In case of earthquake, don’t even think of running

One of the shows on NHK this morning was talking about earthquake preparedness. Recently there’s been something of a boom in literature about what to do in the event Tokyo spontaneously falls down. If you go to bookstores around here, you see competing lines of evacuation maps, survival guides and the like.

The blurb I caught on my way to work was about evacuation. After a major earthquake, the trains stop running and the elevated expressways are likely to have fallen down in places (think Kobe, 1995), so the only way to get out of the city is on foot, taking surface routes.

This doesn’t sound too bad until you realize how many people are in the city, how narrow many of these surface routes are, and how likely they are to be blocked in places by falling power poles and other debris. One think-tank wonk made a computer simulation of an evacuation of downtown Tokyo, and figured that the streets in shitamachi (i.e. the area around Tokyo Station and Ginza) would be crowded to the extent of about 11 people per square meter. That’s about the maximum number of people you can squeeze into a square meter; imagine the worst Tokyo subway cars at rush hour, expanded to the size of an arterial street.

Yet another reason why we need flying cars NOW.

LDP Parties Down in a Hurry to Complete Fundraising

Another look at the lighter side of Japanese politics (abstracted translation):

Hotels Bustling as LDP Holds Flurry of Fundraisers
Mainichi Shimbun
Dec 12, 2005

In Nagata-cho (Japan’s version of Capitol Hill), where schedules are filled up with next year’s budget preparations and tax revisions, there has been a flurry of fundraisers for LDP Diet members. It looks as though the parties, usually planned for autumn, had to be pushed back to the end of the year due to the September Lower House election. Members, concerned about their wallets, are trying to raise election funds by year’s end, resulting in a daily boom for area hotels.

“Hidenao Nakagawa, currently at the height of his popularity, has developed into a political strongman”

The 1,200 in attendance went wild when VIP Yoshiro Mori (former Prime Minister), said the above words at the fundraiser of LDP Policy Planning Council Chairman Nakagawa, held at a Tokyo hotel on the evening of Dec. 8. In addition to senior party leaders and top businessmen, 500 guests were invited from Nakagawa’s home prefecture of Hiroshima.

The sheer number of LDP members’ parties can be understood by taking a look at the schedule of LDP Secretary-General Tsutomu Takebe, who has received requests to make speeches. In the SG’s schedule for the coming two weeks are planned attendance at 19 individually-held events and 2 for party factions. Takebe is set to party-hop every day, going so far as to attend 5 events on at least one day.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan, meanwhile, is partying just as hard, with Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama’s fundraiser planned for Dec. 9.

On most years, Diet members’ parties are held in the fall to avoid conflicting with budget preparations. LDP General Council Chair Fumio Kyuma said wryly of this year’s party situation, “They were put off because of the election, I guess. The elections ended, and since they cost money, [the members] must be raising funds.”

According to the 2004 Political Funds Balance Report, total contributions totaled Y26.4 billion, down 9.9% from 2003, while revenue garnered from fundraising parties increased 9.9% to Y14.3 billion. One member commented, “Contributions are down, so there is no choice but to rely on fundraising parties, and the ratio of intake from parties to total revenue is trending upward. (Eriko Horii reporting)

Takebe Scolds Koizumi Children for bad Party Etiquette
Mainichi Shimbun
Dec 12, 2005

LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe, the self-appointed “headmaster” of the “Koizumi Children” (new LDP Diet members elected this September) scolded his students for “bad etiquette” at a recent party.

The outburst took place on the evening of Nov 30 at a party held by the party leader for close associates in Tokyo. According to one person in attendance, Takebe screamed, “Looking just now, the new members are just eating and not making the rounds!” causing the attendees to hurriedly begin distributing meishi (business cards, the ritualized distribution of which is a custom in Japan).

Meanwhile, at a party for veteran Diet members, Low Birthrate Minister Kuniko Inoguchi, who is also a new Diet member, gave an overlong speech, forcing former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who hurried to the event, to go home without giving any speech.

Another airport in Tokyo?

Narita has expanded as far as it can go. Haneda, already the busiest airport in Asia, can’t go anywhere but further into the bay. Tokyo will eventually need a third airport, or so we’re told.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, with Ishihara’s personal blessing, wants to use Yokota Air Base, a U.S. Air Force base in west Tokyo, for civilian flights. That seems somewhat unlikely now, since the base is going to have expanded duty as the Air Self-Defense Force’s command center (protests be damned), on top of its existing role as headquarters for U.S. forces in Japan.

The other option is to build offshore. Several sites have already been proposed, most of them in Tokyo Bay, except for one site off of the Kujukuri Beach on the Pacific coast of Chiba (obviously a bad idea; spoil a nice beach with an airport that’s even farther from Tokyo than Narita?!).

Is the third airport really necessary? After all, Narita just had to cut its landing fees to stay competitive. I think it all has to do with the fact that the Kansai region will have three airports as of next February. Ishihara just doesn’t want his half of Japan to fall behind.

London has five airports and is getting along just fine. That doesn’t mean that more is necessarily better. Berlin is in transition from three airports to just one. Maybe Tokyo will someday admit that Narita was a dumb idea, and run all of its flights from a humongous future version of Haneda, acres and acres of concrete sprawling out into the bay.