Email from Japan –Vol. 6 Visit to Fukushima
Dear friends of GLOBIS & KIBOW,
I visited Fukushima on April 12th to hold KIBOW Iwaki Meeting. Iwaki city is located on the Pacific Coast 30km south of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Iwaki has suffered from 4 major disasters, 1) Great Earthquake, 2) Tsunami of 10m height which killed 300hundred people and devastated the coastal towns, 3) Radiation threat from the nuclear reactors, and 4) stoppage of shipment of vegetables and fishes due to the radiation. Iwaki still suffers from the aftermath even one month after 3.11, as very few tourists visit there, and as factories still cannot operate properly due to the physical damages and supply chain problems.
We have chosen Iwaki City to be the venue of a KIBOW gathering, simply because we really wanted to encourage those people living in Iwaki. We headed north from Tokyo with 6 of us packed in one-box car with piles of stationery packed on the back to be given to schools devastated by the tsunami.
On the way to Iwaki I heard the news that Japan has regraded the level of nuclear accident to Level 7, the worst level equal to Cernovyl. I called up my brother who was in Fukushima having been dispatched from Vienna as one of the 4 international IAEA specialists working on site to assess the level of radiation in those regions.
He said, “Less than 1μSv in Iwaki, no problem to eat veggies or drink water. 5μSv even at 16km radius, so visiting inside of a 20km radius should be ok, but a bit more in NW direction”
The car has crossed the border of Fukushima prefecture. First thing we did was to visit the coastal area. It was real devastation. We lost our words to describe it. Then, we had lunch at a local sushi restaurant which was open despite the water outage as another big earthquake hit in the previous evening.
While eating sushi, a Level 6 earthquake just hit us. The epicenter was just below our feet. It was very strong and ferocious, the strongest shake ever in my life. We logged on to the Internet and found out there was no damage in the Fukushima Daiichi plant, so we decided to head north.
We went inside of a 20Km radius. Nobody lives there any longer as everyone was forced to evacuate. We saw no people, but only wild cows on the street. We passed Fukushima Daini(2nd) Nuclear Power Plant and parked in between Daiichi (1st) and Daini (2nd) Nuclear Plant.
We walked towards seashore where houses were destroyed by the tsunami. There still remained some seawater on the farmland. The ocean was wild and the wind was strong. No people could be seen. I thought to myself that I was standing on a page of history. Our efforts to rebuild Japan would start here.
On that night, more than 70 people gathered for KIBOW Iwaki. Some even came from Tokyo and Mito (my hometown south of Iwaki). When I was at the coastal area and within a 20km radius from Fukushima Daiichi Plant in the afternoon, I felt despair, but at night with leaders of Iwaki, I felt KIBOW(hope). I was convinced that Japan would bounce back with the strong sprit shown by the people in Iwaki.
Note 1) It is said current radiation level is 1/100 of Chernobyl but the level 7 severity makes it look worse. Need to fight against rumors and uncertainties．
FT.com / Asia-Pacific – Fukushima rating is bad – but not worse
Note 2) Evacuation threshold of the IAEA is 100μSv while that of Japan is 20μSv. The Japanese standard is more safety-oriented. Therefore, more people had to be evacuated in those regions.
Note 3) The ban of vegetable shipment from Fukushima Pref. was lifted, as the contamination level had been lower than the standard for 3 consecutive weeks. It was declared safe to eat vegetables now.
Two days later on April 14th, the Economist Corporate Network held a Charity Meeting with KIBOW. As the leader of KIBOW, I made a keynote speech, the memo of which is attached at the bottom of this “Email from Japan”.
I have kept hearing the new word “Fly-jin” from foreigners living in Japan, I knew the word “Gai-jin” which means foreigner in Japanese. I came to understand that Fly-jin means “Gaijin flying out of Japan”, as there were so many left after March 11th.
In that sense, I was very surprised to see that so many executives and top leaders of foreign-affiliated companies actually stayed in Japan and came to the meeting. More than 150 people gathered, and I would say more than 80% of those were non-Japanese.
There was an interesting discussion on leadership. HR Director of CITI Group said that the leaders have to show commitment as well as physical presence. “If you are not there, all the people will fly out of Japan. One of the worst thing the bank thought about was losing great talents in Japan”.
One of the American Economist mentioned that the nuclear reactors was not damaged by the great earthquake nor by the tsunami. Only the cooling system failed to function due to the electricity outage and back-up generators were soaked in the water.
It was really nice to see the faces of those executives who are committed to stay in Japan. Further, I would like to thank them for their generous donation made during and after the meeting. I tried to talk to them as much as possible to show my personal appreciation to them.
This week on April 21st, we are planning to hold a KIBOW Gai-jin event in Tokyo to connect Japanese and Gaijin (not “Fly-jin”), because I felt that Japanese people should do a better job of getting connected with those living in Japan and of communicating to them that it is quite safe to be in Japan.
Even though I do not see you in person, I will talk to you in the next “Email from Japan”, which should be delivered to you next week.
Leader of GLOBIS & KIBOW
Attachment: Opening Speech at Economist KIBOW joint Charity Event in Tokyo on April 14th.
Good morning. First of all, I would like to thank the Economist for organizing this KIBOW-Economist joint conference.
I have established KIBOW together with the emerging leaders of Japan on March 14th, only 3 days after the quake when the rolling blackout was implemented and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactor has blasted with fumes in the afternoon.
KIBOW means Kibou (Hope in Japanese) and Rainbow (bridge between Japan & the world).
The objectives of KIBOW are as follows
1) Hope: You can live without some food or even water for a while. But without HOPE you cannot live. We are delivering Hope to those regions heavily affected by the earthquake. I was in Mito on 25th March and in Iwaki,Fukushima for 2 days until yesterday.
2) Rainbow: Japan cannot live without being engaged to the world. Japanese language is beautiful, but very few foreigners understand it. So we are sending messages in English using Facebook, Twitter and emails. We have sent out 5 messages in a series of emails altogether. It has become my weekly habit to write English letters on the weekends.
3) Donation: We have raised over JY60million from 1500plus people. Thank you for those who have come today and those who have donated to KIBOW. It will be used very prudently.
As for Japan, I strongly believe that it would revive strongly. I am sensing strong energy coming out from within most Japanese people, especially younger people. I feel that we have been AWAKENED. Therefore, let’s convert/transform this tragedy into a chance to commit and propose the following 3 DRASTIC CHANGES.
1) Government: Let’s use this as a chance to change the policy of the Government. Our debt has reached 200% of GDP. We need to fix it. Let's use this as a chance to cut Social Security, such as pension, medical, and nursing care insurance, and invest on the future growth. Further, let’s unleash entrepreneurship through deregulations.
For instance, let’s use this as a chance to break TEPCO into power generation and power supply, so that new ventures can enter. Let’s deregulate agriculture, fishery, and medicine, to encourage new entrepreneurs to emerge so that they will create and innovate societies.
Mikitani started Rakuten right after the Kobe Earthquake. We anticipate new entrepreneurial spirits would emerge from Tohoku.
2) Companies: Japanese people have manifested the virtue of hard working, commitment, sense of community, orderliness, perseverance. Let’s combine that with drastic change in strategy, globalization, and technological advancement, so that the competitiveness of Japan would improve.
3) Citizens: Let’s use this as a chance to change ourselves and drastically alter the way we participate in politics. Let’s speak up more using Facebook and twitters to transform Japan.
So that we can be sure that New Resilient Japan will emerge from this great earthquake.
Thank you all for joining Economist and KIBOW meeting.