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.