Manila Report: We Can Take It
“We Can Take It” (for SGRA Kawaraban #286)
Thank you for all your phone and internet mails from Manila, Toronto, and
I was accompanying the educators of the University of the Philippines, who were touring the town in the vicinity of Nagoya Station, when the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake hit. To calm down the surprised educators, we stood at the exit of the building, with me reassuring them that “Japan could take this much of shaking”. After the initial tremor had passed, we continued our tour of the area as if nothing happened. The educators have been walking around a lot since the previous day, so we returned to the hotel relatively early. Before getting on the subway, I got a call in my mobile phone from Professor Hitoshi Hirakawa, who is a SGRA adviser, and we confirmed each other’s safety. Taking lightly the professor’s words “It appears to be quite bad”, we returned to the hotel. It was when I turned on the TV that I first came to realize the severity of the situation. Through my mobile phone mail, I immediately transmitted our safety to my and the visiting educators’ families. Together with educators in the University of the Philippines, I received quite a number of messages saying that they were virtually down on their knees praying for Japan as well as the Philippines, which is also an archipelago.
The day after the big quake, in Nagoya University the workshop on the theme “Towards a Sustainable Shared Growth in Industrial Asia” was held as scheduled after a brief moment of silence on Professor Hirakawa’s request. While being concerned about Japan, the speakers earnestly made their presentations. Around that time, news came about Fukushima Nuclear Reactor No. 1 exploding, which prompted talk about the nuclear power plant that was being built many years ago in the Philippines, but was stopped by resistance from civil society. The next day, getting guidance from Professor Hirakawa, I brought the educators to the Chubu International Airport and saw them up to immigration. The airport was surprisingly peaceful. While mulling over the next week’s classes, I then headed right away to Tokyo on the Tokaido Shinkansen, which was by then running again.
Checking closely the news, I came to understand that a great tragedy has just visited Japan, that magnitude 7 aftershocks have a 70% probability of occurring in the next few days, and that scheduled brownouts will be implemented. On the Monday (13th) after the earthquake, I checked the email announcements of the university, which was still in the midst of Spring semester, for any announcements on class suspension. Having found none, I immediately sent emails to all of my students that they do not have to go to the university for my classes on Tuesday (14th). Several hours later, I found out that the university had suspended all classes, and had made arrangements for a flight for Hong Kong and a bus for Kansai for faculty, students, and others. Since then resumption of classes has been repeatedly postponed. At this point, resumption of classes has been tentatively decided to be on April 4th. Since the weekend after the earthquake, you, my family, have been imploring me to go home. In order to somewhat allay your fears, I have been sending out, through my mobile phone, information that I have picked up from Fuji TV, which has been most prompt in organizing the information, and other sources.
The behemoth finally awoke from its deep sleep where it has been building up its strength for more than half a century. With a growl that could be heard as far away as another island nation, the Philippines, 3000 kilometers away, the behemoth rose from the sea floor off Tohoku. Indiscriminately and in a wide area, it wielded its might. The people bravely put up a fight. With sirens filling the air, the warning “It has attacked! Everyone, quickly get out!” continued until the behemoth reached the shore. The young girl issuing the warning together with the town officials and firemen stationed at the fort’s walls, which was designed to keep out the behemoth and protect the town, lost their lives in the fight. Having been bought some time, the people who were able to make it to high ground held their breath as they watched the behemoth being held back at the fort’s walls. “It’s taking it! It’s taking it!” but this soon changed to screams of “It’s over the wall! It’s over the wall!”
The behemoth left after leveling down the town. At times we could still hear its growl from far away. The behemoth’s poison remains in the island nation, and even now is causing damage. Holding each others hands, everyone is earnestly exerting efforts to suck out the poison.
There’s going to be a lot of hardship in the interim, but I would like to repeat that Japan could take this much of damage. Recovery is inevitable, but I think that we have been given a very good opportunity to think about what form this recovery would take. Shall we return to the lost decades Japan, whom I have found very disappointing? Shall we return to Post-WWII Japan, whom I have come to love?
After the war, about 90% of Japan’s manufacturing capacity was destroyed, causing a severe lack of goods. After the dropping of the atomic bombs, about 250,000 people (including those from radiation) died in the first four months. Japan was remarkably able to achieve recovery to such an extent that it came to be called an “East Asian Miracle”. Moreover, from the burning fields of the war was born several visions, which have caught the imagination of a large number of global citizens, including myself: the Peace Constitution, the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, and my research theme of Shared Growth, among others.
This time around, the attack on Japan’s mainland was not from the armies of foreign lands, but from Japan’s ancient foe, the behemoth. From the scars of war would hopefully emerge, among others, a new Peace Constitution, a new Three Non-Nuclear Principles, and a new Shared Growth. A new Peace Constitution which strengthens the Self Defense Forces and the private sector’s abilities to protect the lives and properties of citizens of Japan and other Asian countries which are also weak against earthquake and tsunami. A new Three Non-Nuclear Principles which makes a fundamental review of the nuclear energy program. A new Shared Growth which also considers the genuine division of labor in East Asia and the promotion of a safe and secure ecological system. I am filled with excitement by simply imagining these alternatives.
It is not clear which recovery path Japan will eventually take, but I would like to put my stakes on the strong determination and wisdom of the Japanese people not to waste this tragedy.
Please continue to support me as I shuttle between Tokyo and Manila for my research about Japan.