Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
This Christmas Eve, after a delicious dinner with my family, my children and I stretched out on the floor to play the always fun game, JENGA. This time, however, we re-named it “Aneha” in honor of Japan’s most famous architect, and I cannot imagine the idea not occurring to millions of other people in Japan as well. Even my 7-year old knows Mr. Aneha’s name, although he does not know why and he doesn’t understand the joke of the wobbling tower of wooden blocks.
The failure of construction inspectors to properly police the industry and enforce the law regarding earthquake standards in this very at-risk, earthquake prone archipelago highlights a point I have periodically made for years. In the aftermath of a major earthquake in Japan, with the anticipated collapse of many buildings, bridges, highways and other infrastructure construction firms would be well placed for a fantastic windfall of business with the necessity of re-building. So it is too their advantage to build things below par now in anticipation of receiving contracts to re-build later. I know it sounds cynical, but that is the way of Japanese business people - unprofessional, immoral and cynical behavior followed by “sincere” apologies, which too often are enough to satisfy Japanese ideas of punishment.
My joke that the curtains and fences that surround construction sites - purportedly as barriers to dust and noise - are in fact to conceal illegalities from the public doesn’t sound so far fetched anymore.
I will continue to play ANEHA with my children.
Published on Sunday, January 1, 2006 as “Windfall from collapsing buildings.”
In a cynical way it makes sense. I certainly hope it is not true, but it’s just an idea that occurred to me. Japan, in fact, has some of the highest earthquake building standards anywhere in the world - or, so the government tells us. Generally speaking I believe it, but that does not mean that many buildings - like mine - that are older, built to earlier and less durable specifications - will not collapse.
Different building collapse scenarios worry me differently. I would hate to be thrown out during a typhoon, or during a cold winter. And, even if my family and I were in an evacuees shelter, with communal baths and kitchen, etc. I worry about being denied use of facilities like the bath because I have visible tattoos. It feels too familiar to think that that would be just like the Japanese: first, save me from disaster, then deny me services because I have tattoos. In addition, I worry about being separated from my family. We are familiar with Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara’s warning to the Ground Self Defense Forces to be ready to containg rioting foreigners, and it is too easy to imagine us being rounded up in“protective” camps for foreigners, regardless of our visa status.