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2011年4月20日 (水)

Translation- email from my friend in Tokyo

My wife translated the email from my friend in Tokyo (on my previous entry), after she read it through, cried over it and felt that she wanted to share this message with her family and friends in New Zealand.

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Translation of the main part of an email from Toshi’s friend in Tokyo, Japan

 

When you come back to Japan, it might be a different country. That is the mood at the moment.

 

How is the media reporting it over there? I hear that it’s a bit like Chinese whispers – that there are so many different reports – different things in different countries.

 

What is going to happen to Japan?

It’s like a story from a cartoon has come true, and everyone is worried and depressed.

The hearts of the Japanese people are in ruins.

 

It’s been one month since the disaster and there are no signs of the situation getting any better. One month after the Hanshin (Kobe) earthquake, there were substantial plans for recovery in place, but this time the extent of the damage just doesn’t even compare, and there is no sign of recovery in sight.

 

There are so many people still wandering around endlessly, digging and searching for their family members in towns that are just hellish - just mountains of rubble. Everyone is searching for the bodies of their family members. They know there is no hope now, but they say that they at least want to make them look nice before they say goodbye. And it goes on, day after day. All of Japan cries for these people, and there is a feeling of helplessness, but Japan has become ‘one’ with the feeling of “we need to do what we can for the disaster area”.


This disaster is so different to the Hanshin Earthquake. With the Hanshin and Niigata earthquakes, houses simply came down in the quake. So if you dug in the same place, you would find bodies and possessions. But this time they lost everything in the tsunami – it was mixed around, washed away, crushed – villages and towns are just no longer there. So many thousands of people simply haven’t got a clue where their loved one’s bodies are or where their beloved possessions might be. That’s what is making the recovery effort so slow.

The aftershocks just don’t stop. Even one month after the disaster, earthquakes of intensity 4, 5, or 6 are part of daily life, and it seems like the warnings are constant. Every time the sirens go off I grab my bag, ready to run, just out of habit now. And in North-Eastern Japan where the disaster area is, quakes of intensity 5 or 6 are frequent, so the recovery effort hardly moves forward. In Tokyo there are lots of quakes of intensity 3 or 4. In the month since the disaster, there have been about 400 aftershocks, and this seems to be very out of the ordinary. They say we should be prepared for it to go on for years.


In terms of the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant situation, no-one knows what will happen, and even now there is some radiation being leaked out. Naturally the fishing and agriculture industries have been affected, and that’s on top of the devastating effect of the tsunami for industries in North-Eastern Japan. Makeshift measures are continuing in an extremely tricky situation – one wrong move and Japan is finished. I’m not exaggerating.


Everyone in Japan is angry at TEPCO and the government. Up until now they’ve said that nuclear power is ‘Safe. It’s safe’, but it’s not perfect, and if anyone says anything you just get a response like ‘it was a totally unexpected tsunami’, but everyone - me included – thinks that we should bring an end to nuclear power. But I know that even if we want to get rid of it, we still need it to meet electricity demand.


With the devastating effect on factories and industries in North-Eastern Japan, distribution chains all over Japan have been affected – basically there is a shortage of everything. There is a shortage of cars, TVs, food items, ink for magazines – everything. It’s like spending in Japan has slowed to a halt. And that means that the economy is slowing even more. If there are announcements that radiation might be affecting tap water, then everyone stocks up on [bottled] mineral water, and then it is not available anywhere.


But the thing that is angering people in Japan the most is that in terms of all the things I have mentioned above, the government is not working efficiently on any of them. Having a Democratic Party Government is just the same as having none at all. The government in this country is rubbish. Instead, citizens’ organizations and volunteers are working hard - throwing themselves at the disaster to help the victims.

 

We would be able to help the victims effectively if the government would put systems in place to provide effective leadership for recovery, but they don’t, so we can’t help them properly. Help came straight way from people in Hyogo and Niigata because they wanted to give something back in exchange for the help they received in their time of need [in the Kobe and Niigata earthquakes].


I realise that help and support is coming from all over the world, but forgetting that for a moment, Japan has banded together. Everyone is thinking about what they can do to help. Barbers in the Kanto and Kansai regions have been going to evacuation centres and giving free haircuts, and bicycle shops have been repairing tyres…everyone just wants to help the people of North-Eastern Japan because we are all in this together. Every day in the newspaper there are ads from people offering their houses as places to take refuge. There have been huge donations made – like Masayoshi Son from Softbank gave 10 billion yen [about NZD150 million]. I gave 15000 yen – not much comparatively.


So basically:

  • There are no clear prospects in terms of the nuclear situation, and no sign that the radiation is going to stop.
  • The government is not helping. They are tedious and fluffing around. There is no leadership in terms of recovery.
  • Distribution of goods is something that is affecting the whole of Japan. And as a result the economy is slowing down.
  • Big aftershocks are still continuing – there’s no respite. They say we could still get another big one.
  • In terms of looking after the victims and rebuilding their lives, we are not making much progress because of the government’s incompetence and the fact that it is such a huge disaster.
  • Power shortages are serious, and the economy is slowing since factories can’t operate. There are regular power outages planned for summer in the whole of Eastern Japan.

 

So that’s how it is – it is more than just a disaster – Japan is standing at a turning point between life and death. At the same time, Japanese people are rethinking their pleasure-seeking lifestyles that they’ve previously had. Basically, because we have used electricity willy-nilly as though we had an infinite supply, nuclear power has become necessary, causing the current situation. I at least think that. The view at the moment is that we should scale down the Japanese lifestyle – give up luxuries and stop wasting resources. The electricity shortage is going to continue for years to come, so we have to reduce our impact and reduce the size of industry to be in line with that.


In so many ways Japanese are rethinking things. I never thought that in my lifetime we would get into a situation like this. My philosophy on life has totally changed.

So yeah, when you come to Japan next, it might be a different country.

 

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