Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Oh, er, oops...

Sorry, keep doing this, not exactly a blog you can set your watch by, now are we?

So I can't really remember everything, nay, anything, really, that has gone on since the last time I posted back in April, though I am absolutely sure that some things have, indeed, gone on. Anyway, let's try the ol' stream of consciousness approach and see where we get to...

(The Man Who) Kan ('t do a f*cking thing)

OK, the guy has been dealt a fairly shitty hand, all told. No PM really wants a catastrophic earthquake on his or her watch, but in Japan it's one of the hazards of the job, as it were. Now as we discussed last post, the govt didn't really know what to do in the immediate aftermath, though things did swing into action. Of course once the initial shock has been sort the job of rebuilding begins – the idea of not bothering to rebuild Tohoku was, I admit, a bit of a non-starter, not just because ok, it had been devastated, but actually only a relatively small bit, up to about 10km inland, so that left an awful lot of Tohoku not devastated, so it would have been a mighty kick in the knackers (and a potential vote-loser) if the govt had said ‘ah, sorry, don’t have the cash to rebuild, best you move down to Kyushu and hope there isn’t a lethally big jolt down there in the next 20-30 years’.

Now, the quake has been a big opportunity for the people of Tohoku, and everywhere else as a show of support, to pull together, cooperate, work in harmony to get things done. Everywhere except, of course, Kasumigaseki, where the politicians all live. For them this has been an unparalleled opportunity to stab each other in the back, criticise, divide and generally act like, well, a bunch of politicians. In the beginning the tone was unduly harsh on The Man Who, as I said he had been dealt a shitty hand by nature and TEPCO but seemed to be doing the best he could. There were plenty of ‘we don’t think he’s handled it very well’ calls from other politicos who were safe in the knowledge that they would never be in that position so could snipe all they liked.

But then it really did begin to look like didn’t know what to do, what to start or even how to look like he was doing something even if it was just buying time (surely a pre-requisite for a politician?). It ended a few months back with a no confidence vote in the guy, which he survived reasonably comfortably. This should have been the green light for Kan to say ‘right, fuck off you lot, I’m The Man (Who), I got the vote, people have confidence, cut the crap and let me get on with sorting out this shit’.

But what he actually said was (something along the lines of) ‘er, what, I survived? Er, well, I guess that means that some people still don’t like me, so tell you what, I’ll resign when we have reached some point of stabilisation in the current recovery situation’.

So, the worst of all worlds; he didn’t flip the bird (like he should have done), he didn’t resign, he didn’t give a timetable for a possible resignation and didn’t clarify what that ‘point of stabilisation’ might be. It would have been better if he had just stood up and said ‘I do not have the first effing clue what I am doing, end of.’

So now Japan, from a leadership viewpoint, which should be steaming full-ahead on the recovery is still sitting in the ferry terminal arguing who is going to board first. I had some sympathy for Kan when the rest of the politicos wouldn’t let him do his job, but now I realise that he was not up to doing the job in the first place. What Japan needed, no needs, is someone to drain the poison out of the political system, remind politicians that they are there to serve the people and then, well, I don’t care if that person a) kicks as many butts as necessary, scruff of the neck, bull by the horns and other ‘strong-man’ clichés or b) builds a genuine consensus, one of mutual aid and common sense, either/or but which finally starts governing this country… I was going to write ‘governing this country properly’, but the way it is now no-one is running the show, so there isn’t even a ‘properly’ to live up to.

Nuclear Armageddon update

Apparently, according the newspaper this morning, we’re over the worst of it now, as you can see from this lovely graphic:

Now I’m not entirely how much of this I believe, especially now as beef contaminated by caesium has recently been sold in Tokyo, but still, it’s a start. One thing that (The Man Who) Kan has decided, or been told to decide, is that Japan, like Germany, is going to phase out nuclear power even though he, nor anyone else it would seem, has any really clear idea of what to replace it with. This is also after he stated, quite publicly, that Japan would not do anything to derail Japan’s long standing nuclear power policy – so clear and decisive leadership, then.

Update from yesterday [writing a few days after I started the rant] – apparently Kan’s u-turn on nuclear power, (the phase-out phase) is not government policy after all, merely the audible ramblings of a confused mind. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up…

Oh Ambassador, you’re spoiling us…

Not one but two invitations to be wined and dined at the Ambassador’s residence at the Embassy, that’s how important a member of the British expat community I am these days, that or a absolutely reliable (as in, will turn up if asked), probably won’t embarrass us, almost certainly British (no matter what Ichikawa ward office thought) person to make the room look full.

The reason it was 2 invites was because of Jeremy Browne MP. He is the Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, which I think means he’s like a deputy foreign minister, and he was meant to come in May but, in true British fashion, he was waiting for his flight in the US and his plane broke down. As this was at the last minute, as it were, the Ambassador, Dave, decided to go ahead with his soiree anyway and the caterers had been booked and he would have given less than 72 hours’ notice for a cancellation. So off we scooted to Hanzoumon, where we Brits have our embassy, and food and drink was laid on. Now free food and drink is always, in my book, worth getting out of bed for (hence the absolutely reliable above), but even more so when the British taxpayer is paying for it. I can tell you, all those of you who pay taxes on your hard earned cash in the UK, the Ambassador keeps a pretty good table and cellar – I’ll admit that we were not treated to his 1999 Chateau Lafite but a decent bit of plonk was provided, along with canapés and some other, more substantial foodstuffs. This time we were also treated to a few glasses of Pimms by way of greeting, which in Japan is a little hard to come by so that was nice.

But on neither occasion were we, I am very sad to report, offered any Ferrero Roche chocolates! When I grew up it was touted as the height of sophistication to offer them around, indeed the subtitle to this very piece was the tagline of the commercials, shot at some dodgy studio dressed up to look like some ‘swish embassy in a former communist republic but now very cosmopolitan place’ like Prague (think the embassy scene from mission impossible 1).

Anyway, dashed expectations are generally the forerunner to national insurrection so I am now fermenting revolution here in Tokyo at the hopeless decline of Her Britannic Majesty’s Foreign Service provision of chocolates at free nosh-ups. I mean, not even an After-Eight or a tray of Matchmakers! Pitiful! What will johnny-foreigner think? We’ll be a laughing stock. I believe the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands was predicated on a bowl of Quality Street being proffered at a cocktail reception at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1981; “If zis is ze only chocolate zey can afford…” General Galtieri is alleged to have said, ‘…zen we are in viz a chance, boys!”. At least they were offered…

So come on, buck your ideas up, Tokyo!

Finally in sports news…

 Well done to the Japanese ladies footy team, who won the World Cup

And the gents rugby team who won the Pacific Nations Cup

Well played all