Prestowitz

Inside the Japanese crisis

One tiny bright spot in the ongoing Japanese crisis is the fact that a lot of residents of Tokyo are getting much more than their normal exercise and will be in much better physical condition once the crisis is over. For example, my friend and Airbus Japan CEO Glen Fukushima reports that on the first ...

Adam Pretty/Getty Images
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

One tiny bright spot in the ongoing Japanese crisis is the fact that a lot of residents of Tokyo are getting much more than their normal exercise and will be in much better physical condition once the crisis is over.

For example, my friend and Airbus Japan CEO Glen Fukushima reports that on the first day of the crisis, he returned from an aborted meeting at a Tokyo hotel to his own offices where the power was out. This forced him to climb the stairs for 19 floors to get to his office and then to walk down 19 floors to meet his car and driver for a ride to a dinner that turned out to have been canceled. Returning to his apartment, he found the power out there also and so climbed the stairs to his residence on the 6th floor. This was more exercise than Glen gets in a normal week, but he notes that he was a lot better off than many who had to walk six to eight hours to their homes.

Glen also notes that the island on which the damaged nuclear reactors are located is called Fukushima, which is made up of two Japanese characters — fuku, meaning "good luck," and shima, meaning island.

Except, of course, that its luck could not be worse. The outlook of my Japan-based Economic Strategy Institute Vice President Hiromi Murakami reflected that in an e-mail exchange I had with her today.

The government just announced that the level of radiation is at a serious level as reactor number 4 is currently on fire.

A tremendous amount of radiation is leaking and might reach Tokyo. We don’t know how the TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) is dealing with this fire (no information).

The government emergency control is not working, they are hiding information, and not telling people what the current situation is. This incident is much worse than the Three Mile Island case.

It could be similar to Chernobyl, I suppose.

I am very disappointed with how this government is handling the situation — particularly not telling the truth, and telling people to "stay in the house." (It it is no longer safe for those people within a radius of 30 km.)

The lessons are:

1. There is no safe nuclear power plant in Japan. TEPCO keeps saying that this quake and tsunami were beyond any expected level of severity, but the fact is that this level happened, no excuse.

2. No systematic emergency control is in place — this is/will be the problem for Japan.

3. The government communication/information program is non-existent. They treat us like mushrooms.

If you listen to government officials talk, it seems that they are talking about someone else’s disaster. Government officials want to hide things that are not comfortable.

We have no leader — Kan is just reading his talking points when he speaks and that gives no confidence to people.

Because of power cuts,the trains/metros are working only partially and therefore, I am staying home to work.

If things get worse, Tokyo may affected by radiation, and then we’ll have a really bad long term health problems.

The nuclear crisis is so bad because

1. The initial response was not enough — they should have put sea water into all reactors proactively (they waited until the things got worse, so we have had 3 explosion so far and one fire).

2. The government first relied on TEPCO’s action. This morning, for the first time, the government and TEPCO set up a comprehensive emergency team (too late!!!!).

3) Lack of information made people panic. (Shelves are empty in supermarkets in Tokyo.)

And that’s how it is in Tokyo tonight.

One tiny bright spot in the ongoing Japanese crisis is the fact that a lot of residents of Tokyo are getting much more than their normal exercise and will be in much better physical condition once the crisis is over.

For example, my friend and Airbus Japan CEO Glen Fukushima reports that on the first day of the crisis, he returned from an aborted meeting at a Tokyo hotel to his own offices where the power was out. This forced him to climb the stairs for 19 floors to get to his office and then to walk down 19 floors to meet his car and driver for a ride to a dinner that turned out to have been canceled. Returning to his apartment, he found the power out there also and so climbed the stairs to his residence on the 6th floor. This was more exercise than Glen gets in a normal week, but he notes that he was a lot better off than many who had to walk six to eight hours to their homes.

Glen also notes that the island on which the damaged nuclear reactors are located is called Fukushima, which is made up of two Japanese characters — fuku, meaning "good luck," and shima, meaning island.

Except, of course, that its luck could not be worse. The outlook of my Japan-based Economic Strategy Institute Vice President Hiromi Murakami reflected that in an e-mail exchange I had with her today.

The government just announced that the level of radiation is at a serious level as reactor number 4 is currently on fire.

A tremendous amount of radiation is leaking and might reach Tokyo. We don’t know how the TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) is dealing with this fire (no information).

The government emergency control is not working, they are hiding information, and not telling people what the current situation is. This incident is much worse than the Three Mile Island case.

It could be similar to Chernobyl, I suppose.

I am very disappointed with how this government is handling the situation — particularly not telling the truth, and telling people to "stay in the house." (It it is no longer safe for those people within a radius of 30 km.)

The lessons are:

1. There is no safe nuclear power plant in Japan. TEPCO keeps saying that this quake and tsunami were beyond any expected level of severity, but the fact is that this level happened, no excuse.

2. No systematic emergency control is in place — this is/will be the problem for Japan.

3. The government communication/information program is non-existent. They treat us like mushrooms.

If you listen to government officials talk, it seems that they are talking about someone else’s disaster. Government officials want to hide things that are not comfortable.

We have no leader — Kan is just reading his talking points when he speaks and that gives no confidence to people.

Because of power cuts,the trains/metros are working only partially and therefore, I am staying home to work.

If things get worse, Tokyo may affected by radiation, and then we’ll have a really bad long term health problems.

The nuclear crisis is so bad because

1. The initial response was not enough — they should have put sea water into all reactors proactively (they waited until the things got worse, so we have had 3 explosion so far and one fire).

2. The government first relied on TEPCO’s action. This morning, for the first time, the government and TEPCO set up a comprehensive emergency team (too late!!!!).

3) Lack of information made people panic. (Shelves are empty in supermarkets in Tokyo.)

And that’s how it is in Tokyo tonight.

Clyde Prestowitz is the founder and president of the Economic Strategy Institute, a former counselor to the secretary of commerce in the Reagan administration, and the author of The World Turned Upside Down: America, China, and the Struggle for Global Leadership. Twitter: @clydeprestowitz

Tag: Japan