August 1, 2002｜Russia
President, Japan Sea Network Ltd.
It has been 10 years since I set up an office in Vladivostok in 1993 with the intention of engaging in exchange with Far Eastern Russia. I established the office without thinking too seriously about it, hoping that it would be useful for economic exchange between provinces in Japan and Russia by providing interested parties in Japan with information about the Russian Far East. However, as you are undoubtedly aware, economic exchange between Japan and Russia did not progress as we had hoped, partly because of “mismatches” between the two economies. Hence, over the past 10 years I have continued to publish magazines while doing work that suits the needs of the times (from sheer necessity). Currently, my company focuses on three areas of business: providing information, supporting exchange, and trade.
For a decade, I have observed the Russian Far East during my travels back and forth between Niigata and Vladivostok. I have also seen Japan and its companies from the Russian point of view. In this opinion paper, I would like to express my feelings about the impressions that I have gained through my work.
Japan Sea Network Ltd. publishes two economic magazines about the Russian Far East: the weekly “Dalny Vostok News” and the monthly “Russian Far East News”. It has been ten years since the weekly magazine was first brought out, while the monthly one has been going for three years. These magazines have been recognized as two of only a few sources of economic information about the Russian Far East written in Japanese. Although information about Russia in Japanese has increased, most of it is focused on Moscow and the amount of news related to Far Eastern Russia is minimal. As could be expected, I believe that providing the public with a deluge of information about the Russian Far East could be an important factor in raising awareness of the region.
One notable source of information is the “Niigata International Express”, a one-page column that appears in the Niigata Nippo, a local newspaper, at the end of every month; it is unique in terms of its content, the like of which is not seen in national newspapers. The column consists of translations of articles from newspapers in the Russian Far East, Northeast China and the ROK, with which Niigata Nippo exchanges reports. However, if I might be so bold, I would like to suggest that the newspaper have the courage to send a reporter to those neighboring countries to report first-hand information at least once a month.
Three commercial television stations from Japan – two from Hokkaido and one from Niigata – used to have a Vladivostok bureau, as does NHK; however, all three commercial TV bureaux had closed by last year. The official reason for this is that their role in Vladivostok was at an end, with news in Far Eastern Russia being able to be handled by the Moscow bureaux. I assume the true reasons to be that the Russian Far East has no news value “from the Tokyo perspective” and that it is not cost-effective. Personally, I would have liked provincial TV stations to make an effort to carry their own news, particularly given the importance of observing countries directly across the sea from us. In addition, in many cases, news provided to Japan cannot be fully understood if it is not reported from the Japanese point of view. Most Muscovites do not know where Vladivostok and Khabarovsk are located. I wonder whether centralization really allows information about such regions to be followed up.
The incident in which citizens living on the Japan Sea (East Sea) coast were stunned to discover in 1993 that the Pacific Fleet had been illegally dumping liquid radioactive waste into the Japan Sea (East Sea) is still fresh in my mind. It became a huge issue when the Japanese media revealed the truth and the dumping stopped after that. It was a Russian journalist who provided Japan with this information.
This is not just the idle talk of a complete stranger. Niigata Prefecture is home to the world’s biggest nuclear power plant in terms of output. We are also responsible for providing neighboring countries with precise information quickly in the event of something happening. It goes without saying that, in order to keep on the right side of neighboring countries, the swift and accurate exchange of information will be necessary in the future as well. Furthermore, it will probably also be important to keep an eye on each other’s actions.
[Translated by ERINA]