TOKYO — While the launch of a North Korean missile over Japanese territory heightened concerns in Japan, residents of Tokyo were fatalistic in response. There is little they can do, they said, but to hope world leaders resolve the tension peacefully. Still, they worried the capital might not be ready for the worst.
Here are some of their thoughts and concerns, as told to The Associated Press:
A LACK OF DISASTER PLANNING
For nursery school teacher Yuki Hiwatari, the missile test was a worrying wake-up call.
“I think about our children,” said the 35-year-old mother of two. “An event like this makes me extremely worried about their future.”
It was her day off, and she had been checking her emails when she read one from her supervisor mentioning the missile launch. Though the school has emergency plans for earthquakes and other natural disasters, there are no plans for missile attacks.
“What happened today is becoming part of our daily lives. We need to draw up an emergency plan for a missile launch,” even if it’s never actually needed, she said while sitting on a part bench in Tokyo’s western suburbs.
“I hope global leaders will settle by peaceful means, not by force.”
WHAT TO DO IF SIRENS WAIL?
Homemaker Harumi Yoshida worries that Tokyo could become a target one day.
“When that happens and the J-Alert (warning siren) goes off, what are we supposed to do?” she wondered, resting in the shade while her 1-year-old daughter nibbled a biscuit in a stroller nearby.
“The government says do this and that, take caution and evacuate in an emergency,” said Yoshida, 39. “But is there really anything we can do? Ordinary citizens like us don’t even have shelters at home.”
The lack of clarity over how to respond in an emergency makes her nervous. “I feel helpless,” she said. “All I can do is to pray so this won’t turn into war.”
A SENSE OF DREAD
Ryo Shigihara had been dreading bad news since learning North Korea had achieved the ability to launch missiles.
That worry became real for the 37-year-old restaurant worker on Tuesday, with the news that a missile had soared over the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
“I was worried when I heard they had missile power,” Shigihara said, standing just outside Tokyo’s busy Shimbashi train station. “When I watched the news and heard that it had actually crossed Japan and fallen into the Pacific Ocean, I felt immediate danger.”
IMAGINING HORRORS OF THE PAST
Michiko Usui, 71, was worried that younger generations weren’t taking today’s nuclear threats seriously enough.
“No one understands what it was like during the war, running away,” said Usui, born just a year after American atomic bombs devastated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending the World War II.
“Japanese people aren’t really feeling any danger,” the homemaker said. “That’s scary.”
A CRISIS SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL?
The crisis is escalating and North Korea’s missile capabilities are advancing too quickly, said company director Takashi Kumon.
“I have a feeling that we’re beyond the point where we can find a solution through dialogue,” the 67-year-old said outside the Shimbashi train station downtown.
The clock is ticking down, he said. Tuesday’s missile launch over Japan was just the latest in a series that experts say could indicate Pyongyang might soon be able to hit major cities in the continental United States.
He worried Japan is heavily relying on the U.S. and hardly taking steps of its own. “I want them to do something. If we stay like this, we’ll be in trouble.”
TOO MUCH HYPE AND DRAMA
Not everyone in Tokyo viewed the launch with alarm. Animator Yoshihiro Tanaka said Japan needn’t worry, as Pyongyang’s main target was the U.S.
“The missile scare has been hyped up. I think people are over-reacting to it,” said Tanaka, 53, while waiting for his family in a western Tokyo park.
“I don’t think Japan is targeted by the North … But I do hope the leaders of involved countries try not to further escalate tension so (North Korea’s) neighbors, including Japan and South Korea, don’t get embroiled in the conflict.”
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