An independent investigation commissioned by Japan’s parliament concluded that the Fukushima nuclear accident was a manmade disaster caused by a uniquely Japanese mindset.
Historically, Japan has attributed its failures and its successes to the same national cultural factors, spreading blame in bad times and praise in good times.
Cultural explanations for the Fukushima accident should not be a substitute for individual accountability or for fixing nuclear regulations.
On July 5, an independent investigative commission established by the Japanese Diet issued its final report on the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Hailed as the definitive word on the subject thus far, the report points to what it calls the “fundamental causes” of the disaster, all of them cultural. The chairman’s message in the report assails “the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity.” The nuclear disaster, in short, was “a disaster ‘Made in Japan.'” News media around the world characterized the report’s damning indictment of Japanese culture as unusually candid for the nation known to do anything to save face.
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