Alcoholism, Post-Quake Japan’s Silent Aftershock

Man walking in Kesennuma, Tohoku, after the March 2011 earthquake
Man walking in Kesennuma, Tohoku, after the March 2011 earthquake

SENDAI â€" Alcoholism and related problems are becoming serious in the three Tohoku prefectures severely affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. The deaths of loved ones or the stress of a prolonged life as evacuees have led to increased alcohol consumption, and some are newly diagnosed as alcoholics even 4 1/2 years after the disaster.

Many people are believed to be unaware that they have a drinking problem. Municipalities and support groups are increasing their efforts to find potential alcoholics and provide assistance to evacuees.

Saki Takeuchi, a 26-year-old psychiatric social worker belonging to the support group Shinsai Kokoro no Care Network Miyagi, visited a 76-year-old man living alone in temporary housing in Ishinomaki this summer. She looked at a diary he kept of his drinking habits.

"Great! You've been recording double circles for some time recently. I don't have any complaints."

The "double circle" means an alcohol-free day, and there were many double circles in his diary.

The man lost his house in the tsunami triggered by the earthquake. In 2012, shortly after he moved to temporary housing, his wife died. He started drinking more alcohol before he went to bed because of the lonely life he led and concerns over the future, and then he began to drink beer in the morning.

Subsequently, he fell sick and started receiving care from the group in the spring of 2013. He started keeping a drinking diary in July last year and received regular visits by staff members from the group. As a result, he managed to limit his consumption of alcoholic beverages. After moving to disaster recovery public housing in September, he sometimes drinks because there are no friends around him to talk with. But he doesn't drink alcohol every day as he did before.

"He is now able to control the consumption of alcoholic beverages," Takeuchi said.

Drinking Japanese beer in Tokyo â€" Photo: Evan Blaser

According to the Sendai-based Tohokukai Hospital, the only hospital with a care unit specializing in alcohol dependence in the three disaster-hit prefectures in the Tohoku region, the number of patients newly diagnosed as alcohol dependent stood at 251 per year on average from fiscal year 2008 to 2010, but the figure increased to 314 in 2013. Last fiscal year, the figure fell, but Toru Ishikawa, director of the hospital, displayed a sense of urgency about the current situation.

"The decline is because the number of people coming to the hospital decreased due to improved support services in their communities. Medical workers on the front line feel that the number of patients is still increasing," he said.

After the March 2011 disaster, problems involving alcohol have become increasingly serious, with some residents having trouble with neighbors at temporary housing facilities or families breaking apart due to alcohol addiction. Municipalities and support organizations are taking various measures to address the situation.

The support group network has been visiting heavy drinkers living in temporary housing and holding meetings to discuss alcohol drinking experiences in an attempt to understand people with drinking problems. However, among people living in temporary housing, only one or two people join meetings held by the group.

"Only a few people speak of their own drinking problems. Finding people with potential drinking problems and connecting them to support services are a challenge for us," said Kota Shibuya, 34, a clinical psychotherapist belonging to the network.

According to a survey by Yasuhiro Ueno, a professor of forensic medicine at Kobe University, and others, about 70% of men living in temporary housing who died alone of liver-related diseases within 3 1/2 years after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake are believed to have had ailment caused by excessive drinking.

In the Great East Japan Earthquake, life as an evacuee likely will be prolonged due to the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant and other reasons, prompting concerns that drinking problems could become even more serious.

"The number of heavy drinkers is increasing. It's necessary to promote support for such people, such as helping them find new purposes in life at evacuation sites or providing assistance through families," said Seiichi Uchiyama, deputy director of the Fukushima Center for Disaster Mental Health.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.



• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.


Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.


Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

➡️


"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."


Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

➡️


471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!