Shiiba Village Japan

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Adventures in Shiiba - March 1995
Erik Kassebaum

One of my hobbies is studying the "internet." The internet is the computer network which spans the globe. About 20 million people use the internet for business, education and recreation.

People use the internet to send information around the globe quickly and efficiently. I use the internet to get information about computers and to get programs for my Macintosh computer. I also use it to get electronic versions of books, newspapers and magazines.

For example every week I use the internet to obtain the electronic version of an American magazine called "MacWeek." In addition I like to check out the latest news from news services like Reuters, AP, and Clarinet News Service.

The internet lets me keep up with news events back home and it lets me see how Japanese coverage of current events differs. What is news in Japan may not be elsewhere and what is news elsewhere may not be in Japan. For example, in the international press there have been many stories about how the Yakuza has been helping victims of the Great Kansai Earthquake. I haven't seen anything about this on Japanese television, and only a few of my Japanese friends were aware of this.

What is considered "newsworthy" often differs from country to country. At this point the internet is primarily an English language resource. Japan's presence on the internet in English and in Japanese is growing rapidly. Many of the early reports from Kobe were written by Japanese citizens and sent out to the rest of the world via the internet.

Since the earthquake much time has been spent discussing the role of modern telecommunications and Emergency Management of people and resources. Every Monday afternoon there is an educational television show for junior and senior high school students that is devoted to promoting the use of the internet. The February 13 show was devoted to how people used computers after the earthquake to send out news reports, requests for aide, and to check on the status of friends and loved ones. Many of the early reports from Kobe were written by Japanese High School Students. Their words were powerful and were read by people around the globe.

According to international press reports sixty-eight countries have offered aide to Japan. Japan has only accepted a minimal amount of aide from 30 of the countries that have offered aide. In the wake of a quake that took the lives of more than 5000 people, a quake which has made more than 200,000 people homeless these refusals have upset many people in Japan as well as around the world. I was taught that one test of true friendship is being able to provide assistance to friends in need and that another test of true friendship is being able to accept assistance when in need.

Japan has been a great contributor of aide to the international community for many years. Many have found Japan's refusals to be insulting. News is a matter of perspective, not facts and figures.

As your sources of news become more diverse (NHK, MRT, CNN, ABC, NBC, BBS, INTERNET,...) your understanding of events will change. Like it or not, computers, satellites, fax machines and fiber optic phone lines are changing how you see the world and how the world sees you.