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A remark commonly heard in Japan in the wake of a natural disaster is, “We couldn’t predict such a thing.” In the case of Typhoon Hagibis, which ravaged the eastern and northern parts of the archipelago in mid-October, the unpredictable thing was the amount of rainfall, which caused massive flooding that resulted in more than 80 deaths and billions of yen in damage. In fact, meteorologists had predicted Hagibis would be the biggest storm to hit eastern Japan in decades and that it would dump an unprecedented amount of water on the region. So when officials say they couldn’t predict the enormity of the typhoon, what they arguably really mean is that they weren’t ready for it.

Nevertheless, some internet commentators have attempted to make the government into a hero. On Oct. 16, online magazine Litera reported a seemingly uncoordinated social media campaign that praised the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for its foresight in restarting the Yanba Dam project, which is located in the upper reaches of the Tonegawa river in Gunma Prefecture, as well as the “super levees” constructed on portions of the Tamagawa and Arakawa rivers in Tokyo. These measures were touted as having saved lives and homes, but the real purpose of the campaign appeared to be to disparage the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan, which, during its brief stint as the ruling party from 2009 to 2012, initially tried to cancel both projects because of their cost. The implication is that the DPJ neglected water control while the resurgent Liberal Democratic Party under Abe’s leadership worked resolutely on the matter.

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