The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 12. 2011  
March 21, 2011  
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In This Issue


The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan's Northeast coast on March 11 poses what may prove to be the most severe challenge to the Japanese state and its development agenda since the collapse of the 1980s bubble and, some would say, since defeat in World War II. This week we pay tribute to the efforts of the Japanese people to cope with disasters that may be understood as nature's revenge, but that also call into question the fundamental developmental agenda of the Japanese state, and the legitimacy of its rule. We feature five stories from inside the maelstrom of earthquake/tsunami and partial meltdown, and that interrogate Japanese government and corporate (TEPCO) leadership and decisions.

We also invite you to join us in contributing to the relief effort through the Japan Red Cross by donating on our home page:

The five articles mentioned above all appear in What's hot and they bring a diversity of sources and reports from Ground Zero in Tohoku and Tokyo. "What's hot" zeroes in on breaking stories and provides information beyond the headlines, to cast them in broader perspective. What's hot is regularly updated, often on a daily basis and we invite you to consult it and contribute to it.

We encourage those who wish up-to-the minute coverage of the earthquake and aftermath to follow the English and Japanese coverage by our colleague Norimatsu Satoko on the Peace Philosophy Facebook page:

Two other important articles appear this week. Adam Stott reports on Indonesia's colonization of West Papua. And Simon Cotterill examines an Ainu success story.  


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Matthew Penney,  Reports from Tohoku: Assessing Death, Dislocation, and Flight of the Victims  


The extent of the destruction caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan has shocked the world. An official report on the 20th listed over 8277 dead and 12722 missing - a great majority in the hardest hit areas of northern Japan. The "dead" are the number of the bodies found by police and rescue workers. The "missing" are those reported missing by friends and family. With whole communities swallowed by the tsunami, there is a strong chance that many victims simply have no one left to report them missing. The situation for survivors in the quake-hit areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi atomic energy plant has been particularly dire as many have been unable to leave their homes.
While the nuclear crisis has tended to monopolize international attention, new information continues to flow from evacuation centers and isolated areas concerning the humanitarian crisis in the Tohoku region. This report brings together a variety of recent Japanese press accounts in order to give a broader picture of the issues facing those in the areas hardest hit by the quake and tsunami. According to Japanese government reports, 392,000 evacuees are housed in over 2200 locations as of the 19th. While numbers as high as 500,000 were reported in the international press in the days following the earthquake, this seems to have been an unconfirmed figure based on a Japanese government estimate of 500,000 homeless shortly after the quake.

Posted March 20, 2011.

     Read more . . . 
JPR Editors,  TEPCO, Credibility, and the Japanese Crisis

Since the 9.0 quake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11 and the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant rapidly degenerated, Fukushima residents and politicians, those most afflicted by the current crisis, have criticized the lack of information provided by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) and the government. Prefectures with a concentration of nuclear power plants like Fukui and diverse citizens' groups have also sounded off, condemning the lack of information and delay in releasing critical facts to the public. A particular concern is that the government initially left far too much up to the company, was slow in establishing a headquarters to coordinate joint response, and initially accepted TEPCOs vague description of the situation and assurances, many of which have since turned out to be suspect. Tabloid Sponichi gives a credible account of an exasperated Prime Minister Kan Naoto blowing up at TEPCO representatives asking, "Just what the hell is going on!?" on the 15th. This is a question and, indeed, a tone shared widely among the general public. This hot probes TEPCO and its policies.

Posted March 16, 2011.

 Read more . . . 
Gavan McCormack, Japan's Nuclear Crisis: A Wakeup Call for the World

After years of warnings about the "North Korean nuclear threat" now suddenly the entire Northeast Asian region is subjected to the "Japan nuclear threat," just as North Korea has been warning for years. Apart from the Fukushima meltdown risk, how safe is Japan's plutonium mountain, accumulating in the waste piles and underground parking places outside reactors up and down the country, 50 odd tons of radioactive sludge, and at the vast repositories at Rokkasho, just up the road from Fukushima, which has a planned reprocessing capacity of 800 tons of spent fuel per year, including eight tons of plutonium?
It is surely time now to revisit, debate, and in due course reverse the policies adopted especially in the New National Energy Policy of 2006, which defined the future of the country as a "nuclear state" (genshiryoku rikkoku).

Posted March 14, 2011.

 Read more . . .   


David McNeill,  After the Quake: The Town That Was Washed Away

It was once a family house in this northeastern corner of Miyagi Prefecture. Mum would have cooked dinner on the kitchen stove. Children may have played video games in the front room, facing the Pacific Ocean. Now all that's left of the house is its bare concrete base and a few scattered belongings: the shreds of a kimono and a child's schoolbag.
Like almost everything else in this town of 17,666 people, it was washed into the sea. "The water was ten meters high," recalls Koichi Tsuto, who like many who evacuated on short notice watched in horror from the safety of surrounding mountains as last Friday's tsunami roared into Minami Sanriku and swept everything he had into a giant muddy deluge. "It was like a mountain of water," he says, eyes widening. Beside him, his wife Fujiko looks shattered, defeated. They have come to see if there is anything left and come away empty-handed.

Posted March 14, 2011.

 Read more . . . 
John McGlynn,  Japan's Nuclear Crisis: Status of Spent Fuel at Exploded Reactor Buildings Unclear

The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) is asking an important question about Japan's nuclear crisis that seems to have been ignored by the media and in announcements from the Japanese government and Japan's nuclear power industry: What is happening with the spent fuel pools located at the top of the buildings housing the Unit 1 and Unit 3 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant facility? Both reactor buildings have lost their upper structures due to explosions possibly caused by a hydrogen gas build-up (Unit 1 on March 12, Unit 3 on March 14).
IEER writes in its analysis of the situation at the Daiichi nuclear facility: "While Japanese authorities have stated that the reactor vessel is still intact [editor's note: Here IEER refers to reactor #1 but the same applies to reactor #3], there has been no word regarding the status of the spent fuel pool structure, except indirectly. Is it still intact? This is a critical question as to the range of potential consequences of the reactor accident.

Posted March 14, 2011.

  Read more . . . 
David Adam Stott, Indonesian Colonisation, Resource Plunder and West Papuan Grievances

West Papua is the name most widely used by its indigenous population for the western, Indonesian-controlled half of New Guinea island.1 To the east of the 141st meridian is the self-governing country of Papua New Guinea (PNG). West Papua's incorporation into Indonesia in the 1960s was ostensibly overseen by the United Nations but remains controversial due to the deeply flawed process that accompanied it. Since then, the territory has witnessed a large influx of internal migrants from elsewhere in the enlarged state, settlers who quickly came to dominate urban centres and commercial enterprise. As such, many observers have characterised West Papua's integration and subsequent development as a case of colonisation by Indonesia since the colonised territory is very rich in gold, copper, natural gas, forests and fisheries from which the indigenous population has seen little benefit. This article examines the historical trajectory of Dutch and Indonesian colonization of West Papua and the plight of its people.

David Adam Stott is an associate professor at the University of Kitakyushu, Japan and an Asia-Pacific Journal associate. His work centers on the political economy of conflict in Southeast Asia, Japan's relations with the region, and natural resource issues in the Asia-Pacific. From April 2010 he has been on research leave at the University of Adelaide.

Recommended citation: David Adam Stott, Indonesian Colonisation, Resource Plunder and West Papuan Grievances, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 12 No 1, March 21, 2011.

  Read more . . . 
Simon Cotterill,  Ainu Success: the Political and Cultural Achievements and Challenges of Japan's Indigenous Minority

Discourse on indigenous peoples tends to be a discourse of unhappiness. Most groups have experienced distressing cruelty, and narrative accounts of their struggles tend to be elegiac in tone. Japan's Ainu people have undergone suppression of their culture and livelihood, and subsequent denial of their existence. However, this article critically re-evaluates the Ainu's recent history in terms of their considerable achievements, such as international recognition and the Japanese government's 2008 declaration recognising their indigenous status. In spite of and often in reaction to continuing obstacles, the Ainu have successfully used international fora to advance towards their domestic goals. Simultaneously, they have often reshaped their culture to successfully engage with contemporary demands.

Simon Cotterill recently graduated from the University of Oxford's Nissan Institute.

Recommended citation: Ainu Success: the Political and Cultural Achievements and Challenges of Japan's Indigenous Minority, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 12 No 3, March 21, 2011.

 Read more . . .