business

Foreign firms feel sidelined in post-quake rebuilding

78 Comments
By Julian Ryall for BCCJ ACUMEN

Red tape and rigid adherence to regulations stopped a number of foreign firms from providing help and specialist expertise in the immediate aftermath of the March 11 disasters in northeast Japan, while other firms say their efforts to render assistance to the homeless and destitute were frustrated because the markets here are effectively closed to outsiders.

Among those whose offers of help were dismissed, and who agreed to speak to ACUMEN, are British firms with experience in providing high- quality emergency shelter — that has been gratefully accepted in disaster zones around the world — as tens of thousands of people were living rough in school gymnasiums and municipal offices in the hardest-hit prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate. In addition, there are at least two UK firms that were eventually successful in securing contracts, after having endured frustrating delays and red tape, but they declined to be identified out of fear of jeopardising future deals.

The experience of trying to meet the demands of government ministries and prefectural authorities has left some British firms irritated or angry — in particular those whose members travelled to areas affected by the magnitude-9 Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered, and who saw for themselves the misery of the victims. The people who lost out due to officials’ inability to think outside the box, they say, were those who had already lost everything in the disasters.

“Our first reaction, on hearing of the disaster, was that we could help — and help very quickly — with low-cost, quickly assembled temporary housing and other raw materials for rebuilding,” said Colin Shea, managing partner of Sure Lock Homes.

The firm, a subsidiary of UK-based Convolvulus Ltd, manufactures solid- wood, interlocking buildings and has been operating for more than 25 years.

“We have the resources, the manpower and the technology to design, make and deliver 500 solid-wood temporary homes each month,” he said. “Each unit can be put up in a single day by two semi-skilled workers.

“We worked 24 hours a day for three days to complete the tender requested by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and I submitted it in person by the April deadline at the Shibuya offices,” Shea said. “It was immediately rejected as we did not have a Japanese partner with a construction license.”

Trade officials at the British Embassy Tokyo used all their contacts and skills to help UK firms get a toehold in the Japanese market, but to no avail.

“Even with their support, we could not get past the red tape”, said Shea, who complains that the experience of trying to offer assistance to Japan has left him deeply frustrated.

The Charles Kendall Group (CKG) had a similar experience.

Three members of staff from the firm’s offices in Kuala Lumpur were in Sendai within 48 hours of the tragedy striking and an operations room had been opened in Tokyo. The firm, which is a global end- to-end supply-chain management group based in London, immediately grasped that there would be a critical need for modular housing. That was confirmed in meetings with officials from the three prefectures most severely affected and the ministry.

CKG responded to the tender, partnering with Berkshire Hathaway’s Clayton Homes — the largest builder of homes in the world — offering 10,000 modular homes that met all the requirements of the ministry and the prefectural authorities. The homes would be manufactured in the U.S. and could have been installed in Japan within 60 days.

Not a single unit was accepted, said Hugh Mainwaring, who spearheaded the campaign to provide assistance.

“Once the tender had been submitted, before the 25 April closing date, the prefectures and the ministry became very distant and somewhat unthankful for the offer,” said Mainwaring. He was told that the local Japanese market would be able to meet the demand for emergency housing — but that was proved incorrect by the delays over the summer that saw families, the elderly and those with infants still living rough well into August.

The Japanese government initially promised to provide 30,000 temporary housing units for victims of the quake and the tsunami, as well as those who had to be evacuated from the immediate vicinity of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, by the end of May. The effort fell nearly 3,000 units short and it was not until the Bon summer holidays that emergency housing was available to the 110,000 people who had been in 2,000 shelters across northern Japan.

The ministry stipulated that foreign firms submitting tenders to provide emergency services or assistance needed to have a Japanese partner on the grounds that the three prefectures would find it difficult to communicate with non-Japanese firms. It also had a deadline of one week before tenders had to be submitted.

“As soon as the UK firms heard they had to find a Japanese partner and provide a tender—preferably in Japanese, as the ministry stated — most of them simply gave up,” said a UK Trade and Investment spokesperson at the embassy. “It was just impossible for them to do that.”

The official, who was instrumental in providing help and advice to a number of UK firms that decided to push ahead with the tender process, said the effort was almost certainly futile from the outset. “The ministry was, we believe, keen to show that it was doing all it could to help the people of Tohoku by opening up the opportunity to foreign trade and imports,” the official said. “For example, they relaxed the normal requirement for pre-registration as a government supplier to make it easier for foreign companies to participate. But the reality was that the need for local partners and for submission in Japanese meant that foreign companies were disadvantaged from the start.” But the problems were not limited to British firms and the construction sector.

A large amount of high-end children’s clothing was donated through the Embassy of Portugal in Tokyo during the summer, but was initially refused because the aid agencies said they already had enough, while another firm delivered boxes of gloves to a shelter in the disaster zone, only to be told that they could not be accepted as there were not enough pairs for everyone at the facility.

The barriers that foreign firms need to overcome may not be deliberately erected, and are more likely due to excess caution, inefficiency and Japan not keeping up with technological advances, believes Alison Murray, executive director of the European Business Council in Japan.

“We hope to change their mindset and, once they start removing some of the non-tariff barriers, I think there will be a significant shift in attitude,” said Murray. “They have to overcome the fear that they will be flooded with foreign imports that will be of inferior quality.

“We are not talking about not having any regulations, but we want rational regulations that meet global standards,” she said. “Where there are international standards that the EU and the U.S. use, then Japan should use those standards as well.”

The situation in Tohoku may have been exacerbated by the preference, among local authorities, for employing firms based in the region, in order to provide work for local businesses, she said, while the government has also been slow to draw up a master plan for the overall reconstruction of the affected area.

The hurdles that Sure Lock Homes’ Colin Shea came up against simply encouraged him to try to circumvent the red tape, with a degree of success.

In early November, Shea visited the Fukushima Prefecture town of Aizu Misato to meet the mayor and local town hall staff to discuss the donation of a community centre by information technology and communications services provider KVH Co Ltd for evacuees from the nearby town of Naraha-machi, which was devastated by the tsunami and lies within the exclusion zone around the nuclear plant.

Previously, Sure Lock Homes built a kindergarten in the town of Kamaishi, with the help of the local rugby team, the Kamaishi Sea Waves. The building was donated by Sure Lock Homes and the former CEO of Wedgwood Japan.

“I believe that the Japanese wanted to do everything in-house,” Shea said. “I get a sense of inflexibility.

“Anyone who visits the Tohoku region will see it is the people who are suffering; they are the ones losing out by far,” he added. “I shall never forget the look of hope and appreciation on faces of the people of Naraha on my visit to Aizu Misato. One little boy, curious as to why a foreigner was visiting the temporary home camp, said 'Hello' — I think it was his only English vocabulary. And I replied in English to encourage him.

“We will never give up and shall continue offering our building solutions to the Japanese people, especially children,” he added. “We will keep chipping away, so to speak.”

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


78 Comments
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Reads like Kyoto all over again.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This comes as no surprise to me really, just because there was a disaster here doesn't change how Japanese businesses and the government work.

And the people who pay for it are the one's who need the assistance and help the most. The government hacks should be embarrassed. Sadly however I am sure they won't care other than some quip about the "system" and their own inability to effectively make any changes, (conveniently) forgetting of course that they are the one's with the power and control.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Interesting but somewhat dated article. Anyway involved in Tohoku knew this in May of last year. I also don't see what relevance the gloves and the kids clothes are to the article.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

“We worked 24 hours a day for three days to complete the tender requested by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and I submitted it in person by the April deadline at the Shibuya offices,” Shea said. “It was immediately rejected as we did not have a Japanese partner with a construction license.”

While I praise the desire to help, how hard would it been to find a local contractor with a construction license and partner up? Many would have had a better life is Shea would have been "thinking outside the box".

-17 ( +6 / -22 )

this is indeed a sad sad story.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Many would have had a better life is Shea would have been "thinking outside the box".

@Okinawamike Alternatively, many would have had a better life if the Japanese government ministries and prefectural authorities would "think outside the box".

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Heda_Madness Interesting but somewhat dated article.

Not at all, this is relavent now and will be in 10 years time for neo-mercantilist Japan with it's one horse trick of ensuring that it does its best to make sure that it always runs trade surpluses.

Which is kind of really dumb at this dark period of the world economy, when it would be much better for Japan Inc to be doing its best to run trade deficits for the next 5-10 years so that its currency would weaken and the productivity cost differentials of manufacturing at home or abroad would be so small that the hollowing out of Japan's manufacturing base would stop.

However that's a step too far for national or local politicians to forsee and Japan chugs along to its inevitable demise in a sakoku cultural and economic haze.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

While the Japanese bureaucrats seek a way to advantage themselves and their business contacts it is the victims that are suffering.From the rejection of free medical help by the Russians to charitable radiation testing by the English and the Americans have been rejected by officialdom here.

The Japanese take the meaning of government and apply it rigidly......

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Let's see... as many in Japan know very well, construction more or less = yaks. Would you wanna be the guy in the ministry to take food out of the mouths of those babes?

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Dog - my point was that it's not new news. I knew about these problems in April/May.

OkinawaMike - recently Surelock Holmes have secured a site to build a community centre in Rikuzentakata at a cost of 4 million yen. He's now looking for funding. Given your 'expertise' at thinking out of the box I would hope you contact him to help him in his fundraising efforts. Though don't be too surprised if he already tried that in March.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The Japanese mafia,yakuza must be real happy??

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Japan puts profits before people, just sad.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

No, Japan puts pride before people, there is no profit in this. There are two sets of rules, one for Japanese and one for the others. Youkoso but don't forget to go home, sooner the better.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Reads like Kyoto all over again.

I think you mean Kobe.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

another firm delivered boxes of gloves to a shelter in the disaster zone, only to be told that they could not be accepted as there were not enough pairs for everyone at the facility

My wife tried to donate some clothes at a collection point in Sendai and was told the same thing by some stroppy so-and-so. The made-up "rules" must be followed, even if it leaves people stuck in a school gymnasium for months, yet the government wilfully ignores laws (such as taking minutes in meetings) when it suits. The government and bureaucrats in this country deserve to be held in nothing but contempt.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Scrote. Imagine how you would feel if you were in that shelter and the person next to you got gloves. But you didn't. Imagine how that would affect your morale.

This was a policy amongst ALL shelters from the very earliest days. If there were 200 people and you had only 190 packs of noodles they would politely decline. No system is perfect but the mental welfare of the people 'stuck in the gymnasiums' must be considered.

There has also been a surplus of deliveries in some areas and companies like Uniqlo have literally flooded the area with warm clothes.

I really don't understand the relevance between this part of the article and the rest though. The housing situation could have been dealt with quicker and more effectively thanks to people like Colin Shea etc however the government/local authorities were very inflexible.

-14 ( +1 / -15 )

Scrote. Imagine how you would feel if you were in that shelter and the person next to you got gloves. But you didn't. Imagine how that would affect your morale.

This was a policy amongst ALL shelters from the very earliest days. If there were 200 people and you had only 190 packs of noodles they would politely decline. No system is perfect but the mental welfare of the people 'stuck in the gymnasiums' must be considered.

There has also been a surplus of deliveries in some areas and companies like Uniqlo have literally flooded the area with warm clothes.

I really don't understand the relevance between this part of the article and the rest though. The housing situation could have been dealt with quicker and more effectively thanks to people like Colin Shea etc however the government/local authorities were very inflexible.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

The Kendall Group were told that their housing units had to have a shoe box in the genkan and that they had to partner with Toto and not Unix whom that had initially made a deal with . The story is well known to anyone who drinks in Paddy Foley's Irish pub in Tokyo .

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Heda_Madness

Scrote. Imagine how you would feel if you were in that shelter and the person next to you got gloves. But you didn't. Imagine how that would affect your morale. This was a policy amongst ALL shelters from the very earliest days. If there were 200 people and you had only 190 packs of noodles they would politely decline. No system is perfect but the mental welfare of the people 'stuck in the gymnasiums' must be considered.

Well what a stupid system this was. Surely ANY aid is better than no aid. If someone donates 190 pair of gloves and 10 people miss out surely its easier to find 10 pairs of gloves than 200 pairs. In this situation most logical (and it seems the Japanese are far from this) people would take the 190 pairs of gloves and say thank you very much. I guess it just highlights the mentality that has strangled the whole aid and reconstruction effort.

I guess all this will do is make people think twice about donating to Japanese causes in the future which is sad.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

“I believe that the Japanese wanted to do everything in-house,” Shea said. “I get a sense of inflexibility.

Anyone who has lived here will agree with it.

They didn't learn from Kobe. They continue to think 'they" know better and don't want the help out the outside world unless they get to control it all and make people jump through hopes. Rejected good because not everyone can have a pair? Suffer together rather than help a few.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

I feel the biggest take-away from this article is that the system in Japan is outdated. The general fear that foreign imports are inferior needs to be altered. I am all for Japanese products being more expensive and high-quality but I am also all for giving the average person a choice. If, in a dire time of need, Japan (through bureaucratic "red-tape") is able to deny foreign companies from helping, how can we expect Japan to even consider other issues (such as the TPP).

I wonder if this information is out in Japanese someplace? If anyone knows, could you put up a link related to this issue, please?

@keika1628 I would love it if there was an article to read on this issue as opposed to word-of-mouth information spread over pints of delicious ale.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

In the early days, it was preferred to donate directly to the local distribution centres so that they could ensure that the correct amount were distributed to each shelter. If you went door to door to shelters they would, mostly, take what matched their requirements - no more or no less. The distribution centres would take everything and distribute it accordingly. If one shelter had 190 gloves and they needed 10 more it's quite possible that they would never get those 10 pairs of gloves. Too much bureaucracy? Quite possibly. But you need to have a system or some shelters would have missed out all together.

And there was nothing remotely 'easy' about the first couple of months up there. Nothing.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

"Welcome to Japan. We take care of our own interests."

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Yeah, I heard firsthand from a British friend about this. It makes me incredibly angry and sad. Sometimes, I don't think it's just pride. You know, this whole Japan is superior kind of arrogance, mingled with a huge dash of the 'I am okay Jack because I am not actually directly affected by the disaster' attitude. Surely after such a catatrosphic disaster affecting thousands, the needs of the victims could have been put first before rules. It just makes me sick.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Japanese bureaucratic brains, the biggest barrier to overcome.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Sorry Spud....it's always about the money and controlling the people's perception. The money, the money, the money. Always about the money.

Profit first, Pride second. You know how I kNOW I'm right? If it were about pride then they would have built a safer nuclear reactor. You'd pride yourselves on attention to safety and detail. Pride would stop the dispersal of radiated food items.

You think those guys working at TEPCO are PROUD?? You think they are proud to wear that TEPCO mark on their uniforms? NOT!!! So why do they still work there? tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock...."What is billions of yen in profit every year?" Oh you're our new Jeopardy champion!! Jeopardy it most certainly is when the welfare of the people takes a backseat to corporate profit.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

The barriers that foreign firms need to overcome may not be deliberately erected, and are more likely due to excess caution, inefficiency and Japan not keeping up with technological advances, believes Alison Murray, executive director of the European Business Council in Japan.

Just about defines Japan in the 21st century in almost any industry.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

What can you say? I mean really what can you say? (shakes head wearily)

People trying earnestly to help facing BS at every turn because of a dogmatically blind approach to "the rules"... Meanwhile in the corridors of power, (From Saturday's news)

At least 10 of 15 government teams dealing with Japan's tsunami and nuclear catastrophes kept no detailed records, an official said on Friday, adding to a growing picture of chaos in Tokyo's disaster response.

You couldn't make it up...

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Ahh, a great traditional start to a Monday morning in Japan: a tale of incompetence, xenophobia and stubborness.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

I don't think this is unique to Japan. The US response to Katrina Hurrican was astoundingly bad. Better to leave in anarchy almost than put tens of thousands of homeless people up in a local stadium which degraded into a coliseum of terror.

Also, if you lived in Japan and watched the news, a lot of Japanese companies also had difficulty bringing relief. For example, you may have simple modular housing from the UK, but there was no agreement about WHERE to build the temporary housing. Too close to the shore and danger of further tsunami, and too inland, there was absolutely no infrastructure (just building on remote hills). I also feel that the people in the gymnasiums should have been more FLEXIBLE and SELF-RELIANT. There were many cases of very good accomodations offered outside of Tohoku for free or low cost that were refused because people did not want to leave their community.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

This is old news to foreigners here, but I hope this is somehow being disseminated to the Japanese public, particularly to those in Tohoku who are still in shelters. They need to know how hard their government is working to block them receiving the help they need. They indeed want it all to be in-house, because they don't make a profit if it's a foreign firm doing the business.

This government can go out of their way to deny their people sufficient aid, but can't take a minute to record the minutes of a meeting. Corrupt all the way through.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Ummmm...just thinking. If not enough pairs of gloves, couldn't every body have gotten at least one, and play janken for the others? One is better than none.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I am actually blaming both parties here. We who live in Japan know very well the inflexible attitude the government officials often take but I would not let all the foreign companies off the hook either.

First "provide the tender preferably in Japanese". I see this as a standard practice in any country to ask for the tender in their own language, nothing especially dramatic here.

Secondly these companies where not trying to just offer assistance as they themselves so nicely put it but to make money in entering the Japanese market. No, there is nothing wrong about in my opinion but do not try to picture yourselves holier than the pope.

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

Regarding turning away gifts if there is an insufficient number to give one to all. This is a major difference between Japanese thinking and that of the Western world. In the USA we'd quickly take the gloves and supply them to who needed them the most. In the case of food, again we'd take the food and do our best to be fair. In addition if you were to ask the people suffering I'm sure they'd agree to take the goods and let them figure out who needs the most. If I didn't get the gloves I'd still be happy in the knowledge that someone else did and that they did not go to waste.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I don't think there is a Japanese conspiracy behind this. Yes, Japan would like to handle their problems by themselves but yeah, it goes beyond the "no shoebox, no contract". Japanese have building codes too. If some company provided crappy shelter, all posters above would be ranting against the Japanese government for not having checked. Put some water in your wine. The Japanese society is not prepared to events they haven't been trained for. Add foreigners on the top of that. Having Japanese companies knowing how things work, building codes would have been way easier for the government to handle. Still, I would prefer a shelter without a shoebox and no shelter at all.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

No more time for tatemae. Writing is on the wall - Gringos need not apply...

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

"Welcome to Japan. We take care of our own interests."

Or not, as the case may be.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Clearly the govt/beaurocrats have messed up big time in LOTS of areas relating to 3/11.

I think this blurbs point is to TRY to learn from the mistakes, for the J-side thats unlikely. For those foreign firms, they missed out this time but there will be many more natural disasters in Japan, so I wud suggest they get hooked into the market here on their own or thru a local distributor or whatever.

But this is a good example of how Japan puts up non-tarrif barriers that are very effective, even to the detriment of their own people, again & again & again & the locals dont seem to care one way or the other sadly

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Very soon after the 3/11 disasters, the local government in Sendai City had to send out a request for people to stop sending donations of clothes etc because they had received so much and had quickly run out of places to store and process them. It was also affecting the local economy.

The uptake in the temporary housing has been well below 100% because not all people wanted to live in them because of the small size, poor insulation, lack of space for drying clothes. Some returned to living in their damaged homes, mostly trying to live on the second floors.

According to disaster law the cost of the temporary units was suppose to be ¥3.5 million but it cost about ¥5.5 million per unit and also these units have to be destroyed after three years. For ¥8 million they could have built a three bedroom house which would last 25 years.

Since there's something of an energy crisis going on with the shut down of all nuclear reactors, at least by default, the reconstruction should be on building green and eco friendly homes and should also receive government grants.

There are some foreign housing firms in Japan which mostly supply homes made from logs but they all have Japanese partners. Japan isn't unique on that point, in China too, companies have to partner up.

The construction of the temporary homes should have gone to local firms but in the end most of it went to Tokyo based companies who also supplied their own workers. Less than 25% went to the local economy.

Sendai City is enjoying something of an economic boom with a large number of disaster workers staying there. What is needed is to get the local economy going and getting people back to work.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Wow some real Japanese apologists really got in on the act in those last few posts. Normally I'd ignore them but...

Mekki.. do you really think they handed their bids into the local office in any other language, apart from Japanese? If you did, you probably think that the estimates were given in dollars.

Wurthington... cultural relativism never condones anything, but a cultural relativism based on a bi-polar world of us and the rest is just so silly.

Tumbledry... you don't think that Japan actively practises neo-mercantilist policies of domestic protection? In my 16 years in Japan, I've yet to meet a Japanese who doesn't think it is so. Normally they condone such practises along Japanese exceptionalism lines, but they don't deny it.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I don't understand the problem here. Foreign firms that went by the correct rules and procedures have had no trouble helping out in Tohoku.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

Once people experienced "temporary" housing that was substantially better, warmer (insulation, double glazing etc), and probably more durable than their shanty type shacks that the Japanese construction industry throws up, then they'd be no going back.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

it's always about the money and controlling the people's perception. The money, the money, the money. Always about the money.

Profit first, Pride second. You know how I kNOW I'm right? If it were about pride then they would have built a safer nuclear reactor. You'd pride yourselves on attention to safety and detail. Pride would stop the dispersal of radiated food items.

You think those guys working at TEPCO are PROUD?? You think they are proud to wear that TEPCO mark on their uniforms? NOT!!! So why do they still work there? tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock...

You said it. Brilliant!

I don't understand the problem here. Foreign firms that went by the correct rules and procedures have had no trouble helping out in Tohoku.

Bwahahahaahaaa!!! You're such a card!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I don't understand the problem here. Foreign firms that went by the correct rules and procedures have had no trouble helping out in Tohoku.

Well we don't know this. But we do know that people wanted to do business in a foreign country but in their native language. No wonder they were unsuccessful. For volunteer groups I would expect leniency. For business, there is no reason the Japanese officials should suspend the rules just to make it more convenient for foreign companies to get a toehold.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

NessieJan. 30, 2012 - 01:34PM JST that people wanted to do business in a foreign country but in their native language. No wonder they were unsuccessful

Where does it say that they wanted to do business in anything other than Japanese?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@Dog: "Wurthington... cultural relativism never condones anything, but a cultural relativism based on a bi-polar world of us and the rest is just so silly."

Two wrongs don't make a right but the Japanese would be the first to tell you they are very different from other cultures and they're proud of it. So I believe I'm well within my right to say we would have handled that situation differently where I come from.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Foreign firms feel sidelined in post-quake rebuilding

British firms feel sidelined in post-quake rebuilding is better tittle for this article by British "journalist" for a British mag.

CKG responded to the tender, partnering with Berkshire Hathaway’s Clayton Homes—the largest builder of homes in the world

Clayton Homes, a component company of Berkshire Hathaway, is the United States largest manufacturer of manufactured housing

I don't think Japanese want to live in American tin cans.

Not a single unit was accepted, said Hugh Mainwaring, who spearheaded the campaign to provide assistance.

who spearheaded the huge profit scheme.

Among those whose offers of help were dismissed

Vultures don't come to offer help.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Where does it say that they wanted to do business in anything other than Japanese?

Right here:

"But the reality was that the need for local partners and for submission in Japanese meant that foreign companies were disadvantaged from the start"

2 ( +3 / -1 )

How kind of the government in heated offices in Tokyo to decide that all the people in Tohoku should suffer when they could have been given much aid and comfort. How very stoic.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I don't think Japanese want to live in American tin cans.

I think they'd rather than that a school gym. I also have to laugh at the comment but tin cans are pretty much what Japanese houses are!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I'll take my American tin can any day over what I see around me. Double paned windows, good insulation and central heating and AC with a nice big kitchen.

3 ( +4 / -2 )

Yous all deserve to live in tin cans the way you talk. Let me take one guess the UK based company had contacts in Japan that werent construction. There is so much internal rivalry between foreigners here that no one wants to share their information and realize that everybody will get paid for their bit. And when it comes to construction especially. Why, because those who know nothing only ever say yak and money. They think that construction has a lot of money when they forget it's not like buying a car and then making money on your mark up, once you buy the goods you have to assemble it! And one guy is not going to get it happening very quickly, even though the instruction paper says 'put together in one day'. Honestly, I really get steaming reading this article and thread of comments. It is not anyone being unfair or harsh to those suffering. It is a mix of choices the people themselves make, the fact that somebody has to fork up cash for the products and the work done-I really cant see thousands of houses being built by volunteers. Tokyo companies can take on the work because they can afford rent in Sendai and the travel costs to the worksite, so they are the quickest and most prepared to handle the situation, because they are making enough in Tokyo because basically nobody wants to move out of Tokyo. Also for smaller companies where are your workers going to stay? No homes for the locals and that means there is also not much accomodation nearby for construction . And does that mean they move there, or do they have to travel back and forth from their origin. And if you havent been there, go and see the distances you have to travel. And also get a taste of how cold it is to work in them conditions. Local building companies are run off their feet, if you want a job, go there! Also it would be good for locals to learn a new trade, but their willingness needs to be ignited. And if you are aware of how little people want to go there to work-unless they have a comfortable place to come home to at night like Sendai which I agree is needed, after working OUTside- it could be said that the need may ignite it. But it would seem it is not happening fast enough for some foreign companies. They dont want to use Japanese construction, and it is important to know the line of work, because when you are co-ordinating different specialists-electricity, gas, water etc- you have to know how to talk with them all, know what they are used to, and how to then instruct to any foreign difference. It cant just be your english teacher! And that brings this ramble back to where I started that foreign rivalry within Japan holds everyone back and has these sort of stupid articles written.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

illsayit: Nailed it!

I deserve all of the -15 thumbs down for hitting the submit button before finishing the post in the morning. Now I have time I will go on a little more.

If Mr. Shea would have gone a found a Subcon or became one, he would not have all the problems.

Where could you throw up 500+ units? Take someone’s parking lot? They would need a foundation to be stable. Where would the wood come from? Very few countries will allow you to ship in wood products, without inspections, quarantine and treatment first.

Again, I commend Mr.Shea and his efforts. Others (UK Companies) took the time to do it right and they are now benefiting from the efforts.

@Okinawamike Alternatively, many would have had a better life if the Japanese government ministries and prefectural authorities would "think outside the box".

Yes sir, you are correct. But the box of which you speak of is an airtight good old boys box and the boys in Japan do not like to share.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

this whole Japan is superior kind of arrogance,

I think it's partly true especially when it comes to medical/construction/technology aid.

the local government in Sendai City had to send out a request for people to stop sending donations of clothes etc because they had received so much and had quickly run out of places to store and process them.

This is also true. They had to refuse some certain goods whether they are from Japanese or foreigners. Randoseru (elementary school bag), for example. In Kamaishi-shi, Sendai, 2,500 school bags were sent there while 500 students needed those bags. The municipal government didn't know what to do with those 2,000 school bags left. There were not enough cars or volunteer workers to send those bags to the place where children need. Not only randoseru, but for blankets, diapers, clothes, food... There were tons of them at municipal government. The problem was some remote areas had lack of goods, but it was too far for them to get the goods to the city centers, and the city centers had difficult time figuring which remote area need what goods. There were not enough people to separate all those donated goods. Later on, more volunteer workers came and tried to separate all goods from thousands of cardboard boxes.

http://daikoube.blogspot.com/2011/11/blog-post_981.html

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

you forgot to mention blowing it together and using nothing but your bare hands-whose tool you going to use? and is the usage deteoriation included in the cost.....boys IN Japan. The old boys of Japan are getting old and still trying their darndest to help out.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Blair is spot on. There was a massive surplus of some supplies and simply not the demand or the storage areas for it so they had to simply refuse it. And that didn't matter whether you were foreign or Japanese.

As I mentioned in one of my hugely popular posts. I don't see the relevance of that in an article discussing how difficult it was for foreign companies to do business in post 3/11 Japan.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

and 3 days of hard work and they probably expected to be serviced-they shoulda just went to the yakuza

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

well obviously heda you know nothing about construction; most of the builders willing to go to Tohoku besides locals who already probably have suppliers, are older. What they are used to building with and how, and you want to have an education lesson in exotic goods while you are supposedly helping out those who are suffering, just doesnt seem to cut it. Maybe if you had a made the effort before such a situation, spent money on getting your product in the market here before hand you could have taken advantage of it-and dont forget the pound is oh so cheap! -not.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Heda madness

As I mentioned in one of my hugely popular posts. I don't see the relevance of that in an article discussing how difficult it was for foreign companies to do business in post 3/11 Japan.

Would that be the post that got 11 thumbs down?

Nothing like blowing ones own trumpet

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Illsayit, if I know nothing about construction then you know nothing about the ability to read English...

I was highlighting a point in the article about clothes being refused at shelters.

Actually, you know nothing about finance either if you think that 120 plus yen to the pound makes the pound expensive.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The one that got 11 or 8 or ot however many thumbs down. I'd be interested in the first hand opinions of those who were in Tohoku who gave me thumbs down as to what they would have done diferently. But I fear it would be a very short conversation.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Heda.

Don't sweat the thumbs up/down. There is NO criteria to them and some will thumb you up or down solely based on hour handle and get others to do the same.

Just post what you do normally and ignore that feature as it has no real meaning.

Bad idea for JT introducing it, but I guess it came as a part with the hook-up for FB, etc.

Moderator: Readers, forget the thumbs up/down function. It is not something that needs to be commented on.

-4 ( +2 / -5 )

Stay on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's me. Usually I don't care about the ratings, especially on the whaling issue but this is something I'm pretty passionate about having been involved since the early days. It's just frustrating that I seem to have collected a troll fan base. I guess that's what the ratings system has brought about.

I was going to post on the executive impact feature about what a wonderful job the BCCJ have been doing in Tohoku but I know that some would immediately give me a negative rating. And that would be unfair on Lori.

1 ( +2 / -2 )

Imagine how you would feel if you were in that shelter and the person next to you got gloves. But you didn't. Imagine how that would affect your morale. This was a policy amongst ALL shelters from the very earliest days. If there were 200 people and you had only 190 packs of noodles they would politely decline. No system is perfect but the mental welfare of the people 'stuck in the gymnasiums' must be considered.

This is seriously, honest to God, the strangest thinking I've come across in a long time. Is this a joke?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Okay Mr Madness, yeah, I'll do some imagining.

Scenario 1. Nobody has any gloves. Or after me and my kids have cold hands for a few days until EXACTLY 200 pairs of gloves get delivered from somewhere, I find out that we were just 10 pairs short!! Even worse if what? The next day some kind soul brought 195 pairs, but ...missed it by whisker. THEN you have a morale problem.

Scenario 2. They come and say hey I've got good news and bad news. There are 200 of you but only 190 pairs of gloves. I'd say WOW!!! That's great news! thank you to the kind people who brought them! And I'm not hero and I'm no Mother Theresa, but guess what? I might just volunteer to be one of the 10 who didn't get gloves that day. ANd I'd be happy for the 190. And I bet there'd be another nine guys like me.

As for the noodles???? Every day Mino Monta was crying on TV because the poor people had no food. Well Mr Madness, maybe this math is too advanced. I have a wife and two kids. Maybe I could do without, of maybe my family of 4 could get 3 bags of noodles...and share.

This sounds like a puzzle that you'd give to the grade 3 class. Ironically Heda Madness and the powers that be in Tohoku's only answer was. "We'd have to refuse the gloves and food".

Once again, university educated Japanese civil servants are stumped by a problem that anyone in my old school could have solved.

So, let's sack the civil servants and send over some gaijin elementary school kids. Wow.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"It was immediately rejected as we did not have a Japanese partner with a construction license."

The Japanese government should have been more flexible on that for sure. Later on in April, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism announced that they need foreign constructors for building temporary houses and 322 foreign construction operators were on the list: 80 from China, 73 from Korea, 27 from Thailand, 25 from USA, 22 from Canada, 9 from Taiwan, 4 from Sweden, 3 from Finland, 3 from Italy, 3 from France, 2 from UK, 2 from Indonesia... and so on.

http://www.mlit.go.jp/common/000143825.pdf

"Our first reaction, on hearing of the disaster, was that we could help — and help very quickly — with low-cost, quickly assembled temporary housing and other raw materials for rebuilding,"

Quickly assembled temporary housing is important, but at the same time, part of the idea was a big mistake during Kobe earthquake. The government idea then to provide temporary houses was the most needy first basis. Some had to move far away from their community, separated from their friends and neighbors. That caused a huge problem. Many elderly were very lonely, had difficult time to get alone with total strangers, stayed inside the temporary houses all day, and found dead alone couple of days later, so called 孤独死(kodokushi). (200 people died of kodokushi)

http://books.google.co.jp/books?id=YsBqtLRGc5sC&pg=PA138&lpg=PA138&dq=kodokushi+kobe&source=bl&ots=J05OJfhqxn&sig=aV4jh3aW-HBQkP3qzMoDSiPTRXk&hl=ja&sa=X&ei=lnomT-XRL_GVmQW61bmuDA&ved=0CDwQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=kodokushi%20kobe&f=false

This time after 3.11, the municipal governments were careful about constructing temporary houses. In order to avoid kodokushi, most of them decided to move with the whole community. That idea also brought some problems. Some fishermen wanted to have temporary houses near the sea since they wanted to clean up the coast and start working as quickly as possible. Some were afraid of living near the coast because of another possible tsunami. Some municipal government provided houses as quickly as possible no matter what; but some others were careful what kind of temporary houses would be good for scorching hot summer and freezing cold winter. More sophisticated houses took longer time to construct and people at the evacuation center had to wait for long time. What is happening right now is that some temporary houses cannot get water because the water pipe was poorly built and it is all frozen. Also inside the house is very cold since it is poorly constructed. Some houses were quickly built and people could leave the school gym earlier than other community, but some were not good for long term effect.

Providing temporary houses is a very difficult task if they want to satisfy as many people as possible.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Difficult task to reconstruct it all-pointing fingersand belittling isnt going to help, as there is so many case by case situations. And heda I did realize that you were talking about supplies, sorry, but I was trying to point out that when you put supplies and construction in the same article like this does, obviously people dont realize that making a pair of gloves and a house is totally different. Im confused about finances remark though, maybe my sarcasm wasnt loud enough. Agreed, pound is expensive.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yasukuni,

Thanks for the input. I was relaying first and second hand experience as opposed to idle supposition. I can't believe the amount of time I've wasted in a car park on the expressway counting out carrots and potatoes to ensure that everyone received an equal share.

Next time we'll adopt a different strategy.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Scrote. Imagine how you would feel if you were in that shelter and the person next to you got gloves. But you didn't. Imagine how that would affect your morale.

If the person next to me was an 80 year old granny in danger of freezing to death I would be quite happy if she could get some gloves, even if I didn't get any, because she would need them more than me.

It was cold enough in Sendai with no power or heating, I imagine it was a darn sight colder in the evacuation centres, yet when you try and help all you get is some jobsworth moaning at you.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Heda, I'm saying that a person "in charge" of an evacuation center is crazy for refusing supplies and then complaining they don't have any.

My beef is with the civil servants. Volunteers were fabulous the way they got up there. I was involved in relaying stuff too, and so many people on shoe string budgets somehow got up there and did good before the govt got there and while TV shows were showing the world how the people had nothing to eat. It was amazing how simple people could do so much by just asking around, renting trucks and going up when the huge govt couldn't.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There was no communication. No telephones. No nothing. It needed to be centralised but a lot of the main centres were washed away.

Being centralised. Being organised through some kind of establishment needed to be done. So it was the only option to go through the centralised distribution centre to ensure that everybody got the same.

And despite what everyone says, especially my fan club, it needs to be equal for everyone.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I really cant see thousands of houses being built by volunteers.

Interesting because I think "Habitat for Humanity" does just this.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Dog: So why did they specially mention having to use Japanese as a feature designed to keep the British companies out?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yasukuni, You have to understand the scale of the disaster. And it's very difficult to do so. Someone mentioned New Orleans before and that was a disaster that was forecast yet still the federal government was found lacking. This was impossible to prepare for and it needed people to fill in the gaps. There were many, many gaps and I don't think for one moment that it couldn't be improved upon but too many people have an ideological idea of what should happen.

Or to put it in another way, when you're driving around looking for a distribution centre it's pretty damned hard when there's no road sign and you have to rely on Google maps. It's even harder when you want to turn at the next left and you have no idea where the next left is because it's simply not there.

Someone mentioned above about the politicians making decisions in thei warm Tokyo offices but perhaps I'm th only one who sees the irony in that statement. A lot of people are making judgments without venturing further north than Saitama. Could the government have done better? Yes, especially with regards to the temporary housing but they could have done a hell of a lot worse because of my views on whaling I have attracted a fan club of sorts who are quick to criticize because I said it. I'm not going to say that's right or wrong on other issues but on this it's wrong. It's wrong for the people of Tohoku and it's wrong base on the knowledge and information that I've gained on my trips and my experience.

Those that marked me down earlier do so without knowledge of what the situation was. If they did, they may disagree with what happened but I doubt they would disagree with the logic behind it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Sorry... I'm on a roll...

You say that the person in charge of the center was crazy. Well let's just remember who these people were. They weren't out of towners, they were members of the community. They may have lost their homes, their families etc. as I said before the mayor of Rikuzentakata was appointed mid February. His wife's body was discovered a few months later.

He had to make decisions despite his personal situation.

The system was designed to be fair. There was nothing fair about those early days. Nothing. Yet the people had to cope as best they could. Many on here on here have complained about one thing or another but the people up there haven't. Go up there. Meet them. Talk to them.

Understand what humanity means.

In years to come I will forget Japan Today, the comments, the ratings. But I'll never forget the peope of Tohoku.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

This was a policy amongst ALL shelters from the very earliest days. If there were 200 people and you had only 190 packs of noodles they would politely decline. No system is perfect but the mental welfare of the people 'stuck in the gymnasiums' must be considered.

The system was designed to be fair. There was nothing fair about those early days. Nothing. Yet the people had to cope as best they could.

What Heda_Madness saying is true whether it's good or bad. I was at an evacuation center of elementary school gym. There were about 80 people and there were only 50 blankets. The vice principal of the school told us he could not give blankets to anybody until extra ones arrive. But a couple of hours later, it was getting cold and then vice president decided to give blankets to small children, the elderly first. No one complained. I personally think the fair distribution policy needs to be changed and I think it will.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The story tells us "Trade officials at the British Embassy Tokyo used all their contacts and skills to help UK firms get a toehold in the Japanese market, but to no avail."

The British Embassy doesn't always get it right either. They dropped the ball when the British rescue teams were trying to get to where they were needed.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12756366

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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