Tokyobling's Blog

Open Letter to Foreign Media: About Japan

Posted in Opinion by tokyobling on March 13, 2011

Dear all, I am safe and sound, 46 hours after one of the biggest earthquakes in the history of mankind hits the north east coast of Japan.

It’s been a wild ride these last hours. I have stayed glued in front of official media channels here in Tokyo, only straying momentarily to private media companies, the Internet and foreign media. What I’ve seen reported upsets me. To be sure, this earthquake and the following tsunami has been a terrible blow to the north east of Japan, with thousands dead and thousands missing. Whole towns have disappeared and one, probably two nuclear reactors have suffered meltdowns. I won’t quote numbers and figures, as the situation is still uncertain.

But the truth is, as a nation, we are fine. Considering what we have been through, I think we are more than fine.

Let’s step back from the fear mongers of international media and look at the situation with a deep breath. What areas of Japan where affected? The north east. Everyone who has visited the area since 1995 knows that is very sparsely populated, comparatively. There are absolutely no major industries or centers of economy of any major national interest. If you know anything about Japan (or pretend to know, as many international reporters claim to do right now), you will know that the financially critical areas of Japan are widely dispersed, stretching from Chiba in the south east to Fukuoka in the far west of Japan. All of these areas have suffered virtually no damage, whatsoever. Productivity remains unhalted.

Moreover, the Earthquake hit us right at the best possible moment: Friday afternoon. This means that we were already gearing down for the weekend, with a normal reduction in power and water use of the major industries. In the worst hit areas, the vast majority of able bodied young workers were at their work places, almost all of which were made of reinforced concrete. This includes almost all students and children of school age. The vast majority of casualties took place in old wooden structures inhabited mostly by (and as much as it pains me to say this, but let’s be cool for a second) senior citizens.

In effect, productive members of society are unharmed.

Also, the majority of the infrastructure, the boats and cars are easily replaceable by the factories of Japan using stocks already accumulated during the current worldwide economical recession. Moreover, much of the damage has occurred at towns and cities that were already nearing the end of their economic value, if not already written-off. In effect, this means that the majority of the losses doesn’t actually require to be replaced or repaired.

Japan has survived numerous similar earth quakes in the last century with minimal damage. Even the massive earthquakes in Kobe (1995) and Niigata (2004) failed to even dent the national economy of the country as a whole, even though they occurred in areas many orders of magnitude more dense in terms of factories and population.

As for fears of nuclear damages, they are vastly inflated in international media. The incident at Three Mile Island (Harrisburg) in the 80’s was far more serious and yet didn’t result in one single fatality. Nuclear physicists and doctors I know reassure me that the reported levels of fall out are in all likely hood far too low to give permanent injuries to even the most exposed of the patients so far reported. As a a comparison, the fallout at Chernobyl was many thousand times as bad.

Sure, there are many vultures circling over the Japanese stock markets right now, hoping that by installing fear there will be bargains to be had on the short term. Well meaning organizations are collecting money to be sent as aid, but in my opinion this is absolutely not necessary. We are grateful for the support, but a far better use of your resources is to purchase stocks or funds in Japanese companies and stock markets. Not only will you help stabilize the entire world economy (and that includes the country, the city you live in) but you will also be able to gain once the markets and the yen rebound, as it inevitably will.

Feel free to link to this Open Letter, feel free to reprint this as the opinion of one who has spent 10 year working in the Japanese high tech industry (in communication nonetheless) and has traveled extensively in the regions now affected by the earthquakes. Feel free to use the images I am posting today, I hereby apply a CC (creative commons) license of usage to all text and images posted today, on the 13th of March, 2011.

We can pray for Japan, we can invest in Japan. But we don’t need fear, rumor mongering, schadenfreude or gifts. Let’s keep sane and sensible. We owe it to the people in the areas that have lost everything. If they can keep it up, so can we. Right?

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24 Responses

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  1. Savannah Pineda said, on March 13, 2011 at 6:18 am

    I’m glad you personally, and Japan are fine.
    I am happy to hear that you are looking at the tsunami in a more optimistic way. Thank you 🙂

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2011 at 6:05 am

      Thanks Savannah! I’m lucky to have readers like you. Yes, the media has been less than truthful in their reporting…

      *Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been swamped with work and other communications, so much that I haven’t had time to reply to most comments on the blog. I’ll work harder from now on!

      Like

  2. Thai N said, on March 13, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Hey TB,

    Glad to hear to your safe and sound and that the resiliency of the Japanese people will get them through these troublesome times. I hope you the best that everything continues to go well for you.

    Like

  3. Irina said, on March 13, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Love the letter. You gave a permission, so I will share it on my facebook page, along with some photos.

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2011 at 6:07 am

      Thanks Irina! I really appreciate it when someone helps me spread the truth! I can’t watch foreign media anymore, it is just so different from the complex, not easy to understand truth I see everyday here in Tokyo!

      *Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been swamped with work and other communications, so much that I haven’t had time to reply to most comments on the blog. I’ll work harder from now on!

      Like

  4. Chu said, on March 13, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Thank goodness you’re fine. Everyone I know has been glued to the news for any information at all. Thank you for updating everyone and giving a different perspective. Stay safe!!

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2011 at 6:09 am

      Thanks Chu! Yes, it’s important we don’t let the media scare us into believing that everything they say is true. They’re trying to make a bit of money from all of this…

      *Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been swamped with work and other communications, so much that I haven’t had time to reply to most comments on the blog. I’ll work harder from now on!

      Like

  5. Jon said, on March 13, 2011 at 9:30 am

    I encourage positive thinking, but would just sound a few words of caution – it is still very early to say that the Fukushima incidents pose no hazard to health as the situation remains live and can easily change.

    Also, whilst the area affected (north east by the way, not north west) may not be the main industrial area of the country, major motor manufacturers are already reporting that they will have to scale down production due to a disruption in the supply of components.

    This is a frightening time for many people in north east Japan and their friends and families elsewhere in the country and the world and certainly shouldn’t be underestimated. Is the value of life really measured according to whether someone is deemed to be ‘productive’? Maybe you didn’t quite mean it that way……..Sadly I suspect that the number of confirmed dead is going to increase significantly over coming days and weeks.

    I hope you and others in Japan stay safe, particularly bearing in mind that further large quakes are anticipated in days to come

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 13, 2011 at 11:37 am

      Hi Jon and thanks for the comment. I don’t have time to reply to all comments but I’ll make an exception to clarify the points you make.

      I have already shed a lot of tears for the people affected in the north. What I oppose in this open letter is in no way meant to put a price tag on people or pass judgment. My letter is a rebuttal to the crass economists in foreign media who are already pronouncing irrecoverable damages to the Japanese economy. I meant to talk to them in their own language. Hard facts and figures. What many are saying about Japan right now is just not true.

      It is true that some factories are low on components but the fact that they slow down production is nothing very unusual, rather a strength of the system. It happened in 2008 and 2009 and now again in 2011. I don’t think it’s correct to declare this a major problem until we have more information.

      The whole of Japanese society and factories is based on the idea of redundancies in order to better withstand these kind of extraordinary events.

      The number of evacuated people is “only” 300 000, compared with a population of around 127 000 000.

      I think that while we need to do as much as possible to help the affected, we need to stay calm and sensible in face of simple facts.

      Yes, this is an ongoing disaster, and as we all understand, there is nothing to be gained by needlessly crying wolf: doing so will only breed confusion and endanger the financial markets which all rely on.

      The Japanese economy is the third biggest by country and probably first by population and absolutely first in terms of area. Even a small dip in the Japanese economy will ripple through the whole world.

      Which is why we can/should focus on the damage we already have and what we can reasonably expect to ward off by due diligence.

      The 99% of Japan immediately physically unaffected by the quake must be allowed to continue functioning for the good of the poor people up north, the country and the world.

      Once again, thank you for your kind and insightful comment!

      Tokyobling

      Like

  6. […] Read this article: Open Letter to Foreign Media: About Japan « Tokyobling's Blog […]

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  7. Timi said, on March 13, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Thnak you for this post. It makes me (and a lot more people I guess) to hear how things are, and it’s good that you are optimistic. I hope eveything will be back soon in its place!

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2011 at 6:10 am

      Thanks for the kind comment Timi! I am still as optimistic as ever, and so are the other 12.5 millions with whom I share central Tokyo!

      *Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been swamped with work and other communications, so much that I haven’t had time to reply to most comments on the blog. I’ll work harder from now on!

      Like

  8. Lili said, on March 13, 2011 at 10:52 am

    I’m so glad to read you’re safe
    I was about to send you a mail to know how you are?
    That’s terrible! I can’t stop crying when I see videos on TV.. I’m heartbroken 😦
    I’d like to know how I can help from France??
    Thanks for your open letter!
    God bless Japan and Japanese people, so brave!

    Here are some words from a young Japanese guy studying here in France, a friend of my daughter … so brave !!

    “Dear nature,
    Sorry nature, but earthquakes or tsunami cannot kill samurai spirits.

    Japan is a small island, it has no resources, and it experiences natural disasters frequently.

    You have tried to destroy us many times. You have destroyed many buildings and killed many people. However, we have stood up again and again, and we have built one of the most advanced nations on the earth.

    It’s not our technology that have made what we are today, but it’s our samurai spirits. It’s the sprit of perseverance, cooperation, and discipline.

    You did it again. But I’m sorry, it didn’t work so well. You indeed broke some parts of the island, but you can never break our spirits.

    I can already see people gathering, helping and caring for each other, and working so hard for the recovery. I can so see that we are motivated to make an even stronger nation. So motivated that we might even overcome our lost-20 years.

    Just wait for a while, you will see brand-new Japan soon. I can’t wait to show it to you.”

    Wonderful words aren’t they??

    Like

    • Julie (JUURI) said, on March 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      That is so great Lili? Do you mind if I share the letter on my Facebook? I wanna encourage my Japanese friends who are feeling so scared!

      Like

      • Lili said, on March 13, 2011 at 7:54 pm

        Of course you can Julie
        I also find this letter so moving and so strong!
        Such a wonderful example!
        Thanks for him

        Like

      • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2011 at 6:23 am

        I love it too! (^O^)

        Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2011 at 6:13 am

      Dear Lili, thanks for the wonderful comment! I was so happy to read it. Things have calmed down, but I still smile whenever I read this letter! It’s great! Thank you, and thank him!

      *Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been swamped with work and other communications, so much that I haven’t had time to reply to most comments on the blog. I’ll work harder from now on!

      Like

  9. Jennifer said, on March 13, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Glad to know that you are safe. Thank you for all of your posts regarding the earthquake and tsunami. They help to give perspective for those of us who have only the news broadcasts to gain info from. The same images are being shown over and over and they are heartbreaking. Still, it is good to know that life goes on and that you and the Japanese people are optimistic. Thank you.

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2011 at 6:19 am

      Thank you for you kind comment!

      *Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been swamped with work and other communications, so much that I haven’t had time to reply to most comments on the blog. I’ll work harder from now on! I read all your comments as they came in and they all meant a lot to me. I wish I had had more time to reply to all of them, personally and in real time.

      Like

  10. Julie (JUURI) said, on March 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Thank you so much for these encouraging words from someone who knows and is there. I am always suspicious of anything I see on the news, since well… they are in the business of getting readers/watchers to keep their businesses afloat! I keep praying for the safety of people who are still missing, but it does irk my soul when people claim it’s an unrecoverable blow for Japan. Psssshhhh, nothing is unrecoverable for my Japan. We recover from anything, and we do it a million times better than most anyone else.

    @Lili, your letter from the friend of your daughter is wonderful! Thanks.

    Thanks for your vigilance!

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2011 at 6:23 am

      Thank you for your super support during this whole crisis! I rely on people like you!

      *Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been swamped with work and other communications, so much that I haven’t had time to reply to most comments on the blog. I’ll work harder from now on! I read all your comments as they came in and they all meant a lot to me. I wish I had had more time to reply to all of them, personally and in real time.

      Like

  11. Alvaro said, on March 17, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Glad to see you are doing fine, you’re the last person I know in Japan that needed to be accounted for. I was worried since you travel around that maybe you had been closer to the epicenter, good it wasn’t the case.

    To say something about the open letter, I couldn’t agree more, I’m sick of the media treatment of the earthquake and its results, go Japan!

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2011 at 9:12 am

      Thank you for you kind words of support, they really helped me when I need it the most!

      *Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been swamped with work and other communications, so much that I haven’t had time to reply to most comments on the blog. I’ll work harder from now on! I read all your comments as they came in and they all meant a lot to me. I wish I had had more time to reply to all of them, personally and in real time.

      Like

  12. Japan | chukichi said, on March 26, 2011 at 7:40 am

    […] felt so much better after getting the first update after the disaster from the Tokyobling Blog, a photography blog that I have been following for […]

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