Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-023
Revelations of tentative plans to evacuate millions of metropolitan Tokyo residents after the March 11th disaster reported in the September 19th story “Tokyo faced evacuation scenario: Kan,” were absolutely shocking. If it came to that, how could it be done, and where could we go? It confirms what most foreign media were saying, that the situation was much worse than was being let on. It probably still is much worse. So I feel embarrassed now after playing down the situation in mid-March to my North American friends and family, downplaying foreign media coverage as alarmist and hysterical. It turns out they weren’t so much.
We already knew - foreign observers of Japan have known since the Meiji Era - that dithering, cover-up, and incompetence are simply the Japanese way. And, when things go bad, muddling through. Japanese love to dither and they excel at muddling. The premiership of Mr. Kan was doomed by his government’s inability to make decisions and to act, although that is not a problem unique to the former prime minister or his party.
Japanese leadership, either in the Prime Minister’s Office or the corporate boardroom, scares me because it’s like Bozo the Clown in charge of the Whitehouse during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And that, by the way, might be one reason why Japan has so far failed in its goal to secure a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Former American U.N. Ambassador John Bolton might blame that failure largely to the complete abandonment of U.N. Security Council reform by the American government (“U.S. has ‘abandoned’ U.N. reform: Bolton,” September 21st). But I like to think it’s because the rest of the world understands that having Japanese occupy important global leadership positions would be another calamity for the civilized world.
Published on Sunday, September 25, 2011 as “Evacuation revelations shocking.”
Two other related letters were printed. One, “Mixed American views of Japan” by Paul Gaysford of Tokyo was about the September 21st story about former American U.N. Security Council ambassador John Bolton. The other, “Perfunctory apologies don’t cut it” by Fred Stone of Tokyo was about the same September 19th report of the Naoto Kan interview that I used to start my letter.
I can imagine detractors immediately writing back to the paper complaining of my condescending tone, and for calling Japanese clowns and uncivilized. But I did none of that. My tone was one of indulgent brotherly love, and I did not write that the Japanese were either clowns or uncivilized.