Saturday, April 9, 2011

Doubts and Damages

The article, “Question Tomodachi’s True Value” appeared on page 3 of the April 7th Asahi newspaper. According to the paper, the Japanese government officials are extremely dissatisfied with the way the U.S. handled in the face of the disaster. Tomodachi means friends, and the name of a new U.S. army operation for the earthquake. I expected such article eventually, but I was surprised to see it already.

The body of the article is as follows including my interpretation:

The U.S. changed her stance from waiting for Japan to come forward for help to pushing her way in. The U.S. was getting frustrated with the Japanese government and being doubtful because Japan was not accepting the U.S. offer of support.

The above issue happened in Kobe earthquake, so the old issue was a matter of time to come up. In fact, I was discussing about it with a Red Roomer through email at the beginning of the event.

The article said the U.S. went on her way without consulting with Japan.

My interpretation of the next paragraph: If the U.S. were truly a friend of Japan, President Obama would have consulted with PM Kan before going out blasting his heroic 80 km zone requirement and providing chartered jets for 9000 Americans to go home.

Japanese officials’ complaints were,

“The U.S. should have consulted with Japan beforehand.”

“They probably think Japan as an underdeveloped nation.”

There was also tension between the two countries about America’s offer of robot to work in the radioactive environment in the nuclear plant.

I don’t know what happened, but the robot idea sounds super great. Why-don’t-you-accept-it probably came first rather than thinking of other’s situation.

Then, the U.S. pressed Japan asking if Japan had a strategy, and whether Japan had preparation for crisis.

This is my opinion. I think those questions are out of place and occasion. It was during the national crisis. Asking such questions to the head of Japan does not show good spirit of support. That is not a manifestation of good global teamwork. If the nuclear power plant 60 km away from Manhattan was hit by 9.0 earthquake and tsunami and lost all the powers including emergency diesel power, what does President Obama would do? I wonder how he feels if PM Kan asks, “Do you have a strategy? Are you prepared for this?”

Some Japanese official made comment on this issue. “This is because we have differences in making decisions. The American way is top-down approach, but Japanese way is bottom up.” He insinuated the difference in culture.

Yes, I agree that there are differences in cultures and languages. But, this is more about President Obama’s personality than the American way, and also I believe President Obama was not well informed. I had worked with such a personality once facing a systems disaster. That engineer was frustrated because I moved in a snail pace. When I looked back on that crisis, he did what he did because he didn’t have all the information. And at the time, I had no capacity to explain well while thinking of a solution.

The negative consequences of President Obama’s sweeping actions shot and spread more fear to the international communities and also Japanese citizens. Damages have already made. Farmers had thrown away their vegetables even though their products passed the requirement. Fear and tainted reputation climbed overnight supported by inadequate, erroneous, and sensational foreign news.

30 or so foreign consulates including Nepal moved their offices out of Tokyo. It is interesting to note that Japanese announcers keep including Nepal in this picture because Nepal is the only Asian country joined in this move.

In the meantime, the government is expanding radiation monitoring spots and finding some of the spots still emit similar high level while other places, lower. The day before yesterday, 7.1 aftershock hit off the coast of Miyagi, and Tepco’s other nuclear plant, Onagawa lost some power…

I wanted to change my mood. I didn’t need to, but I went to have my hair cut yesterday. I always look forward to see my hairstylist and chat. The last time I saw her was right before the earthquake. We said hello and chatted how horrible the earthquake was, then I said,

“How’s your son?” Her son is very active seven-year old. I met him once.

“Oh, he hasn’t been with me,” the hairstylist said through her mask. She is my daughter’s age and married to an American. She is beautiful and has very warm personality. She is from the northeast.

“Oh, what happened to him?”

“He is in the U.S. with my husband because of radiation.”

“Oh, I see. But the radiation in Yokohama is low. Do you know it’s lower than the U.S.?”

“No. Really?”

“It”s 0.04, and the average natural radiation in the U.S. is 0.4. It’s on newspapers daily. And the faucet water in Yokohama has been at the safe level even when we had rain.”

It’s apparent that they haven’t been reading Japanese newspapers. Or maybe, her husband wanted to take advantage of the charter jet to visit his family in the U.S. If the husband thought the situation truly dire, he would have taken his wife with him. About her mask, she and some others wear because of pollen allergy. Right now is the worst time of year. I wear sometimes to keep me warm from very cold winds.

This morning, it started to rain. I filled my plastic containers with water just in case.
Then I read Asahi morning news. On page 5, it reported that President Obama’s call for the 80 km radius evacuation was based on a fictitious scenario, not scientific data. It said that Randy Sullivan of NRC explained, ‘It’s better than not making a decision.”


kristieinbc said...

I found your blog just before the earthquake happened. (I think I found it while looking up information about writing.) It has been so interesting reading your posts from Japan.

I hope Japan is able to move past this horrific time and rebuild. Of course, for the people who have lost loved ones there is no way to recover what they have lost.

It must be very interesting being there now and seeing things through "both sets of eyes" - Japanese and American. Thank you for your interesting posts.

keiko amano said...

Hello kristieinbc,

One of my joy blogging is to see green colors on my stats. The world map in the stats changes from white to light green and then dark green. When Canada becomes green, it makes me happy. I think even one person accesses it, it becomes green, I think.

Thank you for finding my blog and taking time to write your comment.

About the survivors of the disaster, all the prefectures of Japan have already received them. Niigata prefecture received the most, over 8000 people, my prefecture, 945, and Okinawa 887. It's slowly but some prefabricated houses have just finished and a small number of people have moved in. My heart is with them, and I think they brought us together even the people outside Japan like you. I appreciate your words.

I took a look at your profile and found that I share all your interests except knitting. I do crochet, but I was never good at knitting.

kristieinbc said...

I know what you mean about seeing where people are from who read our blogs. I love seeing new flags show up on my side bar. If you crochet have you discovered Ravelry? It is a social site for knitters and crocheters. I will continue to follow your blog and the story out of Japan closely.

keiko amano said...


I started to crochet a flower vase mat when I was eleven or twelve. I did on and off, but I haven't crocheted for a long time now. I made many simple blankets.

keiko amano said...

I received this email from a friend of mine.

Ah, Keiko,
Just read your piece about US action and Japan's resentments.
I really think it is amazing when the world powers get along at all !
And yes, the robots inside the Fukushima buildings sounded great to me too.

Earlier today I saw a collection of news photos--hundreds of them
It was so good to see pictures of children playing and with their pet dogs.
I saw the little prefab houses that are already being occupied.
So many photos showed organization amid the chaos.
It was refreshing. But O what a task ahead !

My thoughts are with you.


keiko amano said...


At the time of calamity, I want people, the world to come together, dropping politics and other self interest and help each other. We also have a similar problem inside the government. It's really sad. Japan wasn't like this before.

There are plans to build more fabricated houses, but they can't find appropriate lands. The government require them to be at certain height, and the land owners cannot be found.

keiko amano said...

I mean prefabricated houses.