Saturday, March 2, 2013

(UPDATED) UK's The Independent Reporter David McNeill Meets Atsufumi Yoshizawa: "I Am One of the Fukushima 50"

This is one of the very few times I've ever heard of the name of a worker who has worked at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant since the start of the accident on March 11, 2011.

Hardly anyone in Japan wants to know about them, for one reason ("We hate them because they work for TEPCO" kind of reason) or another ("I'm sure they want to be left alone" kind of PC reason). But that doesn't stop foreign journalists, and as has been the case since the start of the nuclear accident, they are good at bringing the personal stories out of the huge, inhuman mess of an accident.

I believe Mr. McNeill is based in Tokyo.

I'd love to read the article, but for some reason the Independent site seems to believe I have used up the free 5 page allowance for the month even though I never visited their site in a month until today and won't let me read.

You can try if you have better luck, here:

(H/T blog reader wren for the link)


(UPDATE: The actual article)

'I am one of the Fukushima fifty': One of the men who risked their lives to prevent a catastrophe shares his story

They displayed a bravery few can comprehend, yet very little is known about the men who stayed behind to save Japan’s stricken nuclear plant. In a rare interview, David McNeill meets Atsufumi Yoshizawa, who was at work on 11 March 2011 when disaster struck

David McNeill, Saturday 02 March 2013

It was, recalls Atsufumi Yoshizawa, a suicide mission: volunteering to return to a dangerously radioactive nuclear power plant on the verge of tipping out of control.

As he said goodbye to his colleagues they saluted him, like soldiers in battle. The wartime analogies were hard to avoid: in the international media he was a kamikaze, a samurai or simply one of the heroic Fukushima 50. The descriptions still embarrass him. “I’m not a hero,” he says. “I was just trying to do my job.”

A stoic, soft-spoken man dressed in the blue utility suit of his embattled employer Tokyo Electric Power Co., (Tepco) Mr Yoshizawa still finds it hard to dredge up memories of fighting to stop catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Two years later, debate still rages about responsibility for the planet’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and its impact. Fish caught near the plant this month contained over 5,000 times safe radiation limits, according to state broadcaster NHK.

A report this week by the World Health Organisation says female infants affected by the worst of the fallout have a 70 per cent higher risk of developing thyroid cancer over their lifetimes, but concluded that overall risks for the rest of the population are “low”. Over 160,000 people have been displaced from their homes near the plant, perhaps permanently, and are fighting for proper compensation. Stress, divorce and suicides and plague the evacuees.

Mr Yoshizawa says he feels “deep responsibility” for the crisis his company triggered. His eyes brim with tears at points in his story, which begins with the magnitude-9 quake less than 100 miles away from the plant under the sea on 11 March 2011. “It was so strong I fell on my hands and knees,” says the 54-year-old engineer. “There was no place to hide.”

The quake’s shockwaves ripped pipes from walls, bounced parked cars like toys and buckled roads at the 864-acre plant. Initially, Mr Yoshizawa believed the Daiichi’s defensive engineering had worked. The instant the tremors struck, control rods were automatically inserted into the plant’s three working reactors to shut down nuclear fission, a process known as “scram.” But the shaking had cut power from the main electricity grid, probably damaged the cooling system to reactor one, and a destructive tsunami over twice as high as the plant’s defences was just 49 minutes away.

Mr Yoshizawa was in charge of reactors five and six, which at the time were shut down for maintenance. He ran to the plant’s seismic isolation building and took his post beside manager Masao Yoshida, who was trying to assess the damage. In the windowless bunker they couldn’t see the tsunami that hit the complex. Waves of 13 to 15 metres high washed over the 5.7m sea wall. Water flooded the basements of the turbine buildings, on the ocean side of the reactors, shorting out electric switching units and disabling 12 of the 13 emergency generators and then backup batteries, the last line of defence. There was no power to pump water to the nuclear core and carry off the heat, or even measure the radiation. The engineers had lost control over the complex. Meltdown had begun.

Mr Yoshiizawa recalls hearing the first reports inside the bunker of oil tanks and cars floating in water outside. “I just couldn’t imagine a tsunami that big,” he says. The crisis quickly deepened. Just over 15 hours after the power loss, uranium fuel melted through the pressure vessel of reactor number one. Units two and three were not far behind. Thousands fled from nearby towns and villages. There was no plan for what to do next because Tepco had never predicted total loss of power at a plant.

Most of Daiichi’s employees had gone home to check on their families. Mr Yoshizawa says he thought of two things: “The safety of my workers, and the complete shutdown of the power plant.” His own wife and two daughters were safe in Yokohama, hundreds of miles south. There was no question of panic, or running back to see them, he insists. “It might seem strange to others, but it’s natural for us to put our company first. It’s part of the mind and spirit of Tepco workers to deal with emergencies.”

The engineer says he moved offsite for a few days to a disaster-response building in the town of Okuma, 5 km away. But on 15 and 16 March 2011 the situation at Daiichi reached its most critical phase. A series of hydrogen explosions had left much of the complex a tangled mess of radioactive concrete and steel. Unit three had exploded, three reactors were in meltdown and over 1000 fuel rods in the reactor four building, normally covered under 16 feet of water, had boiled dry, raising the spectre of a nuclear fission chain reaction. In his darkest moments, Mr Yoshizawa admits he shared the same fear as other experts – that the crisis could also trigger the evacuation of the Fukushima Daini plant 10 km away.

About 250 km south in Tokyo, the government feared a nightmare scenario: a vast toxic cloud heading toward the world’s most populated metropolis. Rumours swirled that Tepco was preparing to completely pull out its staff from the Daiichi plant, leaving it to spin out of control. Mr Yoshizawa denies this. “We never intended to abandon our jobs,” he insists. “At the time that rumour was circulating I was volunteering to go back.” He recalls despairing at the situation. “Most people thought we would not be coming back from the plant,” he says, on the verge of tears. In the media the Fukushima 50 was born, although Mr Yoshizawa says that in reality there were 70 of them, mostly in their middle age. “We had all resolved to stay till the end.”

Throughout the following weeks on the frontline of the crisis, the men endured brutal conditions. Deliveries stalled, food almost ran out and water was restricted to a single 500ml bottle every two days. Working in shifts, surviving on biscuits and sleeping when he could inside the radiation-proofed bunker, Mr Yoshizawa lost weight and grew a beard. As elite firefighters succeeded in getting water to the overheating reactors, the collective psyche inside the bunker lightened and the dreaded words “oshimai da” (it’s the end), were no longer heard. Exhausted and dishevelled on his first trip back to a sunny Tokyo a month after the quake, he was startled to find life going on as normal.

Public recognition or even gratitude for the ordeal endured by Mr Yoshizawa and his colleagues is scarce. Most are still employed by a company disgraced by revelations that it had repeatedly ignored pre-March 11 warnings about the risks of natural disaster. Taxpayers will have to bear the cost of cleaning up from the accident after Tepco was nationalised last year. Not a single manager has been held accountable for happened. The utility’s rehabilitation has been hampered by fresh stories that it had misled investigators before an on-site check of reactor one, lying that the reactor building was “too dark” for inspection. Some critics suspect the company was trying to conceal evidence of damage from the earthquake, an issue with potentially profound implications for restarting Japan’s 50 commercial reactors, most of which are shut down.

It took the government 18 months to publicly acknowledge Mr Yoshizawa and his comrades, when then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda officially thanked them last October. Most were not identified or even named, testimony both to the trauma Fukushima has inflicted on Japan’s collective psyche, and a deep-seated cultural reluctance to grandstand while others suffer. Some of the men fear reprisals or bullying of their children in school. A police van is permanently parked out the company’s headquarters in Tokyo. Tepco itself is reluctant to wheel the Fukushima 50 out in front of the media, for fear of what they might reveal about what happened – Mr Yoshizawa is shadowed throughout his interviews by a PR minder.

But if he nurses any bitterness toward his employer, he never reveals it. He praises the company for providing counseling to the ex-Daiichi workers and regular health checks – a select list of employees who absorbed potentially harmful amounts of radiation are qualified for unlimited aftercare. His own final tally of internal exposure was 50 millisieverts – the upper annual limit in the US for nuclear plant workers.

Now dealing with waste and fuel management, and back at Tepco headquarters, he says the work at the plant has far from ended. “Nobody has any experience of trying to safely extract nuclear fuel after such an accident,” he says. British and US engineers are helping in a collective effort that will take many years. He gets uncomfortable when he returns to Fukushima and has to remember the crisis. His family never discusses what happened. “My wife and children have already seen so much on TV and they don’t want to see or hear anything more about it. Occasionally they will ask me if I’m OK and I tell them what I tell you: I don’t have any problems.”

Living in limbo: refugees’ grievances

Two years on, thousands of people forced to leave their homes in the wake of the Fukushima disaster are living in limbo, yet to receive compensation and unable to move back owing to dangerous radiation.

More than 160,000 people were forcibly evacuated from the area when an earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on 11 March 2011, and tens of thousands left voluntarily.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the company that owns the plant, has paid compensation to some nuclear refugees, including what it calls “temporary” compensation for living costs, but it has paid no money for assets damaged by the meltdown.

A recent report by Greenpeace documented a litany of complaints about complicated forms, insufficient living costs and low valuations on property. Greenpeace said the plan was drawn up by Tepco in July last year and is based on a “complex and disputed” government system.

(H/T blog readers NYUltraBuddha, prestant)


(UPDATE 3/4/2013) There is absolutely no coverage in Japan that Mr. Yoshizawa, TEPCO's senior manager, was interviewed by foreign press (The Independent, The Guardian).

The Economist on Italy: "Send in the Clowns"

I stopped liking The Economist about a decade ago, but this cover of the magazine is such an insult and clownish behavior to the majority of voters in Italy who rejected the technocrat (Mario Monti) and his coalition who did the bidding of the so-called "troika" (EU, IMF, European Central Bank) to squeeze money out of Italians to pay international bankers.

From Zero Hedge (and I have verified that this is indeed the cover of The Economist March 2nd, 2013 print edition):

Here's the article by The Economist, which manages to fling an insult to Japan's direction as it disses Italian voters and ridicules Mr. Beppe Grillo and Mr. Silvio Berlusconi as "clowns":

A SENSE of humour in adversity can be attractive, but it is not always useful. Confronted by the worst recession in their country since the 1930s and the possible implosion of Europe’s single currency, the people of Italy have decided to avoid reality. In this week’s election a quarter of the electorate—a post-war record—did not even bother to show up. Of those who did, almost 30% endorsed Silvio Berlusconi, whose ruinous policies as a clownish prime minister are a main cause of Italy’s economic woes. And a further 25% voted for the Five Star Movement, which is led by a genuine comedian, Beppe Grillo. By contrast, Mario Monti, the reform-minded technocrat who has led Italy for the past 15 months and restored much of its battered credibility, got a measly 10%.

...In fact the danger is less of break-up than of stagnation. This was the week, history may conclude, when Europeans made clear that they were not interested in reform. Nine months after the French ran away from change, the Italians sprinted past them. As many as two-thirds of Italians rejected not only German-imposed austerity but the entire reform agenda that was designed to improve their economy’s dismal record of near-zero growth. Follow that path, and it leads to the economic paralysis and political decline that Japan has endured for the past 20 years.

Change course or be like Japan

The Economist fully endorsing and supportive of the unelected (and now totally rejected) technocrat administration is not surprising, but the article's tone of ridicule and arrogance is so explicit and in your face that it is almost amusing.

Who's the clown here?

I am heartened that Italians completely ditched the technocrat from Goldman Sachs running their country without any mandate. Zero Hedge has an article by a Frenchman commenting on the Italian Election, and I agree with his sentiment (emphasis is by Zero Hedge):

As a Frenchman, as a European, I want a diverse Europe in which each nation is managed by its own elected people. If the nation chooses to be poorly managed—so be it, this is what democracy is all about. I am not interested in a Europe where the standard of living falls precipitously for a large part of the population, nor am I interested in humiliating what were once proud countries in the hope that they desert their old deities and accept a new god.

And neither do I want to be administered by unelected technocrats delegated by the northern Europeans on the flimsy pretext that my own politicians are useless; they may be hopeless, but I am entitled to have them that way.

What the eurocrats offer under the banner of "reform" is nothing of the sort but just an increase in their power and the destruction of the incredible diversity which made Europe an endlessly fascinating place.It is time to return to market prices and democracy and to accept that technocracy cannot work. I love Italy more and more. Indeed, for the first time in years, I can envisage a situation in which I feel bullish on Europe.

Idiosyncratic Japan: "Miracle Pine" Back in Rikuzentakata, Onlooker Feels Power and Strength

The bottom part of the trunk had already been installed on February 12, 2013, and now the entire trunk is up, with the steel rod in the core and secured by glue.

According to NHK (the link has the news clip), a woman in her 60s who came to see the work said she felt power and strength from the dead tree.

The mummified pine tree was installed in the same location where it had stood for 175 years before damaged irreparably by the March 11, 2011 tsunami and died. On February 6, fake leaves and branches made out of special resin will be attached to the trunk.

From NHK, the tree trunk being installed by a crane:

From Yomiuri Shinbun local Kanagawa version (2/28/2013), fake leaves and branches ready to be attached; they were made by a company in Sagamihara City in Kanagawa:

It is really none of my business if the city residents would rather resurrect a dead and mummified tree as their symbol, than actually resurrecting their city from rubble and desolation It's their choice, but my cheer and support would go to the latter.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Abe Administration Submitted the Bill to Assign "Mai Nanbaa" (My Number) for Every Single Japanese, Likely to Pass With Ease

Nikkei Shinbun writes up an article telling people "Well, it's so good for you, it's for your (and bureaucrats') convenience in mind."

"Mai Nanbaa", or My Number if it were in English, but the word is actually what I would call "Japlish" - a strange class of words that uses English words but the original meaning of English word is totally lost on the Japanese. It's much like "Mai Kaa" or My Car, which is in Japan a car that you own for your private use.

"Mai Nanbaa" will be like "Mai Kaa", your own cute little number that goes with you wherever you go.

The same concept had been tried by politicians for decades, but each time it met a resistance. The concept had a different word assigned to it - 国民総番号制度, which literally says "Assigning every single citizen with ID number".

So, the politicians and those who are closely connected to the politicians got smart. First, they diluted and loosened the Japanese language with strange-sounding Katakana English (which I call "Japlish") so that no one can actually figure out exactly what these strange words mean. Then, they introduce this "Mai Nanbaa", without quite telling the citizens that it is a tired old effort given a new facade. Oh it's just like "Mai Kaa", it means it's just so you.

The Kan administration tried to push the "Mai Nanbaa" bill in June 2011, but Mr. Kan stepped down as the prime minister and the bill went nowhere.

The whole point of assigning every single citizen with ID number is to collect taxes more efficiently and ruthlessly, to detect the fraud (very rare in Japan), and most importantly, to save time for the bureaucrats as Nikkei gushes.

There doesn't seem to be any way to opt out.

From Nikkei Shinbun (3/1/2013; part):

「マイナンバー」16年から 税や年金手続き簡単に 政府が法案提出

"My Number" to be introduced in 2016, tax filing and pension application will be easier. The government has submitted the bill.


The national government will introduce "national identification number system" in 2016, which will assign one personal number to each citizen to manage social security payments like pension and health insurance and tax filing. The system will make social security application and tax filing easier, and will lead to accurate collection and distribution of taxes and social insurance premiums. Building of the government IT infrastructure for efficient administration and finance is set to start.


On March 1, the Abe administration approved the bill by cabinet decision, and submitted the bill to the National Diet. The original bill was abandoned because of the dissolution of the Lower House last year, but it has since been amended by Liberal Democratic Party, Komei Party and Democratic Party of Japan. It is highly likely that the bill will pass in the current ordinary session of the Diet, but it is possible that the passage is delayed depending on the situation toward the end of the session.


To efficiently install systems in ministries and agencies that will use the number system, a bill has also been submitted to create a position of inspector general of Cabinet Telecommunication Policy (Government Chief Information Officer) within the Cabinet Secretariat.


The advantage of the number system is that it will save a lot of trouble in complex administrative procedures.


By bundling multiple procedures of an individual into a single number, it will be possible to collect and distribute the proper amount of taxes and insurance premiums. The government [administration] believes it will be easier to prevent double application of tax exemption for dependents when two children each claim the exemption for the same mother.


Consideration will be given to privacy, and management of the numbers will be strict.

Two children claiming tax exemption for their mother? Big deal. Don't they have a better target to go after? Oh I forgot - a better target is an easy target.

Strict management to protect privacy. Sure.

The previous DPJ administration under Naoto Kan didn't even know they had the emergency teleconferencing system when the real big emergency hit them on March 11, 2011. The system remained unconnected. There is no reason for me to believe the LDP administration under the pork cutlet prime minister to be any different.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Another #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Worker Dies, Off Site, Cumulative Radiation Exposure of 25 Millisieverts; TEPCO Says It Cannot Reveal the Cause of Death Yet

Back in the land of abundant rice (a la PM Abe), a worker in his fifties died after having fallen ill at a stockyard in Hirono-machi (that's where J-Village, used as the staging area for the work at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, is located) in Fukushima Prefecture. He had been working at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant since June 2011, and most recently he was working on the prep work for the Reactor 3 building cover.

I think it is just lunacy to force workers to be anywhere near Reactor 3, but that's what the Japanese government and TEPCO have been doing to alleviate fears, basically, from so-called experts that Reactor 3 is in danger (along with Reactor 4) and to make them look as if they were doing something.

The worker's cumulative radiation exposure since June 2011 was 25 millisieverts, which NHK tries to characterize it as "low".

From NHK News (3/1/2013):


A worker in his 50s who had been working at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was taken to hospital after he complained he wasn't feeling well, but he died in the evening of February 27.


TEPCO says they cannot disclose the cause of death because they haven't seen the medical certificate.


According to TEPCO, past 9AM on February 25, a worker in his 50s who had been doing the preparation work in the Reactor 3 building to install the cover over the reactor building at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant fell ill in the stockyard of the company he worked for in Hirono-machi in Fukushima Prefecture. At one point, he was in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest, and was taken to a hospital in Iwaki City.


Later at 11:30PM on February 27, the company notified TEPCO that the worker had died.


The worker had been working at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant since June of 2011. His cumulative radiation exposure was 25 millisieverts, lower than the annual limit of 50 millisieverts for radiation workers in the normal time.


TEPCO says they cannot disclose the cause of death because they haven't seen the medical certificate.


At Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, five workers have died so far from myocardial infarction (or heart attack) and other causes since the start of the accident.

The 50 millisieverts per year limit for radiation workers is rarely reached in normal condition, but NHK wouldn't volunteer that kind of information. Independent journalist Ryuichi Kino tweeted from TEPCO's press conference that the worker never regained consciousness.

Before the Fukushima accident, the natural radiation exposure in Japan was about 1.5 millisievert per year, including both internal exposure (radon inhalation, radioactive potassium from food) and external exposure (from cosmic rays, earth).

From TEPCO's press release on 2/28/2013 (pretty much the same as NHK News):

-At around 9:20 AM on February 25, at the material storage of cooperative company in Hirono Town, Fukushima Prefecture, a cooperative company worker who was engaged in the preparation for cover installation on Unit 3 Reactor Building reported being sick. The worker was transported to the medical clinic in J-Village. As cardiopulmonary arrest was confirmed at the clinic, an ambulance was called at 9:35 AM. After cardiac massage was performed, the worker's pulse was recovered at 9:54 AM. At 10:10 AM, the worker was transported to Iwaki Kyoritsu Hospital by ambulance. Later, we received an announcement from the main contractor that he was pronounced dead by a doctor at 11:32 PM on February 27.

At least these days they can call the ambulance, and the ambulance can get to the hospital quickly. It took 2 hours to transfer the very first worker who suffered a heart attack from the plant to the hospital in Iwaki City, about 48 kilometers from the plant.

WHO Report on Risk Assessment from #Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant Accident

WHO says "no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated" inside and outside Japan. Greenpeace is crying foul, NHK quotes experts saying WHO is overly cautious and exaggerating the risks, UK's Guardian emphasizes "70%" increase in thyroid cancer (from 0.77% to 1.29%), Scientific American credits "fortunate" wind direction.

From WHO press release (2/28/2013):

Global report on Fukushima nuclear accident details health risks

A comprehensive assessment by international experts on the health risks associated with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) disaster in Japan has concluded that, for the general population inside and outside of Japan, the predicted risks are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated. 

The WHO report ‘Health Risk Assessment from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami based on preliminary dose estimation’ noted, however, that the estimated risk for specific cancers in certain subsets of the population in Fukushima Prefecture has increased and, as such, it calls for long term continued monitoring and health screening for those people. 

Experts estimated risks in the general population in Fukushima Prefecture, the rest of Japan and the rest of the world, plus the power plant and emergency workers that may have been exposed during the emergency phase response. 

“The primary concern identified in this report is related to specific cancer risks linked to particular locations and demographic factors,” says Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health and Environment. “A breakdown of data, based on age, gender and proximity to the nuclear plant, does show a higher cancer risk for those located in the most contaminated parts. Outside these parts - even in locations inside Fukushima Prefecture - no observable increases in cancer incidence are expected.” 

In terms of specific cancers, for people in the most contaminated location, the estimated increased risks over what would normally be expected are:

  • all solid cancers - around 4% in females exposed as infants;

  • breast cancer - around 6% in females exposed as infants;

  • leukaemia - around 7% in males exposed as infants;

  • thyroid cancer - up to 70% in females exposed as infants (the normally expected risk of thyroid cancer in females over lifetime is 0.75% and the additional lifetime risk assessed for females exposed as infants in the most affected location is 0.50%).

For people in the second most contaminated location of Fukushima Prefecture, the estimated risks are approximately one-half of those in the location with the highest doses. 

The report also references a section to the special case of the emergency workers inside the Fukushima NPP. Around two-thirds of emergency workers are estimated to have cancer risks in line with the general population, while one-third is estimated to have an increased risk.

The almost-200-page document further notes that the radiation doses from the damaged nuclear power plant are not expected to cause an increase in the incidence of miscarriages, stillbirths and other physical and mental conditions that can affect babies born after the accident.

“The WHO report underlines the need for long-term health monitoring of those who are at high risk, along with the provision of necessary medical follow-up and support services,” says Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health and Environment. “This will remain an important element in the public health response to the disaster for decades.” 

“In addition to strengthening medical support and services, continued environmental monitoring, in particular of food and water supplies, backed by the enforcement of existing regulations, is required to reduce potential radiation exposure in the future,” says Dr Angelika Tritscher, Acting Director for WHO’s Food Safety and Zoonosis Department. 

As well as the direct health impact on the population, the report notes that the psychosocial impact may have a consequence on health and well-being. These should not be ignored as part of the overall response, say the experts. 

This is the first-ever analysis of the global health effects due to radiation exposure after the Fukushima NPP accident and is the result of a two-year WHO-led process of analysis of estimated doses and their potential health implications. The independent scientific experts came from the fields of radiation risk modelling, epidemiology, dosimetry, radiation effects and public health.

For more information please contact:

Glenn Thomas
WHO Communications Officer, Department of Communications
Telephone: +41 22 791 3983
Mobile: +41 79 509 0677

Nada Osseiran
WHO Communications Officer, Public Health and Environment
Telephone: +41 22 791 4475
Mobile: +41 79 445 1624

The 172-page English report is available at the WHO site, here. The executive summary is also available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, and Russian. (Where's Spanish?)

Two Workers Killed, One Serioiusly Injured in Cattenom Nuclear Power Plant in France

(UPDATE) According to AFP, three workers fell 4 meters (13 feet) when the platform they were standing on collapsed.


Cattenom Nuclear Power Plant is located in Lorraine, in northeastern France. It has four pressurized-water reactors.

Press release from Autorite de Surete Nucleaire (2/28/2013):

Accident mortel du travail à la centrale nucleaire de Cattenom

L’ASN a été informée cet après midi par EDF de la survenue d’un accident du travail dans le bâtiment du réacteur 4 de la centrale nucléaire de Cattenom.

Cet accident a causé la mort de deux personnes et fait un blessé grave.

L’accident est survenu vers 17h00 lors de travaux de maintenance.

Le réacteur est à l’arrêt pour sa visite décennale depuis le 9 février 2013.

L’ASN est en charge de l’inspection du travail dans les centrales nucléaires en France.

Les inspecteurs du travail de la division de Strasbourg de l’ASN se rendent sur place.

(Google Translation, with some funny words but you get the idea)

Fatal accident at Chattenom Nuclear Power Plant

ASN was informed this afternoon by EDF of the occurrence of an accident in the reactor building 4 of the nuclear power plant Cattenom.

The accident killed two people and one seriously injured.

The accident occurred around 17:00 during maintenance.

The reactor was shut down for a visit ten since 9 February 2013.

The ASN is responsible for labor inspection in nuclear power plants in France.

Labor inspectors of the division Strasbourg ASN go there.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: 510,000Bq/kg of Radioactive Cesium from Greenling Inside the Plant Harbor

TEPCO announced (link in Japanese) on February 28, 2013 that a greenling caught inside the harbor of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on February 17, 2013 was found with 510,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium, highest ever tested in fish since the start of the nuclear accident.

  • Cesium-134: 180,000 becquerels/kg

  • Cesium-137: 330,000 becquerels/kg

In January 2013, a spotbelly rockfish inside the harbor was found with 254,000 becquerels/kg of cesium.

A Pacific cod, caught in the same location as the 510,000 Bq/kg greenling (near the harbor mouth), had only 130 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. Greenling is a bottom-dweller, while Pacific cod isn't.

#Radioactive Japan: PM Abe Says "Japanese Ag Products Are Popular in the World Among the Wealthy"

In his first policy speech in the Diet as the prime minister on February 28 afternoon, Prime Minister Abe promised he would make Japanese agriculture aggressive and strong so that more rich people in the world buy healthy Japanese produce.

(Like wealthy Thais in Bangkok buying peaches and apples and pears and persimmons from Fukushima?)

Sankei Shinbun has his photo, as he delivers the speech. He looks tired and bloated.

From Sankei Shinbun, part 2 of the policy speech by Abe (2/28/2013):


Healthy Japanese cuisine is creating a sensation all over the world. Japanese agricultural products are grown with great care with the change of four seasons. I have no doubt that Japanese agricultural products will be even more popular as the number of wealthy people increases around the world. To prepare for the demand, we need "aggressive agricultural policy". Japan is the Land of Abundant Rice [the term that appears in ancient Japanese mythology]. Breathtaking view of terraced rice paddies, traditional culture. I will build a "strong agriculture" so that the young people can protect the beautiful homeland and have "hopes" for the future.

Creating a sensation... Well where has he been in the past several decades? Doesn't he know "hope" is a dirty word?

Japan had routinely used excessive amount of pesticides on agricultural products even before radioactive iodine and cesium landed on them. But that aside, "aggressive and strong" agriculture, whatever he means, is not what has produced the food that people in the world have come to like. It is mom-and-pop, small-scale farmers.

In the same speech, Abe declared he will restart the nuke plants.

Browsing through his speech, I just realize this prime minister is about half a century too late. He says he wants to make Japan "the world number one", as if this were 1950's, right after the Korean War. How he is going to achieve that with declining population and soaring government deficit, nobody knows. Well, the debt load percentage is definitely the world number one.

(War, anyone?)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Obama to Appoint the Daughter of Late John F. Kennedy as Ambassador to Japan

Why? Because she has been a staunch supporter of Mr. Obama.

I'm positive the Japanese will be thrilled. They like famous people just because they are famous for whatever reason.

Ambassador to the Court of St. James's will be the chair of Mr. Obama's presidential campaign. Ambassadors to France and Germany will be heads of investment firms who were instrumental in fundraising.

From Bloomberg News (2/27/2013):

Caroline Kennedy Said to Be Candidate for Envoy to Japan

Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, is a leading candidate to become President Barack Obama’s nominee as U.S. ambassador to Japan, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Kennedy, 55, would replace Ambassador John Roos, a former technology lawyer and Obama campaign donor, as the U.S. envoy in Tokyo, according to the people, who asked for anonymity because the decision hasn’t been made official. While the president has signed off on Kennedy’s nomination, her vetting for the post hasn’t been completed, said one of the people.

An early backer of Obama in his 2008 run for president and a co-chairman of his 2012 campaign, Kennedy is one of several Obama political supporters and donors being reviewed for ambassadorships to top U.S. allies.

The president is considering John Emerson, the president of Capital Guardian Trust Co. as U.S. ambassador to Germany, said the people. For the U.S. embassy in France, the leading candidate is Marc Lasry, the chief executive officer of Avenue Capital Group LLC, who helped unite the fundraising networks of Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

After considering Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, as envoy to the U.K., Obama is leaning toward Matthew Barzun, finance chairman of Obama’s presidential campaign, for the job, officially known as ambassador to the Court of St. James’s.

For those who say, "Oh that's what every president does", Bloomberg article continues:

Obama has drawn ambassadors from the political ranks at a higher rate than the historical average of 30 percent, according to the American Foreign Service Association. In his first term, Obama nominated 59 ambassadors, including 40 fundraising bundlers, who lacked experience in the diplomatic corps.

(Full article at the link)

Avenue Capital Group is a private equity firm and hedge fund, specializing in distressed securities, with $12 billion asset under management.

Capital Guardian Trust is part of the Capital Group Companies with total group asset of over one trillion dollars.

Ms. Kennedy serves on the board of many non-profit organizations.

Groupon, JC Penney Crash After Hours on Missed Earnings, Very Weak Outlook

I wonder where the Japan under so-called "Abenomics" is planning to sell their goods. I guess it has to be to the so-called "One Percent" wealthy Americans, as JC Penney and Groupon are not really about these "One Percenters" but about the dwindling so-called "middle class" and "working class" people who want to stretch their dollars which got crimped further by 2% rise in employment tax starting January 1, 2013 thanks to the wealthy president and wealthy Congress.

Groupon, down 25% after hours:

Revenue: $638 million expected, $638 million actual
Profit per share: 3 cents expected, but the actual result was a loss.
Forecast: $650 million expected, the company guided to $560 to 610 million

JC Penney, down 12% after hours:

Revenue: $4.08 billion expected, $3.884 billion actual
Profit per share: -23 cents expected, 2.51 dollar actual
Q4 Comp store sales excluding the 53rd week were down 31.7%
Q4 Internet sales down 34.4%

Speaking of "Abenomics", I really thought the word was like "Obamacare", a satire, caricature, a snide. I was so wrong. Prime Minister Abe himself proudly referred his economic policies of cheapening yen as such, in his English speech at the CSIS the other day. Go figure. The world is nuts.

Cyanide Leak in Hanamaki, Iwate Reached the Nearby River, Company and Prefecture Failed to Alert Public for One Full Day

The river, Aburasawa River, flows into Kitakami River, the largest river in Tohoku and used for water supply.

From RSOE EDIS Event Report (2/27/2013):

The equivalent of 125,000 lethal doses of cyanide leaked from a factory in Japan after a snowplough accident, a plant operator said Wednesday. At least five tonnes of liquid waste containing sodium cyanide spewed out of a tank after it was hit by a snowplough at a plating factory run by Kurosaka Plating Co. in Hanamaki, northern Japan, on Tuesday, a company official said. One litre of the toxic liquid waste, used to remove nickel plating from surfaces, is enough to kill 25 people, the official said. The leak occurred when workers were trying to remove piles of snow from the site, which has seen severe winter weather over the last week, and damaged a valve on the tank in which the chemical was stored.

"Fortunately, snow absorbed most of the liquid and we have been able to collect the contaminated snow," the official said. "The leak has not reached a nearby river and we have not received any reports of impact on people."

As Iwate Nippo reports it (2/27/2013), the company who operates this factory and the Iwate prefectural government sat on the accident for more than one day before they admitted to the incident. To summarize Iwate Nippo's article,

  • The accident happened at 7AM on February 25 when a snow plowing machine slammed into the valve of the storage tank.

  • The company, Kurosaka Plating Co. headquartered in Tokyo, did alert the city of Hanamaki where the factory is located.

  • The city conducted the water sampling tests of the reservoir in the industrial park where the factory is located, and the nearby Aburasawa River.

  • The city finally decided to say something about the accident on February 26.

  • No leak into Aburasawa River.

However, later Yomiuri Shinbun article (2/27/2013) says there was a leak into the river:


5.9 milligrams per liter of sodium cyanide was detected in the reservoir of the industrial park [in the February 27 testing], 1.4 milligram/liter where the reservoir drains to Aburasawa River where on February 26 evening 0.7 milligram/liter had been detected. At two locations downstream on Aburasawa River, 0.1 milligram/liter was detected. It was ND at other locations. The city has piled up sandbags to prevent the leak from the reservoir into the river, and has stopped the water intake at Kitakami River into which Aburasawa River flows.

The maximum amount of cyanide allowed in waste water is 0.1 milligram per liter.

Whether it is a nuclear accident or a chemical accident, Japan seems to respond the same anyway - not telling anyone anytime soon so as not to cause panic among the general public, when in fact it is the government officials and the companies involved who panic.

(And their favorite tools are sandbags and duct tapes. Well, they work.)

So, while the city disclosed the leak at the factory one day late on February 26 the leak continued into Aburasawa River then into Kitakami River for another day.

(H/T reader Helios)

(OT) Real Communication Between a Japanese and an American, 110 Years Ago

Excellent repartee by Tenshin Okakura, when an young American made fun of him and his group walking about in traditional Japanese outfit in 1903 Boston, as recounted in the Japanese wikipedia entry of Okakura:

Young man: "What sort of nese are you people? Are you Chinese, or Japanese, or Javanese?"

Okakura: "We are Japanese gentlemen. But what kind of key are you? Are you a Yankee, or a donkey, or a monkey?"

Okakura was a famous art critic and philosopher who was instrumental in preserving pre-Meiji Japanese arts that were being thrown away at a furious pace after the Meiji Restoration, but I just learned that he also wrote a book in English on tea, titled "The Book of Tea". The book was first published in 1906, and it is still sold today.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Japan PM Abe Picks Washington Post for Exclusive Interview, Says China Has "Deeply Ingrained" Need to Spar with Japan, Denies He Said That, Probably Misunderstanding the English Word "Spar"

Prime Minister Shinzo "pork cutlet over curry rice because my stomach is now strong" Abe has abolished the tradition that lasted for time immemorial of reporters asking additional questions after official press conference by following him around, in favor of Facebook. He tells the reporters to go like him and read the latest on his Facebook page.

He also seems to have picked up the same penchant as US President Obama of giving an "exclusive interview" to a particular media of his choice. In Abe's case, it was Washington Post.

Abe gave an exclusive interview with Washington Post right before he departed for the US visit which seemed devoid of meaning except for the domestic Japanese political maneuvre. In the interview, as Washington Post reports it, Abe spoke in unusually great details about China, describing China as having a "deeply ingrained" need to spar with Japan and other Asian neighbors over territory for domestic purposes.

(Photo is tweeted by the writer of the Washington Post article, Chico Harlan. Note the rectangular badges that Abe wears as if he were a military man. One is for Tokyo Olympic 2020, the other is for Japanese abductees in North Korea, I hear. He wore those same badges when he met with President Obama.)

Photo by chicoharlan

From Washington Post (2/20/2013; emphasis is mine):

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: Chinese need for conflict is ‘deeply ingrained’

TOKYO — China has a “deeply ingrained” need to spar with Japan and other Asian neighbors over territory, because the ruling Communist Party uses the disputes to maintain strong domestic support, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an interview.

Clashes with neighbors, notably Japan, play to popular opinion, Abe said, given a Chinese education system that emphasizes patriotism and “anti-Japanese sentiment.”

Abe’s theory on the entrenched motivation behind China’s recent naval aggression helps explain why he has spent more effort trying to counter the Chinese than make peace with them: He thinks the fierce dispute with China over an island chain in the East China Sea isn’t going away anytime soon.

Abe spoke about China in what aides described as unusually detailed terms, laying out challenges that Chinese leaders might face if other Asian countries, unnerved by Beijing’s maritime expansionism, decide to reduce trade and other economic ties. China’s government would be hurt by such moves, Abe said, because without economic growth, it “will not be able to control the 1.3 billion people . . . under the one-party rule.”

Abe also laid out his plans for deterrence, which include boosting military spending and strengthening ties with Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and other nations that share concerns about Beijing. Abe, who is to meet Friday with President Obama in Washington, said the U.S. presence in Asia is “critical” to deter China from taking territory controlled by other countries.

His comments came in an interview Saturday [February 15, 2013] with The Washington Post, which The Post was granted on the condition that the article not be published until Abe was departing for Washington.

(Full article at the link)

Then, two days later on 2/22/2013, Washington Post says PM Abe's office protested against the exclusive interview article (emphasis is mine):

Japan says Abe’s quotes about China in Post interview were ‘misleading’

TOKYO — Japan sought Thursday to clarify comments about China that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made to The Washington Post this week, with a top government spokesman saying that quotations published by the newspaper were “misleading.”

The Post had quoted Abe as saying that China’s Communist Party had a “deeply ingrained” need to spar with Japan and other Asian neighbors over territory, because the government uses such conflicts to win strong support from citizens whose education system emphasizes patriotism and “anti-Japanese sentiment.”

There is no comment made by the prime minister as saying that China wants to clash or [have] collision with other countries,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. “As I said, as the prime minister said, we value mutually beneficial relations with China based on strategic interests.”

Japan’s response came after China denounced Abe for the reported remarks.

“It is rare that a country’s leader brazenly distorts facts, attacks its neighbor and instigates antagonism between regional countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. “Such behavior goes against the will of the international community. . . . We have solemnly demanded the Japanese side immediately clarify and explain.”

...During the interview with The Post, Abe spoke at length about China, laying out a theory of how the Chinese government, no longer able to promise economic equality, now needs new pillars for its legitimacy. One is economic growth. The other is patriotism, which he said often equates to anti-Japanese sentiment. Those factors, Abe said, push China to expand its maritime territory “by coercion or intimidation,” directed both against Japan, in the East China Sea, and in the South China Sea against its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Then, answering a question about the “maritime issue,” Abe responded, “What is important, first of all, is that their leaders as well as business leaders recognize how deeply ingrained this issue is.”

The Japanese government says that a transcript of the interview posted on The Post’s Web site is correct.

(Full article at the link)

"There is no comment made by the prime minister as saying that China wants to clash or [have] collision with other countries" ... Well, the Washington Post article doesn't say that either. It says China has a need to spar (i.e. argue, or spar as in boxing practice), and that's quite different from saying China wants to clash.

"Transcript is correct"... So what was the point of inviting Washington Post reporters to write up an article?

Reading both articles again, I think I understand better. PM Abe or his spokesman misinterpreted the word "spar".

spar - verb: Make the motions of boxing without landing heavy blows, as a form of training: "broke his nose while sparring". Dispute

In the minds of the prime minister and his men, this word became synonymous with "clash, fight".

It looks that the prime minister made a fool of himself. I bet he doesn't even know it.

Idiosyncratic Japan's New Campaign: "Cool Japan Promotion"

In a beautiful fractal way (with Fukushima officials selling Fukushima as "heart-throbbing place"), here's the Japanese national government setting up a council to sell Japan as a "cool place" to foreigners.

What do they want to sell to foreigners? Anime and fashion.

One of the council members is going to be a famous (infamous, depending on whom you ask) TV producer who runs the all-girl "idol" group of AKB. The 54-year-old producer has these young girls and women live together under his tight rules, which include never to date a boy while being a member of this idol group. One of the girls was caught breaking the rule, but she disciplined herself voluntarily by shaving her head and made a tearful apology on video.

Anyway, the Abe administration's idea of "Cool Japan" is to include people like this producer (calling them "learned or knowledgeable people" or "the wise") in a committee headed by an LDP politician whose political views are characterized as "ultra-nationalist" by some. It's apparently so important for the prime minister that this politician, Ms. Tomomi Inada, has a ministerial position.

From Asahi Shinbun, whose reporting definitely changed in January in favor of the Abe administration (2/26/2013):

秋元康氏らがメンバーに 政府のクールジャパン推進会議

Mr. Yasushi Akimoto will be one of the members of the government's Cool Japan Promotion Council


The Abe administration set up the "Cool Japan Promotion Council" (chaired by Tomomi Inada, minister in charge of Cool Japan strategy) in order to come up with ways to sell Japanese fashion and culture to foreigners.


The council will made up of vice ministers from the related ministries and seven people of knowledge including Mr. Yasushi Akimoto, producer of "AKB48". The council will discuss how the government and private industry can cooperate to increase the export of contents and how to disseminate information, and come up with the proposals. The proposals will be incorporated into the growth strategy that the national government is to finalize in June.


Other people of knowledge are: Tsuguhiko Kadokawa (chairman of Kadokawa Group Holdings, a publishing and media entity), Kin Bí-Leng (commentator), Junko Koshino (fashion designer), Rikifusa Satake (director of Japan Food Service Association), Sen Soshitsu (current head of the Urasenke tea school), Tatsumi Yoda (CEO of Gaga Corporation, a movie distributor).

Here are faces of the people who will decide "cool":

Tomomi Inada, minister in charge of Cool Japan strategy:

Yasushi Akimoto of AKB fame:

Mr. Tsuguhiko Kadokawa:

Ms. Kin Bí-Leng:

Ms. Junko Koshino:

Mr. Rikifusa Sateke:

Sen Soshitsu:

Tatsumi Yoda:

#Fukushima Prefectural Officials Want Children to Come to Fukushima on School Trips, Promise "Charm and Safety" and "Heart-Throbbing Experience"

Meanwhile in Fukushima Prefecture, the officials are ever more eager to persuade schools in other parts of Japan to send their pupils and students to Fukushima, for educational trips.

The officials hope that school educational trips will result in increase of tourism revenue for the prefecture.

From one of the Fukushima local newspaper Kahoku Shinpo (2/23/2013):

「教育旅行」福島に来れ! 県、呼び戻しへ本腰

Come to Fukushima on "educational trips"! The prefecture to make serious effort to win them back


Fukushima Prefecture will make serious effort to win back the school trips and excursions to Fukushima, which have declined in numbers after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The prefecture will develop trip plans based on the experience of the nuclear accident and the March 11, 2011 disaster, and sell such trip plans to teachers, parents and children on Fukushima's charm and safety.


Residents from the tsunami-affected areas and (former) evacuees in the nuclear accident evacuation zone will act as "storytellers" to relate their experience to the children. In addition to regular tourist spots, children will get to see the disaster-affected areas where possible. The prefecture will ask multiple travel agencies to propose trip plans.


The prefecture will continue to visit schools in the Tokyo Metropolitan areas and in Kyushu to persuade them to come to Fukushima again. These schools stopped school trips to Fukushima after the nuclear accident. The budget of about 75 million yen [US$814,000] has been included in the fiscal 2013 budget.


The number of students who came to Fukushima on school trips was about 710,000 in the fiscal 2009, and 670,000 in the fiscal 2010. In the fiscal 2011 when the nuclear accident happened, the number collapsed to 130,000. The school trips from Tokyo, which used to be 20% of total school trips to Fukushima, decreased by 83% in the number of school trips and by 91% in the number of students.


There were 38,000 students from [neighboring] Miyagi Prefecture in the fiscal 2010, but the number dropped to 6,100 in the fiscal 2011.


In the current fiscal year of 2012, there are signs of recovery in the Aizu region [mountain third of the prefecture], but fear of radiation among schools and parents is deep-seated.


Fukushima Tourism Section says, "We would like [students and pupils] to see the prefecture whose life is getting back to normal, and we hope that will revive the tourism in Fukushima."

"Normal life" in Fukushima has nothing to do with the existence of radiation, much elevated than in the surrounding prefectures, but in the minds of these officials "normal life" equals "no radiation".

Or "no immediate effect on life and health", as, after all, the vast majority of Fukushima residents have stayed put for one reason or another (blaming the job situation or blaming children for wanting to stay, for example).

To promote the school trips and excursions to Fukushima, the prefecture has set up this website, no doubt paid for generously with taxpayers' money (i.e. national government subsidies). The title of the site says:


Heart-throbbing experience in Fukushima!! We gotta do it! Educational trips to Fukushima Prefecture

Monday, February 25, 2013

OT: Italy Election Pointing to Hung Parliament

Almost all so-called analysts were dead wrong, who predicted an easy, majority win for the center-left coalition of Pier Luigi Bersani. They thought the coalition would then continue the austerity policies of the technocrat administration of Mario Monti.

Instead, Silvio Berlusconi's coalition has a very strong showing, spooking the financial markets somewhat.

From Reuters (2/25/2013; emphasis is mine):

Italy election forecasts point to political gridlock

(Reuters) - Conflicting early forecasts of the result of Italy's election on Monday raised the specter of deadlock in parliament that could paralyze a new government and re-ignite the euro zone crisis.

Officials from both center and left warned that such gridlock could make Italy ungovernable and force new elections.

Opinion polls have long pointed to the center-left of Pier Luigi Bersani winning the lower house, but projections from RAI state television showed Silvio Berlusconi's center right in front in the Senate - which has equal lawmaking power - but unable to form a majority.

RAI showed the center-left well short of a majority in the Senate even in coalition with Monti, who was seen slumping to only 19 out of 315 elected Senators against a massive 65 for the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo.

Senate votes are counted before the lower house.

The latest projections ran counter to earlier telephone polls that showed the center left taking a strong lead in the Senate as well as the lower house.

Italian financial markets took fright after rising earlier on hopes for a stable and strong center-left led government, probably backed by outgoing technocrat premier Mario Monti.

Such government is seen by investors as the best guarantee of measures to combat a deep recession and stagnant growth in the euro zone's third largest economy, which is pivotal to stability in the currency union.

Berlusconi's declared aim is to win enough power in the Senate to paralyze a center-left administration.

(Full article at the link)

A deep recession and stagnant growth in Italy to be cured by austerity programs by unelected technocrats? No thanks, saying enough Italians.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

PM Abe's Speech in Word Cloud - Japan, More, Japanese

Prime Minister Abe's speech in February 22, 2013 at the CSIS in word cloud - Japan More Japanese. Other than those words and a few others, the words are mostly of equal sizes. Probably an indication of flat, unfocused speech.

For comparison, Mr. Seiji Maehara's speech in September 12, 2012 for the Congressional Study Group on Japan of FMCin word cloud - Japan United States Alliance Important Security Cooperation

It almost makes me wish Maehara were the prime minister.

(Updated with Word Cloud of Speech) PM Abe Goes to Washington DC, Declares "I Am Back, So Japan Shall Be", Hardly Anyone Cares in the US

The Japanese media has made a big deal out of Abe's visit, telling us how the prime minister negotiated the shale gas deal and TPP (Transpacific Partnership free trade scheme) and how he gave an English speech at a prestigious institution (Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS).

Not just the media but Japanese citizens in Japan have been making a big deal out of it. Some support him, others criticize him for committing too much in favor of the US.

So I searched if there was any major coverage of the visit in the US mainstream media. After all, with the 20% fall of yen in a short span of time and with accusation of currency manipulation, you would think the visit generated some media interest. North Korea did the nuclear test, China continues its rhetoric over the Senkaku Islands.

Wrong. Of the major papers, all I found was an article in Wall Street Journal on February 22, and it was written by a Japanese reporter.

I went to the CSIS site, and found the video and the transcript of the speech and the Q&A session that followed.

The speech is devoid of substance, meaningless in a literal sense to the English-speaking audience (I can just see through the original Japanese). What's even sadder is that there was only one question from the media. The other questions were from the CEO of CSIS, a college student, and a CSIS staff.

I searched for the video of the press conference after the meeting with President Obama. Well, it was not even a press conference but just an extremely brief chit-chat with the press in the Oval Office with the president and the prime minister sitting on their chairs with legs crossed.

All questions were directed to President Obama, except one. And that only one question was asked by a Japanese reporter in Japanese.

Here's from Abe's speech at the CSIS. He starts off by talking about himself. According to his narrative, his quitting the prime minister's job was to reflect on the future of Japan, not because of his chronic diarrhea:

...I am back and so shall Japan be.

...The time I’ve spent, five long years, since leaving office as prime minister was my time for reflections. First and foremost, I reflected upon where Japan should stand in the future. I didn’t think whether Japan could do this or that. I thought more often what Japan must continue to do.

He also says he looked at the globe. (Huh?)

I also looked at the globe. It tells me that as your long-standing ally and partner, Japan is a country that has benefited from and contributed to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific for well over half a century. The bedrock for that, needless to say, has been our alliance.

It is high time in this age of Asian resurgence for Japan to bear even more responsibilities to promote our shared rules and values, preserve commons and grow side by side with all the high achievers in the region. No luxury is allowed for Japan to be self-absorbed in its struggle against economic malaise.

My mental globe also told me that Japan must remain a robust partner in fight against terrorism. My resolve is even stronger now after what happened in Algeria, the killing of 10 Japanese and three American engineers.

The world still awaits Japan, I thought, in promoting human rights in the fight against poverty, illness and global warming, and the list goes on. That’s why, ladies and gentlemen, I stood for office again. That’s why I’m resolute to turn around Japanese economy.

"In this age of Asian resurgence"? He said this to the US audience? Oh boy. Hubris is back.

I have no doubt that the original Japanese speech was written by the prime minister himself who is, basically, full of himself.

Quite a contrast to the speech that DPJ's Seiji Maehara gave to the former Congress members back in September 2012. Maehara's speech had substance, and was interesting - so much so that I ended up watching the entire 1 hour video.

Abe's speech, I lasted for about 3 minutes. I couldn't even bother to read the transcript carefully looking for meaning that wasn't there. If you want to torment yourself, here's the link to the video and the transcript.

From my past interactions with the Japanese readers, it seems very difficult for them to accept that Japan doesn't count much outside Japan. With the leader like this, it is little wonder.

Abe's speech in word cloud - Japan more Japanese...: