“You’ve been in Japan too long when NHK warnings about landslides, heavy rains, and other disasters make you feel reassured that someone is benevolently watching over you.” NHK is Japan’s public broadcasting network, essentially a clone of the BBC, and aside from giving us cool things like Domo-kun they provide news, culture, and the best samurai dramas around. They’re also at the center of Japan’s rather extensive Emergency Warning System, which provides information on earthquakes and other natural disasters. After the tragic earthquake in Chile, there was fear that a large tsunami might strike Japan, and all day long NHK and the other TV stations displayed a large warning graphic telling people to avoid the sea. When the wave finally hit, it was just 30 cm high, which caused anger among Japan’s otaku on 2ch who weren’t happy about having their favorite anime series “marred” by a large map of Japan taking up half the screen. The television stations weren’t the only ones well prepared for disasters. When I got in my car that day, my navi (er, computerized GPS thingey, whatever it’s called in proper English) warned me, “An emergency situation has been declared. Please drive your car to a safe location immediately.” I felt like I was in an SF story.
During times of trouble, NHK is a calm hand on your shoulder.