Regarding the Aug. 19 Kyodo article “Trio still missing in boat sinking“: I know this will probably conflict with the knee-jerk reaction that most people have to this tragedy (on the Tenryu River in Shizuoka Prefecture), but I do not lay blame on the tour company or the boat skippers. I believe it falls squarely on the shoulders of the passengers, particularly some of the parents.
Anyone who has ridden on these boats or seen footage of them, can attest that, under normal conditions, there is very little risk of the boat capsizing, and even if it were to capsize, the slow currents, narrow river width and fairly shallow water depth would make surviving an incident highly likely. All reports are that the conditions were as calm and normal as could be hoped for. Sometimes accidents happen, even in ideal conditions. That this became a tragedy is no accident though.
This incident became deadly because of two factors, one easily identifiable, the other not so much. It has been confirmed that at least four of the six toddlers were not wearing life vests, including the 2-year-old boy who lost his life. This is not only illegal but simply unconscionable conduct on the part of the parents. There is absolutely no excuse for a child’s life to be callously jeopardized this way, and yet this is the same behavior I see exhibited on a daily basis in cars on the roads of Japan. I have no idea where the notion that it’s OK to have a child ride unrestrained in a vehicle has its origins, but it has to stop! I don’t doubt that Japanese parents love their children just as much as any other parent in the world, but this habit is deplorable, dangerous and often deadly.
The other factor that might have played a role in the Tenryu tragedy is alcohol. It isn’t a secret that patrons often enjoy spirits while making their leisurely trip down the river. The hot weather and unprotected sun exposure only compound the effects. If you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s, you may get away with it even in the event of an incident, but if you’re a senior without a lot of regular physical activity, you’re begging for trouble.
Unfortunately the foolish actions of some and their shameful neglect of others will probably put a halt to some tour activities indefinitely and will be a blight on the river for years to come. The true tragedy here is that if even a little common sense had been used, the only story we would be reading is that a tour boat capsized and all the passengers were safe.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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