on 11 December 2012
This is a book by two seasoned journalists at the top of their profession who happen also to be long-term Tokyo residents, and thus perfectly placed to write this chronicle. It certainly deserves such attention, if only because the world came so close to a major nuclear catastrophe on March 11, 2011. The book is well-constructed, selecting six people from different walks of life (the mayor, the fisherman, the housewife, the foreign teacher, the power plant worker, the high school graduate) and showing how the events unfolded on each of them in different parts of the disaster zone. What stands out is not only the courage and resilience of the Japanese people as individuals and the strength of their well-documented group mentality, but also the troubling arrogance and lack of foresight of the giant Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and worse still the scorn poured on whistleblowers, the ignoring of expert advice and the attempts made to cover up the seriousness of what occurred.
It is important that nobody forgets what happened in Fukushima, and after the dust has settled since last year this book is a welcome contribution to preventing just such an unfortunate outcome. Inevitably since the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and meltdown the wisdom of building 54 nuclear power plants in a country so prone to earthquakes (including one plant in Fukui prefecture directly over a fault line) has come into question. Almost all of them are currently shut down with corresponding increases to consumers of about 8% nationwide in the cost of electricity at the time of writing this in 2012, but this is a price most Japan residents will gladly pay for greater safety. Meanwhile outside Japan nuclear power plant construction programs have been halted, and in some countries abandoned altogether. As another long-time Japan resident I salute and thank the authors for their exceptional efforts in telling this story so well.