Japan on Saturday observed the completion of three months since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami with silent prayers and a parallel protest march in Tokyo against unsafe nuclear energy reflecting a climate of continuing crisis.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who recently survived a no-trust vote in the House of Representatives over this crisis, affirmed a few days later he would stay in office until he could set in process a firm recovery plan.
It was, however, revealed on Saturday that a public opinion survey among the affected people showed a high proportion of them, at 77 per cent, being dissatisfied with the pace of reconstruction effort. Unofficial estimates placed the number of dead and “missing” at nearly 25,000. It was also estimated that about 90,000 persons, who had to vacate their homes in a 20-km zone around the quake-and-tsunami-devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, were still staying at designated evacuation centres.
With the Daiichi plant having turned into an epicentre of a continuing nuclear radiation crisis, the worst in the world since the 1986 Chernobyl accident, much attention on Saturday remained focussed on this aspect.
Experts spoke about the general “myth of nuclear safety” in a high-tech society and about the “human” causes of the Daiichi crisis, which in the first place was triggered by natural disasters. Amid such a climate of opinion, Tokyo submitted a report to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and a top Japanese official concluded “meaningful” talks with the nuclear regulatory authorities in the United States.
There was no let-up in public focus on the “melt-down” of several nuclear reactors at the Daiichi plant and on the levels of radiation that the workers there had been exposed to in their efforts to control the crisis. A poignant aspect, amid such concerns, was the move by the officials of a town outside the 20-km evacuation zone to distribute dosimeters to kindergarten children to monitor their exposure to nuclear radiation.