were young.

    Japanese, like most human languages, has steadily been acquiring newer and more specific color words. Historically, aoi covered more ground than it does now; it covered both English “blue” and English “green”. Even deep-green vegetables were 青物 (aomono) whereas no one today would look at that color in isolation and say that it’s anything but midori.

    And it goes deeper than this. When Japan first started putting traffic lights on the roads, they used the “bluest” portion of the acceptable range of color, so that the word ao would still sound natural.

    Look at an old-style traffic light and see how much bluer it is than one in the West. And also blue in comparison to the newer LED-style lights, which use today’s international, unquestionably-midori, portion of the spectrum. It’s possible that ao will remain forever as a fossilized word for the color of traffic lights, but it’s also possible that the less-ao lights that are coming into use will cause midori to replace ao.

    Indeed, “we” Westerners have done exactly the same thing. In Latin, viridis covered both the color of grass and leaves as well as the color of the sea. But call the sea verde to an Italian today and you’ll be considered “wrong”; the word blu has come into the language.

    A fascinating book about color words in various languages and their evolution is Guy Deutscher’s “Through the Language Glass”:

    http://www.amazon.com/Through-Language-Glass-Different-Languages/dp/0312610491

    He discusses ao along with color words in many other languages, and how new color words come into languages, causing speakers in future times to think that those of the past, with their more limited vocabularies, were seeing things incorrectly when in fact they were just using the words at their disposal.

  • Baudrillard says:

    My point, Markus and Debouca, and this is a slight defense of Japanese beliefs in fact, is that I do accept that their thinking on some things is profoundly different. Hence the whole blue/green thing. I suppose it falls under “cultural differences”!

    Therefore, to some/many Japanese, blue can be green, and Japanese snow is perceived to be different.

    Fine. Perceive reality how you want (even if it is wrong). I recall an episode of Futurama with Bender decided to perceive reality how he liked, and then walking off into an animated sunset of his imagination where a fairy lights his cigar. He just chose to ignore his grim reality.

    This will not stop the radiation though- even Japanese radiation. But we do not want to be a ÿume no Kowasu hito”- a dream destroyer, do we?
    Or, black raining on someone’s parade.

    Nuclear disaster really does wreck a dreamy day, especially with all the kawaii products on sale at Shibuya 109. So it is surely better to believe in that, and when the end through cancer does come, well at least you will have shopped till you drop.

    Huxley’s Brave New World is realized most now in Japan, even more so than the USA (which was where he was writing about).

    It is perhaps similar to religion, and praying- with reference to an earlier article of Debito’s whereby he argued that Japanism was in fact a religion or faith and that is why it cannot be criticized, which someone else here made reference to as well recently, on an earlier thread.

    Thus it is pointless to argue that the traffic light is in fact green, as to Japanese it is perceived (?) blue (or blue/green), and called as such. Much as it is pointless for an atheist to argue with a religious zealot.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Do you really think the rest of the world would send their athletes to Post 3-11 Japan?

    About this, there was an article on yahoo yesterday where a Team Japan spin doctor was saying that ” Tokyo is safe. No one was killed in Tokyo on 3/11.”

    This is in fact a lie (or willful ignorance). As 7 Tokyoites were killed, according to the national police agency.

    — Yes I do think people would send athletes to Tokyo if they got the Olympics. The only thing that keeps people away from Olympic Games is politics (as in Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984). The logic becomes, “Radiation? Well, it must be safe, as all those other athletes are risking it. And I’m not losing my opportunity for a medal to some other jackasses who are willing to risk it.” The same attitude goes for dangerous and life-threatening activities such as doping and steroids, not to mention insane training schedules that shorten athletes’ lives considerably. Hey, it’s called pushing the envelope, and it’s endemic to the arena. Radiation, shrmradiation.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Baudrillard #10

    Yes! I have come across this myth several times. It’s a legacy of Meiji-era nation building that was expressed in Imperial ideology; the Japanese are special in a way that can’t be explained in a fashion that NJ could understand, but of course, if you are Japanese, then you undoubtedly understand, and feel this ‘specialness’ on an intuitive level; it’s almost the unofficial mark of a ‘true’ Japanese.

    It’s the reason that Japan is special because it has four seasons, even though every European country also has four seasons.
    It’s the reason that rice tastes better grown in Japan, even if the same genus is imported from abroad.
    It’s the reason that Japanese people say things like ‘Japanese people like bare wood in our houses, because we are more in touch with nature’, despite the fact that most westerners have something most Japanese do not- a garden. Ask them to explain how they are ‘more in touch’, and they can’t explain, because ‘you wouldn’t understand because you are not Japanese’.
    It’s like Olympic gold medal winning NJ judo players not understanding the true spirit like the Japanese who got bronze.

    This is not science.

    I would assert that following the ‘official’ defeat of Imperial era ideology, this mentality (like so much of Japanese right-wing ‘thinking’) represents a self-perpetuating belief system that has many parallels with mainstream faiths in this age of scientific enlightenment. As with (for example) Christianity, this nihonjinron-giron functions on blind faith and illogical ‘science’, rather than logic or fact. Any attempt to discredit it on this basis, serves to only further prove that the belief system is right, and that you are incapable of understanding; further demonstrating your ‘non-Japaneseness’.

    We can lump all these crack-pot, nihonjinron-giron hangovers of failed imperial ideology together and understand them better as what happens to rampant nationalism once all the overt symbols of that nationalism have been made illegitimate. Without the symbolic figures and connecting discourse to unite all of these ideologies into a coherent discourse, they all spread out, like plants running wild in a garden which the gardener is no longer able to maintain. Some die out. Some spread and diversify. Ultimately, people continue to believe and perpetuate all these myths (and invent new ones, such as Japanese snow is different) because they are so ingrained in the national consciousness, and because nobody can imagine life without them. They provide the foundations of the context that defines what it is for most Japanese to be ‘Japanese’.

    What is shocking is how many apparently educated NJ are willing to buy into (sell out for?) these idiotic beliefs.

    All very Debord and Baudrillard; situationalist nightmare in practice.

  • @Baudrillard and Mark in Yayoi:

    Thank you for your expostions. A very interesting topic:

    I suppose that I(like many others) was taken by the surprisingly limited vocabulary in Japanese of colours compared to English. I attribute this, in part,to the European heraldic coat of arms, in which colour (which was related to wealth)was almost specifically linked to certain families and coats. Interestingly, Japanese Mon are all black and white. Of course, earlier people used different words for different colours, such as Homer describing “the wine-dark sea”.

    @ Mark:

    “He discusses ao along with color words in many other languages, and how new color words come into languages, causing speakers in future times to think that those of the past, with their more limited vocabularies, were seeing things incorrectly when in fact they were just using the words at their disposal.”

    This is the issue isn’t it? I am with Wittgenstein(and George Orwell) on this, in that they were seeing things incorrectly BECAUSE they had a limited vocabulary. Perhaps the more appropriate word here is “percieve” (which is a distinction that Japanese also use). This is all over the language. Witness the lack of usage of the personal pronoun in Japanese and compare it to the lack of personal assertion/accountability. Coincidence? I think not. Anyway, thanks for the link and the conversation.

    One more thing, articulacy in Japanese in intimately tied to knowledge of Kanji and etymology. The growing illteracy in Japan is contributing to newspeak in modern Japan, IMO.

  • Kaerimashita says:

    Jim Di Griz: “What is shocking is how many apparently educated NJ are willing to buy into (sell out for?) these idiotic beliefs.”

    It just comes down to some foreigners not educating themselves or doing their research. In today’s internet era and as it’s expanding, there shouldn’t be any excuses.

    However with this clown’s statement, I simply have to say what more needs to be said for any expat living in Japan to realize they are not wanted? What more needs to be said to realize that other nations are wasting their funds in supporting this “great ally”? What more needs to be said that the CIA / US Gov dropped the ball on Japan (more importantly east Asia) several decades ago and just need to let it go? The window dressing talk is just a waste a time. My concern is the US (Gov.) eventually biting themselves in the ass over a potential east Asian conflict that could one day finally brew…

  • @ Debito about the Olympics. Indeed, athletes are treated like racehorses (worse, actually) but the “great and the good” that must be schmoozed will not take kindly to having to spend time in an earthquake-ridden, irradiated monoculture. They’ll go to Madrid, or maybe Istanbul IMO. The last bid was a complete racket. This one just hammers home how out of touch the Japanese powers that be are. They still think (percieve?) that it’s the early sixties.

  • There’s a big difference between being afraid of foreign people and saying that other people will be. Mr. Nishiyama may be correct – the folks around there probably aren’t used to seeing a bunch of foreigners. I don’t see any racism in Mr. Nishiyama’s remarks here, Debito, I see him getting lumped in as a racist paradoxically for recognizing the racism in Japan. This is the dumbest thing I have ever read on this site.

    — Then you’re missing the point. It’s one thing to recognize/observe that some people in Japan are racist or are afraid of NJ. It’s quite another for a national representative in a position of power to allege it and cite it as a justification. Especially in this manner and case.

  • Hi. I had dinner yesterday with an older, connected Japanese person who insisted that the Olympics would be coming to Japan. I pointed out many of the issues that could potentially stop this from happening (Ishihara, human rights, child abductions, no law against racial discrimination, etc.). His reply? Irrelevant. The world feels sorry for Japan (earthquake/tsunami/radioactivity), Japan has many friends abroad, and to bolster Japan’s spirit (and economy) the Olympics will be awarded to Japan!

    Made me sick. I hope that he is wrong.

  • Just a quick comment here: I’ve been saying for months that the IOC should be informed of how racist Japan is and that they should not even consider sending the Olympics to Japan. Does anyone recall all the racist preparations that were made before the World Cup was held there? The subtext of the entire thing was: Gaijin are dangerous animals, so let’s take special precautions. It doesn’t matter a bit if Ishihara is no longer in office, the people of Tokyo who elected him are still there.

    The sad fact is that the wider world has no idea of the real nature of Japan and the Japanese. Indeed, if a good percentage of long-term foreign residents don’t even see the picture clearly, how can we expect the wider world to?

    The ministers comments are so typical of the way many, if not most, Japanese think. He just revealed his 本音. The important thing to realize is this: Not a single part of him made him think that was a racist statement. It wasn’t said guiltily or as an unfortunate aside. He said it confidently and naturally with no shame. That tells you a lot.

    As I’ve said so many times on this site: Why the h*ll would any foreigner continue to live in such a place? A place where rank racism pervades every level of society? A place where a powerful minister can say obscenely racist things and face no backlash, let alone punishment? And a place where politicians and ministers ALWAYS make shady deals with industry to line their own pockets instead of doing their job and working for the people?

    People, I ask you: How much more evidence do you need before you bail out? Do they have to start making you wear armbands with 外人 written on them? Do they have to herd you into ghettos? Get out while the getting’s good!

  • Japanese radiation is different too, neh?

    Well, why else would TEPCO suddenly double the amount of safe radiation dosage a worker may receive. Ergo, it must be different 🙂

  • Regarding the way politicians and ministers see the radiation problem:

    If you really want to see what’s wrong with Japan, watch the following video clip. Pay close attention from the 1.:20 mark:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlxTrs6XyUs

    In it, a female politician tells how the teacher of a school in Fukushima made all the students in his class who refused to drink Fukushima milk stand in front of the class and say why they refused to drink it, then yelled at them for “not being fit to live in Fukushima.” When the politician tells this story in the diet, the cabinet minister and the trade minister can’t control their laughter.

    Right there, you’ve got most of the major problems with Japan highlighted:

    -The fascist group think (you must do what everyone in the group does, even if it means drinking radioactive milk)
    -The archaic sexual politics (do you think they’d laugh if it was a male Diet member?)
    -The childishness
    -The complete unwillingness of the powers that be to take the Fukushima problem seriously
    -The complete lack of a functioning legal system (imagine what would happen if a teacher in a Western country did that to his students, and imagine how fast a politician or minister would have to step down in a Western country for laughing at the suffering of those affected by radiation, while in Japan, you don’t even hear about it)

    Frankly, that is probably the most repugnant footage regarding Fukushima that I’ve ever seen. And keep in mind that this was not even mentioned in the Japanese media and the cabinet minister wasn’t even reprimanded. But, more importantly, that *sshole thinks it’s funny that children are being forced to drink radioactive milk or being ostracized for refusing to!

    For all you Japan apologists out there, I say: Can you watch that and tell me that Japan is really the wonderful country you think it is? I’m sorry, the place is badly, badly broken. But, more than that, it’s just plain sick. It’s inhuman.

  • @ Debourca, Mark in yayoi, and Jim.

    Language IS culture. And thanks to Mark for the excellent edification on the background of blue/green, although that was but one example and I was trying to illustrate the perception gap of reality that many Japanese have as a result of upbringing and environment.

    And this is an excellent comment with postmodern relevance from Jim, so I would like to highlight it. Symbols are all, and brands are corporations in this society of spectacle:

    once all the overt symbols of that nationalism have been made illegitimate. Without the symbolic figures and connecting discourse to unite all of these ideologies into a coherent discourse, they all spread out, like plants running wild in a garden which the gardener is no longer able to maintain. Some die out. Some spread and diversify. Ultimately, people continue to believe and perpetuate all these myths (and invent new ones, such as Japanese snow is different) because they are so ingrained in the national consciousness, and because nobody can imagine life without them. They provide the foundations of the context that defines what it is for most Japanese to be ‘Japanese’.

  • “not being fit to live in Fukushima.”
    Answer: OK, can we leave now?

    That is true, although it is more a case of Fukushima not being fit to live in!

  • Well, what do you expect from the leaders of a government who are sons and great grand sons of previous bureaucrats? I’d say more than a small amount of hereditary succession makes up the Diet. It’s the same ideas, same Tokyo University backgrounds, same thinking recycled generation after generation, all kept in the same families, on the island of Japan where people are trapped geographically. Was the LDP losing to the opposition a real event? Or was it fabricated to release some tension? Trust nothing from these idiots, except to keep the flow of money and power headed in one direction.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @Eric C #31
    I watched your clip. Thank you. The laughing is shamefull.
    It is no wonder that Japan is unable to prevent school children from committing suicide due to bullying, nor able to enact effective anti-bullying questionnaires.
    Yet, I remember when little Aiko sama refused to go to school because her bubble-wrapped sensibilities were shocked by fellow toddlers ‘running’ and ‘being loud’ and ‘boisterous’, there was a national outcry in the media.
    Standards in action yet again. Both of them!

  • A Man In Japan says:

    I just had to say that, that video clip of those two…..losers laughing at what happened to that child, basically being bullied into drinking milk that they did not want to drink, absolutely disgusting.
    I am totally and utterly, disgusted at these two.

    This video clip has now shown me that the government in ANY country, just simply does not care about the people who they govern (control).
    I am now seriously thinking of whether I should stay in Japan any more.
    The Japanese psyche is just too warped to get them to see anything from anyone else’s perspective, but their own.

  • #27

    Hi Bob

    I live in Tohoku (Sendai) and I haven’t heard a single negative comment about the many non-Japanese from inside and outside Japan who came here to help after the disaster. Rather I have seen nothing but appreciation, gratitude, and welcome.

    The disgraceful thing in Mr Nishiyama’s remarks is not just that he is a loathsome little bigot, but that he feels free to attribute the same feelings to the people of Tohoku, who neither share nor condone them. Shame, shame, shame on him.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    I’m enjoying the deafening silence of the apologists this time. Not one has so far even attempted to take up my challenge. It appears that even the apologists recognize that Nishiyama’s statement is indefensible.

    However, the greater shame is on the apologists themselves now, for despite being shown evidence of racism so great that they cannot apologize for it, rather than changing their position as a reasonable man should in the light of new information, they simply refuse any discussion of this, even on their own sites! Heads in the sand of denial (in the face of disagreeable information, a most Japanese response- keep imitating apologists! You can NEVER be Japanese in the eyes of the Japanese).

    This must be the only post Debito has made in, at the very least, the last two years, that the apologists haven’t made so much as a squeak about.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Sendaiben #37

    You raise a valid point sir! One that I have thus far not considered; Nishiyama’s comments on behalf of the Tohoku population may very well not be representative of them, and they may well be offended, should they have the opportunity to learn of his remarks. But how to inform them….?

    P.S. if you are my old UK college sempai, nice to see you here!

  • Just a tangental pont to #5 Mike

    Yes, I agree; but moreover I also thought the whole thing creepy. For those of us not spiritual, asking us to “pray” was an assumption I wasn’t comfortable with. But given the situation, I thought not to obsess with it.
    Secondly, I didn’t like the idea that we had to pray for a whole nation. It brought me to a feeling that resonated with this sense that people are brainwashed to think of Japan as one single organism or entity, everyone together, all together. I detected undertones I didn’t like about it either.
    How about just sending our thoughts (and prayers for those who are spiritual or religious) to all the people affected in the areas and their relatives and friends (and not just the kokumin, gaijin invisible, irrelevant).

    #37
    Thank you Sendaiben for restoring my mood in this rather grim topic. I’d just seen the video of that repulsive pol laughing during the report about the kiddies forced to drink milk.

    I have wonderful friends who are Japanese, and a wonderful family, and I often meet idiots who are Japanese. I don’t buy this “Japan is this and Japanese are that” stuff at all, but I do understand the anger and can see the point of view people who feel like that.

  • The whole ‘Pray for Japan’ thing is about as stupid as places as far flung as Kagoshima paying good money to put ‘Ganbarou Nippon’ flags up and down every single street instead of doing something productive with that cash like, I dunno, sending it to people who lost their homes in the disaster. Just another way for people to go “See, we’re helping!”, pat themselves on the back and feel good about themselves whilst doing sod all to actually help. Willful self-delusion, basically.

  • @JDG: I’m not surprised that the usual apologists are silent. That video and everything surrounding it is indefensible.

    The closest we’ll get to an apology from the apologist corps is something like “that politician was a bad person but Japan/the Japanese are not bad.” But, that’s like saying “specialist Lynndie England was responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. She was just a bad apple.” That “bad apple” argument is pure BS. That video from the Diet is an indictment of the entire Japanese system. Sure, there are good Japanese people. I’m close friends with a lot of Japanese people who I think are decent upstanding people. And many of the people you meet day to day are decent upstanding people. But, the fact that a teacher was shaming and bullying his students into drinking radioactive milk; the fact that the highest level politicians were laughing about it; the fact that no one in the room stood up and berated those pigs; the fact that the media totally let it slide; and on and on; says a lot about Japanese society at large. It’s not just one fat pig having a giggle in a Diet meeting.

    If someone can’t see the truth of that, then nothing, nothing will convince them and it’s not worth engaging them in discussion.

    That video is like the above-mentioned photos that came out of Abu Ghraib: they are a shame on the entire country. And every Japanese person who knows about that video and does nothing to change things is guilty.

    以上

  • Fukushima plus that recent bridge collapse incident seems to have really put a dent on the GOJ in terms of integrity and competence in dealing with issues such as disasters. The stuff that gets into the wider media such as how the government is dealing with the nuclear meltdown seems to barely touch the issues that hinders Japan’s ability to deal with problems.

    The Post-Fukushima wave of NJ-bashing from the Japanese Government and the rightists is likely a damage control operation that is meant to turn the Japanese public away from domestic issues and onto external issues.

    Somehow I feel that Fukushima is conveniently swept under the rug. The perfectly timed territorial disputes, which is what dominates the front pages of J-media currently makes it all easier to bury internal problems and not arouse any suspicion from the gullible public.

    How long Abe or the LDP will stay in power will depend on how long and how well he can keep the NJ fearing mantra going.

    It is also sad to see how anything remotely NJ is viewed as a threat and especially more so after Abe got re-elected and Hashimoto right behind him. This article does seem to confirm that no mater how genuine and kind your intentions are and no matter how much you show your care and love for Japan, it will, unfortunately and most of the time get misinterpreted and often negatively.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Yes, “Pray for Japan”is a horrible example of brand Japan, and is also self delusion. As well as nationalist propaganda.

    Firstly, it should be “pray for Sendai”, but by re-branding this as a national “Japanese” disaster, aid money flows to Tokyo.

    To be spent on whaling and other useful projects. Those gullible gaijin have fallen for it again!

    Secondly, it reinforces national stereotypes as “Japan” as one monolithic city state, with no significant regional differences. This has led to the nationalist sharing of radiation, and “if you will not drink Fukushima milk you are not fit to live here!”, one step away from Ishihara’s quip to a journalist who dared question him, “”are you even Japanese?” (which ironically echoes Deng Xioping’s insult to a Chinese American journalist, “Are you Vietnamese?”).

    It occurred to me that the brand names of “Tokyo” and “Japan” have become interchangeable, as if Tokyo was a city state with the rest of Japan as it’s vassals, or fiefdoms, or empire.

    Actually, yes that is right. That is why the LDP Mandarins (Chinese pun intended) can laugh at the misfortunes of schoolchildren in Fukushima, because only Tokyo really matters to them.

    This however renders Japan horribly vulnerable. Machiavelli would have surely pointed out that if an enemy of Japan takes out Tokyo, the enemy can easily take over the rest of the country.

    Actually what Machiavelli would have said was that Japan is like medieval Turkey, (Or Persia under Darius), an Asian “slave” state. Difficult to conquer, but once you do, all the people will buckle down and obey their new (American) overlords. Machiavelli’s theories have been proven true in Japan through the postmodern media control hypnosis through false labeling that target people’s emotions through symbolism like “Pray for Japan”.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    @Eric – Those two buffoons laughing about kids being forced to drink milk that might be dangerous is disgusting enough, but it’s actually the second-most repugnant Fukushima-related video I’ve seen. First would have to go to government ex-minister Ryu Matsumoto going up to Miyagi for a meeting with the prefectural governor (!) and chewing him out for arriving a few minutes late, then compounding his stupidity by telling all the reporters present that if this incident leaked, their companies would be “finished”. Using a lecturing tone as if the governor were some fresh-faced military recruit, then pointedly switching back to polite language when talking to the reporters only made him look more obtuse.

    Then, after resigning his post in disgrace, just to show that he wasn’t done being stupid, he tried to blame his bad behavior on being from Kyushu and having “type-B blood”.

    This video contains not just Matsumoto’s meeting with the governor, but also the governor’s measured response on television later:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5b9IVYcneU

    Had I been the governor, I’m not sure I would have been able to keep my cool quite like he did. Kudos to him.

  • Jim

    “This must be the only post Debito has made in, at the very least, the last two years, that the apologists haven’t made so much as a squeak about.”

    Has it not occurred to you that perhaps “the apologists” (ie anybody with the temerity to express an opinion diverging in the slightest from your own or your fellow browbeaters) have had enough of coming on this site and being mocked, accused of being “child-abusers” or “in denial” or “selfish” or just too plain stupid to see what’s going on around them?

    I’ve long been a supporter of Debito and have tried to help him out in a practical sense a couple of times where I saw the opportunity. I’ve enjoyed reading his site and people’s comments over several years. However, surely I can’t be the only one who recognises the change in tone in the comments section over the past six months or so. There is a group of people who come on here far too often to be regarded as normal posters who spend their time competing to write the most toe-curlingly sycophantic drivel they can muster to Debito, to pat each other on the back in a frenzy of mutual appreciation and to belittle anybody who dares to suggest that doom-laden, faux-outrage is perhaps not always very well considered or justified. We’ve even had, for the first time, calls for censorship with “I’m surprised Debito allowed that comment”. Never saw that until last year.

    My Dad worked in the airforce on a NATO base in Italy in the early 60s. He told me that there was a bar in town popular with ex-pats (mostly Brits teaching English and a few businessmen). None of the military people would go there, despite the British beer, because of the miserable atmosphere created by the regulars who were always itching to unload the aching horror of their Italian existence on anyone who’d listen: the Italians were thieves, idiots, racists, terrible drivers (a kernel of truth there, perhaps?!), dirty and generally the scum of the universe. And any military guy who claimed to quite enjoy the country and working with Italians was a naive fool who was too stupid or too unwilling to see the truth.
    Who wants to listen to that all evening? Well, the ex-pats themselves apparently. The airmen kept well away.

    So perhaps, Jim, that’s why some people are commenting less and less on this site. It’s certainly true in my case. The casual, ill-considered abuse just ain’t worth the trouble.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Joe, you are correct -“I can’t be the only one who recognises the change in tone in the comments section over the past six months or so. ”

    This is a welcome change in tone which I hope I have played a small part in. As the situation in Japan worsened since 3/11, our tone has changed.

    There is no longer the luxury for a talking shop for the FOBs to add their unscientific anecdotes along the lines of”well, its never happened to me and it happens in other countries”. Ridiculous opinions that cannot defend themselves should be ridiculed.

    We are not posting here to be “nice” or to win friends down the pub, like in the story of your Dad in Germany. This is a serious site.

    These are desperate times, and there is a crying need for an independent media in Japan, but there isn’t much of one. Ditto the decimation of the left in the elections.

    I am not a sycophant of Debito; my goal here is provide a postmodern explanation for events, some of which Debito has hopefully taken onboard, and influenced his writing and reports to the UN.

    Here is a potential vehicle for change.

  • @Joe:

    Two quick points:

    1) There’s nothing “faux” about the outrage. If you can watch the video I posted and not feel outrage, then I would politely suggest that you have some serious issues with basic human feeling.

    2) With all due respect to your father, his experience isn’t relevant here. What’s relevant is the issues we’re discussing here. I note that you don’t attempt to counter the very valid points made on this thread in a substantive way. You just come on and write: “I don’t wanna post anymore because everyone’s ganging up on me and calling me names!” Well, poor you. If you can’t reply to the arguments in a substantive and rational way, then why participate? In case you haven’t noticed, Joe, this site isn’t about you – it’s about Japan. Don’t try to personalize it. I’d like to hear you make a cogent argument about why what happened in that video is perfectly acceptable or how the government is actually taking real actions to correctly address the problem of radiation etc. Address the issues, Joe. Family histories aren’t relevant.

    But, since you’ve posted a personal post, let me just add one thing: If you can watch the video I posted, or the one that Mark posted, and still feel okay about living a country where this is allowed to go on, then be my guest. I’m not saying this to get your goat, but I honestly feel sorry for your children. I mean, you’re living in a country where a teacher can get away with vicious bullying of a student, and when a politician who reports that in the national assembly is mocked, and absolutely no one is punished. Joe, does this not even cause you pause to think about the place you’ve chosen to live? As I say, I’m not trying to attack you, although you’ll clearly interpret it that way based on your post, but I’m seriously imploring you to think not just of yourself but of your children. I mean, even if you can forget all the cultural issues we discuss here, does it not even bother you that there is no national mandatory food screening system in place and you’re family is likely ingesting cesium in some of what they eat?

    Finally, as Baudrillard pointed out above, the regular posters here are not sycophantic at all about Debito. Other than me listing in one post that I was influenced by his blog, I cannot recall a single comment I made that could remotely be construed as sycophantic of Debito, and I believe this goes for most of the regulars. So, please don’t go making baseless observations.

    I’m not going to directly reply to any more of your posts. I’ve made my case to you. If that video and what I’ve written here don’t sway you, nothing will. But, please keep in mind, the topic of this blog is not “how Joe feels about Japan and how Joe feels about those who make criticisms of Japan.”

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Joe #47

    ‘Has it not occurred to you that perhaps “the apologists” (ie anybody with the temerity to express an opinion diverging in the slightest from your own or your fellow browbeaters) have had enough of coming on this site and being mocked, accused of being “child-abusers” or “in denial” or “selfish” or just too plain stupid to see what’s going on around them?’

    Ooh! That’s a rather attractive possibility! Do you really think that I and just a handful of other straight talkers have frightened them off? Do you seriously think that we have ‘bullied out’ the bullies? That for all their dirty tricks they are too thin-skinned and sensitive to take a little dialectic with us? I doubt that, but I will live in hope!

    @ Baudrillard #48

    I agree with you all the way. In a land with virtually no free-press, isn’t it sinister to try and shut us down for disagreeing? Butter or steel people, butter or steel…

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