Dream Island

"I was a bit surprised to find there are adults who don't hide things and who share their honest feelings." - A junior high school student's reaction to a speech by Matashichi Oishi, survivor of fallout from the Bravo hydrogen bomb test. From: The Day the Sun Rose in the West, p. 146.

(this article was slightly revised on 2014/03/01)

A few weeks ago I wrote about Matashichi Oishi, the last survivor of the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru (translated into English as Lucky Dragon #5) that was showered with radioactive fallout after an American hydrogen bomb test in 1954. After learning about his suffering and the heroic efforts he has made to educate people about the significance of his experiences, I knew I had to take my children to the museum that houses the historic tuna boat. At the end of this post there are some photos and a description of our day at the museum on Tokyo’s Dream Island (Yumenoshima).
A map in the museum: Red dots show the position of Japanese fishing boats on March 1, 1954. Many of them returned to port with contaminated tuna that couldn't be sold. Monitoring stopped at the end of 1954, but the contamination did not magically disappear.
Mr. Oishi’s story should be of interest to foreigners in Japan who want to speak out on nuclear issues. I’ve noticed that such people face two problems. Some of us hesitate to criticize our host country, out of politeness, while others fear consequences for their work or visa status. Mr. Oishi’s experience and views on such concerns can do something to lessen these fears.
First, Mr. Oishi states repeatedly in his book that it is a mistake to rely on any government, anywhere, to do the right thing. He speaks as a citizen of the world, and I suspect he would encourage foreigners in Japan to take the same attitude. There is no need to hold back criticism out of politeness to the host country. If you’re here breathing the air and eating the food, your voice is as legitimate as anyone’s.
The other lesson of Mr. Oishi’s life is that he represents the views of millions of Japanese citizens who have spent decades voicing opposition to Japanese energy and foreign policy. He was denied justice by his government, and he had to fight for everything, but he had millions of supporters and numerous ways to tell the world his story. Every year he speaks to thousands of school children, and he teaches them the blunt truth that people must fight to make governments do the right thing.
Meanwhile, there are many foreigners who believe that Japan is a monolithic police state, where the media is censored and controlled, and the people are brainwashed sheeple going along with the big lie. Yet here is Mr. Oishi who has been speaking freely and writing books for many years, invited by school principals (servants of the state, no less) to speak to students. In the 1950s, his experience inspired 30 million of his fellow citizens to sign a petition to ban the bomb. In the 1970s, the mayor of Tokyo backed citizens groups that wanted to build the museum to preserve the Lucky Dragon #5.
Mr. Oishi’s courage stands in stark contrast to both foreigners and Japanese who are now afraid to speak out. Although some people do have good reasons to remain anonymous and are able to share valuable information by doing so, there are many people who are staying anonymous out of convenience and a lack of awareness of what is lost by anonymity. What shape would the world be in if Voltaire to Nelson Mandela had merely been anonymous pamphleteers?
So for other foreigners who are having trouble reading the tea leaves in Japan and wondering about what is safe to say, I can point out a few signs.
  1. The farmers, fishermen and mothers are mad as hell. What they are going through doesn’t compare to the dilemmas of people who have a passport out to their home country. 
  2. The Japanese mass media has a lot of failings, but still I have the impression the North American media would have been worse in the same circumstances. There has been a wide range of opinions and good critical reporting in the mainstream. In fact, the mainstream media is a principle source of information for bloggers who are quick to disparage the lamestream media. 
  3. One morning TV variety show recently aired a very frank and chilling report about the apocalyptic end of Japan that will come if the Reactor 4 spent fuel pool collapses. You can hardly accuse them of worrying too much about scaring away sponsors.
  4. The local bookstores are carrying numerous recently published anti-nuclear manifestos.
  5. Large business interests, like Softbank, are fighting to shift energy policy away from nuclear. 
  6. Local communities are opposing the re-opening of nuclear plants. 
  7. Grocery store chain AEON is doing its own food monitoring because they know the public mistrusts the government program.
  8. Local governments in Fukushima are attempting to launch criminal charges against TEPCO officials.
  9. 10,000 people attended an anti-nuclear conference at Yokohama’s premiere convention center in January 2012, an event which required serious financial backing and organization.
Some people have suggested that I should be careful about what I write, but all I can say in response is that my views have become fairly conventional. While there is freedom of speech here, those in power also have the freedom to completely ignore what is spoken. Many Japanese may seem to be oblivious, but when you look below the surface you can see that many people know the ugly truth so well that they are beyond wanting to talk about it. But Mr. Oishi is still making his speeches to junior high school students, in spite of his advancing years. If you’re afraid to speak out on Japan’s nuclear industry and its future energy policy, you’re missing the boat. If you want to catch it, get down to the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall this spring.

Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall
3-2 Yume no Shima, Tokyo, Japan
Tues-Sun 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (closed Tuesdays if the previous Monday is a public holiday), admission free, 10 minutes walk from Shinkiba station (Tozai line)
Access Map, historical background and other info

Related: a blog post written in 2013 citing Mr. Oishi's description of the Matsuhiro General Imperial Headquarters, Japan's futile attempt to build a shelter for the Emperor in the last year of WWII.
About the treatment of Marshall Islanders over the last 60 years:
Beverly Deepe Keever. “Six Decades of H-Bomb Cover-ups.” Consortiumnews. February 24, 2014.

The air quality in Tokyo on March 28, 2012, was horrible. Several garbage incinerators are in the area of Dream Island (the park is a reclaimed garbage dump), and everybody knows they have begun burning "low level" radioactive waste from Northern Japan. In addition, this is the time of year when dust from Central Asia blows eastward over the Pacific, and it's laden with various pollutants picked up over China. Nowadays there is also extra pollution in the air because almost all the electricity is generated from carbon. Finally, the air is full of cedar pollen in March, and this year it is tainted with cesium at a level that is either dangerous, or negligible, depending on which "expert" you want to believe.
After seeing the Lucky Dragon 5, and seeing the view above, it was another ominous sign to see the Tokyo riot police doing drills in this out-of-the-way locale. They were hollering, marching to martial music, launching dummy tear gas shells, and charging into crowds of protesters (role played by fellow officers.) As there was more bad news coming out about the instability of Fukushima Daiichi, this scene reminded me that the authorities must be contemplating worsening scenarios for public order.


Baseless Rumors about Fukushima

Since March 2011 the Japanese government has worried that bloggers and tweeters would spread "baseless rumors" about the dangers of the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant. In June 2011, the government passed “The Computer Network Monitoring Law” as a way of policing the Internet and silencing information that it judged to be "baseless rumors."
Because I love Japan too, I became quite alarmed by the harm that these baseless rumors could cause, so I carried out my own search to help the Japanese government fight this great evil. Here is a list of a just a few of the unsubstantiated rumors being passed around the Internet by careless and irresponsible sources. If anyone has information about the parties responsible for initiating these rumors, please leave a comment. 

Quash these rumors now:
  1. The Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant is in a stable and safe condition.
  2. It's safe for residents to move back to some of the evacuated towns in Fukushima Prefecture.
  3. It is possible to decontaminate Fukushima Prefecture and other contaminated parts of Northern Japan.
  4. Monitoring of food has been adequate.
  5. All people under the cloud of fallout were evacuated in a timely manner.
  6. Everyone who should have been given potassium iodide was able to get it.
  7. We can say for sure that there will be no long-term health effects from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant.
  8. There were only partial meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant. (This rumor was put to rest when the guilty party admitted to lying.)
  9. The earthquake and tsunami were beyond expectation. (This rumor also lost its currency some time ago, as it's purveyors realized it had no credibility.)
  10. Low level radioactive waste can be safely burned and spread all over Japan.
  11. Emissions from the burning of this low level waste will not cause real or reputed damage to the agricultural products grown around incinerators.
  12. The burning of low level waste produces ashes with concentrated, high levels of radioactive waste, but these can be safely buried without danger to soil or groundwater.
  13. A network of millions of people sharing and evaluating information couldn't possibly sort out what information seems credible. They need a ministry of truth to tell them what to think.


Japanese government's "Eat and Support" campaign has a meltdown

   It is difficult to feel sorry for Tatsuya Yamaguchi, even though this poor fellow has just discovered that he has a load of cesium 137 in his body that measures 20 Bq/kg. Tatsuya is a member of the pop group TOKIO, and like most Japanese bands, they illustrate how entertainment and advertising have congealed into an indistinguishable blob that will sell itself to anyone with fistfuls of yen to offer.
The Japanese government decided that they would rather promote Fukushima’s farm produce than compensate farmers for their irradiated fields and the damage to their farms' reputation, so they turned to Japan’s largest advertising agency Dentsu to manage a campaign called “eat and support.” The members of TOKIO either willingly participated in this project, or were pressed into it as an offer they could not refuse if they wanted to maintain their entertainment careers.
One can sympathize somewhat with the desire to help farmers in the western parts of Fukushima whose produce came up clean and who suffered from baseless rumors about all food from Fukushima. Nonetheless, whether the damage to their food was real or imagined, the blame for this loss is solely on the entities who failed to maintain the safety of nuclear plants. We can also blame the government for numerous failures to monitor the food supply after the accident. If consumers don’t want to buy food from Fukushima that’s their right. Let the market speak.
The members of TOKIO dove into their project with gusto. Since the year 2000 they had been involved with the traditional village called Dash near the town of Minami Souma, Fukushima. They participated in many TV broadcasts about the village, but it had to be evacuated after March 2011. Later, they got involved with a project to grow sunflowers on the land in the hope that they would absorb cesium from the soil. (But if they did, what would you do with the sunflowers?)
Because they wanted to show their support for Fukushima, they went along with the government program to "eat and support." Then, in a recent episode of their show they visited Belarus to see how people there coped with their environment after the Chernobyl accident. It was there that Tatsuya Yamaguchi had himself tested with a whole body counter to see how much cesium 137 his body was carrying.
The producers of the show will, predictably, try to spin this number as well within safety limits, or not likely to have any effect, and so on, but unfortunately there is research that suggests otherwise (listed below).
Thanks to the chosen emphasis of the pro-nuclear lobby, most people have come to think that cancer is the only thing to worry about in radiation exposure. Sometimes a damaged DNA molecule doesn’t lead to cell death but instead is replicated as a mutation, which leads to cancer. However, cancer is perhaps the last thing that happens to the body after long periods of internal exposure to atoms of cesium 137 and other radionuclides. In most cases, the energy from radioactive decay breaks a DNA molecule, and the molecule either repairs itself or dies off. If the damage was vital to cell function, the cell dies. If a lot of cells die, the functioning of the organ concerned diminishes. If the damage continues, the organ fails.
The heart is particularly vulnerable to this sort of damage because it grows slowly and dead cells are not replaced quickly. This being the case, it is very easy to imagine what cesium 137 does to the developing heart of a fetus, infant or child. Children who absorb high loads of cesium 137 develop the heart diseases common to middle aged smokers.
So how much cesium 137 does it take put a child at risk? Bandashevsky et al did research on this question by grouping children from Belarus into three categories:

group 1: <5 Bq/kg body weight [BW]
group 2: 38.4 +/- 2.4 Bq/kg BW
group 3: 122 +/- 18.5 Bq/kg BW

Their conclusions:

“We determined the relationship between the 137Cs load and the children’s main source of food and recorded their cardiovascular symptoms. Cardiovascular symptoms, ECG alterations, and arterial hypertension were significantly more frequent in children with high 137Cs [groups 2 and 3] burden than in children with very low 137Cs burden.”

Some might say that Tatsuya Yamaguchi’s level was within the safe range, but who would voluntarily want to follow his dietary example or inflict it on a child? The only desirable level for one’s child is zero.
In a strange way, the members of TOKIO have, unintentionally, done their nation a great favor. They have inadvertently given us the experimental result we needed to know: Working the radioactive soils of Fukushima or eating its produce is dangerous. We don’t know if they got contaminated by breathing in soil particles during the sunflower experiment, or eating food from various sources in Fukushima, but they prove that the old village lifestyle--the very thing they wanted to celebrate--is no longer possible. The authorities desperately want to keep their promise to restore the lives of Fukushima residents, but it is clear now that the way to honor that promise was to make nuclear power plants safe before a nuclear meltdown happened. It's too late now to revive these lands.
We can hope too that these young men have learned a moral lesson that they obviously never got during their formative years in the Japanese education system. You have to think for yourself and educate yourself sometimes. I’m sure they really wanted to help the farmers in Fukushima, but their managers and their government exploited their ignorance to use them, dupe them and dupe the nation into a false hope that a nuclear meltdown really isn’t that bad after all. They grew up watching models, entertainers and idols whoring themselves out to anyone who put money on the table, and this has been normal for so long in Japan that young people no longer even questioned it. One of the few positive effects of the disaster is that a few people are starting to wake up from this sleep. They are learning that you don’t have to always sell yourself out for a career. The 37-year-old actor Taro Yamamoto set the example by going anti-nuke and then watching an upcoming television drama contract go up in smoke. But he seems happy with his decision. Perhaps he could have a word with the boys from TOKIO.

Sources and Further reading:

Bandazhevskaya GS, Nesterenko VB, Babenko VI, Yerkovich TV, Bandazhevsky YI.
Relationship between Caesium (137Cs) load, cardiovascular symptoms, and source of food in 'Chernobyl' children - preliminary observations after intake of oral apple pectin. Swiss Medical Weekly. 

Philip Brasor. It will take more than a pop group to save Fukushima's reputation. The Japan Times. September 9, 2012. 

excerpt below from:

It has been known for many years that the nuclide Cs-137 is concentrated in muscle. Let us introduce 50Bq/kg of Cs-137 into this heart muscle tissue. This is 50 tracks per second from the Cs-137 beta particle and maybe another 20 tracks per second from the gamma ray decay of the daughter Ba-137m. This is 70 tracks per second. Each track intercepts about 400 cells. For a child chronically contaminated at this level through living on Cs-137 contaminated areas for one year, the number of tracks is simply 70x60x60x24x365 =2.2 x 10E9 tracks per kilogram per year. This means that the number of cells hit by a radiation electron track, per kilogram is 8.8 x 10E11. For this model we immediately see that every heart cell will be hit by a radiation track about 25 times. If only 1 percent of these tracks caused the cell to die, it means that the child’s heart would lose 25% percent of its functional capability: all the cells would be dead.

Fig. 1 Number of children without ECG modifications as a function of Cs-137 concentration in the organism (Bandashevsky and Bandashevsky).

Fig. 2 The dynamics of cardiovascular diseases in the Republic of Belarus

neoplasm = tumor or cancer

Fig. 3 Structure of the causes of death in Belarus, 2008

Source used by Busby in the excerpts above:

Bandashevsky, Y. I. (2011). "Non cancer illnesses and conditions in areas of Belarus contaminated by radioactivity from the Chernobyl Accident." Chapter 3 in Busby C, Busby J and de Messiered M Eds: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, Lesvos Greece, May 5-9th 2009. Brussels: ECRR (see www.euradcom.org )

UPDATE September 8, 2015

Here is how DENTSU proudly describes how it executed the "support Fukushima" campaign. The description on their website makes it sound like volunteer work done as a public service rather than a contract that boosted their revenue:

Various Support Projects for the Reconstruction of Fukushima Prefecture

Dentsu Group companies led by Dentsu and Dentsu East Japan are advancing projects to support various prefectural government departments in Fukushima Prefecture to dispel damaging rumors about Fukushima associated with the nuclear plant accident.

In fiscal 2013, television commercials and transport ads featuring TOKIO, who support Fukushima, for the PR of local Fukushima produce, under the concept of “we made a delicious Fukushima” were deployed.

Additionally we held regular seminars with local media outlets and experts and on-site tours to dispel damaging rumors. In order to lead to a tangible increase in consumption, we also arranged on-site inspection tours and business meetings for buyers mainly in the metropolitan area and tie-up events and fairs with major distributors.

Dentsu is also involved in a wide range of reconstruction efforts in Fukushima Prefecture from developing the logo for the Fukushima Destination Campaign to be held in fiscal 2014 and running the Smile Caravan for children in Fukushima Prefecture to deepen ties with the local community, to the PR of agricultural and marine products, measures to attract tourists, and measures for children.


Canada's CTV covers the triple disaster anniversary

This week Canada's top private broadcaster CTV made several reports about the anniversary of the the triple disaster. I was quoted in one story, playing the role of expat telling the folks back home what it has been like to live in Japan this year. I spoke of worries about local hotspots in Chiba, 200 kms. south of Fukushima, and of the hassles of finding food that is not contaminated. The most satisfying thing about the experience was seeing that the reporter, Andy Johnson, interviewed Arnie Gundersen, an American nuclear engineer, consultant and activist who has been working tirelessly to report on the Fukushima disaster for the past year.


The kids are not alright

Nuclear Energy is the Energy of a Bright Future
Banner over a street in Futaba near the
Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant
As the first anniversary of the March 11, 2011 disaster approaches, foreign journalists with little knowledge of Japan have started to trot out the standard clichés about the Japanese resilience, patience and peaceful cooperation that has enabled them to recover quickly from their enormous triple tragedy. There is certainly some truth in such reporting, but it can also be condescending and offensive to suggest that the Japanese are not like any other people would be after such events; that is, traumatized, devastated and torn asunder. The list below is a brief description of some the scars and divisions that are yet to heal.

1. Rebuilding coastal towns

The towns destroyed by the tsunami could be rebuilt, but the question is whether they should be. Many of the towns were in decline before the tsunami, with populations that lacked young people. It has been politically popular for national politicians to promise reconstruction, and many influential construction companies are doing all they can to make the government take on more deficit financing to launch a construction boom. Yet people outside the affected areas question the wisdom of rebuilding, and young people from the ruined towns say they won’t return anyway. The young are pitted against the old.

2. Returning to poisoned land

The same divide between young and old has happened in towns that had to be evacuated because of radioactive fallout. The national government has promised to decontaminate the “lightly” contaminated areas and bring people back as soon as possible, but the residents are not convinced that decontamination is going to work, and of course, no one can prove to them what level of contamination will be no danger to their health. Even if it were safe to live in these towns, they will suffer from stigma and so will go into economic decline. As with the coastal towns destroyed by the tsunami, the old want to stay and the young want to leave. But if they leave they know they will face discrimination as being victims of radiation.

3. The suffering of the TEPCO rank and file

Some of the most horrific suffering has been experienced by the TEPCO employees and contractors who stayed at the ruined power plant after the earthquake. One could choose to show no pity for them for having taken the dirty money from the nuclear industry for so many years, but the same could be said of every citizen who failed to oppose nuclear power since its early days. I find it difficult to be cold-hearted toward the workers who were below the upper management level.
Some of the TECPCO workers in Fukushima lost their homes and family members but stayed on the job during the crisis. An excellent interview with a  psychiatrist in Der Spiegel describes the woeful lack of support these traumatized heroes have received in the last year. After losing their homes, they faced discrimination in housing, often finding that apartment managers had posted signs saying, “TEPCO people not welcome.” They have endured miserable working conditions with inadequate medical and psychological care.

4. Let’s all share the pain: redistributing radionuclides far and wide

Another divide has occurred over the removal of tsunami debris. It is an economic boon to the waste removal industry, as are the opportunities in reconstruction and decontamination, but much of it is low-level radioactive waste. If it is burned in modern, well-equipped incinerators in large cities like Tokyo and Yokohama, most of the radionuclides can be filtered out and concentrated in the ash, then the ash can be buried. But proper burial, with proper protection of groundwater, is not likely to happen when large volumes start getting processed. Right now, much of it is being dumped directly into Tokyo Bay. Local politicians, many with shady ties to the waste removal business, have been eager to process this waste over the wishes of their citizens. They claim to be the democratically elected leaders, so they take this as the freedom to decide policy as they see fit, without considering the objections of citizens who never elected them on this policy question. Meanwhile, some of the mayors of the towns where the waste originates are starting to question the rush to haul it away. They note that their towns are small, and the debris has been piled up at the edge of town, out of sight and out of mind. Why force it on people far away who don’t want it?

5. Occupy Tokyo

Alissa Descotes Toyosaki is a French journalist who has covered the encampment of protesters from Fukushima who have been in front of the Japanese government buildings in Tokyo for over 130 winter days. As they set up their camp, security guards put up a brief resistance, but since then the government has made no move on them. Japanese society seems to have matured in the same way as Western democracies. Instead of trying to censor and shut down such manifestations, protests and free speech are tolerated and respected – but also completely ignored. The strongest reaction against these protesters has come from the ultra-nationalists who come by at night in their gigantic sound trucks blaring military music (who finances this?). They too are antinuclear, probably because they see it as an American technology foisted on a subservient Japan, but they disapprove of the unseemly protest methods of these lefties who camp out in front of government buildings.

6. Radiation Divorce

This is the new term coined for families that have been split by fears of radiation. Many people from Fukushima voluntarily got their children out by sending them to stay with friends or relatives elsewhere in Japan, usually with the wife going with them and the husband staying behind at his job. Many couples couldn't agree about whether to stay or go, or whether it was safe for the children to come back. Sometimes it was not a disagreement between a couple but between generations. The older generation thinks the young ones are over-reacting.

7. Hot Deals on Cars
The absence of visible crime and looting leads to the false conclusion that there hasn’t been invisible crime and looting. Well-connected construction and waste removal companies have managed to get their hands on a nice slice of the national budget, which is 50% financed by deficit spending.
In other instances, the highly radioactive cars have been detected on car dealer lots, or, more commonly, at ports where the cars are destined for sale in Russia and South Asia. The government started testing the cars five months after the reactors exploded, but since then 500 hundred have been blocked from export. It is impossible to know how many were sent out of the country before monitoring began. If this is not a venal crime, what is? The dealers who brought these cars to port cannot claim to be the innocent dupes of the owners who sold the cars. Inexpensive radiation monitors have been available to them since the spring of 2011. And where was the lockdown on the movement of vehicles out of the exclusion zone? Where was the insurance industry and the government that could have anticipated the problem and made sure that the owners of cars left inside the exclusion zone would be compensated? On so many issues like this, officials showed a complete lack of imagination and anticipation of problems that would arise.

8. Radionuclides show up in the darndest places

Another example of one of the many problems that no one anticipated is in the news of a radiation hotspot on a school ground in Yokohama. The average radiation level in the city is between 0.05 and 0.14 microsieverts per hour, but in a ditch near this school it was 6.85. It turned out that suspected cause is the adjacent business specialized in cleaning commercial air filters for clients all over the city. This meant that radioactive cesium and other dangerous isotopes caught in filters were collected from a wide area and concentrated in the waste water flowing beside this school ground.

9. Food

Who should be protected? Should farmers be allowed to grow food on highly contaminated soil, or should they be paid not to grow in order to prevent the creation of contaminated food that might find its way into people's bodies? People with a normally functioning moral faculty find the answer easy, but the Japanese government is hell bent on denying that land has been ruined, and that means telling farmers they should plant the next crop - farmers who claim a right to sell contaminated food as long as the government refuses to compensate them for their ruined soil.

10. A safety culture that relies on day labor and organized crime

If you still think that Japan is a marvelously crime-free society, read about the excellent work done by independent journalist Tomohiko Suzuki. He took a job inside the Fukushima Daiichi plant during the summer of 2011 and wrote about working conditions of the people trying to tame the radioactive beast. He got the job due to yakuza (ogranized crime) connections, and this was also his topic of interest. The yakuza, the nuclear industry and the government regulators have had a cozy relationship for a long time.

11. Should I stay or should I go?

Finally, the biggest question about a divided Japan might be a great, existential question over who gets to live and who gets to die. I have never before heard people actually talking seriously about the extinction of a nation. It is not just idle speculation. The next great earthquake might produce a nuclear disaster that would be the final punch. Japan doesn’t usually produce refugees, but foreign countries have recently had numerous refugee claims from Japanese citizens. Furthermore, there have been rumors about the super-rich making plans to get out. There was recently the announcement of a plan to build a large Japanese town in Chennai, India. It is definitely an upmarket venture, aimed at Japanese who will do business or retire in the accustomed comfort that they had back home. The timing was curious, and it gave the impression of being similar to a hypothetical colony on Mars that would be needed for humans leaving a doomed home planet.

So to sum up, Japan is not exactly all patched up and back on the road to recovery. This morning, NHK TV news reports that many of the people who last year dug in and resolved to rebuild their lives are now dreading to watch the anniversary news reports. They now feel that their resolve was no match for the insurmountable obstacles they had to deal with. Yes, there has been some incredible progress that was achieved from the ability of Japanese people to persevere patiently and help each other. It was unbelievable that there was so little structural damage from a magnitude 9 earthquake. A massive amount of debris was cleared up quickly, and a commendable job was done or arranging housing for so many of the tsunami refugees. Nonetheless, it would be dehumanizing and cold-hearted to not look deeper into the situation and see the lingering trauma and divisions. This is not Syria, the Sudan or Haiti, but the world can look and learn a lesson about how quickly a black swan event can knock a developed nation on its back.