Japanese Media One Year Ago

At this time last year I was in Japan, just three months after the big earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima meltdown.  I just found these notes that I wrote about the country’s situation, media and state of mind during my visit:

Things in Nagoya seem pretty normal, much more normal than I would’ve expected from a country that just went through what they did.  The only reminders I have seen of the disaster are the occasional store that sells a product to donate the proceeds and the ways that the country is trying to conserve electricity. After the Fukushima disaster, the local power plant was shut down in fear of aftershocks or another big earthquake. The country is now trying to use less electricity.  Many hand driers in public restrooms are turned off, some streets are only using every other street lamp and the temperature in many public buildings is now set to about 77 degrees.  It’s humid as hell outside and it’s not much better indoors, especially underground.   Businessmen are currently allowed to skip wearing their jackets and ties for a cooler “business casual” look.

As for the Japanese media (television, radio, print), I am not exactly sure what information is given because it is all in Japanese.  But from seeing pictures they do seem to have taken quite an interest in the whole Anthony Wiener drama.  They must think so highly of us classy Americans.

To get my news information, I have mostly been checking BBC.com and nytimes.com.  From there I learned about how the radiation levels may be much higher than the Japanese government originally reported.  I read that Shizuoka, which is only about an hour north of where I am in Nagoya, has stopped exporting its green tea because higher levels of radiation were found in it.  This is also how I found out about the thousands of people who protested in Tokyo last week.

What I find interesting is that when my friend (an English teacher) brought up these issues as a discussion in her adult class on the day of the protest, nobody even knew about it.  They were shocked to be told what was taking place just three hours away.  My friend said it stunned them to hear that their people were protesting.  Protesting is something that is almost unheard of in Japan, as people here are extremely obedient and peaceful.  I can believe this due to the fact that I have witnessed that these people don’t even jaywalk or lock up their bicycles on the streets, even in a big city like Tokyo.  They cross streets when they are told to by a crossing guard and the country has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.   The class didn’t even understand what the word “protest” meant at first.  My friend had to pull up pictures on her laptop to give them a visual and explain.

What shocked me is that while a huge protest had just taken place, none of the ten people in the class knew about it.  In America, that would be breaking news.  This leads me to believe that there is a lot that the Japanese government is hiding, or at least downplaying, to avoid panic. For a country that is facing such major issues, the people are eerily calm.  You would never guess that a tragedy to that magnitude just took places three months ago here.

Other countries, particularly China and European ones, are talking a lot about how the Japanese government is not doing enough testing for radiation levels.  It almost seems like Japan is trying to avoid the problem because they know that the results are not pretty. I have read that the media has been told to avoid using the word “meltdown.”  The Japanese people seem the most in the dark and I wish they would read more news from sources in countries other than Japan.   I don’t exactly know what kind of censorship regulations Japan uses, but I do know this isn’t China.  Find a way to get the information translated, people!

Since that day of the protests, my friend’s class has been asking her for new information about what America is reporting.  I sense a growing distrust of their country’s media, and these people need to demand more radiation tests and answers.  Their health depends on it. I think the protest in Tokyo was a step in the right direction, and hopefully Japan gets it together soon.

Here are a few other articles which relate to mine that I found interesting:

http://trumanfactor.com/2011/japanese-media-and-the-aftermath-of-fukushima/

http://www.spiral16.com/blog/2011/08/smart-social-media-monitoring-or-government-censorship/

http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/did-the-japanese-government-censor-twitter-during-nuclear-plant-meltdown_b12115

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2 thoughts on “Japanese Media One Year Ago

  1. flyingcuttlefish says:

    I check 2 sources for Japanese news on the nuclear disaster (translated into English)
    One is EX-SKF and the other is Fukushima Diary.
    They are both very good.

    http://fukushima-diary.com/
    http://ex-skf.blogspot.com/

  2. sungypsy says:

    Thanks for the comment on my blog. Yes the media here generally dances to the tune of the government and business. Having said that the current government is not as enthralled of business as the LDP and the media have been quite vitriolic in it’s condemnations of anyone involved in the causes and clean-ups of the nuclear crisis, especially of the hapless former Premier, Naoto Kan. (Can vitriolic be modified and reduced thus? I don’t know but it does suit quiet, petty yet relentless sniping of the attacks made by anyone with the public’s ear in the Japan)
    There was a big protest last night against the reactivation of the Oi nuclear plant. Organisers say 200,000 people turned up, I would need to find the official figures and find some realistic level between them as the police lie to reduce the significance and the protesters lie to increase it. Something that big will have to be reported though but just as the media is changing tune recently re. the benefits of nuclear power instead of its horrors as endlessly reported before, the heroic protesters are similarly being marginalised and othered to make their issues and agendas more untrustworthy. I interviewed a lot of people yesterday and have been following this story for a while now. I do feel that despite the media attempts and controlling opinion the issues is just too visceral for most Japanese, many will change their outrage to pragmatic acceptance as they being informed they should but enough, particularly many young people, see the manipulation and have been energised by the anger they feel and the channel of protest that was briefly opened to them and will not, I hope, give up ideals they found they could really feel strongly about.
    Many massive changes in the working of the Japanese society and politics have their routes in environmental protest movements. The power such protests have had here in Japan has been compared to the Civil Right movement in the US. These are interesting times and the future is more unpredictable than at any time, at least potentially, I’m going to keep following this story.
    Many Thanks Damon

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