Tag Archives: Tokyo Electric Power Company
Tomorrow sees the European release of one of the most magical devices ever conceived: the Sony PlayStation Vita (‘PS Vita’), the successor to an item – the PlayStation Portable (‘PSP’) – which was in itself something that an historical eye-blink ago would have been perceived as something out of science fiction. And we are not applying the epithet ‘magical’ liberally: while the PSP essentially comprises a handheld PlayStation 2, MP3 player, cinema system and (in the right, slightly offbeat hands) a hardware set capable of running sophisticated office applications, the PS Vita is a portable Playstation 3 vaunting a qHD screen, a sensational rear touchpad, augmented reality capabilities and (optional) 3G connectivity. In summa: there might be nothing that this machine can’t do.
Yet we at Mediolana are, to utilise what seems to be a vaguely fashionable Americanism, conflicted, our excitement about the PS Vita overshadowed by the realisation that it represents something intensely sobering: if not the last great Japanese electronics device, then perhaps the last great pre-Fukushima manifestation of Tokyo-based ingenuity.
As regular readers of this blog will know from our 18th December 2011 post FC Barcelona in Post-Fukushima Tokyo: The Fallout Begins, we at Mediolana share the concerns of many, both in the international community and within Japan, that the response of the Japanese government to the catastrophe of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has been largely inadequate, and that the problems surrounding the multiple meltdowns are far worse than most in officialdom can bear to countenance.
However, a recent article from the Japan Times has forced us to reevaluate our perspective. On 20th February 2012, it was reported that the Deutsche Schule Tokyo Yokohama, a 1904 establishment that serves as an educational hub for German speakers resident in Japan’s largest conurbation, has been forced to seek financial aid from Berlin because, in the wake of the nuclear crisis, enrolments at the institution have collapsed. Many of those whose families left the school did so on advice from the Deutsche Botschaft Tokyo: Germany’s Japanese embassy.
In the content of Sony’s monumental US$2bn losses for Q4 2011 – a shortfall that was mirrored by other Japanese companies, such as Sharp – the recognition by many Germans who remained in Japan after 3rd March 2011 that the attractions of the world’s third largest economy are fading fast post-Fukushima is an ominous sign for the medium-term future of what was for decades Asia’s paradigm nation. It is now even more imperative for the Japanese administration to act – with transparency and fortitude – to decontaminate Japan and guide it through to a post-nuclear future. Otherwise, the price that will be paid is clear: the history books will record 2011 as the year in which modern Japan – which is generally agreed to have its genesis in the 1868 Meiji Restoration - ceased to exist.
This blog has made no secret of its opinion on the desirability and feasibility of nuclear power generation in Japan following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, a natural disaster that spawned the nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant in the now-evacuated town of Ōkuma. But recent developments have, if anything, strengthened our perspective that a country which was until recently identified most strongly with ancient martial arts, über-cute animated characters and seas of neon is now in real danger of ceasing to function as a normal entity: high radiation readings in Tokyo-Yokohama are being recorded at hotspots on pavements, atop apartment blocks and in soil, with alarmingly excessive levels of elements such as Caesium and Strontium 90 in evidence.
The implications of this are profoundly troubling. Greater Tokyo is the world’s largest metropolitan region by population and the economic, political and cultural capital of Japan: with approximately 35.6 million people within its borders, it is almost unthinkable that it could be so contaminated as to be uninhabitable. But as the months go by and it becomes more and more undeniable that the fallout from Fukushima did not contain itself to the environs of the prefecture of the same name, the very viability of Tokyo in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster that even the Japanese government’s own Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency admits released an amount of Caesium equivalent to 168 times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb looks to be increasingly questioned.
The Japanese administration has come under intense criticism for its handling of the Fukushima Dai-ichi crisis, but Mediolana believes that this maligning will pale into complete insignificance compared to the heat the government of Yoshihiko Noda – the new leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (‘DPJ’) and Prime Minister following the 26th August 2011 resignation of Naoto Kan – may face if it does not move decisively to draw up and implement a strong and credible post-Fukushima plan:
1. Transparency. The official Japanese government radiation measurements are not corresponding with those undertaken by private citizens using their own geiger counters. Sooner or later, the official readings risk losing all value in the eyes of the public; in order for the government to keep the trust of its people, it must adopt a policy of total transparency, even at the risk of short-term economic, political and social shocks.
2. Cleansing. The Noda administration should calculate the cost of a comprehensive clean-up of Greater Tokyo and other affected areas, and spare not a single yen in decontaminating these zones. The necessary expenditure is likely to be stratospherically high, but in terms of restoring confidence in Japan, this would appear to be the only realistic solution.
3. Imagination. To the current Japanese prime minister’s credit, he has affirmed his predecessor’s policy of a shift away from nuclear energy, with no new reactors to be built and existing ones slated for decommissioning; however, he has stressed the gradual nature of this process, which could take decades. Brand Japan does not have decades: it needs an ambitious but entirely doable deadline – such as that imposed by that unlikely visionary, Angela Merkel, for Germany – to phase out nuclear power within the next ten years or so, and to enlist the help of Japan’s numerous renewable energy behemoths, such as Sharp and Kyocera, to lead the charge in meeting it.