Mr. Minato, 64

Recently retired air traffic controller

How dangerous do you feel the radiation from Fukushima is in Fukuoka?  How about in Tokyo?

I don’t think the nuclear power plant in Fukushima is in a complete safe condition.
So, I feel it’s still very dangerous.
In Fukuoka, it’s rather safe, because it’s far from Fukushima. But it reminds us of the danger related to the Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga prefecture.
In Tokyo, the danger becomes more realistic. Tokyo is still exposed by actual pollution and potential pollution when the damages in Fukushima power plant spreads.

(In an emergency situation like this the most important thing is providing authentic, reliable and accurate information for the people. But the TEC (Tokyo Electric Company) is ruled by high ranking bureaucrats and it continues to hide a lot of secrets.)

How much (if at all) do you talk about radiation with your friends, family, or the people around you? 

I’m in an English Speaking Club and I have talked about this issue with the club members many times. And I have also talked about it with my family members. However, I have never deepened discussion with the people around me. The issue has become the topic among the people, but they won’t try to focus on crucial points. (Maybe they don’t have enough information or they hate debates.)

Many people don't talk about radiation with the people around them.  I'm very interested in learning about the reasons for this.  What do you think the reasons are that many people don't talk about radiation?

The Japanese people are not positive toward “debates” or “disputes”. They don’t understand debates can be a very constructive method for solving problems. In spite, they tend to take debates for arguments or fights. They value “harmony” a lot! It is a cultural difference that foreigners don’t understand and that also draws a clear line between Japanese and Koreans or Chinese.

I think the most effective way for provoking the Japanese people into discussing these matters must be improving the English education system in schools. Look at the English speaking club members like our club, ESS. The members are very active in discussing things. On the other hand they understand the importance of the Japanese language and culture. The high ranking officials in the government worry about the destruction of the Japanese language and culture when the full-scale English conversation training program is introduced into schools. As you know, the present English education system is improved halfway. For example, take the position of ALT. The Ministry of Education hired a lot of native speakers as English teachers. But they are not treated as stable government employees like the Japanese. Of course, there are many obstacles that hinder perfect solution such as the objection from the teachers’ labor union.

Do you think the mass media in Japan is doing a good job keeping the public informed about any dangers the Fukushima radiation might bring? 

I don’t think the media works perfectly. As I said in the first question, bureaucrats rule TEPCO. They rule the supervising committee called 原子力安全委員会 as well. They sent so many nuclear experts related to the government into the committee. And they also tamed the Japanese media. They have too much relation with the executives of the TV broadcasting companies and the newspaper companies. So, I say they are all part of the same gang! The executives in big companies are called 企業官僚 (corporate bureaucrats). I don’t say bureaucrats are always bad. But today’s Japanese bureaucrats have too much power. Japanese politicians are not controlling them.




All images and interviews © 2013 Neil Witkin
Translators: Yoko Mada and Yuko Murakami
MAPJD 2012 Group. Unit 2.1: Rethink Project
Do not reproduce images or content without permission