August 31: Temporary Shelters Empty at Last

NHK news showed smiling kids and adults sweeping out a junior high gym in Japan's Iwate Prefecture. The hall had been used as an emergency shelter after the devastating tsunami/earthquake of March 11 and will be returned to service as the school gym when the new semester begins next month. This one was the last to be officially closed, after sheltering families for almost 6 months.

All 14,000 households who had made their homes in the various emergency shelters in Iwate--the prefecture hardest hit--have been relocated in pre-fab housing units constructed over the past six months. The units are for single family occupancy, and have a private bath (with hot water), plus kitchen space, sleeping space, and living space.

A Word in Japanese: Yudachi

"Yu" means evening, and "dachi" means rising. In a perfect world, at the end of a hot summer day, clouds rise and a delightful, cooling rain falls. If the timing is absolutely perfect, you can run outside and catch a rainbow. Ah, the wonder of yu-dachi!

In an imperfect world, at the end of a sticky summer day, clouds rise and raindrops fall--hitting the asphalt and immediately turning into steam. This, too, is, yudachi.

Who is Yoshihiko Noda?

Japan's newest Prime Minister's name is not a household word, though he seems to be a down-to-earth, householding sort of guy. Here is what The Japan Times' Jun Hongo has to say about him:

Staff writer
Depending on who you ask, Yoshihiko Noda is a fiscal policy expert, a conservative who believes the Class-A war criminals were not in fact so, or the ailing Democratic Party of Japan's last hope to regain the public's trust.

The new prime minister describes himself as more of an "ordinary man" who "doesn't have the elegance or the looks" to charm voters. "I am not a hereditary politician and do not have any substantial asset," he acknowledged in a magazine article published in August.

But what the Chiba Prefecture native lacks in appearance he makes up for in effort.

(find more in The Japan Times, August 31, 2011)


C'mon, guys, let's have some truth (2)

A woman Marine Corps veteran is suffering from cancer--treatable, at the cost of $1500 per month. But will the government who accepted her service also accept her bills?


Medical tests prove she was exposed to Agent Orange. She never served in Viet Nam, only in Okinawa.


Other veterans clearly remember transporting, using, and disposing of Agent Orange in Okinawa, as reported in The Japan Times:

"I witnessed on many occasions the Okinawan groundskeepers spraying defoliants around the buildings and refrigeration units at my barracks and others on Camp Foster," said the veteran, who asked to remain anonymous due to fears that speaking to the media would harm a claim for compensation that he recently submitted to the VA.

The former service member is currently suffering Type-2 diabetes that he believes was caused by exposure to Agent Orange on the base.

According to the testimony of other veterans gathered by The Japan Times, the use of Agent Orange as a localized weed killer was commonplace on American bases in Okinawa, where it was difficult to keep the fast-growing vegetation under control.

Raymond Adams, a marine stationed on the island between 1973 and 1974, said, "We routinely sprayed the runway at MCAS Futenma at the wing equipment and support group. It burned my skin. But it kept the grass down and moreover kept the 'habus' (venomous snakes) away."

The Pentagon itself recognizes that Agent Orange was used in this manner on U.S. bases in Thailand until 1975.

C'mon, Pentagon. Dig a little deeper. If others remember this, you can too.


C'mon, guys, let's have some truth

Just because the documents are gone doesn't mean the poison is gone. Reality is not so simplistic. Here's what The Japan Times reports about the US response to their own soldiers' claims about Agent Orange:

The Pentagon has once again denied allegations that the U.S. military buried the highly toxic defoliant Agent Orange in Okinawa, the Foreign Ministry said.

"The U.S. Department of Defense said that it once again reviewed past records and found no documents confirming that the U.S. military stored or used defoliant in Okinawa before its reversion" to Japan, the ministry said in a statement late Friday.

So, if the documents went away, does that mean the soldiers' health issues will also go away? I don't think so. Do you?

PS: And what about the innocent kids who are growing up with that stuff in their environment?


Time to Come Clean

Literally. People are dying from this stuff. Men who gave the best years of their life to their country's service are being denied the care they need to end those lives with decent care.

This is what the Japan Times reports about US use and storage of the abominable Agent Orange on Okinawa:

Agent Orange buried on Okinawa, vet says
Ex-serviceman claims U.S. used, dumped Vietnam War defoliant

Special to The Japan Times
"In the late 1960s, the U.S. military buried dozens of barrels of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange in an area around the town of Chatan on Okinawa Island, an American veteran has told The Japan Times.

The former serviceman's claim comes only days after Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto said that he would ask the U.S. Department of Defense to come clean on its use of the chemical on the island during its 27-year occupation of Okinawa between 1945 and 1972. The U.S. government has repeatedly maintained that it has no records pertaining to the use of Agent Orange in Okinawa."

No records? How about the actual substance, which is still there. How about the after effects, which are still causing death and maiming?

With the right information, this problem could be cleaned up. Couldn't it?

About Japanese high speed trains, from Mr. Terashima

One of the most original thinkers in Japan is Jitsuro Terashima. Here is something he wants to point out about Japanese engineering.

Remember the Magnitude 9 earthquake on March 11? At the moment it struck, there were 88 high speed trains running on the "bullet train" network, many of them in the Tohoku area. These are trains that fly along the ground at speeds close to 300 km/hr. At the very moment the earth trembled and cracked, there they were, 88 of them, wheels to the rails, and...

Not a single one derailed. Not a single person was injured. The trains simply did what they were programmed to do and stopped. Safely.

How cool is that?


Now Let Us Welcome the USA

Russia sent their representative to Hiroshima, and now the US will be represented at Nagasaki, 66 years after the dreadful event. Here's what Kyodo news reports:

U.S. to send first envoy to Nagasaki A-bomb rites

The U.S. will for the first time send a representative to Nagasaki's annual peace memorial ceremony Tuesday marking the 1945 atomic bombing of the city, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said Sunday.

"I am honored to be the first U.S. representative to attend the Peace Memorial in Nagasaki, and to express my respect for all the victims of World War II," Charge d'Affaires James Zumwalt said. "The United States looks forward to continuing to work with Japan to advance President (Barack) Obama's goal of realizing a world without nuclear weapons."

U.S. Ambassador John Roos, who visited Nagasaki twice last year, will not be in Japan due to "previously scheduled travel at the time of the ceremony" in Nagasaki, according to the embassy.

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue welcomed the announcement, saying the U.S. move is "a step forward" toward creating a world without nuclear weapons.

He said he hoped Zumwalt will "pray for the people killed by the atomic bomb, speak with survivors and deepen understanding" of the lasting realities of the suffering.

Sakue Shimohira, a 76-year-old survivor, praised the decision. "For a long time we asked someone to represent (the U.S. government), but no one came until now," Shimohira said. "I respect this decision, which, I guess, needed some courage."


Hiroshima 66

This time, it's not the casualties, it's what's happening to the food chain.

Here is a brief report from the 66th annual memorial for those who died when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

Staff writer

HIROSHIMA — Hiroshima marked the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb Saturday morning in a ceremony that paid tribute to victims of the March 11 quake and tsunami and heard calls by Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Hiroshima politicians and local residents to consider moving away from nuclear power.

As fear that radiation leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plant entering the food chain continues to grow, media polls across the nation show an increasing number of people support moving away from nuclear power toward renewable energy. That includes many who attended Saturday's ceremony.
"The Fukushima reactor incident provides the human race with a new lesson and our mission is to convey that lesson to the world, and to the next generation. The country's energy policy is being fundamentally reviewed, following a deep reflection on the myth that nuclear power is safe. My aim is to reduce Japan's level of reliance on nuclear power so as to create a society that isn't addicted to it," Kan told the gathering


August 6

Until I read Eric Johnston's excellent exposition of the US campaign to get Japan to adopt nuclear energy, I never understood why US writers would deluge Japanese media with letters disparaging the annual memorial services for those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Even so, the services continue. This year, for the first time, there is a guest from a major nuclear power.

The Japan Times reports as follows:

The Russian ambassador to Japan, in Hiroshima for a ceremony to remember the annihilation of the city in 1945, pledged Friday to make sure nuclear calamities like the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the Fukushima No. 1 power plant accident never happen again.

"The nuclear crisis is a disaster by natural causes and Hiroshima is a disaster caused by humans. But there is something in common between them: We must make efforts to make sure a similar thing will never happen again," Mikhail Bely, 65, told reporters a day before the 66th anniversary of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing.

The ambassador from one of the nuclear weapon states is set to attend the peace memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima on Saturday, and in Nagasaki on Tuesday, for the first time. Bely became ambassador to Japan in 2007.

"Japan has memories of the (A-bomb) disaster . . . and their efforts to pass on such memories will be a big contribution to the movement to nuclear arms reductions," Bely said after visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.


A Word in Japanese: Yuga

Grace. Elegance. Poetry in motion.
A person who has "yuga" treads lightly on others' space: physically, verbally, and emotionally.


A Word in Japanese: Mizumizushii

Dewy. Moist. Fresh.
Not just a garden, but also a face, a mind, a heart.


A Word in Japanese: Nadeshiko

No one was more surprised than the people of Japan when the women's soccer team brought home the gold medal. It was a poignant moment for a country in the process of lifting itself out of disaster by its own tattered and tangled bootstrings.

The team name is Nadeshiko Japan. By now, most people who are curious about names know that nadeshiko is the name of a flower, but the meaning behind that choice is what adds to the poignancy of this team's victory.

The flower name is usually translated as simply a "pink". It blooms in sun or shade, but prefers a little shade. It is easily overlooked, but is a lovely, gentle color when noticed. It calls little attention to itself, but makes the perfect background for other plants sharing the garden. It looks fragile, but has the quiet strength to bloom in its own way.

Nadeshiko--a generation ago in Japan, nadeshiko was the symbol of all that a young woman should be.