News updates and links April 30, 3011

“It goes without saying the primary responsibility lies with Tepco, but the government, which has been promoting nuclear power plants, cannot be exempt from responsibility,” Kan said.

The nuclear damage compensation law stipulates that operators will be exempt from payment if “the damage is caused by a grave natural disaster of an exceptional character or by an insurrection.”

Weather chief draws flak over plea not to relase radiation forecasts (April 30 – Kyodo) Excerpts retr. from Mainichi Online follow

The chief of the Meteorological Society of Japan has drawn flak from within the academic society over a request for member specialists to refrain from releasing forecasts on the spread of radioactive substances from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

In the request posted March 18 on the society’s website, Hiroshi Niino, professor at the University of Tokyo, said such forecasts, which he says carry some uncertainty, “could jumble up information about the government’s antidisaster countermeasures unnecessarily.”

“The basic principle behind antidisaster measures is to enable people to act on unified reliable information,” he said.

Niino later said in commenting on the intention he had in issuing the statement, “If (society members’) forecasts were announced, it would have carried the risk that ordinary people may panic.”

But Toshio Yamagata, another University of Tokyo professor who is a member of the society, said meteorological scientists have the responsibility to encourage the government to take the right course of action by announcing their forecasts “especially when a country is going through a critical situation.”

“Our society has degenerated into a bureaucratic entity,” he warned.

Niino released an additional statement that can be interpreted as self-defense on the website on April 11, entitled “a supplement to the (original) message.”

The NNSA hazard map released by the U.S. federal government. The Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is marked by a white dot at right.

The NNSA hazard map released by the U.S. federal government. The Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is marked by a white dot at right.

In this new statement, he said the principle of keeping information sources unified “should be applied when a country is going through a critical situation” and “should not be applied now that the release of radioactive substances has been prolonged.”

The controversy over Niino’s statements came to light when a series of delays in the release by the government of information related to the spread of radioactive substances have come under intense public scrutiny.

The outcry stemmed partly from revelations that the government has not released much of the data on radiation spread forecasts computed by its Nuclear Safety Technology Center’s computer system, called the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, known as SPEEDI.

The government’s Meteorological Agency itself has been under criticism for not releasing its forecasts on the dissemination of radioactive substances from the Fukushima plant even after it communicated the forecasts to the International Atomic Energy Agency.


Many leave Tokyo for disaster areas at start of Golden Week holidays (Apr 29 Kyodo)

Extra budget for rebuilding sent to the Diet | 25 governors hit Kan’s handling | Panel to probe nuke accident | Chugoku Electric’s next president supports nuclear plant construction | Mitsubishi Heavy to retain plan to double nuclear business by FY 2014 | 3 nuclear plants seek restart despite concerns (Asahi 04/30) | Chubu Electric eyes restarting Hamaoka nuke reactor in July |

Chubu seeks restart of ‘most dangerous’ nuke plant (Apr 30, 2011 Asahi)  Chubu Electric Power Co. has produced a controversial plan to restart a reactor at its Hamaoka nuclear power plant on the shores of the Pacific in Shizuoka Prefecture to help alleviate a possible summer power shortage, but it remains unclear whether that will ever happen.

Local governments and residents are fiercely opposed to restarting the No. 3 reactor of what is described as “the world’s most dangerous” nuclear power plant, which sits in the hypocenter of a long-predicted earthquake that could devastate the Tokai region.

Akihisa Mizuno, president of Chubu Electric, asked for the public’s understanding of the utility’s plan, citing a possible power shortage this summer if the region experiences record-breaking temperatures again.

“If we cannot get the Hamaoka plant back into full operation, it will become a lot harder for us to provide a stable supply of electricity,” Mizuno said on April 28.

Mizuno acknowledged rising public concern about the safety of reactors, but said, “We have sufficiently confirmed they are safe and will take emergency steps to be prepared for tsunami to further bolster the safety.”

Should a serious accident unfold at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Omaezaki in the prefecture, the implications would be far reaching, as the Tokaido Shinkansen Line and the Tomei Expressway–two key transportation arteries in Honshu–run within 20 kilometers of the plant.

Chubu Electric, which serves the Tokai region that includes Shizuoka, Aichi, Gifu, Nagano and Mie prefectures, on April 28 released its business forecast for the fiscal year ending March 2012. … more

The economy took a bigger hit from last month’s disaster than anticipated, with factory output falling the most since at least the end of Allied Occupation, underscoring calls for the Bank of Japan to add stimulus.

Factory output dropped a record 15.3 percent from February and household spending plunged 8.5 percent from a year earlier, government reports showed Thursday. Retail sales fell the most in 13 years, according to data released the previous day.

“I’m confident supply chains will recover earlier than we all expected” even though Thursday’s output number was “devastating,” economic and fiscal policy minister Kaoru Yosano told reporters in Tokyo.

Household spending, output and retail sales all slid by more than the median estimates in Bloomberg surveys of economists.

BOJ Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa and his board was to meet later Thursday to unveil details of its emergency lending program and revise its forecasts for growth and inflation.

Core consumer prices, which exclude fresh food and are the central bank’s preferred measure, fell 0.1 percent in March from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said Thursday, the smallest drop in two years.

Kan last week proposed a ¥4 trillion extra budget. Since the disaster, the BOJ has doubled the size of its asset-purchase fund, injected record amounts of cash into money markets and unveiled the one-year lending program.

A cross-party group of senior lawmakers said the government shouldn’t raise taxes to pay for rebuilding and called on the BOJ to buy more government debt instead. The central bank currently purchases ¥1.8 trillion in bonds every month and has rejected the idea of underwriting debt because the move could spur inflation. “Disruptions from supply chains and power shortages have been bigger than anticipated,” said Yuichi Kodama, an economist at Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co. “Given that, there’s high chance that the BOJ will lean toward an additional easing” this quarter, he said.

“Instability in the power supply has a direct impact on corporate production plans, potentially shrinking production by more than might be expected merely as a result of a series of power cuts,” said Takehiro Sato, chief Japan economist at Morgan Stanley MUFG Securities Co.

April car sales likely to drop more than 50% from last year(Asahi 04/30) | Tohoku Shinkansen resumes full service after 49 days (Asahi 04/30) | BOJ cuts fiscal 2011 GDP forecast to 0.6%(Asahi 04/30)


About an interesting new anime “Children who chase voices from deep below” to be screened in May:

Although the story of Children begins in a mountainous village that will cause feelings of nostalgia to run through Japanese in the audience, the setting is soon transformed into an unknown underworld–visually both stateless and multicultural.

Trying to create “a tale with a clear story structure,” Shinkai said, “This is a story in which the main character travels to a faraway land, learns something and then returns–a common story-telling framework.”

The main character, Asuna, is a smart but quiet girl. Instead of hanging around with friends after school, she spends much of her time up in the mountains.

With her mother working every day, Asuna is often alone, that is until the day she meets a boy called Shun. The encounters with the mysterious boy and Morisaki, a new teacher at her school, set her on a journey to the mythical underworld.

To make the story more dynamic, Shinkai created a totally different world for Asuna’s journey, a place far removed from the village, which Shinkai modeled after his hometown in Nagano Prefecture.

“In animation, like in fantasy games, it’s quite common to have European scenery, for no other reason than it’s not Japan. But I wanted to create something slightly different from these familiar images,” the creator said, adding he took ideas from images of Tibet and the Middle East.

In 2008, Shinkai held digital animation workshops in Jordan, Qatar and Syria as part of the program organized by the Foreign Ministry and The Japan Foundation–a journey that gave him a fresh perspective.

Recalling visits he made to cultural heritage sites, Shinkai said: “Pillars and houses thousands of years old are quite common there. They’re part of the background for the locals; kids play soccer and people sell stuff there.”

He also found inspiration in items on display at the British Museum in London, where he lived for about a year and where he wrote the script.

Shinkai’s methodology for his latest film involves blending new imagery to create his visual style.

“Animation is drawn by people, and therefore it can only ever be symbolic–a vague image commonly shared by many people. For example a lot of people would think of a red image if they’re asked to draw a picture of sunset. But that’s not how I want my visual world to be,” Shinkai said.

To avoid falling into an enumeration of common symbols and codes, the creator says it is important to create realistic looking images.

“But I tried to insert my subjective view as an illustrator so it wouldn’t appear to be photography,” he said. “The observers are always human.”

Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below shows a world without symbols yet creating a mosaic of what Shinkai has seen and experienced.

“Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below,” in Japanese, opens May 7.

(Apr. 29, 2011)
Saturday, April 30, 2011


Psychiatrists aid traumatized foreigners

Staff writer

A group of psychiatrists who have been providing mental health support for foreign residents has set up an emergency committee to aid non-Japanese suffering from stress and trauma from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

News photo
For foreigners: Fumitaka Noda, professor of psychiatry at Taisho University in Tokyo, is interviewed Tuesday. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTO

“Those who are suffering the most are the elderly, children, the handicapped and foreigners. And foreigners are particularly prone to become isolated, suffer from a lack of information in their mother tongue, easily become confused by false rumors and suffer from growing anxiety,” said Fumitaka Noda, president of the Japanese Society of Transcultural Psychiatry and professor of psychiatry at Taisho University in Tokyo.

“It’s really important to provide them with accurate information, and then to listen and understand their anxiety,” said Noda, who has been providing mental health care services to foreigners in Japan for 18 years, especially to refugees.

Comprised of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, the transcultural psychiatry society established the Transcultural Mental Health Emergency committee March 19 to help foreigners directly affected by 3/11.

As the only medical society in Japan that focuses on studies of foreigners who have mental health issues due to transcultural problems, the society is working closely with groups that support foreigners, including the Japan Foundation, to continue gathering information on people in need of professional help. It is also planning to teach supporters basic knowledge of mental health, so that when they spot signs of depression or posttraumatic stress disorder they can contact Noda and his colleagues.

Mental health care has become more important as people recover from the initial shock of the disaster and gradually start to get a clear picture of what happened and what situation they are in, Noda explained.

“As people start to look around, they begin to feel more clearly the sense of loss, and anxiety over the future. . . . Some may develop PTSD,” Noda said. “Many suffer from numbness. Because they lost everything they had and they begin to wonder about the meaning of making an effort, making a commitment or loving someone.”

If such cases continue over a long period, then people need to seek professional help, Noda said.

As part of his preparation to aid foreigners, Noda also went to Soma in Fukushima Prefecture, just outside the 30-km zone around the crippled nuclear plant, at the end of March.

What struck him was the lack of mental health professionals on hand. “There were hospitals but no psychiatric facilities in the surrounding area. . . . So many psychiatric patients were suffering from a lack of medication,” Noda said.

Although there is now a hastily set up psychiatric unit in a local hospital, more help from mental care professionals is still needed, said Noda, who visited shelters in the city and listened to peoples’ stories and concerns.

“People were under huge stress. Some said they can’t sleep and some said their children were crying and screaming every night and had no idea what to do,” he said.

“They are just like refugees. They have to decide whether they are going back to their hometown or moving to a new place at some point in the future. Their lives are now unstable, and they can do nothing about it,” Noda said. “If this situation continues, many may develop depression.”

After witnessing people’s mental states in Fukushima, Noda worries about foreigners living under similar conditions.

“In this kind of situation, a foreigner’s stress can be more than that of Japanese. We have to spend twice the time we do for Japanese to treat foreigners. We need to listen to their voices wholeheartedly,” Noda said, adding he and his team are ready for action, to help foreigners with mental problems.

“I want people to know there are services available to them. Many may hesitate to ask for mental support, but please, be open about it and contact us,” Noda said.

E-mail or call Fumitaka Noda at (080) 5196-8325 or fax (03) 5225-1292.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s