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--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 28
EDITORIAL: Japan needs to quickly compile road map for decontamination.

The Japanese government has finally decided on a basic framework on how to proceed with the decontamination process of radioactive materials spewed from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The government's plan, explained to local governments on Aug. 27, is to halve the residents' exposure within two years, and in the case of children, to reduce it by 60 percent by conducting thorough decontamination procedures in schools and school routes.

The center of the plan is to "reduce, step-by-step and rapidly" the number of areas that will measure 20 millisieverts and higher annually.

However, such a target will not put the residents' minds at ease.

The government estimates that even without actively doing anything, the amount of radiation exposure will decrease about 40 percent in two years due to rain and wind.

It is too unambitious for the government to say it will achieve only an additional 10-20 percent reduction on its own.

Moreover, the latest framework plan does not tell us, even broadly, when the evacuees can return to their normal lives.

The important thing is to have a comprehensive strategy.

To that end, it is essential to closely ascertain the exact situation of the contamination.

We need to measure it in detail, covering sections whose sides are 100 to 500 meters long.

People evacuated from their homes are also hoping to learn the radiation levels around their houses.

On Aug. 27, Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologized to the Fukushima prefectural governor of the possibility that residents of some areas close to the Fukushima nuclear plant will be unable to return to their houses for a long time.

Of course, it may be possible that in areas with the worst levels of contamination, residents may be forced to give up ever returning to their homes.

However, the residents can hardly accept that without sufficient data and some kind of yardstick.

Along with figuring out the actual state of the contamination, the government needs to calculate the cost of the decontamination process and the available level of manpower.

Based on those assessments, the government must hurry to put together a road map that indicates the grand design, and spell out where the process will begin, how it will be conducted and how much time it will take.

Besides, the decontamination work itself must not be haphazard.

In addition to households, public institutions like schools, roads, as well as farms and nearby forests must also be watched. Otherwise, there is no way residents can return to their normal lives.

One major obstacle to the decontamination process is where to store the contaminated topsoil once it is removed.

According to the framework plan, each local government is to set up a temporary storage place, and the central government will be responsible for securing a disposal site.

However, Prime Minister Kan told the Fukushima governor that the central government has no choice but to create the "intermediate storage facility" within Fukushima Prefecture.

Suddenly talking about a new storage facility at this point will only create confusion.

Decontamination is not an easy matter, including securing the disposal site.

The plan must be scrupulous, while also being meticulous about procedure.

And the process must be done swiftly.

by kiyoshimat | 2011-08-31 03:32 | 英字新聞


The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 27
EDITORIAL: DPJ needs to reinvent its political future.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan officially announced his resignation on Aug. 26, saying, "I've done what I've had to do."

During the two years since the historic regime change, two prime ministers quickly got bogged down in a political quagmire and stepped down.

This is undeniably a disastrous failure of politics under the rule of the Democratic Party of Japan.

What are the root causes of the dreadful political situation?

It is not that Kan pushed policy in the wrong direction.

Kan deserves credit for responding to the Fukushima nuclear disaster by trying to lead the nation toward a future less dependent on atomic energy.

We also applaud him for tackling the tough political challenge of developing plans for the unpopular but important proposal of integrated tax and social security reform involving a consumption tax hike.

But executing a policy requires building consensus.

Kan was unskilled at consensus building, and he sometimes didn't even make efforts to win support for his proposals from his Cabinet members.

As he simply proposed policies without laying the necessary political groundwork, he was inevitably criticized for practicing off-the-cuff politics.

But let us hazard a question.

Would the Kan administration have lasted much longer if he had been a leader with a broader perspective and a greater ability to build consensus?

The DPJ is in such disarray that it is hard to answer the question in the affirmative.


Kan was constantly hobbled not merely by the opposition control of the Upper House but equally by perennial political wrangling within the ruling party.

Kan's efforts to push through such key policy initiatives as a consumption tax hike and a review of the party's election manifesto were met with opposition from party members, especially a group of lawmakers led by former DPJ chief Ichiro Ozawa.

With the party unable to reach agreement on these and other key policy issues, the Kan administration lost political momentum.

The confrontation within the party came to a head in June, when the Ozawa group threatened to support an opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion against the Cabinet.

As he avoided a final Diet floor showdown with his opponents within the party, Kan set the stage for his departure.

As the top item in the memorandum he exchanged with his predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, during their talks for avoid passage of the no-confidence motion against him, Kan promised not to "destroy the DPJ."

This fact symbolized the grim reality and limitations of the party.

The DPJ was formed as a rugged collection of politicians pursuing sharply different political agendas and approaches.

It was a political alliance among a wide range of lawmakers who didn't belong to the Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled the nation for decades.

Its principal mission was to secure electoral victories in single-seat constituencies of the Lower House.

In a nutshell, the DPJ was a mutual electoral support group born out of the single-seat election system.
When it was in the opposition, the party managed to put up a united front under the banner of regime change.

As soon as it achieved this political goal, however, the party found itself without a shared vision and plunged into an endless cycle of infighting.

The DPJ's track record since it came to power suggests that the group is too politically immature to be called a political party.

If the party remains as it is, the next administration is sure to repeat the same failure.

The challenge facing the DPJ is whether it can outgrow its old self as an electoral mutual support group and morph into a full-fledged political party.

The party leadership election officially announced on Aug. 27 is of critical importance for the political viability of the DPJ.

During the prelude to the election, many prospective candidates talked about unity and reconciliation among party members.

Such talk may find a certain resonance among party members who are eager to see an end to the intraparty struggle that continued even after the Great East Japan Earthquake in March.

If, however, "party unity" here means turning a blind eye to differences over policies among members, such slogans only represent an extremely irresponsible answer to the party's problems.

If the candidates try to win the leadership race by offering the powerful Ozawa group key posts that control the party's election funds and the right to nominate official party candidates for national elections, the party will inevitably lose the support of even more voters.


It is clear what the party should do in the leadership race.

It should redefine its political position.


First, all the candidates should make clear their stances toward the party's manifesto for the Lower House election that led to its ascent to power.

Would they revise or stick to the platform?

Candidates who vow to adhere to the manifesto should say how they would raise the money needed to deliver on the election promises.

The DPJ's plan to raise funds through spending cuts has become synonymous with wishful thinking in the past two years.

Secondly, after the leadership election, all party members should come together to support the policies proposed by the winner and contribute to the new leader's efforts to push through his proposals.

The quality of the manifesto should be improved in line with the new policy agenda.

DPJ lawmakers who cannot agree to the new chief's policy agenda should leave the party.

Like the DPJ, the LDP also comprises politicians with widely different political stripes.

There is enough room for political realignment around key policy issues.

Such a development would give voters a fresh opportunity to choose a new government on the basis of policies instead of a simple choice between the LDP and the DPJ.


The worst thing that could happen to the party is a leadership contest without serious policy debate in which the candidates only propose vague policies in order to win as many votes as possible.
Even if the party can choose its new leader without meaningful debate, such a race would plant seeds of future confrontation that hamper progress in politics.
Political styles and ways to run the government should also be among major topics for the party leadership election.

We believe that politics of partisan confrontation driven by the power of numbers should come to an end.

When it was led by Ozawa, the DPJ exploited its power as the largest voting bloc in the Upper House to keep making things tough for the government of the LDP-New Komeito coalition.

The DPJ used its political muscle effectively to drive the LDP-led government into a corner through such maneuvers as rejecting the government's nominees for the new Bank of Japan governor and thereby keeping the post of the central bank chief vacant for a while.

The DPJ's strategy worked well to pressure the government into an early dissolution of the Lower House for an election to choose the government.

The DPJ came to power as a result, but the party has been suffering from political reprisals by the LDP.

During this period, Ozawa boasted that he would be able to raise any amount of money to finance the party's policy proposals and had the party increase the monthly child-care allowance it promised to 26,000 yen per child.

At the heart of such an approach to politics is a single-minded pursuit of power.

Japan should outgrow such old-fashioned politics and move toward a new era of politics in which the ruling and opposition parties try to find common ground through serious and constructive policy debate.

The principal lesson to be gleaned from the bitter experiences in the past two years is that this is the only way to break the political stalemate in this age of a divided Diet.

by kiyoshimat | 2011-08-30 04:30 | 英字新聞

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:自己臭恐怖症 /東京

(Mainichi Japan) August 28, 2011
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: In defense of (a little bit of) body odor
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:自己臭恐怖症 /東京

A TV program I happened to see the other day featured clothing with odor-eliminating effects that have been a hit among consumers recently.

Sales of odor-eating underwear, socks and other clothing -- effective against everything from sweat and tobacco smells to the body odor of older men -- have been rising, according to the program.

Sure, there are unpleasant odors, but do people really want to make everywhere odorless so much?

If you get too nervous about eliminating odor, that could stress you out in itself.

In my consultation room, I sometimes see patients who suffer from a unique condition called "olfactory reference syndrome."

These patients wrongly assume that their body odor is offensive to people around them.

They spray air freshener on themselves again and again before they go out, or even refrain from going out at all. 消臭スプレーを何度も振りかけたり外出を控えたりする人もいる。

They usually show up at dermatologists or other doctors first and are then referred to psychiatric clinics.

Even if others tell them that they don't smell at all, these patients believe that they are "smelly and disturbing everyone." Many of these cases are difficult to treat.

Olfactory reference syndrome often plagues young people, whose futures remain undefined and who are still overly sensitive about what others think of them.

Such a trivial thing as a friend turning his or her eyes away from them makes them think they are smelly and making others uncomfortable.
「人からどう見られてるのかな?」と過敏になりがちな年ごろでは、たとえば友だちがたまたま自分から目をそらしただけで「どうして? そうか、私のにおいが苦痛なんだ」と結びつけてしまうのだ。

In contrast, these symptoms tend to disappear naturally when the patients get jobs and gain a certain degree of self-confidence.
"I may have been wrong to worry too much about odor," one such patient said.

The current "odorless" boom, therefore, could be said to show that today even fully-fledged adult members of society lack confidence in themselves, and are always conscious about how others think of them.

Let's say a person became completely odor-free. Would he or she be liked by everybody? Probably not.

Ridding odor is minimal etiquette, but it is nonsense to try to eliminate all your odor.

It is better to try and become someone who, even if smelling a bit sweaty, will be liked by everyone because of a cheerful smile and an even manner.
That's far better for each of us and for society as well.

Whenever I see a person who fills up his or her room with deodorizers to remove any trace of bodily scent, I'm tempted to utter an old saying, "Too much of a good thing."

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2011年8月23日 地方版

by kiyoshimat | 2011-08-29 06:12 | 英字新聞

社説:民主党代表選 どうする外交 瀬戸際の自覚が乏しい

(Mainichi Japan) August 26, 2011
DPJ leadership hopefuls must tackle foreign diplomacy, long-neglected after disasters
社説:民主党代表選 どうする外交 瀬戸際の自覚が乏しい

Since the triple disasters of March 11, Japan has paid little attention to foreign diplomacy.

As the administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan struggled to begin rebuilding the devastated Tohoku region, a political battle was waged by ruling and opposition blocs over whether or not Kan should resign.

Bringing an end to the stagnation that such political warfare has created and normalizing the course of Japan's foreign policy is one of the most important challenges that awaits the next prime minister.

In spite of this, however, little has been said about diplomacy and security by politicians expressing an interest in running for the head of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) -- and hence, the next prime minister.

We must not allow the upcoming election to become an inward-looking election, one solely concerned with political maneuvering for the right number of votes and the nature of the candidates' ties to former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa.

Meanwhile, other countries are making active and astute steps in their diplomatic affairs.

Take, for example, the United States and China. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden recently visited both China and Japan, staying six days in China -- during which he poured his energies into establishing strong relations with Xi Jinping, said to be China's next president.

This was in stark contrast to Biden's visit to Japan, which lasted just two days and included a meeting with outgoing Prime Minister Kan as a mere formality.

In addition, China appears to be testing the DPJ's stance toward China, as demonstrated in two Chinese patrol boats' entry into Japanese waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Furthermore, there have been rising tensions between China and Russia, both battling for political and economic influence in the Far East region.

The year 2012 will be a turning point not only in China, where the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party will change hands, but also in Russia, the U.S., and South Korea, where presidential elections are set to take place.

While others have been formulating diplomatic strategies with next year in mind, Japan, due to its internal political skirmishes, has trailed behind both in influencing the establishment of a new regional order and its pursuit of national interests.

As such, the diplomatic challenges that the next prime minister must deal with are all urgent.

There is the breakdown in talks over the Japan-U.S. joint declaration on bilateral security that needs to be addressed, and a much-needed breakthrough in the issue of relocating U.S. Marine Corps' Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.

There's also a visit to China by Japan's new prime minister, and a visit to Japan by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, which must take place before the end of the year.

Whoever takes the helm of government will be scrutinized for his ability -- or lack thereof -- to command a presence before other leaders at the East Asia Summit and APEC Summit, both set to take place this fall.

Have the DPJ leadership election candidates-to-be taken these responsibilities into consideration?

They are obligated to show how prepared they are for such duties.

In the two years since the DPJ government came to power, it has downplayed the importance of continuity and botched diplomatic dealings by putting precarious ideals ahead of everything else.

The administration's strategy-building capabilities failed to improve, and diplomats' information and networks were not put to effective use.

Japanese foreign policy has veered far off course because the DPJ put a lid on intra-party conflict in order to take over government, and failed to reach a consensus on basic policies such as the Japan-U.S. alliance and a vision for an East Asian community, the "third opening" of Japan, and its stance toward China.

We hope that those running in the DPJ presidential race will take the mistakes that have been made to heart, realize the crossroads at which Japan is now standing, and carry out a heated debate on diplomatic policy.

毎日新聞 2011年8月26日 2時31分

by kiyoshimat | 2011-08-28 08:43 | 英字新聞

日本国債格下げ 財政悪化と政策停滞の警鐘だ

Moody's downgrade a warning over fiscal, political ills
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 26, 2011)
日本国債格下げ 財政悪化と政策停滞の警鐘だ(8月25日付・読売社説)

The major U.S. ratings agency Moody's Investors Service on Wednesday downgraded Japanese government bonds from Aa2, the third-highest rating, to Aa3, the fourth-highest.

The move should be taken as a warning regarding the deterioration of Japan's fiscal situation and the paralysis in its political sphere.

Now the level of Japanese government bonds is lower than those of Italy and Spain, where concern over government finances has been soaring, and the same as those of China and Chile.

In January, another U.S. rating firm downgraded Japanese bonds to the same level.

These are only independent evaluations by private firms, but they serve as guidelines for the creditworthiness of government bonds in the market.

If investors sell off Japanese bonds and force the interest rate to rise because of the downgrade, the government's costs for interest payments will rise, which would aggravate the fiscal situation.

Speculative moves have to be closely watched.


Fiscal rehabilitation in doubt

As reasons for the downgrade, Moody's named Japan's huge fiscal deficit and its doubts whether the country can become fiscally healthy.

The ratings agency said, "Over the past five years, frequent changes in administrations have prevented the government from implementing long-term economic and fiscal strategies into effective and durable policies." It is natural for Japan to receive such a severe evaluation.

Because of the divided Diet, confrontations between ruling and opposition parties have intensified, blocking progress on various policies.

The most pressing issue of all--restoration of fiscal health--has been put off, causing the situation to worsen.

The outstanding long-term debts of the central and local governments combined are expected to be about 900 trillion yen at the end of the current fiscal year, or 1.8 times the gross domestic product.

The country's debt-to-GDP ratio is worse than that of Greece, which is in a profound fiscal crisis.

According to the government's estimate, outstanding debts will balloon to nearly 1,200 trillion yen at the end of fiscal 2020.

The fiscal crises in the West have seriously affected global financial markets, but this situation is not what Japanese would call "a fire on the other side of the river."

Swift reforms in both revenue and spending must be enforced before it is too late.


Political will lacking

However, the politicians of this country have little sense of crisis about the status quo and lack firm determination to move forward with fiscal rehabilitation.

The key issues in the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential election, in which candidates are competing to replace Prime Minister Naoto Kan, will include tax hikes to secure revenue to rebuild from the Great East Japan Earthquake and a review of the dole-out policies in its manifesto for the 2009 House of Representative election.

However, many would-be candidates in the DPJ presidential election are cautious about the early introduction of tax hikes for reconstruction purposes.

Likewise, no one has spoken in-depth about the government policy for integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, which stipulates the consumption tax rate will be raised in stages to 10 percent in the mid-2010s.

The post-Kan administration should make progress in reconstructing from the great earthquake and restoring fiscal health.

The government has to make the economy steadily recover to realize an early exit from deflation. This is indispensable for recovering confidence in Japanese government bonds.

In the coming DPJ election we hope the candidates will discuss policies that prioritize economic growth, such as stabilizing the electricity supply and measures to combat the yen's appreciation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2011)
(2011年8月25日01時09分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2011-08-27 06:26 | 英字新聞

金総書記訪露 対「北」協力は核放棄が前提だ

N. Korea must give up nukes to get economic benefits
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 25, 2011)
金総書記訪露 対「北」協力は核放棄が前提だ(8月24日付・読売社説)

On his first visit to Russia in nine years, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il traveled about 5,000 kilometers by train to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in eastern Siberia on Wednesday.

Kim's visit to Russia follows his trip to China in May. This burst of summit diplomacy with Chinese and Russian leaders is probably a calculated attempt by Kim to strengthen ties with two major powers that share borders with his country to help guarantee his regime's survival.

Russia has been particularly positive toward Pyongyang.

Ahead of Kim's visit, Moscow decided to offer 50,000 tons of food aid to North Korea, which has been plagued with food shortages.

Russia will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vladivostok in autumn next year.

This will be a crucial opportunity for Russia to accelerate resource development in Siberia and its entry into the Asian market.

From this strategic viewpoint also, Russia is keen to stabilize the situation on the Korean Peninsula.


Tripartite cooperation plan

In a congratulatory message he sent to Kim on Aug. 15, the 66th anniversary of the end of Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, Medvedev proposed that Russia, North Korea and South Korea cooperate in energy development and railway construction.

This clearly indicates Moscow's intention to strengthen its presence in Asia.

In concrete terms, the plan calls for building a natural gas pipeline vertically down the Korean Peninsula and opening a North-South railway that would link with the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Based on an agreement reached during summit talks, Russia and South Korea have held consultative meetings to discuss the supply of Russian natural gas, and transport routes via the Trans-Siberian Railway to the European market.

If realized, this ambitious project would ease tensions on the peninsula and stabilize the situation in Northeast Asia.

The project also would greatly benefit North Korea, which could earn rent for land used for the pipeline and receive electricity.


Preconditions for help

However, we think this economic cooperation should go ahead only if two conditions are met.

First, North Korea must not launch any military provocations against South Korea.

Confidence-building between the two countries is essential.

Second, Pyongyang must make good on the promise it made in the joint statement issued after six-nation negotiations in September 2005 to abandon its nuclear development program.

North Korea should also discontinue its uranium enrichment, which some observers fear could lead to a new nuclear weapons development program.

If Russia wants to push economic cooperation, it should use it as leverage to coax North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

It is important that Medvedev has an opportunity to convey these concerns to Kim.

At the very least, Moscow should continue to call on Pyongyang to allow inspections of its uranium enrichment facilities and put on hold nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2011)
(2011年8月24日01時39分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2011-08-26 06:24 | 英字新聞

社説:放射能汚染対策 説明尽くし国の責任で

(Mainichi Japan) August 23, 2011
Gov't should take responsibility for decontaminating soil tainted with radiation
社説:放射能汚染対策 説明尽くし国の責任で

The Japanese government appears prepared to go ahead with the decontamination of soil tainted with radioactive substances leaking from the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant after the ruling and opposition parties agreed to enact legislation to make up for a legal flaw.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and two key opposition parties -- the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and New Komeito -- have agreed on the details of a special measures bill on land decontamination and disposal of rubble contaminated with radioactive substances.

The bill likely will be submitted to the Diet as a lawmaker-initiated bill and become law during the ongoing session.

The Waste Disposal and Public Cleaning Law does not cover the disposal of rubble contaminated with radioactive substances.

If enacted, the new law would be the first to cover how to deal with radiation contamination outside the premises of nuclear power plants.

Under the bill, the environment minister would designate areas with high levels of radiation as "special areas."  放射性物質を除去し、放射線量を下げる除染は、必要な場所について環境相が「特別地域」に指定。

The national government would decontaminate the designated areas based on a plan it would work out after listening to the opinions of the local governments concerned.

The minister would also designate areas where radioactive rubble must be disposed of, and the national government would collect such waste, and transport, store and dispose it at its own responsibility.

The bill would require Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled Fukushima power plant, to bear the costs of decontamination and disposal of rubble contaminated with radioactive substances as part of its compensation for the nuclear accident.

Even though the bill would clarify the central government's responsibility for radiation contamination countermeasures, many hurdles must be cleared before such measures are implemented.

In particular, it is difficult to predict when the environment of the areas where residents have been evacuated can be improved to a level where they can come back and live safely because such a large-scale decontamination operation is unprecedented anywhere in the world.

Therefore, the national government is required to fully release information on how far it intends to reduce radiation levels in affected areas based on its monitoring and provide a thorough explanation.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has for the first time released its estimation of annual cumulative radiation levels at 50 locations in no-entry areas within 20 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

At 35 of the locations, the amount surpassed 20 millisieverts -- a level that requires residents to evacuate -- suggesting that extensive decontamination operations will be needed over a long period.

The government should also fully release information suggesting that evacuated residents cannot easily return home.

Moreover, depending on radiation levels, it might not be realistic for residents to come home soon even if their neighborhoods were decontaminated in accordance with the bill.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to travel to Fukushima Prefecture later this week to explain to the local governments concerned as well as residents that even if decontaminated, some areas will likely remain unfit for living for many years.

If so, the prime minister must show concrete data and explain how long evacuated residents must wait until they are allowed to return home in order to win their understanding.

Furthermore, Kan should also explain specific measures to extend assistance to residents of such areas, including where they will live for the time being.

Difficult challenges to removing rubble will likely emerge in the future, such as how to secure a site for the disposal of ash generated after rubble contaminated with radioactive substances is incinerated.

Questions also remain as to whether the final disposal site should be created in Fukushima Prefecture or other areas.

The national government must take all possible measures to ensure safety in disposing of contaminated rubble and gain the understanding of local residents.

毎日新聞 2011年8月23日 東京朝刊

by kiyoshimat | 2011-08-25 07:50 | 英字新聞

リニア新幹線 最先端技術を国益に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 23, 2011)
Maglev train project must serve national interests
リニア新幹線 最先端技術を国益に生かせ(8月22日付・読売社説)

Central Japan Railway Co.'s ongoing project to build a maglev train system linking Tokyo and Osaka is finally in full swing.

Early this month, JR Tokai released a list of probable locations for intermediate stations in four prefectures--Aichi excluded--through which its envisaged magnetically levitated train would run on the Tokyo-Nagoya section of its route.
The proposed sites include one on the border between Takamorimachi and Iida in Nagano Prefecture.

Aiming to begin construction of its Chuo Shinkansen system in fiscal 2014, the railway firm is set to start an environmental impact study covering areas along the planned route as early as the end of this year.

JR Tokai plans to start service along a portion of the envisaged route in 2027, extending its maglev train services to Osaka in 2045. The megaproject, which would link Tokyo and Osaka through a 67-minute ride, would cost a staggering 9 trillion yen.

The safety of buildings and facilities is under increasing public scrutiny due to the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear crisis.

Therefore, JR Tokai's first priority should be to ensure the new train system will operate safely.

The ultrahigh-speed train line would also serve as a bypass for the current Tokaido Shinkansen line.

Given this, thorough safety measures must be taken so the new system will be able to serve as Japan's main transportation artery if a major natural disaster strikes.


Hitting the brakes at 500 kph

The new Shinkansen--in which magnetic force is used to levitate a train about 10 centimeters above the ground--runs at 500 kph.

A focus of particular attention is how the system would respond to such emergencies as a powerful earthquake and power outage.

According to JR Tokai, the system would apply multiple types of brakes if it detected seismic waves, thus safely halting trains at a deceleration speed double that of the current Shinkansen system.

This is also true with a safety mechanism that would be triggered in the event of an electric power failure. The new bullet train would maintain levitation on the strength of magnetic force, supported by side walls along a railway track to prevent a derailment.

After studying the earthquake resistance of the maglev train, an advisory body to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has confirmed that the system's safeguards will serve their intended purposes.

However, a major disaster could hit facilities to an extent beyond the expectations of the operators, as illustrated by the series of accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

With this in mind, we hope JR Tokai will continue to make technological improvements in the safety of the new Shinkansen system.

The proposed route runs through the Southern Japanese Alps. About 70 percent of the line would be in underground tunnels.

This makes it necessary to implement measures aimed at guiding passengers to safety in the event that the maglev train comes to a sudden stop.


Stations will be expensive

Another task for JR Tokai is to achieve a consensus with local governments affected by the project over the construction costs for the intermediate stations.

JR Tokai plans to pay for the construction of three key facilities: one terminal in Tokyo, another in Osaka and another major station in Nagoya. However, the railway firm has asked the four prefectural governments--each of which would host one intermediate station along the route--to pay the full cost of constructing those stations.

It would cost an estimated 35 billion yen to build an aboveground intermediate station.
The bill for the construction of an underground station would amount to a hefty 220 billion yen.

The local governments have demanded a reduction in their financial burdens, citing their own fiscal straits.

The maglev Shinkansen system is expected to provide a great economic boon, contributing to the economic and other development of areas along its route.

It is important for JR Tokai and the local governments to fully discuss every aspect the project and build cooperative relations.

It is also necessary to pay full consideration to the environmental impact of the project.

Areas along the proposed route are dotted with rich natural surroundings.

We hope every effort will be made to minimize the impact of construction work on the ecosystem, water sources and all other environmental assets.

The maglev train system is a remarkable feature of Japan's state-of-the-art technology.
The system's technological excellence is bound to boost the nation's infrastructure export drive.

It is essential to obtain support and trust from the public for the Chuo Shinkansen project if the maglev train--which many regard as "a superexpress of the 21st century"--is to benefit the whole nation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2011)
(2011年8月22日01時03分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2011-08-24 07:37 | 英字新聞


(Mainichi Japan) August 22, 2011
Race to replace Kan as prime minister an opportunity to display national will, vision

Denuclearization," or the idea of reducing and eliminating Japan's dependence on nuclear energy, is becoming increasingly hazy.

As the countdown for Prime Minister Naoto Kan's resignation begins, many potential candidates for the next president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) -- and hence the next prime minister -- are expressing their willingness to either maintain the current nuclear policy or to further promote nuclear power.

What I believe matters in the next DPJ presidential election is not so much whether Kan's successor is or is not a charismatic leader, but what his or her views are on the nuclear issue.

In an essay titled "Gimon darake no Kan oroshi" (Calls for Kan to step down that leave a trail of doubts) that well-respected literary critic Norihiro Kato contributed to the Mainichi in the Aug. 11 Tokyo evening edition, Kato slams the lacking rhetoric of those who criticize the now anti-nuclear Kan.

According to Kato, the most important political challenge we now face is the issue of nuclear power.

Kan has explicitly put forth the new goal of denuclearization, but his detractors have not contributed any clear proposals short of maintaining the status quo, i.e. the promotion of nuclear power.

How to deal with a lack of electricity is a problem of economics.

Kan's critics have dodged the real work of much-needed political debate, working merely to undermine Kan's political efforts, Kato writes.

Indeed, successor candidates have shown acceptance toward the preservation of nuclear power plants.  実際、後継候補たちは原発の維持に理解を示している。

Frontrunners in the race for DPJ presidency including Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, former Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Sumio Mabuchi and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda have respectively said: "It is realistic to amass nuclear power technology," "We will adopt the world's most stringent safety standards," and "It is dangerous to allow a simplistic notion of denuclearization to take a life of its own."

Some DPJ presidential hopefuls are in fact for denuclearization. But there's a sense that they're not as invested in it as Kan is.

"Corruptio" (corruption), a novel written by Jin Mayama and published in July, is set in the not-so-distant future in which a political realignment takes place in a post-quake Japan, resulting in a pro-nuclear coalition government.

Under current circumstances, such a plot is not entirely unthinkable.

Kan doesn't seem to think that will happen, however. "I think we've come to a point of no return," he told an acquaintance. "But (denuclearization) is a major policy that affects the entire social structure. So in that sense, there's still a long ways to go."

Asked whether he had any lingering regret about leaving his post, Kan responded, "If I waited until I had no more regrets, I'd have to continue (to be prime minister) for another 10 years.

" Kan is said to have read through Kato's essay, and said, "Somewhere out there, there are those who understand."

It is not that post-Kan candidates are outright against denuclearization.

It's that their campaign strategies involve refraining from making any concrete pro- or anti-nuclear power statements.

Only with votes can they win the post of DPJ chief and prime minister.

One can imagine how one of these candidates-turned-prime minister will fare when he or she comes head-to-head with the pro-nuclear government-industrial complex.

Pro-nuclear advocates argue that the promotion of nuclear energy is a major trend around the world, with an unsophisticated Japan the only one left wavering.

However, domestic distrust toward nuclear power has been smoldering respectively in the U.S., Russia, Britain and France.

After all, one of the world's largest nuclear power plants -- with three times the output of Chernobyl -- in the world's third largest economic superpower had collapsed.

The world has watched as some 100,000 people have fled their homes because of government-sanctioned or voluntary evacuations.

There's no reason for Japan to speak about its future in hushed tones out of regard for those who are a part of some "major trend around the world."

I also have a problem with the know-it-alls who remark the decision for denuclearization has already been made, and that all that remains is "just" a schedule for its implementation.

Sure, but who's actually going to do the scheduling?

Setting a deadline for five years from now or 50 years from now is as different as denuclearization and the promotion of nuclear power.

It is worrisome that we do not know where Ichiro Ozawa, who leads the biggest faction within the DPJ and has the power to make or break the election for party president, stands on nuclear energy policy.

Let us hope that he comes clean with his views.

The DPJ presidential race is not an election in which to select a leader "with common sense" to counteract Kan, who has been characterized as lacking in that area.

Nor is the election one in which to select a puppet leader that can be manipulated by a former DPJ head.

Rather, the election is a chance to choose a leader who will challenge the pro-nuclear government-industrial complex, possessing both the will and ability to implement reforms.

The election must be seen and used as an opportunity to display Japan's national resolve to the world.

(By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)

毎日新聞 2011年8月22日 東京朝刊

by kiyoshimat | 2011-08-23 06:38 | 英字新聞


(Mainichi Japan) August 20, 2011
Saga over using firewood from tsunami-hit area in Kyoto bonfire shows cultural gap

When I was living in Kyoto as a student decades ago, I often climbed Mount Daimonji, one of the sites for Gozan no Okuribi, a traditional bonfire festival in this ancient capital.

It is hard labor, but a significant event to bring a large quantity of firewood up to the mountain and set it alight in the shape of the kanji character, "dai" ("big").

When I heard that firewood from a pine tree from the tsunami-hit city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture would be used for the bonfire I was impressed as it is a good ceremony to express condolences to disaster victims. 今年は岩手県陸前高田市の松を燃やすと聞いた時は、鎮魂の儀式としていい考えだと感心した。

Gozan no Okuribi is a ceremony to send off the spirits of the dead, who Buddhists believe come home to stay with their relatives during the Obon holiday period in mid-August before returning to heaven.
(祇園の送り火はお盆に天国より戻った祖先たちの魂をなぐさめるための儀式なのだ。 ・・・スラチャイ訳)

However, the plan was cancelled after the organizer of the event as well as the local government wavered over whether to go ahead with it due to radiation concerns.

In the end, small amounts of radioactive cesium were detected in the surface of the firewood, and the organizer and the local government had no choice but to bow to some local residents' arguments that burning Rikuzentakata firewood could spread radiation in the city and that it could taint water in Lake Biwa, which is used for drinking.

It is highly questionable whether such criticism has any scientific basis, but Gozan no Okuribi is a religious festival.

Scraping the surface of the firewood to remove cesium would never convince local residents who long for "pure" fire.

It is difficult to coordinate views between the festival organizer and worried local residents.

Takeo Kuwahara, a French literature expert who lived in Kyoto for many years, wrote in his book, "Gakumon no Sekai" ("The World of Academics") that Kyoto residents are often described as "wicked," "individualistic," "cold" and "calm," just like the French.

But let's put aside comparisons between Kyoto residents and French people now.

Some people have criticized the Kyoto Municipal Government and the organizer as being "narrow minded" over the latest case, while others have appreciated their decision as "calm judgment not being overwhelmed by emotion."

Others may call the decision a typical response by Kyoto.

Personally, I think the decision is regrettable because I wonder whether they should have been so afraid of such small levels of radiation.

At the same time, however, I have no intention of making light of the ancient capital's sensitiveness and culture.

As a former resident, I have the impression that Kyoto, which is situated in a basin, forms a unique space both topographically and culturally, and that various things -- both tangible and intangible and good and evil -- gather and accumulate there, just like a satellite dish facing the sky.

Therefore, careful behind-the-scenes efforts to persuade relevant parties to accept the burning of Rikuzentakata firewood in the festival should have been made in advance.

But rather than blame the relevant parties, I would like to think the latest case has called into question how the entire nation should wisely handle radiation.

I prayed to the Kyoto bonfire on Aug. 16 that firewood from quake- and tsunami-hit areas can be burned in the Gozan no Okuribi festival next year and that the ongoing nuclear crisis, which continues to release radiation into the air, will be settled at an early date.

(By Hiroshi Fuse, Expert Senior Writer)

毎日新聞 2011年8月18日 東京朝刊

by kiyoshimat | 2011-08-22 07:28 | 英字新聞