Letters to the Editor,
The Daily Yomiuri,
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-8243
In the April 14, 2011 story “Was the nuclear crisis deliberately downplayed?” disaster expert and former academic Hirotada Hirose characterizes the dissemination of misleadingly positive crisis information as an impediment to public trust in the government as well as adequate preparation: “People won’t be able to properly prepare for a disaster and distrust in the government will grow.”
It is common in Japanese media to hear laments of threats to public trust in government, police, education, corporations, etc. This is interesting because it is a peculiarly Japanese fetish in the first place, the same way that the opposite - chronic and deeply-rooted distrust of government - is an American fetish. I think the fetishes serve each culture’s respective sets of philosophical presumptions more than they reflect anything quantifiably real.
As a foreigner I can unhesitatingly blurt out no trust whatsoever - absolute zero - in Japanese government, police, schools, and business - not just now in the wake of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crises, but ALL the time, habitually. Not only do they neither earn nor deserve my trust, but distrusting them is clearly a wiser option because it conserves my range of opinion - and I am a very conservative fellow. Most foreigners probably agree. Go ahead and ask a few at random and find out. “Do you trust Japanese government or police?” Not on your life! A similar poll of Japanese will most likely gather politer, more civil “tatemae”answers. But my experience of Japanese in private conversations evokes less civil opinions.
So, I am not convinced that the Japanese public trusts its government very much even in normal times, and lamenting threats to public trust is evidence of the paucity of it in the first place, and it is prone to be used as a political tool in the second place, strumming the strings of people’s fears.