Voices from Japan (VI): Taka

Shanghai/Tokyo -- A Japanese in his mid-twenties, Taka works in the international procurement of goods for cooperation projects. He was in Korea as Japan was undergoing the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in its history. Shortly after, he flew back to Tokyo, where he is currently based. He didn't experience any difficulty first-hand but has noticed fewer people around and a general feeling of worry.

His life hasn't undergone any major change since March 11th and in fact he is not considering to evacuate. He confirms that "even if influences of the quake have come around my areas, I would never evacuate from Japan, at least because I am a member of the Japanese society and I would be of no use to Japan if I were to evacuate the country."

In spite of his overall safety, he now believes that "we [the Japanese], who have been used to leading comfortable lives, especially for this past 10 years, are now tested to deal with difficulties without necessary goods and electricity. We are getting together to cope with them, by doing what one can."

He expects the disaster to bring about some 10.000 victims, 30,000 homeless, and more than 100.000 people injured (including those mentally injured) in the end. Yet, he personally feels "somehow safe now".
"In fact" - he explains - "I feel reassured and uncomfortable by the public information at the same time. On that point, I do not trust all the information provided by the authorities completely. I think the authorities inform us of the latest and exact information as soon as possible even in tremendously terrible situations. However, the primary role which the authorities have to play is to reassure the people and they are providing limited information for that purpose. Furthermore, the information is slanted to be conveyed by media and the exact damage cannot be grasped."

Japan's 1945 nuclear experiences seem to be haunting the country, he notices, "however I do not think many Japanese relate past experiences to the present situations too much. My viewpoint on the nuclear threat" - he adds - "is relatively positive. Media exaggerate the radiation effects. For example, radioactivity and radical rays are totally different. In the atmosphere, radical rays are exposed but not all rays are dangerous to people. Furthermore, the actual amount of radioactivity is low. It is true that the danger has occurred; nevertheless, it is very slight now. "

The real concern right now is the paucity of goods such as food, clothing, blankets and shelter are seriously needed in the areas directly affected by the disaster. "In the short term" - he explains - "the reconstruction of infrastructure and the distribution of goods for needy people are key challenges. In the long term, the rehabilitation of damaged people and supply of jobs to damaged people will especially be key challenges."

He is positive towards the approach by the society in handling this unprecedented challenge. "Japanese cultural characteristics, especially receptivity and patience toward external circumstances are contributing to coping with the severe situations", he argues.

In his opinion, national institutions are also doing their best to handle the challenges, even though sometimes internal communication isn't well coordinated."The authorities and the institution concerned, TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Company] in particular, are to blame to some extent" - he says - "they should have provided enough information about the possibilities of damages and measures to be taken in advance; I know it was very difficult, though. I do not believe that those problems could have been prevented in advance. Japan was prepared toward a disaster of this nature and scale to some extent in a physical sense; however, Japan was not prepared in a mental sense. Thus, it is very important to cope with and improve the situation not to let that scale of damage happen again."

"In many ways, the world is unstable from my standpoint", he concludes as he gets ready to fly to Nepal on yet another business trip. "I think the message behind is that the world is always changing and we do need knowledge and action to cope with the most complicated situations."