The story “Preventive step led to Hokkaido blackout” in the Sept. 23 edition confirms my observation about Japan for the past three decades: learn and improve fast from past experiences.

We should recognize that the government through a third-party committee did the initial postmortem in a very speedy mode (within two weeks) after the tragic incident occurred. The cause was identified mainly as the failure of emergency procedures after the Sept. 6 earthquake. Then preventive measures were proposed.

This is the culture of continuous improvement (kaizen) that many foreigners have struggled to understand and been deeply impressed with, not only related to technological know-how but also extending to almost all dimensions of life.

I learned about Japan in handling tragedies and traumas during my undergraduate studies in Malaysia, especially the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and pollution-related itai-itai disease. Since then I have observed and documented my views about Japanese society in relation to transformational change in specific areas of concern.

In environmental management, for instance, Japan has gone far in discovering and adapting the latest thinking.

I also think kaizen has played a major role in Japan achieving progress in “ecosophy” (environmental philosophy).

The Hokkaido incident (and Fukushima in the case of nuclear power plants) will serve as a benchmark for significant technical improvement in power plant technology, and strengthening Japanese ecosophy to be always alert and ready to face bigger challenges.


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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