End of Summer 2014

Hello Hugo

It is the last day of August today so summer will soon become autumn and autumn will soon again quickly evolve into another winter, the season that you and I were both born in.  So ends your third summer living in Japan.  You spent a total of three summers in the UK (2009, 2010 (to 4 July) and 2011) so it has now been three summers in each country.  True to form, the weather in the UK is already beginning to turn sour.

August 2014 saw a bad landslide in Hiroshima which will, no doubt, be spoken of for years to come – it already has its own Wikipedia page.  I was really happy and relieved to hear that you were ok and did my best from the UK to find out what I could as quickly as I could from the moment that I became aware of the landslide.  Because of the landslide, August 2014 has unexpectedly been the busiest month so far in terms of blog posts since I set up this site in November 2012:  there have been 12 posts this month, including this one, and this post will be the 80th in total.  So it seems to be a good moment to review the blog.

Here are some facts about your blog:

  • The blog now has two external links to it of which I am aware – this and this.
  • The blog enjoys a respectable and steadily growing number of followers; these are largely people who I do not know but to whom I am very grateful for their interest in regard to you in Japan.
  • The blog statistics provided by WordPress tell me that the blog is read most in the UK (but that is because I look at it a lot myself so this does not really count) followed by, in order of country, Japan and the United States.  Until this month the most hits after the UK were in the US but Japan is now (just and as of August 2014) in second place with the US very close behind.  The blog has also been read in a large number of other countries.
  • The blog has also meant that some other parents with sons and/or daughters in Japan in the same or similar situations have contacted me through the blog’s contact page to give advice and, best of all, encouragement; some of them have their own blogs or websites in respect of their own children. I have heard from parents in Japan itself, the UK, continental Europe, the United States and Canada. A number of these cases have attracted media attention and one person who contacted me has published a book about his experiences.  I am very grateful to these parents for what they have said to me; a number of them, seeing the photos on the blog, have remarked what a fine looking son I have and how proud I must be – as indeed I am.

Autumn is always beautiful and temperate in Japan – although I am sad not to be able to see you, and although I utterly deprecate the legal settlement that prevents me from doing anything about it, you are a fortunate young man to live in such a beautiful country.

You turn six later this year and will, therefore, start elementary (we call it ‘primary’ in the UK) school in Japan in (I believe) April 2015.  I will, of course, write a lot more about this between now and then but, when you get to read this blog, you can check out my elementary school here. I left there aged 11 back in 1989.

Make the most of the opportunities available to you in Japan Hugo and, until next time, take care.

 

Hiroshima landslide: update (5)

The situation in Hiroshima as at today is that the total number of dead now still stands at just over 70, as indicated in my previous post; there does not seem to have been any update on this. Amidst all the suffering, there are some signs of hope, even normalcy. There are reports in The Japan Times that the municipal authorities, criticized for not pre-empting this night-time disaster with timely warnings, have started to provide emergency housing and even psychiatric assistance (this from a country notoriously hesitant in recognising mental health issues) to those in need.  There was also an editorial today calling on the authorities to face up to the need for disaster prevention and damage limitation in a timely manner; it seems that lessons still need learning.

More encouraging still is this article about the opportunity to volunteer on the ground by helping with the clean-up effort to get the community back on its feet.  The article, which is worth reading in full, made me think that this sort of commendable thing would never be allowed to get off the ground in the UK because, despite all the talk of David Cameron’s Big Society, it would be deemed too much of a public liability risk. The straight-forward idea of ‘blowing a whistle’ to give warning of any further landslides would leave the health and safety jobsworths in the UK incredulous.  What has happened in Hiroshima, and the reaction of these volunteers and their encouragement by the authorities, is an example to us all.  At least my son lives amongst some good people.

‘Encouraged’ as I was the day before yesterday by the Consulate-General in Osaka, I received this update on my son from his mother at the time (UK) and on the date indicated below:

**********

Subject: Re: Hugo
From: [email address removed]
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2014 06:40:00 +0900
To: [email address removed]

Richard
Hugo was not affected and he is safe and well.
Masako
**********
That was the long and short of it and the above has not been abridged in any way save for the removal of the direct email addresses.  But at least I now have the absolute confirmation that I have sought in this series of posts.
I will post again on this issue when there is further local news.

 

Hiroshima landslide: update (4)

Finally, as a report earlier today states that the death toll has surpassed 70 and looks set to rise to 80-something, I have received a reply of sorts, set out below, from the Consulate General.

As indicated before, I also raised with the Consulate General a query regarding the renewal of my son’s fairly recently-expired British passport.  I will post more on this later, after receiving the response on the point as it is obviously a matter of some importance to my case and others.

**********

From: [name removed]
Sent: ‎27/‎08/‎2014 02:46
To: [email address removed]
Subject: [removed]

Dear [name removed]

I have called the mother on Monday but no one answered the phone.

So I have sent her an e-mail instead on Monday and received her reply today on 26th.

In her e-mail she didn’t answer your question on whether Hugo kun is safe and said that she would like to receive an e-mail directly from you not via the Consulate as she is sincere in replying to your inquiry/question.

Please note that as of 25th August there is no British on the list of dead/missing persons.

I will reply to you separately on your passport questions.

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

[name removed] | Pro-Consul | British Consulate-General Osaka | Epson Osaka Building 19F | 3-5-1 Bakuro-machi | Chuo-ku | Osaka 541-0059 | Japan |

Tel: + 81 (0)6 6120 5600 |  FTN 8461 5603 | Fax: + 81 (0)6 6281 1731 |   www.gov.uk/world/japan

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Hiroshima landslide: update (3)

The situation on the ground remains a distressing one. Today it has been reported in the Japan Times that the number of deaths has reached 58 with 28 still missing.  A landslide of this magnitude has not been seen in Hiroshima-ken since 1999. Given that 5 days have now passed since these events originally unfolded, it is difficult to see how there will be any survivors amongst those who remain missing.

After I posted on Friday, the Japan Times reported that the situation has turned political as these events, wherever they occur, have a habit of doing. On Sunday the same publication drew attention to ill-preparedness on the part of 32 prefectures in relation to the threat of landslides.

There is no news at all from the Consulate General about my son so it has also been 5 days without any information about his welfare in the light of events in his city (I almost typed ‘home town’, as the Japanese are fond of saying, but, even if now undeniably true, it didn’t seem right to put it that way). It is a bank (i.e. national) holiday in the UK today but the Consul I am in contact with indicated that she would again attempt to call my son’s mother in the course of today, suggesting that the Consulate in Osaka is open for business as usual: just to make sure I checked online and the Consulate there seems to recognize only the Japanese national holidays, of which there are a great many. Hopefully there will be some news tomorrow or Wednesday.  As it is the early hours of Tuesday in Japan now, I am resigned to a further night without any news.

Hiroshima landslide: update (2)

Further to the posts yesterday and the day before I have received a further (holding) email from the Consulate General and, again, reproduce it below.  In addition to seeking further clarification about the precise location of the landslide, I raised a question about the renewal of my son’s passport which is something that I have been meaning to raise for some months now as the original one, used to remove him in 2011, expired a few months back.

Before receiving today’s email, I had draft-prepared a post along the lines of wishing that my country’s mission in Japan would do more to push the boat out as regards obtaining some direct information, in the light of recent events in Hiroshima, given the day-to-day news blackout that I have to put up with as regards my son.  I had resigned myself to the Consulate General not trying to telephone to find out whether Hugo is alright, but they in fact did (there was no answer) and will try again next week.  I might therefore obtain a snippet of information about my son.  It is always a difficult balance to strike as regards the local mission:  I am, of course, very grateful for even the smallest things that they can do to help but, as a taxpayer who finds himself in this intolerable situation, I suppose that I would like to see the UK authorities in Japan doing more to keep up to speed with my son – he is, after all, a British citizen, not to mention a young child and the mission is there for his benefit as much as mine.

As regards the situation on the ground, the BBC now reports that ‘at least’ 39 people have been confirmed as having died and the number of missing has ‘jumped’ to 51. Rain is said to be hampering rescue efforts and further landslides are expected.  Coverage in The Japan Times indicates that it has been accepted by the municipal authorities that a late warning was given; the prefecture is the most landslide-prone in Japan.  The same publication confirms that the original landslide centred on Asaminami-ku which, as indicated before, is very close to where I believe my son to be living.

 

**********

 

From:  [email address removed]
Sent: ‎22/‎08/‎2014 08:59
To: [email address removed]
Subject: RE: Hugo Oliver Daisuke Young (dob 28 Nov 2008)

Dear [name removed]

 

Thank you for your reply.

 

I have called her today but she was not available, I am afraid.

I will call her again on Monday.

 

And I will reply to you separately regarding your passport inquiry.

 

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

 

 

[name removed] | Pro-Consul | British Consulate-General Osaka | Epson Osaka Building 19F | 3-5-1 Bakuro-machi | Chuo-ku | Osaka 541-0059 | Japan |

Tel: + 81 (0)6 6120 5600 |  FTN 8461 5603 | Fax: + 81 (0)6 6281 1731 |   www.gov.uk/world/japan

 

Follow FCO consular on Facebook and Twitter or the British Consulate-General Osaka on Facebook.

We welcome your feedback on our services.

 

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