Why do the Fukushima Daiichi reactor buildings have that blue-and-white pattern?
March 20, 2011 10:36 AM   Subscribe

Why do the reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi have that blue-and-white pattern? It looks like it might have a purpose, but I also find it beautiful. I don't mean to be insensitive to the current crisis, but I'd like to understand. I don't watch a lot of TV news, so I may have missed it there. Googling has proven unsuccessful.
posted by lurkingular to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
From an article on the AIGA site on brands crossing international borders:



Value is contextual across cultures, as AT&T discovered when they fulfilled an order to supply cables to NTT in Japan. While the cables met all the specifications laid down, the Japanese rejected them on sight because they were ugly. AT&T executives were dumbfounded-after all, does it matter that the cables were ugly? They were intended to be buried underground anyway. The reason turned out to be that in Japanese culture, aesthetics are very closely connected to quality, and ultimately to soul. To them the ugliness of the cables implied that the product had "no soul" or no quality.

posted by infini at 10:54 AM on March 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think it's just decoration.

You can see in this photo that the pattern is the same on all four.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:59 AM on March 20, 2011


The reason turned out to be that in Japanese culture, aesthetics are very closely connected to quality, and ultimately to soul. To them the ugliness of the cables implied that the product had "no soul" or no quality.

I tried following the links and got an error page on the Harvard Business Journal website. This sounds like a very silly excuse put forth for American consumption by Japanese executives.

Maybe the buyer at NTT wanted the cables to look nice, but to generalize from this one case about all "Japanese culture" and then connect that to "the soul," whether a Christian or a Japanese conception thereof, well, the writer is just being silly.

There could be any number of tactical business reasons why NTT made extra demands of AT&T. I'm betting that "culture" was a convenient excuse.

As for the OP's question, I think Sys Rq is probably right. It looks like decoration that Toden hoped would make local residents hate the sight of the plant a little less.

I don't know the area, but it's probably very close to residential neighborhoods and not set off in an industrial zone like energy plants are in the US. It's probably in the line of sight of a lot of people as they go about their daily lives.
posted by vincele at 11:16 AM on March 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


The blue and white pattern looks like clouds against a blue sky. When seen from a distance, it's more often than not going to blend in with the sky and be much less visible.

Vicele says it well. Anybody who has spent time in Japan, especially along the coast, can vouch for there being no widespread attention to purely aesthetic concern, when it comes to industrial infrastructure. This doesn't strike me as any more connected to culture and the soul than dressing cell towers as giant ungainly trees here in the states.
posted by jacobbarssbailey at 11:35 AM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's an effort to disguise the bulk of the reactors. A bit of gentle camouflage.
posted by WPW at 12:47 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a common way of disguising big buildings. Other common patterns are green mottling if the background is a hill, for example.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 1:14 PM on March 20, 2011


Anyone who has been to Japan knows that all the cables, the rest of the infrastructure, and most of the buildings are pretty ugly. They don't care.
posted by twblalock at 3:03 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I asked my bf who was at Fukushima Daiichi (when the quake hit): It's a patented design by a construction company called IHI (Ishikawajima Harima). They have patents on how to paint patterns on big structures, buildings. It was probably Tepco's idea to use that pattern for the reactors.

Reactor Units 5 & 6 have a greener paint job on them.
posted by Seboshin at 5:15 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


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