Japan says ready for Y2K worst, not expecting it

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Japan says ready for Y2K worst, not expecting it.



"An Internet broadcasting station, Y2K Tokyo (http://www.y2k-tokyo.org), plans to air scenes from around the capital from 9 p.m. on December 31 to 7 p.m. on January 1 to give the world a first-hand account of what is actually happening in one of the first major cities to greet the millennium bug."

-- hamster (hamster@mycage.com), December 27, 1999



[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

Monday December 27, 2:49 am Eastern Time

Japan says ready for Y2K worst, not expecting it

By Yvonne Chang

TOKYO, Dec 27 (Reuters) - With less than a week to go before the Year 2000 begins, Japan says it's ready for the Y2K bug's worst -- but not expecting it.

Government calls for citizens to stock up on food and water have stirred some concern abroad that Japan is less than fully confident about its preparations for millennium-related computer glitches.

But officials and experts say Japan has made good progress after some initial sluggishness and see little cause for panic.

``We've done all that we can at each ministry and I personally feel strongly that there will be no major disruptions to the social infrastructure from the millennium bug,'' said Kazuo Okumura of the government's Y2K task force.

Major private firms have also done all they can and serious fallout from the computer bug is unlikely, said Yoshinari Fujita, an expert on Y2K issues at Nomura Research Institute.

``We might see minor disruptions, especially at the start of business on January 4, but nothing to the extent of a major power outage or cutoff in water supply,'' Fujita said.


Neither the government nor major companies are taking any chances and will be on full alert during the critical hours.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi will spend New Year's Eve at his official residence, and all key ministries will be staffed during the year-end holidays to deal with possible emergencies.

About 96,000 military staff will be on alert and more than double the usual number of police will be on duty across the country.

The government will also set up a Y2K hotline for inquiries from the public. Media said some one million workers will be on duty that night, sparking heavy demand for hotel rooms, midnight catering and even rented ``futon'' quilts for the Y2K-weary.

Criticised in the past for its insufficient response to crises, the government has set up a Y2K crisis centre and urged people to stockpile enough food, water and medicine for a few days just in case. It denies, however, that the hidden message is that something major is indeed likely to go wrong.

``There is a famous Japanese saying: Be well prepared and you will have no problem. That's exactly what the prime minister is telling the Japanese people,'' said Obuchi's spokesman Akitaka Saiki. ``But he's not suggesting the worst will come... We are prepared quite well.''

Okumura of the government's Y2K task force said the precautionary measures being taken were signs of increased awareness of the importance of crisis management, particularly following the nation's worst nuclear accident in September.

The accident triggered a nuclear chain reaction at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, north of Tokyo, on September 30, killing one person and exposing more than 100 others to radiation.


Most Japanese would have lots of food stocked up anyway, since most shops close for the three-day New Year's holiday from January 1 to 3. But many are taking the opportunity to beef up supplies typically kept on hand in case an earthquake strikes.

Supermarkets and department stores are cashing in on this opportunity to boost year-end sales by offering ``Y2K-related goods'' ranging from bottled water to kerosene lamps and stoves.

Beverage manufacturer Suntory said sales of its bottled water jumped 50 percent in November, while satellite mobile phone operator Nippon Iridium, which filed for bankruptcy in August, saw demand for its $2,000 phones take off, boosting its sales by 27 percent in November.

But the shopping spree is temporary and the overall impact of Y2K-led demand on the country's economy will be limited, said Hiroyuki Inoue, analyst at the Japan Center for Economic Research.

``What's worrying is that the year-end consumer demand may be misinterpreted as a sign of economic recovery, when it's not.''

Some experts worry that misinformation may cause more trouble than disruptions due to the Y2K bug itself.

Grassroots activists with such concerns have called upon individuals to share Y2K-related information over the New Year's holidays through Internet mailing lists and bulletin boards.

An Internet broadcasting station, Y2K Tokyo (http://www.y2k- tokyo.org), plans to air scenes from around the capital from 9 p.m. on December 31 to 7 p.m. on January 1 to give the world a first-hand account of what is actually happening in one of the first major cities to greet the millennium bug.

``The greatest challenge for us is to offer relevant information without fanning groundless panic among the public,'' said Y2K Tokyo spokeswoman Junko Tanaka. ``If nothing happens, we want to share with the world that nothing is happening.''


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), December 27, 1999.

>> Japan says it's ready for the Y2K bug's worst... <<

............ Aha!

I fearlessly predict that, if Japan truly experiences the "Y2K bug's worst", it will be found that Japan was not entirely "ready" for it. Instead, it will be somewhat surprised by it.

This is actually not such a fearless prediction, come to think.

After all, how could anyone accurately predict the "worst" outcome of the Y2k bug? The system the bug pervades is so complex as to be unknowable. The "worst" outcome is bound to be equally complex and unknown. So, it stands to reason that it's pretty danged hard to be "ready" for something if you've never seen it and you don't know the size of it or how it behaves.


-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), December 27, 1999.

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