Over the past two months, hardly a week has passed without news of another North Korean missile launch. It's become routine: An early morning South Korean media report, based on government sources, says that "an object has been launched," forcing politicians, bureaucrats, and journalists in Tokyo out of bed. Groggy and red-eyed, they head to their ministries, agencies, offices and press clubs to man their stations and wait for developments. They return home only after confirming the missile has landed somewhere in the Sea of Japan.

Inevitably, what follows is a stream of warnings and angry denunciations by the prime minister, the chief Cabinet secretary and the defense minister. A parade of commentary on North Korea, East Asia or the U.S. military also fills the airwaves and newspapers with speculation on what happens next, some of it informed, much of it not.

Whatever the odds are of people in Japan actually being injured or killed by an incoming missile, journalists and politicians get the chance to sound serious and concerned and issue dire warnings. But the recent rush by small towns in parts of the country to hold evacuation drills for an incoming missile has been greeted in Kansai with skepticism about their purpose and effectiveness.