In ancient Japan, or so the folktale goes, there used to be a mountain where old people were taken and abandoned once they reached 60 years of age. Although the practice of obasute was probably more rural legend than actual reality, it is a chilling reminder of the perils of old age in a nation where roughly one-quarter of Japanese are now 60 years old or above.
This news has been going around on Twitter world in Japan for some time - a group of retired engineers are getting together and trying to volunteer in the war zone of Fukushima to stop the nuke power plant calamity. I was thinking that although it was such a brave move, Japanese government and TEPCO would be too bureaucratic to allow such an unprecedented grass-roots move to take any realistic effect.
Now, I just heard the news that the group was officially asked to help by the government and TEPCO, negotiating their position, and that they are currently in the process of establishing themselves as NPO.
This is truly amazing. I don't think it is anything unique to Japan - forget about Bushido, it is long gone, but Americans are known for hero-loving and any other countries have enough number of conscious minded people who would do this under such circumstance. But Japanese have been generally shy and are not used to organizing such things in large scale.
I think Internet age made the change. They put up the site and spread the words through Twitter and other social networks. Domestic and international media took it up, and even more people agreed to join in. It created the momentum.
It may help that the leader, Mr. Yastel Yamada, was a left-wing activist as a student in the 1960's. But the tools - net, Twitter and social media - are there to help now. They don't have to throw the fire bottles against the establishment - Tweets are stronger than bottles.
So, in a totally different angle, I believe it is another case of "social media" revolution, following "Jasmin Revolution" in Tunisia and Egypt.
Here is the link to their official site. The announcement of the government/TEPCO acceptance is only written in Japanese - the meeting was held on May 26, and was announced on 6/3.