Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fireworks, not

One of the biggest annual events in Kagoshima has been the 1-hour+ long fireworks display held at Dolphin Port towards the end of August. I think this year it was scheduled for Aug. 28. But, the radio has been filled with news reports and "let's try to get over this" stories all afternoon (as of the 18th). There was some speculation on Monday as to whether the plug was going to get pulled, and the decision was announced around noon on Tuesday.

I'm not really sure what the motivation for cancelling the fireworks event is. The Japan Times newspaper said that the threat level has been reduced because the measured expansion of the volcano has been going back down to normal. The Japan Nuclear Regulatory Agency announced that Sakurajima doesn't pose a threat to the Satsuma-Sendai reactor, which is now online and only 35 miles away. The fireworks event wouldn't be for another 10 days and the city has plenty of time to check the safety of the volcano before committing to setting up the audience grounds around Dolphin Port and up at Kirishima.

I guess part of the idea is to simply acknowledge the danger and say "we're not going to take any risks with this". On the other hand, it's not like the city has evacuation plans in place for getting people out of the region if the top of the mountain DID blow off. Heck, they shut down the bullet train when there was a small rumbling, there's no way they'd be able to get people out that way if things got serious. The streets out would be jammed with car and bus traffic, and there aren't that many regular trains running out of the main station. So, the argument "we can't have the fireworks if there's a chance of the volcano erupting during the event" wouldn't hold water, if the concern was that they'd have to evacuate everyone out of Dolphin Port then - there'd be no place to evacuate them TO.

If the danger is real, then the city should be shutting down and moving the aged and disabled out of the area. Kagoshima has an incredibly large number of hospitals, clinics and senior care centers - in and around the Tenmonkan area it's almost 2 per block. These are the places that would be impossible to evacuate in an emergency, so they should be taken care of right now. If the danger were real.

But, the government is playing that down, while the news media (or at least, the radio stations) keep repeating all the warning messages every hour on the hour. The ferry service is still stopped, as well as the "night ferry cruises". Air flights have been reinstated, if the contrails over the volcano are any indication, and the bullet train is running again.

So, why cancel the fireworks this early? All I can think of is that the city is feeling strapped for cash and is using the situation as an excuse to cut an obvious expense. If true, it would coincide with the dwindling activities for Ogionsa and Obon Odori over the last couple weeks. And it would be further proof that the national government's "economic restart policies" are failing horribly. My feeling is that the cancellation was a financial decision, not a safety one.

On the other hand, I wasn't expecting to have the chance to see the fireworks this year, either, because of my work schedule. So, I'm not so much disappointed over the cancellation as I am curious as to the reasons behind it.

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