Report from Japan: Gauss Network January and February 2005

The primary focus of the January and February Gauss Network meetings was a proposal to create a support group specifically for people who have chosen not to have cell phones. It is intended to be international and include anyone who for any reason opts out of mobile telephony, plus a sub-chapter for people who have been forced against their will to have a cell phone (by job, family, etc.) but would like to quit. There is a consensus that the primary focus should be on people with no cell phones because most have had to sacrifice relationships and many suffer tremendous social pressure, not to mention the physical torment some experience. The group would provide information and emotional support to people in their quest to be rid of these dangerous, enslaving, environmentally destructive devices.

The proposal was brought up by Mr. Yuzo Hidaka, who described his search for work in delivery services without a cell phone. He found a job under these conditions with one company, and was able to demonstrate that he could work more efficiently than drivers with cell phones, who tended to waste time chatting or texting and also suffered lapses of attention, for example, allowing the customer to walk off with registered mail chits while they answered their ringing phone. Public phones are becoming less frequent (I see them at intervals of 1 km along most major roads), but with careful planning, attention and a good memory for places (all of which may be diminished by cell phone use), a delivery driver can be more efficient without a cell phone. However, laws have changed in Japan recently, putting more pressure on companies to keep track of their delivery personnel, therefore they are likely to demand cell phone use, notwithstanding the recent big news that even hands-free use leads to increased occurrence of accidents and the fact that delivery vehicles are bigger, resulting in deadlier accidents.

Regarding the usefulness of cell phones in emergencies, Mr. Hidaka noted that when he called the police, they often didn't show up for twenty minutes or more. It seems they are often overwhelmed by cell phone calls, many of them frivolous. Other disadvantages include the high cost of dialing a cell phone number from a land line.

A big problem in Japan, and elsewhere, I imagine, is news bias. We hear about miraculous rescues, but failures or cases where a phone was used to facilitate a crime are downplayed. For example, in the aftermath of the Niigata earthquake last fall, cell phone service was lost to many places. One search was apparently delayed when loved ones assumed 'no news is good news,' but in fact there had been an accident but no way for the victim to communicate. Nonetheless, I know one lady whose family subsequently demanded she get her own cell phone "in case there is a big earthquake like the one in Niigata." Regarding children and cell phones, even if we discount the medical concerns, the devices can be a tool for criminals to use against the children. Recently, a young girl here was kidnapped and killed, and the unimaginably cruel perpetrator used the child's cell phone to send photos of the crime to the distraught mother. This was reported, but the wisdom of having children carry cell phones was never called into question. Regarding the emitted radiation, there have been cases of loss of control of wheelchairs, for example, resulting in a few fatalities, but this is not widely known. The anger of people who feel themselves to be physically affected is more widely known, but ascribed to neurosis.

Meanwhile every one of us without a cell phone has been asked repeatedly when we are going to get with it. Especially in Japan, but probably elsewhere too, you are considered selfish for being so inconvenient. If you say, "They give me headaches," people respond, "Well then why don't you have your child/spouse/roommate use one for you?" The government body overseeing mobile telephony has officially declared that there are no effects. That is the heart of the problem for us.

One person attending the January meeting has worked as a conductor on commuter trains in the Tokyo area. His job has included cautioning people not to use cell phones aboard the train. He has had fights three times, and just avoids people who look like they would cause trouble. Many of us have experienced this here. No matter how politely you approach people, they are so unaccustomed to being asked for understanding that they take your request as an attack and respond unpleasantly. I myself have tried providing such people a leaflet with information on why I am making such a strange request, but gave up when it became obvious that these were not read, but contributed to Japan's ubiquitous litter.

There is still some disagreement over what the Japanese name of the support group should be. Currently favored appears to be "Non Keitai" (keitai= cell phone). I have proposed "Union of Mobile Non-Users" which rolls off the tongue nicely, but if anyone has a better idea, please let me know. Other details have yet to be worked out. I will provide a translation later of Mr. Hidaka's call for people to join the group.

A different topic, which is now a focus of much debate in the media, concerns the effects of computer games on children. People have noticed effects all along, including lack of interest in studying at school. Recently certain kinds of violent crime have increased, and computer games are being blamed. One recent article in the Japanese press mentions that some see violence, withdrawal and other antisocial behavior as caused by TV games, but ascribes it to bad content of games, stressing the usefulness of computers in education. A second article discusses filtering the content. Computers are needed to some extent for participation in current adult society, but about 99% of school kids use computers and cell phones solely for games and entertainment. Regarding the psychological view that the content is what is causing the violence, this is very difficult to measure and leads to purposeless debating on whether humans are normally violent or peaceful at heart. Yet it is hard to avoid a sense of crisis on observing the effects of IT on children.

The amazing things power companies can get away with never cease to shock us. A new high tension line of 66,000 V is being constructed in Ome City, western Tokyo, on 12-meter pylons, resembling those used for household electricity supply. The lines will be a mere six meters above ground and will extend four km through a hilly semi-rural area, leading to protests of possible environmental degradation from the EMF.

There has also been news in Japan recently regarding electrical sensitivity, with specialists calling for "preventative measures against electrical hypersensitivity, a condition about which there is still little known." Diagnosis, it says, is difficult and many aspects of the causal relationship between electromagnetic radiation and symptoms remain unclear, but specialists are calling for prevention and countermeasures. One man is noted to have changed residence five times (in Japan, note there are significant financial barriers to changing residence):

"'I get a headache just from passing below power lines,' says tax accountant Mutsuo Sano (70) of Futtsu City, Chiba Pref. In 1993 he developed a burning chest pain of unknown origin, which persisted. He traveled in to Tokyo from his residence in Kamakura to seek medical care, but train travel also caused him pain. In 1996, an acquaintance suggested the possibility that it was due to electromagnetic radiation, and it clicked. He had been renting out the first floor of his house as a cafeteria and was living on the second floor, right above the commercial refrigeration equipment and fluorescent lighting. Just outside the window were high tension lines. 'I was exposed to considerable EMF through the floor,' says Sano.

"He has changed residence five times to try and escape from such an environment. He chooses his place to sleep at home based on the readings of an EMF meter. Last autumn, he settled into his current residence. He has found some relief from the pain, but as a preventative measure, he shuts off the electric power breaker before sleeping. Since he cannot use a personal computer because he feels the EMF, he works with a calculator. On the train, he boards cars with no motor under the floor, and in town, he keeps an eye open for overhead high voltage lines and avoids them.

"The term electrical hypersensitivity was coined in America in around 1990, but people were known to be affected by it before then."

There has also been more study on changes in blood flow in persons with EHS:

"The Kitasato Kenkyujo Hospital Clinical Environmental Medical Center (in Minato-ku, Tokyo), together with the Japan Posterity Fund (currently the Fund for Safety in Food and Lifestyle), investigated changes in blood flow due to EMF exposure. They chose five healthy persons and five others claiming symptoms of electrical hypersensitivity, and exposed them with no announcement of timing to EMF ranging from 16 Hz to 1 megaHertz. Only one of the healthy subjects showed any changes, but all of the subjects who'd been aware of their own sensitivity to EMF showed a decrease in blood flow at the times they were exposed to the EMF, with some showing a decrease of as much as 40%. Prof. Ko Sakabe of Kitasato University, who headed the research, says, 'There are still few cases and the scientific relationship between the changes in blood flow and the symtpoms is not well understood yet, but this may provide a basis for establishing a method of diagnosis.'

"With no standards for diagnosis except the patient's subjective awareness, EHS has been diagnosed in many cases as a psychological disease in which the patient 'imagines he is harmed by EMF' or treated as an autonomous nervous disorder. The symptoms also vary widely among sufferers, including headaches, chest pains, fatigue, lethargy, insomnia, trembling of fingers, palpitations, breathlessness, pains in eyes, nose or joints, dry skin, etc. Scientific journalist Takenori Ueda says that according to the Sweden's Association for Electrical Hypersensitvity, 'As of now the only ways of treating EHS are to avoid EMF and to rest. If you are aware of it, it would be wise to take precautions such as reducing of time you use electrical devices.'

"Tetsuo Kakehi, representing the citizens group 'Gauss Network, the All-Japan Network for Addressing EMF-related Problems,' which established Japan's 'Electrical Hypersensitivity Network' in 2000, says 'Of the 1000 or so members the Gauss Network, about 100 have EHS. There are no solid figures, but the number of people with EHS appears to be increasing.'"

A lot of really great research gets done in Japan. As I've noted before, this is a blessing in disguise of being politically powerless. If the powers that be don't have to worry about you, they don't have to bother trying to squelch you. I caught a snippet on TV about some university research into the phenomenon of people sensing the presence of unseen others. The research demonstrated that people can in fact feel changes in electrical voltage caused by muscular motion in the unseen person. They performed an experiment which showed that seven out of ten people could sense changes in electrical voltage of equipment nearby. They hypothesized that it was sensed via pressure receptors in the skin. The subjects reported a creepy feeling or sensation of fingers on their back. Hairy people are said to be more sensitive, but otherwise it is unclear why some are more sensitive than others. Some are so sensitive, they said, that they can identify unseen, unheard persons approaching them. The TV gave far too little information: voltages, Teslas, etc., and I missed the name of the university. But one thing is clear: the subjects were not being exposed to thermal levels of EMF.

The Gauss Network cooperates with other environmental organizations with similar focus, such as those opposing the insanity of building nuclear reactors in seismically active zones. In February, we were treated to a presentation about the Ladakh people of the high Indian Himalayas, the happiness they found in the old ways of life, which exhibited great wisdom, and the misery that modernization has recently imposed. They fall victim easily to advertising, which is aimed particularly at young men, so a counteractive measure has been established of sending a few of the young men to New York to see what the actual reality is behind the bright make-believe world of advertising. This has been successful, but people need to come together more because the task is so big.

For anybody visiting Japan, Gauss Network usually meets once a month on the third Saturday in the afternoon. For more information call them at 042-565-7478, e-mail: tez7@nifty.com, home page: //www.gsn.jp/

Informant: Pat Ormsby


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März 2005

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