My Trip to Fukushima


Tsunami devastation near Sendai (Japan)

I thought it was good to start the posts for the New Year with an uplifting, feel-good story. That’s hard, because the last year was marked by gloom and pessimism – Obama’s incompetence, Europe’s march to economic disaster, the fake Arab springs bringing Muslim fanatics to power, etc., etc.

I think I found an event that could be a source for optimism, even though it was rooted in another disaster. I am talking about the March earthquake in Japan. After going through my records of the trip to Japan two months ago, I have finally sorted out the pictures I took.

One of the things I wanted to do while being in Japan was to go to the Fukushima area, which was the worst affected region. We were perfectly aware that the authorities wouldn’t let us go that far, but it was worth the try to get some idea about the magnitude of the events.

As you may recall, the earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 was one of the worst in the world’s recorded history. Even though the earthquake was so powerful, the country was very well prepared, the main damage was caused by the tsunami, which followed it. Over 20,000 people died in those events.

So we left on a beautiful sunny day in early October (the weather in Japan is still warm that time of the year). After a few hours’ drive we reached Sendai, a beautiful city, which was affected badly by the earthquake, but by October everything was already fixed. Fortunately, the city is not that close to the shore and the tsunami didn’t reach it.

Sendai was the place where the only Canadian in Japan died during the tsunami. That was Father Andre Lachapelle, a Catholic missionary. One of the charity projects of his Church was a kindergarten in a village near the shore. Shortly after the earthquake struck he drove to the village to help. He died on his way there.


A badly damaged gas station near Sendai



Close-up of the same station


Then we went to the shore, which is only a few kilometres from the city. The traces of the devastation were clearly visible. Before March, the area was filled with many houses, but now almost everything is gone.


Most of the houses near Sendai's shore have been completely destroyed


Only some of the industrial and office buildings survived, although many of them are not safe to use.


Some industrial buildings survived




Another damaged building with debris from the houses around it


As of the traditional Japanese houses, they have been completely destroyed. Only the foundations of those houses remain, including a cemetery. That type of house is light and can withstand a strong earthquake, however, that doesn’t help at all when the area is hit by tsunami.



All the houses are gone, but the cemetery is still there


Although most of the debris has been cleaned up, there are few piles remaining, which still haven’t been processed. Japan has a very strict recycling program – everything is meticulously sorted out and reused, especially metal and plastic.


The metal from the destroyed houses waiting to be collected


Then we headed south to Fukushima. On our way we saw even more destruction.


An industrial building completely destroyed by the tsunami


We stopped in a small town and went to the ocean shore to take pictures. Many of the houses are close to the shore, yet they have been less affected by the tsunami; many of the houses were intact.


The ghost town



A few houses at the top managed to survive


Still, the devastation is visible. There are houses completely destroyed:


Only the foundations remained...


A ruined store, a bridge that crumbled, concrete shattered near the ocean:


That used to be a store...




That's what remains from the bridge




There is even a car, which is still in the little river:


The car in the river


Miraculously, a small Shinto shrine has survived while most of the buildings around it have been destroyed:


The small Shinto shrine


An odd thing we noticed was that we didn’t see any people, except a small group of workers with a bulldozer. The town looked deserted.

We have been there for less than half an hour, when a police car approached us. The two officers were wearing face masks and white gloves. They explained that the town had been evacuated because of radiation and they are patrolling to ensure that nothing is stolen from the houses.



The police just finished searching our car


Then they asked if they could check our car. By the way, as it is common with the Japanese police, they were very polite and considerate. They asked for permission before checking every part of the car or any of our bags. And every time they bowed slightly with gratitude before proceeding with the search. I was tempted to see what would happen if we refused to let them check a bag, but didn’t want to push my luck.

After they were done we chatted with them for a while. It turned out both of them were from the Nagasaki police force. Police officers from different areas serve in the Fukushima area for a month at a time to keep order. They said that the radiation in the town was negligible, but the people have been evacuated as a preventive measure. They found it strange that a Canadian would go to this town.

Then we continued our way south. We kept driving near the shore. Everywhere the picture was similar – you see mostly foundations and damaged buildings. The closer you get to the nuclear power plant, the more police you see and at certain point the army units appear.


The closer you get to Fukushima, the more soldiers you see


The tiny Japanese Army is practically invisible under normal circumstances – they usually stay in their bases. The leftist press even pretends they don’t exist, very rarely can you see pictures of the military in its publications. However, they were heavily involved in helping people during the disaster, searching for survivors, clearing the affected areas and helping built temporary shelter for the survivors.


Even more soldiers...


At certain point, still away from the plant, we were stopped and asked to turn back – they say it may be dangerous to continue. That put an end to the trip.

On the way back I was thinking what made Japan so resilient when dealing with disaster. I did research on how the survivors coped – since so much of the infrastructure was destroyed, they were accommodated in schools and sports facilities. Everything was very well organized – the areas inside those buildings were even assigned their own new postal codes.

The restoration efforts started right away and proceeded with lightning speed. Here is a badly damaged highway, which was restored in less than a week:



The people, who lived in those temporary accommodations, with the exception of the children and the elderly started helping right away – many volunteered to clean the debris, help restore the businesses they worked in, etc. All of that was done on a strictly voluntary basis – the emergency forces would’ve been able to do everything even without them.

But being helpful is a matter of ethics and tradition for the Japanese. They are frequently accused that they are prone to a herd mentality, that they lack individuality, etc. Japan simply has that idea of how important mutual help is, which makes everybody feel an obligation to be useful.

If you remember the Katrina hurricane disaster in Louisiana a few years ago, you may recall that thousands of people, especially from the welfare underclass, waited for months and years until somebody else finished rebuilding their houses. They were even upset at the possibility that the Latino workers may stay there after they finish and turn the “chocolate city” (as the New Orleans mayor called it) into something else. Even more drastic example was the earthquake in Haiti – the victims still live in tent cities doing nothing, while surrounded by 90% of the ruins they never bothered to clean up. The gullible Westerners sent billions of dollars in help only to have the money stolen by the local crooked politicians and charities. Even one of the Haitian cultural “luminaries”, Wyclef Jean (who ran for president), stole millions of dollars from the donations to his “charity”.

In contrast, to most Japanese such behaviour is unthinkable. Nobody would consider it normal that they could stay doing nothing while somebody is working to build their homes. Even the looting after the disaster was so minuscule, compared to other countries. Even Yakuza (the Japanese Mafia) got involved in the rescue works right away distributing goods. I don’t recall the murderous New Orleans gangs doing anything even remotely similar, except killing people and looting the abandoned houses.

The important thing is that the Japanese still adhere to their values, which have allowed them to survive on their inhospitable islands for thousands of years. After the Second World War Japan was more devastated than Haiti, the quality of the goods they produced was nothing to brag about, they had no natural resources, yet they found the strength to turn the things around and become one of the most prosperous countries in the world.

The crucial reason for that situation is that Japan is a monocultural country – over 99% of the people are Japanese and they take their values and traditions seriously. And those are values and traditions that have been proven to work for the benefit of society. There is very little diversity and self-loathing.

Many of the “multicultural” problems we have here are unthinkable in Japan. If some dumb Muslima demands that a Japanese company accommodate her “right” to come to work in hijab or niqab, she’ll be ejected from that business faster than a champagne cork. And just see what will happen when somebody asks for a Muslim prayer room. A few months ago I had a talk with a Japanese correctional officer, who told me that some Muslim criminals (usually murderers and rapists) in Japanese jails complained to their embassies and they demanded that the Japanese supply halal food for them. The demand was laughed out and it is still talked about as interference in the affairs of Japan.

It is still a shame to be a bum in Japan, while in Canada it’s a badge of honour, which would bring you all kinds of goodies. There is another aspect of the entitlement culture that you can’t find in Japan – the consumer debt. The consumer debt is a cancer that destroys millions of people in the West. Feeling temporarily rich by charging everything on a credit card is perfectly acceptable here, even though most people become slaves of the banks.

In contrast, the Japanese don’t like being in debt. Although all banks and many department stores issue their own credit cards, the reckless use of those is quite rare. Japanese have little personal debt and the household savings are estimated to be about $19 Trillion. The largest bank in the world – Japan’s Postal Bank – one of the most popular banks in Japan, holds personal deposits of about $4.8 Trillion. The Japanese government has more than enough currency reserves – unlike USA or Greece it doesn’t depend on borrowing from foreign countries to pay for its programs (they have some debt, but it is internal, owed to Japan’s citizens).

Not bad for a country with no natural resources and a very small army…

Can we learn something from Japan that we can use? Not necessarily. Japan still keeps in its culture, ethics, and business practices everything that made it highly successful. We, on the other hand, are very creative in finding more and more ways to destroy the values and practices that made the West great. If anybody has a credible strategy to stop that process, I will print out this post and eat the paper…

© 2012

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  1. SM ISAC says:

    Japan’s response to the March 11 disaster also renewed my faith in that nation: Though Japan has its own share of dysfunctional elements, “common sense” will always prevail. Thanks for the post.

  2. The Lone Ranger says:

    Compare Japan’s ability to look after itself after this horrific incident to say, Haiti, and you get the picture. Even New Orleans looked like a disaster zone in Africa.

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