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Ex-Envoy Says Nobody in Japanese Government Took Charge in Nuke Crisis

Ex-Envoy Says Nobody in Japanese Government Took Charge in Nuke Crisis

Former diplomat Kevin Maher was not the principal in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." (AP file photo)

Washington officials thought no one in the Japanese government took charge during the early stages of the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, former envoy Kevin Maher said Thursday.

Maher said that Naoto Kan’s administration treated the crisis as the plant operator’s problem, not the government’s.

“There was nobody in charge. Nobody in the Japanese political system was willing to say ‘I’m going to take responsibility and make decisions,'” Maher said.

He went on to say that until Tokyo and Washington formed a joint task force about a week later “nothing was taking place at Fukushima Dai-ichi in terms of the government solving the problem.”

Washington’s perception on the problem is not surprising. I’ve mentioned before that in Japan’s collective society, because the group shares responsibility, no individual is likely to take charge in a situation since the blame will also be shared collectively. The value the Japanese place on social harmony also makes them indecisive and slow to react, since they have to consider many more people’s opinions before they can take action.

Maher said that Japan was not very forthcoming about the situation in Fukushima, and that at the U.S. even drafted a plan to evacuate 50,000 Japan-based servicemen in the event of a worst-case scenario.

Kevin Maher is a controversial figure in Japan. He had been dismissed for allegedly making offensive remarks about the people of Okinawa in an off-the-record talk with college students in December. He had said that the people of Okinawa are “masters of deception and extortion” in reference to the subsidies Tokyo pays Okinawa for the burden of hosting the U.S. military on their island.

Maher had been quoted as saying, “Consensus building is important in Japanese culture. While the Japanese would call this ‘consensus,’ they mean ‘extortion’ and use this culture of consensus as a means of extortion. By pretending to seek consensus, people try to get as much money as possible.”

He also said that the people of Okinawa were too lazy to grow goya, a bitter melon Okinawa is famous for, and that more goya is grown in other parts of Japan.

Maher had been called back to duty on the task-force once the disaster struck, and his retirement was postponed until April.

Maher said he sympathized with the Japanese evacuees forced to flee their homes in the communities around the plant due to leaking radiation, and expressed optimism that those communities could be cleaned up and restored.

“It can be done,” he said, adding that it would require a huge expenditure and a very “decisive approach.”



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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E-mail him: [email protected]