One Year after the Disaster

While eating my breakfast, I watch the morning drama on NHK BS Premium from 7:30. I take a good look at the newspaper as well. Then from 7:45, after the drama has finished, I enjoy a program on local communities called Satoyama. It's a very heartwarming program that brings back memories of my own local hometown.

This program also makes me feel sorrowful, though, when I think of the people of Fukushima Prefecture who have been driven from their homes and communities. I can't help but feel sorry for the hometowns themselves, too. I am full of gratitude to the NHK broadcasting team for continuing to air this program almost every morning over the past year.

One year has passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear power station catastrophe. Nevertheless, looking at the tardy response and failure to get the disaster area firmly back onto a track of recovery and reconstruction, I feel incensed that Japan has become such an irresponsible country. When the disaster occurred, I thought the government should declare a supra-legal state of emergency and act swiftly in response?especially since the nuclear power station accidents had created such an extremely dangerous situation. Apparently, however, there was no law in Japan for issuing a state of emergency declaration.

Just before the disaster in Japan, a massive earthquake occurred in New Zealand, and there a state of emergency was declared immediately. When I see how much they have achieved in reconstruction, I can't help wondering what the Japanese government thinks about human life. It makes me feel so angry. The government just observes and thinks about the disaster from its cozy offices in Tokyo as if it were another world entirely.

At the time of the disaster, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan put on a show of concern by going up in a helicopter and observing the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station from a distance, but even a year later, under a new prime minister, the problem basically has not changed at all. The irresponsibility simply amazes me. What is the cause? I think the government's new Reconstruction Agency is symbolic of the problem in that it straddles 5 ministries and 40 projects and is nothing more than a battleground of separate interests. Coupled with the government's lack of timely policies, the cause of the delay in reconstruction is this bureaucratic sectionalism.

On the occasion of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995, then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama declared a policy of "Anyway, we must save lives" and dispatched Minister Sadatoshi Ozato to the scene. Murayama remained on alert at the prime minister's office around the clock and responded speedily to the situation. Partly as a result, recovery and reconstruction proceeded smoothly. With that example in mind, everyone thought that a similar response would be made following the Great East Japan Earthquake. I read in the newspaper that the scale is different this time, but it is not a question of scale. It is a question of principles and attitudes. The government's unprincipled and bungling initial response created the confusion that followed and continues even today.

The present administration declared that the nuclear power station disaster had stabilized, but the Japanese people must have wondered what on earth it was talking about. Powerfully and at top speed, the government should grasp a full picture of the disaster and execute a reconstruction plan that penetrates through to the very essence of the problem.

The other day I was riding in a taxi, and it turned out that the driver was from Fukushima and had been driven away from his home by the nuclear disaster. "Elderly people living in temporary housing are becoming depressed, and there have even been some deaths," he said. "If people had even a tiny bit of space, they could grow flowers and vegetables there. It would give them something to do." He also remarked bitterly, "And all this talk about protecting personal information, it's so irritating. When I heard that a family member or relative was in hospital, I telephoned to see how they were, but the hospital staff said they couldn't tell me because it was personal information and hang up. At times like these, they should show a little more consideration."