Japan’s Touhoku Earthquake

It’s been nearly a month since the Touhoku Earthquake sucker-punched Japan and in this intervening time  I’ve been struggling to write a post about it that didn’t seem hollow or crass. I felt doing so was important because what I really wanted to do to help – flying to Japan and helping with the relief efforts – was the last thing that Japan needed.

I suspect part of my problem in writing this is that I’ve never really experienced anything similar; the closest I’ve gotten happened when I was a young boy and a F5 tornado tore through a town about 4 miles from my house but even a F5 is small potatoes compared to a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. So, I tried many different angles and nothing seemed to work; the draft that I almost went with involved studying how anime (in this case Kamichu) had the power to affect a person when reacting to real-life events like this earthquake.

Finally, I realized the simplest response was really the best one. Namely, I hope everyone reading this keeps Japan in their prayers and, if possible, donate to a reputable charity of their choice. They’re going to need both for many more months.

Something I didn’t see really explained in the news coverage but came across by accident is that Japan’s electrical grid is split into two parts; the western half of the country runs on 60 Hz and the eastern half (which includes Tokyo) runs on 50 Hz. The two are, essentially, mutually exclusive so the extra electrical capacity that the western half has cannot be sent to the eastern half where the earthquake/tsunami has ravaged many of the power plants. That’s why there’s rolling blackouts now; TEPCO currently has nowhere near the power capacity to keep up with demand and nowhere to get it from. Which is very bad because if TEPCO can’t get a great deal of their lost capacity back before summer then there’s going to be millions of sick and elderly people having to get through a humid, hot summer with no air conditioning. Never a good thing.

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6 thoughts on “Japan’s Touhoku Earthquake”

  1. Well, the only thing we can do is believe in them. And I, most certainly, do. Remember the WW2? After 2 nuclear catastrophes Japan managed to climb up to the top. This time it will do so to.

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  2. It also probably explains the difference between the cultural split between Kyoto, Kyushu, and Tokyo.

    If they are so divided as to have different power settings, the west because of their initial Christian/business foundations, that would be so.

    Reminds me of Sekigahara 1600. You know, the whole Army of the West vs the Army of the East. Means something more than cardinal directions once you know the cultural and historical sub-templates.

    http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/okinawa-and-japan/

    That might be of interest to those wanting a historical perspective.

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  3. @Namika: I definitely think so too.

    @Ymarsakar: That was an interesting read (and a bit uncomfortable to read as well) . It certain ways it seems like East and West Japan is analogous to the North and South with the US but maybe even more pronounced.

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  4. I became interested in post war reconstruction methodologies after observing the problems in Iraq from first and second hand reports. Success stories like MacArthur’s post-occupation civic and economic rebuilding programs, were an obvious starting point and point of interest. The question was very simple. How did a military man like MacArthur, the one who infamously recommended to nuclearize the North Korean war of 1952 and thus was fired by Truman due to the risk of public perception on the war, do more in Japan than a whole bevy of multicultural diplomats and busy body UN types in Iraq?

    Luck and circumstances are the excuses mediocre people use to justify their mediocrity, for the skilled make their own luck, regardless of the circumstances. The pursuit of excellence is not an easy road, yet it has amazing results.

    I recently learned that many of the clans allied to the Army of the West against Tokugawa Ieyasu were from the Western islands of Japan, rather than the proper mainland. These were the ones who received the largest concentration and influx of Western ideas and commerce through the Portuguese and Dutch. It made sense, afterwards, for Ieyasu to close off Japan to “foreign meddlers” like the Jesuits. And it made even more sense that the Meiji Restoration eliminated, for all intents and purposes, the samurai class as well as the Shogunate. The leaders of the Meiji Restoration were the clans that lost to Tokugawa at Sekigahara. And they were the ones who began the Westernization of many Japanese institutions, including school uniforms that made girls look like cute sailors. They re-empowered the Japanese emperor politically and started Japan on the road to industrialization, and ultimately, to military conquest using Western concepts of a navy and an army.

    I used to think Japan’s contradiction between their traditional\spiritual values and the West’s more open, chaotically free ideas were of recent invention post-WWII. But now I see that Japan has had a long history of conflicting philosophies between the traditional and the new. It would be very hard to understand the Japanese cultural mindset without keeping those aspects in view. Just as it would be impossible to understand American foreign and domestic policy if you did not know the difference between the South and North, why Southerners dislike centralized authority in the form of Washington DC or Northern busy bodies in the People’s Republic of Mass., and the difference between the American Jacksonian war party and the Jeffersonian/Wilsonian peace party.

    Hollywood is the face most people in the world see of America. Yet they are rarely aware of the deep and traditional aspects of the American warrior class or their political support.

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  5. Japan is much like America. Adversity will only make them stronger. It is decadence that will weaken them to the point of fatality.

    Did you hear about that hero in Japan that went out with scuba gear to dive in submerged buildings to save people that were trapped by the rising flood? Interesting.

    It is hard to pinpoint exactly where the otaku/anime sub-culture in Japan comes from, economically and class wise. It is not from their elite business nobility, centered around Kyoto and Tokyo. It is definitely not of their traditional samurai nobility class. Unlike American tv, it’s hard to pinpoint ideological bias just by looking at what the Japanese attack or scorn. Because they’re not as obvious as we Americans are. Regardless of the origins, anime has become Japan’s cultural expansion tool, much like American MacDonalds and Western esque movies. And for that particular person during Japan’s tsunami quake, he exemplified much of the values presented as good in prime time anime: specifically shonen prime time.

    They called MacArthur the “American Shogun” when he instituted an occupation government run by the military and then eventually self-elected Japanese, with extreme oversight/veto powers by the American military. Until full independence was achieved. When MacArthur left, there were Japanese lining up on both sides of the road biding him farewell and thanking him for re-instituting economic and food systems. Their last Shogun was Tokugawa Ieyasu, who closed off Japan to all foreigners. What were they thinking when they saw MacArthur and spoke the words “Shogun” attached by “American” (Western).

    Curiouser and Curiouser.

    I mentioned the Okinawa link primarily because it was good to see how it was rebuilt following the devastation of the Battle of Okinawa. There were setbacks, obviously, but the Americans didn’t quit. Or as the Japanese would say, “didn’t give up”.

    History is meaningless without context I have found. It’s not enough to know the dates and the events. One must come to know the people involved, in order to know the motivations behind it all. The peculiarly human motivations.

    Karate is very popular in Japan and has been exported to many other nations. Yet Kara-te began originally in Okinawa, taught to them by the Chinese kung fu practitioners. Much of kata is a dance, designed to distract foreign invaders from the truth. The complete system was not taught to the Japanese on the mainland. Thus they continued to practice and refine an incomplete system without understanding the true foundations of karate. This is of great interest to those in the martial arts community. Little interest to anybody else. Yet it does show one thing. Not everything is as it appears and most things are more complicated than popularly believed.

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