3/11:The Fallout

3/11:The Fallout
Just what the heck is going on?

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Sheep Look Up

The week Feb 18th - 23rd saw more shocking revelations and freak weather conditions hit Japan as the environmental situation continues to deteriorate. February and March sees the latest invasion of China's smog, combined with the  powderish yellow dust that floats across the intervening ocean and settles on houses nationwide. Japan's Environment Ministry issued an official warning, telling the public to stay indoors and refrain from airing out rooms when toxic smog from China is in high concentration.
Nature sure seems intent on giving Japan a bashing. A record-breaking snowstorm hit the northern part of Japan, with houses in Aomori prefecture buried under over five meters (fifteen feet) of snow as of Feb 21st. 

As if that wasn't enough, the Environment Ministry announced two weeks ago that the pollen season has begun. Why is this a problem? Because an incredible number of people in Japan  (an estimated 25 million) suffer from hay fever (kafunsho). That's why you see so many people on the street and on the trains wear those surgeon's masks. The problem originated in early 1950s, when the government decided to reforest large parts of Japan in the rebuilding process after World War II. A good idea, you might think - but they chose mature, pollen-producing trees as the cheapest option. So every year, the pollen count gets higher, and people get sicker, and local authorities complain that someone really should cut down the trees and replace them with more environmentally friendly cedar and cryptomeria, but nothing gets done.
And then the Japanese have the gall to say "their culture has a special relationship with Nature".

Japan's future energy supply, which would include the nuclear program that the ruling right-wingers want to restart, is in grave doubt. On Monday 18th, the Nuclear Regulation Authority announced that significant portions of major geological faults running under Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s one-reactor Higashidori nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture (yeah, the place currently under fiver meters of snow) are probably active.

Details here 
As the residents of Tohoku file more and more charges against TEPCO and their government over their mishandling of the 3/11 crisis, they have been joined by other plaintiffs, such as the wife of a Fukushima dairy farmer who committed suicide when he realized his livelihood had been destroyed by TEPCO's radioactive contamination. The farmer, Shigekiyo Kanno, was Japanese, and the wife, Vanessa Abordo Kanno, is Filipino.  He had forced his wife and two sons to return to the Philippines in March 2011 as the power plant nearby approached meltdown, while he remained behind. 

NOTE: Over the years, as Japan's countryside has slowly depopulated, it's been quite common for farmers to "recruit" wives from central Asia because there are simply not enough females out in hicksville to go around. Some workers within the agriculture industry want Japan's immigration laws to be relaxed, so they can hire skilled labor from abroad to revitalize the decaying agricultural infrastructure - but Japan's racist bureaucracy will not allow that to happen. 

 For cultural news, which lightens the mood a little - take a look at the other blog, run by John Paul Catton.  For more information on Japan's crisis and why it affects you, go here. 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Fresh Currents

Time now for something positive. "Fresh Currents" is a work of investigative journalism, combined with stunning visuals, produced by the creators of the Kyoto Journal. It's available here as a free download; the print version is ¥2,000, and it's worth every penny. Here's the back cover blurb.


Saturday, 16 February 2013

Dark Lanterns - Blackening the Sky

Here's a big welcome to Zoe Drake and the latest addition to the Excalibur Books catalog! "Dark Lanterns" is an e-book collection of 15 spine-chilling ghost stories, set in modern Tokyo and featuring the Yohkai - the mysterious, primal forces from Japanese folk tales and urban myth! Cover by Stephanie White, and interior formatting by Anastasia Perkagis!
Available here. 

Also available: "Voice of the Sword", by John Paul Catton, Book 1 of the YA Urban Fantasy trilogy "Sword, Mirror, Jewel".

"3/11: The Fallout", the non-fiction charity publication, written by Patrick Fox and compiled by the Excalibur Crew.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Fukushima Residents File Lawsuits Against Japan's Government

Last week, it was reported in the Japan Times that Tohoku residents made homeless by the nuclear meltdown of 3/11/2011 are filing group damages suits against TEPCO and the Japanese government.

The group will consist of families living in  Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata, Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures, and the suits will be filed through with the Fukushima District Court. Masatada Akimoto, representative of the group of attorneys, said the residents will seek ¥50,000 for each plaintiff for every month they have been displaced, and will also  demand that radiation levels in their hometowns be reduced to their precrisis levels. The number of plaintiffs is expected to be around 350 at the moment, but that number will rise. 
“The government promoted nuclear power plants prioritizing the economy over safety. . . . We believe it is time to demand that Tepco and the government take responsibility (for the nuclear disaster),” Akimoto told The Japan Times.
“People who evacuated from Fukushima still have no idea about their future. Their frustration has surpassed the breaking point,” he said.
According to Akimoto, Tepco has yet to reach damages settlements with many people who fled from areas of Fukushima that were not designated for evacuation.
“As people begin to realize that Tepco is not willing to do anything (for them), some people have started to think that they need to stand up and do something about it rather than just wait,” Akimoto said.
This reflects the growing movement for the Tohoku region to turn away from the central Tokyo administration, and towards  self-responsibilty, self-government, and devolution. It's also part of a general, worldwide movement, with areas such as Venice, Catalonia, Texas, and Scotland calling for independence, realizing that so-called globalization has turned out to be a fraud. At the same time, the prospect of the United Kingdom leaving the EU seems to be more than a fantasy. 
In "3/11:The Fallout", Patrick Fox attempts to explain why this is happening now, and what are the global implications of the 3/11/2011 event. We have just seen, over the last couple of days, people injured and gas supplies cut off because of the meteor strike in central Russia. "Black Swan Events" such as these (incidents that cannot be reasonably predicted) have the power to bring any major city to a sudden and unexpected halt.  

In addition, we live in an age where disruptions caused by freak weather conditions are occurring more and more often. Tokyo was paralyzed in mid-January by an extremely heavy snowfall, and fairly soon it will be hurricane and typhoon season. 

Finally, there is Peak Oil to consider. The accelerating depletion of fossil fuel reserves means that blackouts and brownouts will increase - I quote here from a press release given out by Marcus Tremain, financial consultant ...

The first thing we should be seeing is an increasing trend of blackouts and power shortages. While in India rolling blackouts & load shedding are already a constant feature, it is interesting to note that at the end of July 2012 700 million in India were without power for two days, as the electric grid of more than a dozen states suffered an epic collapse. Also whilst it is fairly well known that China has had to endure power shortages every summer for the past decade, it’s when we focus on the world’s largest and most developed economy over the same decade that things start to get interesting ... the US grid appears to be becoming more and more vulnerable as time goes on. For example on the 13th March 2012 (pictured above) a large part of central Boston went dark because of a transformer explosion. The response was to roll in diesel generators to provide emergency power. 

What does the world look like without electricity? For more questions and possible answers, "3/11: The Fallout" can be found here. 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Tokyo Doesn't Love Us Anymore

ABOVE: The defunct Maiya department store (left) and Rikuzentakata's former City Hall next door.

On February 8th, the Mayor of Rikuzentaka city in Iwate prefecture, Mr. Futoshi Toba, made a scathing indictment of Japan's useless politicians. Speaking to the Japan Times, he said: "Looking back, the LDP and DPJ spent almost two years either engaged in political power struggles and an election - and nothing moved forward. It is absolutely ridiculous that the disaster area was affected by politicians playing their own game of musical chairs."
He cited the examples of Tokyo disallowing the construction of a supermarket, because the land was registered as farmland. Also, the town requested gasoline to help with search efforts back in 2011, but when SDF troops brought the supplies they were not allowed to distribute them because they were 'ministry property' and needed licensed vendors.
"The vertically divided bureaucracy got in the way," said Toba. "I feel that the officials lacked the normal emotions of a human being. People without a human heart should not become involved in politics or become bureaucrats to govern the state."
Rikuzentakata lost 1,735 people on March 11th - 7% of its population. Toba's own wife was one of the deceased. Today, a large part of the city is still flat, barren land waiting to be redeveloped.

On April 18th 2011, Patrick Fox reported this news item in his blog, Not Fox News.

APR 28th                            THE DIRTIEST BUSINESS
            Katsunobu Sakurai is the Mayor of Minami-soma city in Fukushima prefecture, one of the cities damaged by both the earthquake and radiation contamination from the Daiichi reactor. At the end of March, he released a video criticizing the Japanese government and appealed to the world for help. The video went viral thanks to Youtube and he has already been declared one of 2011's most influential people by Time magazine.
            On the 25th of April, Sakurai held a press conference to call for an international forum, in Minami-soma, to discuss and develop renewable energy sources and how to cope with the threat of nuclear disaster. In his speech, he pointed out the need for foreign governments, companies and individuals to get directly involved with Japan in general and Fukushima in particular. The country will not be able to cope on its own.
            "I want my city to become the global center of industries that will transcend nuclear power generation", he said.
By giving this speech, he's made Minami-soma the world's first Post-Apocalyptic City.
The next day marked 25 years since the nuclear accident at Chernobyl.

Looking back, this sounds pretty ironic, but sadly predictable, doesn't it?

In December 14th 2012 when the election fever was at its height, the candidates paid lip service to the reconstruction of Tohoku, but the local residents have been arguing ever since that this has not translated into action. In Sendai, the construction of new homes is still in the planning stages, and local municipalities claim it will take "a few years" before the 3,000 displaced families can move into new residences. Over the last year, people living in the affected areas have consistently complained about the slow progress made in repairing key infrastructure such as roads, port facilities and breakwaters. Emi Suda, a 51-year-old oyster farmer, summed up the local attitude in the Japan Times, Dec 14th; "Politicians engaged in power games are paying no attention to disaster victims. I want them to come to the affected areas, see the reality and hold talks. If they observe what's happening here with their own eyes, they won't waste their time jockeying for power."

The politicians, of course, have no intention of taking Ms. Suda up on her offer. 

These days, the politicians are not happy just playing power games, of course; they've got a taste for war games. Following the exchange of hostile words over ownership of the Senkaku Islands, Chinese warships locked their weapons fire-control radar onto a Japanese SDF destroyer and helicopter when they got too close, at the end of January. Also, on February 7th two Soviet jet fighters made an incursion of airspace over Hokkaido, near a group of islands that are another bone of contention - this time between Japan and Russia.

The opinion of foreign residents of Japan, whom I have spoken to, is sheer disbelief. Why, they say, can't Japan remain friends with its neighbors in Asia? Why, if Japan's economy is in a state of permanent decline, can't they attract visitors and investment from Korea and China, instead of antagonizing them?

The answer, I suspect, is that the Nationalists seized their chance at the Dec 2012 election, and are busy consolidating their power. They would do anything rather than accept help from 'dirty Asians'; they would do anything. Even destroy their own country. Rather than inviting immigrants here to revitalize the countryside and the depressed urban areas, they will revise the history textbooks, conceal the truth about the Japanese atrocities committed in World War II, and brainwash a new generation into being good little Nihonjin who obey their senpai and don't ask questions. In the two moths he has been in power, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed an interest in revising the official apologies on wartime aggression (made in 1995) and government-sponsored sex-slavery (made in 1993). As the nation grows older and the economy shrinks, Japan will turn its back on the rest of the world, and the old guard of fascists will remain in power forever.

What can we do to stop it? Quite a lot, actually. Ignore the scum that floats at the top of the national government, just as they are ignoring us.

Take responsibility for our own lives, our own communities. To the people of Tohoku: Tokyo is not going to help you. It's time to cut your ties, tell the bureaucrats to f#$% off, reach out to your non-Japanese allies, and fend for yourselves. To all non-Japanese residents of Japan; it's time to stop tolerating this evil, and start becoming full-time trouble-makers.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

"Oni wa soto, Fuku ga uchi"

Welcome to Japan on Feb 3rd, known here as Setsubun - not a national holiday, not a festival, but a kind of good-luck ceremony performed at home. The incantation above means "Devils get out, good luck come in".

Well, we need as much good luck as we can get, and there are an awful lot of devils to kick out. So let's start the ass-kicking with this report on Japan's so-called nuclear future.

Active fault to close down Tsuruga nuclear plant

The confirmation of an active fault, along with the dilapidated condition of Japan's 56 nuclear reactors, means that even if the Abe government can get Japan's population on his side, the logistics might be too much to handle.

In the quake-stricken areas, Tohoku are trying their best to rebuild, and assert their independence from the corrupt bureaucrats of Tokyo ...

Tohoku's tourism at 80% level

And finally, a story that shows that Japan's puerile, cuteness-obsessed entertainment world has finally gone too far.

Was AKB48 member forced to shave her head as an 'apology'?