Open Letter to Foreign Media: About Japan
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?