Lawrence Wilkerson: Japan Will Be Back After Tragedies


This is a guest note by Lawrence Wilkerson, a Visiting Professor at the College of William and Mary. Wilkerson served 31 years in the US Army, much of that time in the Pacific.
hokusai_kanagawa.jpgA Cold Rain Starting?
by Lawrence Wilkerson*

In Sendai in 1985 for exercise Yama Sakura, I and my contingent of about 400 soldiers were met in the heavily snow-covered streets by the mayor of the city and a wonderful band that played the Star Spangled Banner while standing stoically in the gently falling snow, illuminated beautifully by the soft street lights. This was quite an exceptional reception, particularly since it was after darkness, the weather was so inclement, and we were late arriving–as usual with enterprises covering thousands of air and bus miles.
I had come to Sendai as the tactical and exercise leader of the 25th Infantry Division’s troop element from Schofield Barracks, on the island of Oahu in the state of Hawai’i. We were told upon arrival by the mayor of Sendai that we were the first American troops in his fair city since 1947 and the Occupation.
In the weeks that followed, I developed a warm affection for the city and the surrounding area–particularly the close-by seashore and its fishermen, nets, boats, and sometimes quaint and ancient ways, and the pine groves of Matsushima’s many little photo-perfect islands. So did my soldiers. They loved especially the Kirin beer brewery that was nearby and opened its doors for tours and, of course, free samples of its excellent rice-based beverage. But most of all we fell in love with the people.
Imagine, then, the agony that ripped my heart as I watched the scenes unfold of the recent earthquake and tsunami and their devastating impact on Sendai and, more so, Miyagi Prefecture and surrounding areas. Indeed, such scenes continue to unfold vividly depicting the turmoil and devastation in the prefecture and in an increasingly wider area because of the deteriorating state of the Fukushima nuclear reactors.
As in so many cases of adversity for the Japanese people however, their underlying character is something to behold. In 1985, I marveled at their warmth, friendship and courtesy toward soldiers utterly foreign to them–including even one JGSDF lieutenant colonel who invited me and my officers to his home for a superb Japanese dinner and then, in violation of all protocol at the time, asked us to stay beyond 9PM (the end-all-festivities time for all Japanese entertaining foreigners in their homes) and–even more stunning–broke open a basket-bottle of his best cold saki and shared it with us. We discussed in some passion the 1941-45 war, Japan’s loss therein, and the colonel’s personal chagrin over it.
This was, to say the very least, a remarkable conversation that ended only at midnight, as the colonel waved us all good-bye as we trundled through the snow back to our quarters.
Today, I marvel even more at this remarkable character of the Japanese.
To receive e-mail reports of the devastation and death, to talk to old friends about it, to see the scenes on the television news, all conjure the past to be sure–and bring tears too. But more than anything else, what I see gleaming through all the wreckage is the character, solid, unwavering, disciplined and true, of the Japanese people–especially these people of the north country. Call it what you will, they are special.
It’s not simply the almost total lack of things we always encounter in the west in the midst of such disaster–looting, greed, selfishness, beggar-thy-neighbor actions, military forces needed for security often as much as aid–it’s the genuine humility and kindness of it all.
Whether parceling out minimal food supplies, brewing tea on the sidelines for all and sundry, refusing payment for desperately-needed items, or declining to raise prices in an emergency, or simply standing quietly in line to await a turn, these people are the model for the world. And it is not necessarily a model of meekness for I have seen and experienced the fierce warrior-spirit that can kindle an intense flame among even the best of them. It is rather a grip on life and death that, for example, Socrates had through his intellect that the Japanese seem to have through their character.
Much discussion has occurred over the past week or so with regard to what these multiple disasters mean for Japan’s future. Experts aplenty have opined to me that Japan’s troubles are so legion–an aging population with no expectation of change, a floundering economy, a record-low personal savings rate coupled with enormous debt owned principally by those persons, an age-old consensus of doom, you name it and I have likely heard it–that there is no way the country will bounce back soon, if ever. China, they contend, looms so largely that Japan will be dwarfed, only now more swiftly.
(Curiously, however, some of the wisest, most subdued, incredibly empathetic commentary is coming out of China now, a clear sign that perhaps the concept of being a responsible regional stakeholder is taking some grip in Beijing and elsewhere.)
I disagree of course with all such expert commentary about Japan’s demise. I do not know how they will do it, but I know they will do it. The Japanese will rise from this terrible tragedy and be whole again. That little island nation will be back, showing all the rest of us what its people are capable of–not only peace and prosperity but exceptionally high character, character that many of us would do well to study and try to emulate.
Matsuo Basho, perhaps the grandmaster of the haiku, wrote one such poem usually translated something like this:

A cold rain starting
And no hat —

As usual with Basho and the style of the 17-syllable haiku, there is so much contained in so little. A cold rain has indeed started all over Japan and most people would be expected to retreat, go indoors, seek shelter, get out of the weather, particularly those without a hat or umbrella. Not the Japanese. They simply answer: “So?” and then, even before the rain stops and the sun returns, move on to rebuild. More power to them.
— Lawrence Wilkerson


15 comments on “Lawrence Wilkerson: Japan Will Be Back After Tragedies

  1. Cee says:

    Syria first.
    24. MAR, 2011
    by: Philip Giraldi
    One of the enduring mysteries is why
    neoconservative foreign policy continues to
    dominate the Republican Party and also large parts
    of the Democratic Party even though that policy
    has been disastrous for the United States. No one


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gads, those poor saps in Japan.
    Yellow rain in Tokyo, and the nuclear sluts are telling them it is “pollen”. Gee, thats odd, because the Chernobyl yellow rain was caused by radioactive material mixed in with the rain.
    Pollen caused ‘yellow rain’: agency
    Kyodo News
    The “yellow rain” seen Wednesday in the Kanto region surrounding Tokyo was caused by pollen, not radioactive materials as many residents feared, the Meteorological Agency said Thursday.
    The agency received more than 200 inquiries Thursday morning about yellowish residue left on roofs and elsewhere by the rain, stirring concerns that radioactive substances had fallen in the wake of explosions at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, around 220 km northeast of central Tokyo.
    According to the Environment Ministry, large amounts of air-borne pollen were seen in the Kanto region and the pollen fell with the rain Wednesday.
    Remembering Chernobyl
    April 25, 2006, 9:00 pm
    Thinking back to 20 years ago, it


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Uh, well, see, the thing is, Artie Heckilopter, nobody is gonna buy one friggin’ thing from you because you’re just pissing them off by spamming this blog. Uhhhh, you do, uh, understand that concept, doncha??? Huh?
    You don’t need to answer, just nod your head at your monitor, that’ll suffice.
    Then go fly a ki….oops, I mean, a helicopter.


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    US Approves 20-year Extension for Vermont Nuclear Plant
    by Tom Eley
    Global Research, March 23, 2011
    On Monday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) delivered a letter to energy firm Entergy stating that it may keep running its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant through March, 21, 2032. The reactor in the aged plant, which is known to have released radiation into groundwater, is virtually identical to that of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, whose flaws some scientists claim have contributed to the world


  5. bks says:

    A cold rain starting
    And no hat —
    So get indoors, Pronto, because the Japanese Government has told citizens to wash off rain water with water. That is not a joke. The rain is very efficient at scrubbing radionuclides from the atmosphere. Fukushima is an agricultural center but they are already finding cesium-137 (half-life 30 year) 5 cm deep in the soil, 30 km from the nuclear plant. The evacuees from around the plant will not be returning for years, if ever. Population of Fukushima and Ibaraki, the prefecturs with vegetable/food embargoes, is about 5,000,000.


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    The NRC, yesterday, acting on “information” that quite frankly DOES NOT EXIST, told us the Fukushimna reactors were “stabilized”.
    Remember, the NRC is the cabal of official nuclear industry sluts that Obama has tasked to investigate whether or not our own reactors are “safe”.
    Here is one example of what the NRC considers a “stable” reactor….
    Radiation Level At Fukushima Reactor No. 2 At Its Highest Level Recorded So Far, Neutron Beam
    Japan Reuters Uranium
    Per the Japan Nuclear Agency: the Radiation level at Fukushima reactor No. 2 at its highest level recorded so far. From Reuters: “Radiation at the crippled Fukushima No.2 nuclear reactor was recorded at the highest level since the start of the crisis, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said on Wednesday. An agency spokesman said 500 millisieverts per hour of radiation was measured at the No.2 unit on Wednesday. Engineers have been trying to fix the plant’s cooling system after restoring lighting on Tuesday.” And some more truthy news from Kyodo:
    Electric Power Co. said Wednesday it has observed a neutron beam, a kind of radioactive ray, 13 times on the premises of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after it was crippled by the massive March 11 quake-tsunami disaster.
    TEPCO, the operator of the nuclear plant, said the neutron beam measured about 1.5 kilometers southwest of the plant’s No. 1 and 2 reactors over three days from March 13 and is equivalent to 0.01 to 0.02 microsieverts per hour and that this is not a dangerous level.
    The utility firm said it will measure uranium and plutonium, which could emit a neutron beam, as well.
    In the 1999 criticality accident at a nuclear fuel processing plant run by JCO Co. in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, uranium broke apart continually in nuclear fission, causing a massive amount of neutron beams.
    In the latest case at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, such a criticality accident has yet to happen.
    But the measured neutron beam may be evidence that uranium and plutonium leaked from the plant’s nuclear reactors and spent nuclear fuels have discharged a small amount of neutron beams through nuclear fission.


  7. Cee says:

    I saw a woman on CNN saying she would eat
    contaminated spinich after rinsing it off. If she lives in
    Tokyo she’ll be rinishing it off with radioactive water.


  8. T.J. Pempel says:

    I’ve been going to Japan since 1963 and have lived there for perhaps a total of 7 years. I fully agree about the stoic nature of the Japanese and their ability to bounce back from adversity. But it is a mistake to underestimate the level of problems now facing the country. The most severe problem is the nuclear fallout–into the land, the sea, and the air. The land around Fukushima could well be poisoned as badly as that around Chernobyl meaning a substantial waste land for decades. Moreover, the high levels of debt in Japan today will make it even tougher to finance the massive reconstruction. The market is not going to restore Japan; if anyone does, it will be the government and so far, I haven’t been impressed by either the LDP or DPJ governments since Koizumi left office. T.J.


  9. Chris Taylor says:

    It is amazing how the Japanese take this in stride. They are an extremely prideful nation that will surely bounce back from the worst tragedy a nation has seen in our time. Unfortunately I do not think that many cities in this nation would rebound as quickly. But surely the more ruralized areas would.
    Seems the more city minded people get the quicker they are to scream for help.
    I surely hope no nation ever has to live this modern day “book of Job” moment that the Japanese are living today. God bless!


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Heres an eye opener….
    “For example, yesterday. Around Fukushima Daiichi Station they measured 400 millisieverts


  11. questions says:

    “First, there is a new estimate of the tsunami damage. According to the NEI:
    TEPCO believes the tsunami that inundated the Fukushima Daiichi site was 14 meters high, the network said. The design basis tsunami for the site was 5.7 meters, and the reactors and backup power sources were located 10 to 13 meters above sea level. ”
    14 meters is about 45 feet.
    Scroll up for the entire, informative, but still pro-nuke post, and down for the informative, but still pro-nuke, comments.
    Brave New Climate is a useful, if pro-nuke, site.
    Kyodo news English has items up about broccoli and milk and contamination, and Reykjavik and contamination. And there’s always the ocean and contamination, spinach and contamination, land and contamination….
    Can they crop dust with boron? Would it help? Or is this nonsensical? I have no idea. Ask a nuclear engineer-crop duster person?


  12. questions says:

    An open letter regarding conditions on the ground:
    “I walked through the tsunami aftermath, where the town was basically flattened miles on end. Saw a Shell gas station still standing with trees and cars and trucks thrown under it. Trains and railroad tracks ripped apart. Propane tanks and boats tipped over are stuck in the first floor of a barber shop. A Cherokee jeep turned over, covered with mud still had a dome light on. It was only three days after the tsunami. Gave me the chills every time we felt the aftershocks.
    Guys, the area is vast. It’s like from Tokyo to Odawara?
    The entire area is so destroyed and so mixed up that it is definitely contaminated. I lit my cigarette worrying whether that would set the entire city on flame. People don’t seem to want to care about that yet. I know that these things hit much later in life to affect your health.”
    It goes on.,-but-I-cant-be-that-cruel


  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    IAEA concerned, lacking info on Japan nuclear plant
    VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. atomic agency said on Tuesday it was concerned that it had not received some information from Japan about its stricken nuclear plant, saying the overall situation remained “very serious.”
    “We have not received validated information for some time related to the containment integrity of unit 1. So we are concerned that we do not know its exact status,” Graham Andrew, a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told a news conference.
    Japan site still leaks radiation, source unclear: IAEA
    “We continue to see radiation coming from the site … and the question is where exactly is that coming from?” James Lyons, a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told a news conference.
    HUH????? But, but….gee, our own NRC is telling us that the reactors have been “stabilized”!!! Golly willickers, do ya think they’ll get ahold of the IAEA and fill ’em in??? Obviously they must have an inroad to info that the IAEA doesn’t have, eh?
    Gee, I know!!!! I betcha the nuclear industry sluts are feeding the NRC their up to date info, while the naive and quaint ‘ol IAEA is on some sort of ridiculous quest for facts.
    Idiots, don’t they know how this thing works?


  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “…these people are the model for the world…”
    This is kinda like the ‘ol chicken thing, “Which came first…..?”
    Are they a model for us, or are we the model for them???
    Striking similarities; Corrupt energy companies that circumvent codes and regulations, falsify data, present risks in the context of best case scenarios, understate the severity of accidents and human errors, refuse to learn from mistakes, bribe and intimidate government officials, scapegoat minions for executive decisions that result in disaster, lie their asses off before investigative bodies, and place the value of the dollar far above the value of human life.
    Now, need we hash out the striking similarities in the manner that both governments are complicit in the corruptions, cover-ups, crimes, and callous dismissal of the people’s interests, welfare, and safety?
    I note this morning that the nuclear sluts in Japan are blathering some idiocy about “we won’t refire these reactors because of the damage the salt water has done”. Like the ridiculous rhetorical notion that these reactors are to be “decommissioned”, the semantics behind this latest official blather is designed to mask the fact that Japan now has a sizable no-man’s land where no one dare venture without protective gear. And this no-man’s land will be off limits for decades to come. Certainly an uncomfortable situation for those of us that are fortunate enough to reside on a land mass the size of Russia or North America, think how it must be for a people living on a spit of land the size of Japan?
    Yes, surely, a model. And considering our own NRC’s fantastic propaganda, advancing the fantasy that “it can’t happen here”, we will undoubtedly follow Japan’s prime example of how to underestimate the risks, fail to prepare for the inevitable, and ignore the lessons to be learned from history’s able tutelage.
    The difference between Japan and us??? We have far more land to render inhabitable, so we have far less incentive to learn history’s lessons. San Onofre and Diablo whirr away as we speak, rushing headlong towards the inevitable; A major earthquake on the San Andreas, or any of the other assorted fault lines they are in the proximity of.
    Not “if”. In fact; “when”.


  15. non-hater says:

    “…these people are the model for the world…” –Wilkerson
    Uh, look, there’s a clearly flip side to the qualities you are attributing to the Japanese “character”. The level of cooperation is high because Japan is highly homogeneous. The flip of that is that the Japanese are a tad xenophobic, with second or third generation Koreans still being regarded as outsiders. The flip of orderliness is a too great deference to authority and hierarchy, which within TEPCO clearly has lead to major shortcomings. And so on. We could find the same kind of yin-yang in the “character” of any ethnic group or nation.
    On the whole, this is a remarkably dated-sounding piece. Without the clues in the piece, I would have guessed this was written in the 1920s, or 1950s at the latest.


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