Time Magazine Article on Japan’s Bureaucracy and the Slowing of Earthquake and Tsunami Aid

March 26, 2011

I usually don’t read a lot of Japanese news in English, but an article in Gendai’s online magazine led me to hunt down an article on Time’s site.

Funny that Gendai refers to Time for a hard-hitting story on how the government and bureaucracy in place in Japan has made it hard for other countries to lend aid.

Gendai on Earthquake Aid and Bureacracy

The Gendai article points out that foreign doctors have been turned away simply because they do not have licenses to practice medicine in Japan. Medicines have also been held up undelivered to Japanese hospitals because they have not yet been approved for the Japanese market.

The Time article, found here, also mentions that the Yakuza have been unconstrained by laws and used their power in the trucking industry to deliver supplies. I have heard occasional rumors that this was the case, but have seen no hard evidence that this effort to help goes beyond the trucking industry or a few connected individuals.

There have been cases of individuals and companies running trucks with supplies into the afflicted areas without proper paperwork, as well as the U.S. military delivering aid unannounced and without proper bureaucratic permission.

Some of the more helpful people within Japan have been the members of the comedy group Sandwichman, and even the much maligned and disliked tv comedian and personality Egashira 2:50 who regularly tops the “least liked entertainer” lists. He rented a truck himself and, without alerting the media, delivered aid to the region. Someone leaked the story to the media a few days afterwards. (Egashira 2:50 is the over-the-top and sometimes even gross and offensive comedian newzjapan covered in the past when a Ponyo-like tribute video of Egashira was made.)

The article in Time is worth a read (though I stand by my comments about flippantly giving so much credit to Japan’s Yakuza.) I would love to see the mainstream Japanese media picking up on this story more and coming to be more of a representative of the people. The Gendai article is a start, but looks straight to problems with current Prime Minister Kan instead of the corrupt and rusty level of bureaucracy and all of its widespread tendrils in business, government, media, and even organized crime in Japan.


1 Dave March 26, 2011 at 9:13 am

Sad state of affairs, but unsurprising. You know as well as I do Japan’s love for doing everything strictly by the book, even if it’s not logical at all. Qualified people here wanting to help after a huge national disaster: “Sorry, you don’t have the right licence”.

2 Bob March 29, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I sorry