Today was Halloween, and while I’ve already discussed the festival’s growing popularity in Japan’s modern “culturescape”, I was introduced to another recent addition to Japanese life. At 9:30 this morning, the local emergency sirens and a guff voice could be heard through the speakers. It was a clear day so it couldn’t have been about a typhoon or tsunami. The ground wasn’t shaking and there wasn’t a raging inferno. Instead, the word “missile” was continuously used throughout the 3-minute period. It turned out that the city’s “Incoming Missile Alert System” was being tested.
Now, we had been told that they was going to be a drill and it had been advertised on the trains and buses. Therefore the students knew the procedure and quickly found safety under their 70-year-old, one-inch thick desks. Meanwhile I continued my preparations for classes, chuckling at the weird choice of alarm sound. Imagine the theremin tones of a UFO landing in a 1960s sci-fi movie, and you’ll have come pretty close. After 3 minutes it stopped and everyone climbed from underneath their desks. However the principal and other teaching staff were visibly concerned over the fact that the alarm had been sounded with the vigour and thunder of a sauntering mosquito. We actually had to open the windows so we could hear the bloody thing, which kind of defeats the entire purpose. I continued to snicker at the entire ordeal.
Tensions between the world and North Korea have been escalating for decades, but since the recent missile launches and testing by Kim Jong-un, Japan has particularly taken a more serious approach. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has opted for a stronger line towards North Korea, which incidentally won him the recent snap election. In fact, he intends to change Japan’s constitution to allow for a strengthening in the nation’s military presence. A pursuit that the country’s own history has shown to be a risky endeavour.
Am I worried about North Korea? To be honest, I’ve not really thought about it too much. Japan’s proximity to Kim Jong–un and it’s over reliance on the US (and therefore Donald Trump) is a concern. But the question is whether Trump or Kim Jong-un have the balls to push the button initialising nuclear war. I’m yet to be convinced either will. But for now I’ll continue to worry about the dodgy plumbing in my apartment and the increasing supermarket prices of my beloved butter.