Thank you, Junko. Masao Yoshida was a true hero, and I hope he gets the posthumous recognition he deserves. I was impressed by his actions, and especially impressed by the fact that he ignored his instructions, did what he knew needed to be done, and simply didn't bother to mention what he had done until after it was all over. That's a degree of moral courage rare anywhere in the world, and even rarer for cultural reasons in Japan.
I also hope his actions will be publicized in Japan, and serve as an example for what others in analogous positions might be called upon to do, and how they should behave if they are.
I regret I never met him. He's someone I'd be honored to know.
(I do wish the bit that Temco says the esophogeal cancer was unrelated to exposure at Fukashima wasn't the last sentence in the article. People who just see the headline will assume it was radiation exposure at Fukashima that caused it, when in fact, I'm unaware of any illnesses or deaths attributable to radiation exposure at the plant.)
I whole-heartedly agree with your sentiment, DMcCunney.
Unlike most of us who are creatures of habit -- doing what we are told to do, Yoshida, as a guy in charge at ground zero, wasn't afraid of being defiant.
True, Yoshida's esophageal cancer is believed to be unrelated to his exposure to radiation. But the level of radition many among "Fukushima 50" were exposed to still remains a concern.
Just for clarification, during the crisis, two workers died at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The two workers had gone to check reactor 4 after the first quake occurred. They died after being caught by the tsunami in the turbine building.
I have same sentiments as DMcCunney. Indeed Yoshida is hero and he will be always be venerated as so.
Junoko, you missed the opportunity to interview him, however, he must have been interviewd by others. Please elobrate more on these interviews. Masao Yoshida RIP and Jepco must establist some form of annual hero award for engineers.
Two Japanese books I mentioned in this article have detailed descriptions on what happened among decision makers (or non-decision makers) during the crisis.
Funabashi's book "Countdown to Meltdown" meticulously chronicled and documented the course of events -- involving all the cast of characters such as politicians, beauraucrats, Tepco executives and scientists. Of particular interest to me was how Washington responded to the whole thing (at one point Japan was completely losing credibility among the U.S. government officials). This is an award-winning, epic documentary book.
Meanwhile, Kadota's book shed light on those men who worked at Fukushima nuclear powre plant in 500 days after the tsunami/earthquake. The book is more of an emotional human story, depicting what they were thinking then, what actions they took and what they said to each other.
I hope both books will be translated in English soon!
I must, however, point out that much of the Japanese people "keeping calm" during the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power plant disaster turns out to be the result of the electric company (Tepco) not disclosing information, the Japan's prime minister's office (deeply skeptical of Tepco) not fully grasping the situation, and Japanese bureacrats (who intensely disliked the prime minister) hesitent to advise and make decisions. It turns out a lot of "indecisions" and "inactions" kept many people in dark. It wasn't all that good thing.
In hindsight, most of inactions were prudent! Looking at complexity of situation, not many people knew what is happening. It would not have been sensible to give confusing and ambiguous information to otherwise innocent common person.
If you find they have been translated, please let us know. Both are books I'd love to read.
And kudos on EETimes' coverage of Fukashima. It was simply the best I saw, and I learned far more about what actually happened from EETimes coverage than from any other source,
For instance, they key fact for me was that the backup generators for the cooling system were sited where they, too, could be taken out by the tsunami, and were. Had they been in a safer location, the Fukashima disaster might not have occurred. The problem wasn't that it was a nuclear plant - it was a bad design decision when it was constructed. (And I suspect there is still waffling and finger-pointing about just who made the decision to put the backup systems where they were.)
I didn't see critical details like that in other coverage. Mostly, I saw nuclear hysteria.
I agree. My immediate assumption was that radiation caused the cancer that killed him. I'm glad that wasn't the case and the assumption prompted me to read the article. That's a good thing, as he is to be lauded.
It takes a very special kind of person to do the right thing in a crisis against misguided administrative guidance. Yoshida's actions made a big difference in a very serious situation. His modesty in not discussing the decision until 2 months later demonstrates his commitment to doing what was needed rather than trying to glorify himself. Tepco was lucky to have him as an employee - as was his nation.
Many times I've read an article of yours Junko and I've been inspired. You bring us the human side of the electronic's industry. I think at the bottom of all fields in society lies the human heart and heroes and foes putting up a scene.
In this tale of a hero we find sacrifice and the clear traits of a leader. Many times we do the right thing when following orders. Sometimes the right thing is not to follow orders. To know when to do A or B, that is true leadership.
Thanks for letting us know about this great engineer!
Thank you Junko for this soberingly somber writeup. In my dictionary, Masao Yoshida is a great hero and I hope one day kids in Japan will read stories about him in their text books. In an instant, he saw the good he could do at the cost of greatest personal sacrifice, one's own life.