NEW YORK--British and U.S. media are not buying the Diet's investigation commission's report that Japanese culture was largely to blame for last year's nuclear disaster.
They said the finding only helps to divert attention from the true lessons of the catastrophe.
The English-language version of the final report by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, released on July 5, said: "This was a disaster 'Made in Japan.' Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the program'; our groupism; and our insularity."
U.S.-based Bloomberg ran an editorial on July 8 titled: "Japan's Unsatisfying Nuclear Report." The article appreciated the report's detail and its assertion that the disaster was "profoundly man-made," but pointed out that it "does not identify which men (and this being Japan, there probably weren't many women) failed."
It went on to say: "It is both a cop-out and a cliche to fall back on Japan's 'groupism' and say that 'had other Japanese been in the shoes of those who bear responsibility for this accident, the result may well have been the same.'"
Gerald Curtis, a professor of political science at Columbia University who is well-versed in Japanese affairs, also lambasted the cultural labeling in his contribution to Britain's Financial Times.
"If culture explains behavior, then no one has to take responsibility," he said. "People have autonomy to choose. At issue are the choices they make, not the cultural context in which they make them."
Reporting from Tokyo on July 8, the Financial Times also raised concerns about labeling the disaster as "Made in Japan."
"That, tragically, was the kind of conclusion that Japanese policymakers and engineers came to after the world's last big nuclear accident, at Chernobyl in 1986," the article said. "It was easier to blame Chernobyl on Soviet shortcomings of design and operation, rather than to truly question the safety of Japanese plants. Other nations should not repeat the mistake."
Many of the statements at issue appear in the "Message from the Chairman" section of the English-language report written by investigation chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa, but are found nowhere in the Japanese-language version.
Reporters asked the reasons for the differences between the Japanese and English versions during a news conference following the release of the report.
Kurokawa replied that, "If you are Japanese, you would understand by reading the original version."
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