I really I wish I had just 1 Yen for every column inch that has been written or is going to be written about the ‘mega-disaster’ that hit Japan a year ago today.
If I had another Yen for every self-serving ounce of hyperbole ……well let’s just say I wouldn’t be eating radioactive vegetables for dinner tonight.
The farce that has unfolded in Japanese politics and society since that horrible day that took so many lives in its wall of water and the irresponsible, downright criminal lies and incompetency that surrounds the handling of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear “incident” over the past year are so unbelievable that to begin to enumerate them seems an impossible task.
A year later the devastation to Tohoku and the continuing international fear over the global effects of the ‘World’s worst industrial disaster’ (as if not calling it a nuclear disaster somehow lessens its impact) ensure that “Fukushima” will go down in history in whispered tones reserved only for that other expletive “Chernobyl”
And yet, what has really changed here in Tokyo?
The half-hearted so-called ‘sakura revolution’ which produced some of the biggest demonstrations Japan has seen since its Police beat the student protestors to a pulp in the 1960’s was neutered from the start by a culture that allowed the same Police, with their cuddly orange cartoon logo and condemned by Amnesty international detention practises, to break even 50 or 60,000 strong marches up into nice comfortable little pockets that wouldn’t affect the shopping habits of the 99.999% of Tokyo’s 13 million residents who were carrying on as usual.
The milk, vegetables and rice that were suddenly incredibly cheap and well within (swiftly recalibrated) radiation limits sat unpurchased except by the most hardcore of the 我々日本人 (we Japanese) brigade for a few short months only to fly off shelves once the latest bordering on child pornography AKB48 single had distracted the national attention away from the potentially generations long threat that was silently permeating every nook and cranny of their existence.
The loud, guilt inducing calls for energy-saving in the wake of almost all of Japan’s nuclear reactors being shut down have faded away to be replaced by the same 30ft video screens advertising the latest J-pop schmultz everywhere you turn and the huge department stores with their air conditioners running full blast but doors wide open just as they were before March last year.
The brief flirtation even ordinary Tokyoites had with not trusting every word that comes from the mouths of their politicians or TV news presenters has been forgotten too. In this week leading up to the anniversary, International media has been doing a passable if slightly sycophantic job of trying to unravel what exactly the effects have been on Japan whilst the biggest story in the Japanese media has been of escaped penguins.
The people of the Tohoku coast will be dealing with the devastation and after effects for generations to come.
The 20km exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi reactor complex will probably never be safely inhabitable again.
Children from areas nearby will tragically grow up with a far greater chance of developing various cancers and will no doubt be stigmatised in the same way the victims of the Minamata disaster were before them.
The reconstruction of the area by the incredibly selfless work of the numerous volunteer groups that have sprung up will take decades.
No one in those areas worst affected will be forgetting the disaster and the criminal incompetency of the authorities in the wake of it for a long time.
Yet here in Tokyo, the Japanese people had a brief window and more than 600 greater than M5 reminder aftershocks to shake themselves out of their comas and genuinely change aspects of their culture and society that desperately need to be jettisoned like the rotten old dead wood that they are. A chance to ensure that the institutionalised failures and lies that have allowed TEPCO and the government to pull the wool quietly but successfully back over the eyes of all but the most militant, and therefore destined never to be listened to members of the society, would never be allowed to happen again.
It was unfortunately a chance that they didn’t take, in Tokyo at least the 250km to Fukushima seems to be an awful lot further than it was a year ago when we were glued to our television screens trying our best to believe that the plumes of smoke billowing from the stricken reactors were as safe as the announcers were telling us they were.
That added sense of distance means once again that what is out of sight stays firmly and dogmatically out of mind.