From what I have seen, I recommend the Flyjin blog for some interesting posts about what has been going on in Tokyo. Today, there is one (see the previous link), talking about how effective the Japan national broadcaster, NHK (Nihon Housou Kyoukai if you happened to lived down the road from it), has been in trying to get out a news report without what others have been calling “sensationalizing” the triple crisis in Japan.
This explains a lot to me about why so many expats online, who haven’t left Japan, seem to have this attitude about other people, well, making a big thing about the, well, big things that are going on in that country.
It never occurs to them that possibly the NHK is playing down certain bad things. They are doing this because they are trying to report fact. I am not a facts-relativist. I am not one of these people who goes around saying, “IT’S ALL RELATIVE!” because I remember too many whiney lefties–usually woman but sometimes men—who liked to shut down discussions at Penn and Temple with that sort of thing. (This was when Deconstructionism was the intellectual fad, by the way.)
So, yes, there are facts that actually exist. A facts-absolutism, as it were. I suppose in a crisis situation, you need someone out there delivering this to you. Especially, when normal times usually mean that the facts are not being delivered. I don’t particularly remember NHK being that strong on supplying facts as a steady diet, in my time there.
How about this, though? Even when the public in Japan is getting the facts, it doesn’t really mean that everyone will come to the same opinion as to what those facts mean. We here in America have been getting the real-time facts, too. What they say, is that Fukushima reactor is still this hugely problematic thing, that some people have concluded has either partially melted down, or is occasionally experiencing a melt down.
So it’s not necessarily Chernobyl, which simply blew up. It’s not TMI, where it looked like it could blow up and not just do a partial. Fukushima is its own category, where for weeks and weeks it sits there and threatens. Everyone has to figure out whether it’s worth being extremely worried over it or no.
Japanese engineers are very good, and I am sure they are working on the problem. Most people have concluded that this is a policy failing, where the all-powerful Japanese Ministries allowed a 40-year-old reactor to keep going, even though it was in a bad location and really, they should have phased the thing out.
If people want to focus on numbers and measurements, if it makes them feel scientific—I know the metric system alone does that for me as an American–then I suppose its a good thing. However, I think people from all around are going to come to their own opinions. If they happen to think that the situation is not so good, I don’t see where they’re bad people for putting a bad spin on it. “Someday it will stop spewing harmful radiation” is not very comforting. Remember, the expat community knows that if you try to buy a 7-11 (Lawson, etc.) bentou at 2:05 am, and the label said 2:00 as the expiry time, the convenience store won’t sell it to you. The cash register beeps and you just have to hope it wasn’t the last one on the shelf.
So that kind of country goes from having everything shrink-wrapped to one where they seem to be saying, what’s a little shaking and radiation?