‘Dream of Tohoku,’ Abe’s vision at oddsIt was an unforgettable game. Just like the Korean Series, the Japan Series was a tight match. On Nov. 3, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles upset the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants in the seventh game. It’s the first championship title for the Golden Eagles since the team was founded in 2004. In fact, this year’s Korean Series would have been dramatic no matter who won. Samsung came from behind in the series to win the championship, and Doosan, which finished the regular season in fourth place, almost pulled off a miracle.
However, in the Japan Series, Rakuten’s accomplishment was far more dramatic. Based in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, the club represents the Tohoku region, which was hit by the earthquake and nuclear disaster in 2011. The pitcher threw 160 pitches in one game, then took the mound again the next day. It was the first championship in 66-year-old manager Senichi Hoshino’s career.
Moreover, the Japanese media highlighted the message the team was sending to the Tohoku region. Hoshino declared that the team would heat up the Tohoku region and urged the players to be as passionate as high school baseball players. After the victory, he asked the public to praise the players for giving courage to the disaster-hit region. He said he had been working hard for three years to encourage those who are still suffering. The baseball team brought back the “dream of Tohoku” to recover from the nuclear incident and revive the regional economy. Rakuten has cast a light of hope.
However, off the baseball field, the reality is grim in Tohoku. The Liberal Democratic Party’s second-most powerful man, Shigeru Ishiba, said the time will come when someone has to say, “Residents cannot live in this region, and the government will pay compensation.” He argued that the government measure that allows all residents who wish to return to the region needs to change, and that the truth should be conveyed to the people. The area near the Fukushima nuclear reactor was devastated when I visited in mid-September. The town was completely destroyed and has been taken over by wild monkeys. High levels of radiation were detected and locals cried out that they are sick of nuclear power plants.
Japan can’t deal with the radiation-contaminated water, which has caused worldwide panic. The tragedy has converted former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi into a “zero nuclear power plant” evangelist. He is the political mentor of Shinzo Abe and during his tenure, he supported nuclear power generation. But Abe still believes in nuclear power, and Japan has won a bid to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey. He is also eager to resume nuclear power generation in Japan, which is indispensable to his growth strategy. He doesn’t seem to care that the people in Fukushima are furious that he is selling nuclear power plants when the accident in the country is not being handled properly.
The “dream of Tohoku” is colliding with Abe’s vision.
*The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by SEO SEUNG-WOOK