The Truth of Elites Becomes Clear at the Time of Crises


The great disaster and the following nuclear breakdown.  Now, Japan is truly in the “great national crisis”.

I have posted several columns since March 25th.  Now, how has the government been responding to this unprecedented disaster?

An article on the Asahi Newspaper, April 2nd edition, ‘Opinion Kohron 3.11’, featured views of several people in this regard.  Among them was a comment by Kazuhiko Toyama titled ‘Everything for the Sake of the Children’.  Mr. Toyama, a good friend of mine, whom I have introduced to you several times in my site, published recently an inspiring book ‘Restoration of Companies and Capacity to Fail’ (published in Japanese only)  on the essence of organizations and human behavior and leadership..  Toyama-san gave me a phone call right after the disaster to tell me about his concerns on the effect of radiation to the employees of the company he is currently heading. Please search by the key word ‘Kazuhiko Toyama’ in this site.  He is one of the businessmen I deeply respect. 

I quote below the view of Toyama-san as expressed in the Asahi newspaper, because I think they are very straight forward, worth reading opinions.

 “Everything is ‘For the Sake of the Children’; Kazuhiko Toyama (CEO, Industrial Growth Platform, Inc.)

  • I became directly involved, too.  Three local bus operating companies in Fukushima, Ibaragi, and Iwate are our subsidiaries.  In total, we have 2,100 employees and 1,200 buses there.  Although they were damaged just like others, they immediately resumed operation and helped numerous people evacuate from the nuclear power plant zone and transporting medical relief teams.
  • But fuels were not enough.  I tried to get help from the Prime Minister’s office, related ministries, or legislators whom I knew in person.  But they were very slow in responding.
  • The quake hit in March 11th.  Government announced their decision to withdraw oil reserves on 14th and expanded the volume of the withdrawal on 22th.  During this time span, many people ran to buy stocks.  When a broad area of cold district is struck by a huge disaster, it is perfectly clear that fuel will be the key to the survival of people.  Then why did it take so long for the government to make the decision?
  • After negotiating directly with the Japanese legislators, government officials, and companies, I could not help but to strongly sense the existence of a serous problem in the quality of people belonging to the elite class.
  • ‘Have to consult the authorities’, ‘There are no such requests from the prefectures’, ‘Your suggestion does not satisfy our requisites’- such were the reactions I encountered.  Their conducts were nothing but self-defense, desire to save face, shifting responsibility to others.
  • Directions and orders were coming from everywhere in different manners.  I went to a certain place as directed, but nothing was arranged as they have said it would.  When I told them our problems, the issue was hit to places all over like a ball in a pinball machine.
  • As for the fuel and supplies, I think the government should have asked at a very early stage, to the unaffected area, to withhold purchase for a certain period of time.  Likewise, the government should have announced clearly the safety or danger of the area within 30km distance from the nuclear power plant, or the degree of radioactive contamination of vegetables or water.  Comments such as; ‘They are not perfectly safe, but are quite all right’, is no good at all. 
  • For a long time, we had those ‘elite’ people who are incapable of taking risks or making decisions to the head positions as our leaders in politics, governments, and businesses.  As the result, we have rotten this country from the head.  I got such an awful feeling within me.
  • Most of those elites graduated from Todai or other top universities.  They earned excellent grades at school, are courteous in nature, good at adjusting differences of opinions, thus have climbed up the ladder of the organizations by acting as a good person.  However, once a crisis hits them, they are never able to make hard decisions because they are afraid of being criticized.  These elites try to get away from taking responsibilities.  So, nothing will move.
  • Making decision involves forcing someone or some part some sacrifice  If you can not do this, you do not qualify as a leader.   If you have to postpone making decisions at critical moments, you are much less incapable of making judgments at normal situations.  I suggest that all government offices, companies, political parties review their current human resources
  • At this difficult time, in the political, public, or financial sectors of the society, who was doing their job and who wasn’t?  Who escaped from their responsibilities?  I trust that you reporters and journalists witnessed everything.  People need to know the truths.  I urge you, people in the media, to record and report later all of what happened.
  • I think that the most important thing to do from now on, in the process of the nation’s recovery, is to judge all policies or plans by one criteria; ‘Is it good for the children or not?’. Also, ask not ‘what your country can do for you?’ but ‘what you can do for the future of your country?  It is our responsibility to choose the leaders who are brave enough to ask those questions to the Japanese people.
  • In this context, I recommend assigning younger people in their 30th or under to the restructuring of the towns or even the nation.  Since they are expected to survive some 50 years from now, I think they should be the ones to be given the rights to decide things for the future.
  • The older generations will be tested on how much they can make sacrifice for the younger generations, how much they can give up their vested interests which they have been taking for granted.  Pensions, health cares, seniority based promotions, or life long employments…  It is very important that they make sacrifices.  All policies and revival plans should put first the future of our children.
  • By the way, the buses of our company managed to keep on running.  It was because that there were, although few, legislators and government officials who did their job to the end, until the goals were achieved.  Also, we had helps on the site from our fellow transportation businessmen who shared their gas and other necessities with us.
  • It is the people on the site who deserve praises.  Seeing the great motivation and devotion manifested by my employees almost made me cry.  They revived the bus operation of the route from Morioka to Miyako, the most damaged area, in just 5 days from the quake, and the seats of the first bus were fully occupied by the young people (who would look so nowadays in normal situation), carrying tons of aids goods.  These young people are definitely not what people label as the herbivorous species (Soshoku-kei).
  • The strength of Japan is apparently the common people who are so patient and willing to make sacrifices.  Those working on the site are also wonderful.  The Self-Defense Forces (Jieitai) and fire departments are doing great jobs. At the government, the section heads and people below are especially making good efforts, not to mention those officials working hard at the local offices.
  • When a devastating crises hit, whether a company or a nation, the hidden problems show up all of a sudden.  This however, in a way, is a great chance.  I want to make this disaster work as leverage for the creation of the future of Japan.  The race just started and the winner is yet to be decided.”

 (Interviewer, Editor Masaaki Tonedachi
The Asahi Newspaper, page 13, April 2 (Sat). 2011)