By Philip BrasorOn July 7, during a public assembly in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, Shunichi Tanaka, head of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, was asked how his organization would respond to a North Korean missile attack. Tanaka replied that it would make more sense for North Korea to hit Tokyo with a missile than “drop it on a small (nuclear) reactor.” Though meant as a joke, the comment was condemned by many, including the environmental minister, who is basically Tanaka’s boss. Tanaka apologized.
In its July 11 edition, Tokyo Shimbun did not mention the remark, but it did reference the late journalist Yuyu Kiryu’s similarly dismissive attitude toward civil defense schemes in 1933, in an article about a safety drill that took place in Saijo, Ehime Prefecture on July 10. The reporters related how sirens blared and students at an elementary school, who were outside at the time, immediately ran into the gymnasium, crouched on the floor and put their arms over their heads. At a community center, seniors were weeding the grounds. They, too, ran indoors. The whole thing lasted 10 minutes.
Tokyo Shimbun talked to participants and found that many, while understanding the purpose of the drills, didn’t seem to think they would be effective in the event of a real North Korean missile attack. “There would be no perfectly safe place,” one community organizer admitted. “And asking us to evacuate just causes confusion.”
A good portion of the residents did not participate at all, apparently, either because they were busy with other things or just didn’t see the point.
“I might have taken part if there were a bomb shelter,” a 69-year-old woman said, “But hiding in a school or community center makes no sense. Shouldn’t we first make an effort to avoid a war?”
Saijo volunteered to host a drill when the Cabinet Office solicited local governments to hold them. In June another small city, Tsubame, Niigata Prefecture, carried one out. A city assembly member told Tokyo Shimbun, “Why do we have to do this? I don’t think North Korea is interested in our town.”
Tokyo Shimbun speculates that the government wants to create a mood of crisis in order to justify its increase in defense spending. Another reason might be to distract the public from the scandals dogging the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The only press criticism of the missile preparedness PR program comes from Tokyo Shimbun and other nonmainstream media, because the government doesn’t buy ads from them.
Journalists who discussed the News Post 7 article on the web news program DemocraTV insisted the campaign is incoherent, but with ad revenue shrinking, major media are happy to take the government’s money, they said, and a happy media is what the government wants, especially when the Abe administration eventually starts publicizing the referendum for changing the Constitution. News Post 7 estimates that campaign will be worth billions of yen in ad revenue. The media, apparently, is already counting on it.