Friday, July 06, 2012

Slackjawed With Amazement at the Kurokawa Report

For me to list all the non-sequiturs, self-contradictory passages, half-truths, prevarications ("It is possible that..."), unsupported accusations, self-evident statements presented as revelations (Prime Minister Kan Naoto's visit to the plant "diverted the attention and time of the on-site operational staff." Oh cut the crap: the presence of a wasp in the control room would have had the same effect) and the reticence to assign blame in the final report of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Commission (Kokkai Tokyo Denryoku Fukushima Genshiryokuhatsudenjo jiko chousa iinkai), I would be typing all day, all night -- for weeks.

It is really that bad.

If the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission or the International Atomic Energy Commission had any sense, they would immediately hire a team of Japan scholars to tear this [unfortunate choice of words removed - Ed.] apart, and form special investigative commissions of their own to compare and contrast all the official reports produced so far.

The download page of the Kurokawa Commission report crashed a little after 9 pm last night (and is still down at the time of the publication of this post), preventing access to the most important versions of the documents. The reports themselves, when one could access them, were presented in impossible to copy-and-paste formats and in a maze of links and pages, indicating how little the powers-that-be have wanted the world and/or the citizens of Japan to take look at the Commission's findings and come to their own conclusions.

That the English language version of the report has the commission president blaming Japanese culture for contributing the disaster, whilst the Japanese language version omits this little chestnut, is simply so revolting an appeal to international stereotypes regarding the people of this blessed land that my morning coffee today tastes like sewer water -- and Amaterasu knows I love my coffee.

Later - This post has been edited to remove non-worksafe language.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Since the site is crashed I have only last night's NHK news to rely on for content. I think Kan is disliked enough (for possibly very "Japanese" reasons) that he and the naikaku were not going to get good reviews. I wonder if history would be kinder.

I don't like the argument about whether or not the event was a jinsai or the implied alternative of tensai.
Stressing the obvious jinsai aspects suggests that safety can be perfected as if institutions and actors within it are capable of near perfection.
The blame goes much wider and without necessarily being forgiving, one would need to assess events such as this on limitations to what capacity society has to live with this particularly convoluted and stupid way of boiling water to turn a fan.

I'm waiting for the naiic site to recover (which is much simpler technical exercise than a nuke site).

YY

emmausroadprojects said...

This report and the inaccessibility of the documents included within are just another 'tatemae' tactic in an attempt to save face... Meanwhile the effects are of genocidal proportions and will impact the next few generations of Japanese and beyond.
TEPCO doesn't plan to fix No. 4 Reactor before early next year...it's so incompetent its like the 'Fawlty Towers of Fukushima' only they're playing with lives of innocent people so it's far from funny...

Durf said...

To the commission's credit, it has been working to find alternate ways to get the reports in people's hands after the website crash. The Facebook page has links to all publications (full report, exec. summary, associated materials, English translation) available on other sites:

https://www.facebook.com/jikocho

wrightak said...

The English language version certainly isn't a direct translation but the Japanese language version does criticize Japanese culture. Take a look at Kurokawa's message towards the end of the full report in Japanese, which contains this passage:

今回の事故の原因は、日本の社会構造を受容してきた私たちの「思いこみ(マインドセット)」 の中にあったのかもしれない。

Philippe said...

The commission site appears to be back up now. Only the summary report available in English, apparently. Now I've got to read through that (first put away all things that can damage compute equipment in case I'm as disgusted as you appear to be…).

MTC said...

wrightalk -

"Structure of society" and "Japanese culture" are two very different things, with huge implications as regards agency and remediative action.

wrightak said...

That was just one example. There are plenty of other places where the tone of criticism is pretty similar to the English.

I would agree that 社会構造 is substantially different from "culture," but how exactly would the implications as regards agency and remedial action be different for "culture" versus the Japanese "mindset?"

In my mind, if you're criticizing the mindset of the Japanese people, which happens in several places throughout the report, you're getting pretty close to a criticism of Japanese culture.

Anonymous said...

"Prime Minister Kan Naoto's visit to the plant "diverted the attention and time of the on-site operational staff." Oh cut the crap: the presence of a wasp in the control room would have had the same effect."
Magnifico! Beautifully put and I couldn't agree more. Whence comes this urge to blame a flying visit of a few hours on March 12 and a bit of micromanagement on poor ex-PM Kan? If you have any clue, please enlighten me (us).

Pachiguy said...

"the reticence assign blame"
I guess you meant "the reticence to assign blame"... I'm not sure that "reticence" is the right conclusion to be drawn from the report itself, and even more so not from the usually futile and couner-productive blame game that accompanies Black Swan events. You can see Fukushima in a microcosm in the trials of "rekidai" JR West shachos unfolding as we speak--to take it to a reuctio ad absurdam, should a railway operator spend $2mn on electrifed barriers at a pathway across tracks that is crossed by one old and increasingly doddery lady a year? Yes? Then why not cut the speed limit on Japanese highways to 50km/h? Or 30km/h? That'll be sure to save many more lives.

MTC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MTC said...

wrightalk -

The concept of a Japanese "omoikomi" (Kurokawa's quotation marks, not mine) is introduced not as itself but as a special, constrained meaning of the word, explained, supposedly, by a katakana transliteration of mindset: maindosetto.

The rule of thumb is when katakana eigo is used for a new term, it is with the goal of letting elites to speak to other elites, excluding the common run of humanity. This is doubly so in this case where the transliterated English term is used to purportedly explain the kanji+kana term.

Argue what you will, if Kurokawa wanted to say nihon no bunka (Japanese culture) he would have.

As to the questions of agency and remediate action, the operational options of the individual from within the confines of the structure of society are far more open, because the elements of the structure can be seen, that they would be under culture, where the elements undergirding reality are largely invisible

TenThousandThings said...

Thank you, sharing...

Anonymous said...

As a native Japanese speaker I don't think Kurokawa is "talking to elites" by using katakana. (Where did you get this idea after all? It's sooooo outdated a notion, like in the 1980s.)

By writing 「思いこみ(マインドセット)」the author tries to be more precise, as 思いこみ is a kind of vague word that can be interpreted in several/a number of ways.

"Culture" can be translated in many ways, too. It's true that "文化" is the most conprehensive word but it's not the only answer.

Anonymous said...

I agree with almost all of what you write (usually - I don't get chance to read everything), but this stands out as an exception:
"The reports themselves, when one could access them, were presented in impossible to copy-and-paste formats and in a maze of links and pages, indicating how little the powers-that-be have wanted the world and/or the citizens of Japan to take look at the Commission's findings and come to their own conclusions."
You really think the "powers-that-be" are that organized? I don't think they're are above trying to manipulate public opinion, but on this one, my money would be on inept, rather than deceptive (not based on any evidence on my part).
-Jill

Mr. Blather said...

Actually, the part about Kan's visit disrupting things is the only part of the report I believe. VIPs, especially the PM, don't just hop in, look around and leave. There are advance teams, security teams, press areas and lots of prop and people positioning.

Troy said...

yeah, I was going to say what Ten Thousand Things said.


"nihon no bunka"

brings to mind tea ceremony and ikebana.

"social structure" is a better word.

It's not referring to buildings, it's about how people think in groups, and thus "mindset" is also apt.

MTC said...

Mr. Blather - and I hope that is your real name,
1) you clearly do not know Japan very well and
2) have not seen any of the video/still photos of the visit.

Kan did something like what you described, but better: he hopped in a helicopter without support staff; looked around; listened intently to what the on-site TEPCO workers could tell him; found in Yoshida Masao, the on-site manager, a person he could believe in; gave the order to send teams into the #1 reactor to manually open the vents (an order he had no authority to give and the plant workers had no legal responsibility to obey -- they all just knew someone had to give the order, and if that someone was the PM, great); and then flew back to Tokyo, where there were 10,000 tasks awaiting him.