The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 145. 2011  
April 11, 2011  
New Articles Posted
Quick Links
In This Issue

Oe Kenzaburo,

The Man Who Continues to Speak about Experiencing the H-Bomb -- Exposed Clearly: the Deception that is Deterrence 


Adam Lebowitz,   

Blackout Nippon: Notes from 03/2011


Arjun Makhijani,   

Fukushima Fallout Monitoring Needed


Leuren Moret,   

Japan's Deadly Game of Nuclear Roulette


David McNeill,   

  Back from the Brink


Matthew Penney,   

  Unease or Untruth? - The Removal of Nakamura Koichiro


Karel van Wolferen,   

Japan, Europe and The Dangerous Fantasy of American Leadership

Asia-Pacific Journal,   

  "Unforgivable" - TEPCO's Plan to Add Reactors in Fukushima

Roger Pulvers,   

  The Dream of Lafcadio Hearn


This is the Third issue centered around the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, with many new articles in the present issue illuminating the quake, its aftermath and its implications for Japan's future.  They include contributions by former Governor of Fukushima Sato Eisaku, Oe Kenzaburo, and a diary from quake-shaken Tsukuba by our associate, the poet Adam Lebowitz, as well as David McNeill's report from devastated Minami-Soma and physicist Arjun Makhijani's call for comprehensive and timely monitoring of fallout.

This is also the last chance readers will have to contribute to our fund forwarded to the Japanese Red Cross for Fukushima relief. We will forward the balance of the fund to Japan this week.

The articles below examine the post-3.11 events from numerous perspectives including:

Many of the  articles mentioned above  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 on the Peace Philosophy Facebook page: 


More than one thousand people now follow Focus through Twitter or Facebook. Please consider joining them by clicking at the appropriate link on our home page:


Growing numbers of colleges and universities are subscribing to the journal for use in classes. If you or colleagues wish to incorporate Asia-Pacific Journal articles into courses, please encourage your library to join subscribers on three continents by taking out a subscription to the journal. The rate is $40/year for unlimited access to, and reproduction of, all articles. You or your librarian can contact us for an invoice at

We invite authors, publishers and directors to bring their books, films and events on East Asia and the Pacific to the attention of our readers. See the home page for information about presenting relevant books and films at our site and for examples of authors, publishers and filmmakers who are presenting their work at the Journal. 

Thanks to readers who subscribe or become sustainers of the Journal, and who order books and other items through Amazon via our website. A small portion of the sales of books and any other products purchased when accessing the Amazon site through one of the book logos on our home page go to the Journal at no cost to you.   
Contact Japan Focus by email at

To access our full archive with more than 2,000 articles, and to view the most widely read articles through their titles or via our index, go to:  
Subscription information
The Asia-Pacific Journal is free and accessible to all. We invite supporters, authors and readers who find the journal useful to join our sustainers by making a small contribution to support technical upgrades, defray technical, mailing and maintenance fees, and help us to expand outreach. Recommended support level: $20 ($10 for students and residents of developing countries); $40 for institutions including libraries, research centers, government offices. If you experience difficulty in subscribing, write to us with the error message at

Oe Kenzaburo,The Man Who Continues to Speak about Experiencing the H-Bomb -- Exposed Clearly: the Deception that is Deterrence


Translated with an introduction by Richard H. Minear

The current disaster in Japan, the worst since World War II, may bring major change in Japanese thinking about nuclear weapons and nuclear power. But the preconditions for that re-thinking existed long before the disaster.

In the March 28 issue of the New Yorker, Nobel laureate Oe Kenzaburo published an essay, "History Repeats." It reads in part:

I have long contemplated the idea of looking at recent Japanese history through the prism of three groups of people: those who died in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those who were exposed to the Bikini tests, and the victims of accidents at nuclear facilities. If you consider Japanese history through these stories, the tragedy is self-evident. Today, we can confirm that the risk of nuclear reactors has become a reality.

But just before the tsunami hit, Oe had written a brief essay that was published in the Asahi on March 15.

Nobel laureate Ōe Kenzaburō published this article in The Asahi Shinbun on March 15, 2011.

Richard H. Minear is Professor of History emeritus, University of Massachusetts Amherst. His books include translations of Hiroshima: Three Witnesses, Kurihara Sadako's Black Eggs, and The Autobiography of 'Barefoot Gen.' He is a Japan Focus associate.

Recommended citation: Ōe Kenzaburō and Richard H. Minear, The Man Who Continues to Speak about Experiencing the H-Bomb -- Exposed Clearly: the Deception that is Deterrence, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 15 No 1, April 11, 2011.

 Read more . . .  

Onuki Satoko,

Former Fukushima Governor Sato Eisaku Blasts METI-TEPCO Alliance: "Government must accept responsibility for defrauding the people." 


The explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has become an earthshaking situation, severely damaging the surrounding area. In addition, highly radioactive ocean water has been detected nearby. Sato Eisaku, who at one point brought 17 nuclear power plants operated by the Tokyo Power Electric Company (TEPCO) to a halt, is indignant about the situation: "The root of all evil is the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the government."


Every time I see news about the accident, I cannot help but feel anger rise in me. Some of the pundits have said, "This is an accident beyond all expectations. It is a natural disaster," but do not be fooled. This accident was doomed to happen. In other words, it is a man-made disaster.

During my tenure as governor of Fukushima prefecture, I fought hard against METI, demanding a transparency guarantee on accident information and working to secure the prefectural government's rights with regard to where nuclear plants are built. METI is supposed to supervise and instruct TEPCO so as to prevent TEPCO's repeated tampering with and concealing of information, but instead, the two organizations have been working together. Judging from the news reports, I think the situation has not changed at all.



This article by Onuki Satoko was published in Shukan Asahion March 30, 2011.


Recommended citation: Onuki Satoko, Former Fukushima Governor Sato Eisaku Blasts METI -TEPCO Alliance: "Government must accept responsibility for defrauding the people", The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 15 No 4, April 11, 2011.



  Read more . . . 
Adam Lebowitz, Blackout Nippon: Notes from 03/2011

3/23 Shuzenji, Shizuoka, .0045 MicroSieverts
I write this by candlelight. Interesting times.

Reactor 3 of Fukushima 1 spewed black smoke of an unknown substance this afternoon. Tokyo reported elevated levels of cesium in tap water in excess of those recommended for infants and pregnant women. Same with spinach from Ibaraki, milk from Fukushima (no surprise there) and selected produce from Chiba.
Meanwhile, the number of dead and missing from the combined earthquake-tsunami has officially exceeded 20,000. Hundreds of thousands will likely continue to live in shelters through the summer.

The Great 3/11 Earthquake hit us at home in Tsukuba.

It was early afternoon. My daughter, as it happens, was at home with me. Seven pupils from her first-grade class were out with influenza and the rest given a 2-day sick leave. It was just time for our afternoon snack, and prior to that I was just finishing an e-mail to my mother who was due to come at the end of the month.
My daughter had just come up the small flight of stairs to the dining area when things began shaking. It started slowly and not too differently from countless other quakes we experienced.

Around the tenth second or so, things began to move more violently. I grabbed my daughter and we stood underneath the sturdy kitchen doorframe. Then things began to really move, and I began to hear things falling from their shelves. My daughter rang out with a "Kowai!" which told me something extreme was happening and required decision-making. I made the wrong one - grabbing her and making a mad dash outside - but we lived to tell the tale. I banged-up my shin struggling through the genkan putting on shoes, and once outdoors sat on the ground outside the house as open targets for falling roof tiles.

Adam Lebowitz has lived in Shizuoka, Yokohama, and Fukushima. He teaches at the U of Tsukuba in Ibaraki. A contributor to the literary monthly Shi-to-Shis˘ (Poetry and Thought), he is an Asia-Pacific Journal Associate.

Recommended citation: Adam Lebowitz, Blackout Nippon: Notes from 03/2011, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 15 No 2, April 11, 2011.

  Read more . . . 

Arjun Makhijani,  Fukushima Fallout Monitoring Needed

Total releases of radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137 from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan now appear to rival Chernobyl. As a result, there is now fallout through the northern hemisphere, with hot spots appearing due to rain. For instance, rainwater in Boise, Idaho, on March 22, 2011, was reported by the Environmental Protection Agency at 242 picocuries per liter, about 80 times the U.S. drinking water standard if the level persisted for a prolonged time. The drinking water standard is a common reference number for water purity, even if the water is not used for drinking.
Preliminary risk calculations on the March 22, 2011, rainout event in Boise indicate that the risk from a single such event would be low, even if cows were mostly getting their feed from outdoor grazing, which may not have been the case. However, government agency measurements of milk contamination are limited and appear to be uncoordinated. Ingesting milk contaminated with iodine-131 increases the risk of contracting thyroid cancer, especially for female infants. A low dose would produce a low risk; the risk increases proportionally to the dose.
"We don't have data on iodine-131 levels in milk samples taken from the same areas where polluted rain fell," said Dr. Arjun Makhijani, IEER's president. "Such information is important for making reliable estimates of radiation dose and risk. We must ensure that fallout is not rising to levels that could repeat even a small part of the tragedy associated with atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in Nevada during the 1950s and 1960s."
IEER recommendations for government actions in the US, Japan and elsewhere follow.

Arjun Makhijani is president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research ( He holds a Ph.D. in engineering (specialization: nuclear fusion) from the University of California at Berkeley and has produced many studies and articles on nuclear fuel cycle related issues, including weapons production, testing, and nuclear waste, over the past twenty years.  

  Read more . . . 
Leuren Moret, Japan's Deadly Game of Nuclear Roulette

Leuren Moret is an internationally recognized geoscientist and critic of nuclear power who has maintained a long interest in Japan's nuclear power program. As she points out in this article, Japan is the world's 3rd largest nuclear producer, with 52 reactors (versus 72 in France and 118 in the United States). Japan's reactors produce about 30 percent of the country's electricity. Japan is also one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, with a multiplicity of active fault zones. In persuasive detail spelled out in a map, Moret shows that Japan's nuclear industry has generally neglected the earthquake threat and built its reactors close to fault zones. She shows that Japanese government and industry has no serious emergency planning in the event of a disaster. For example, Japan's most seismically dangerous nuclear plant - the Hamaoka reactor in Shizuoka Prefecture - has Emergency Response Centres (ERCs) equipped with tiny decontamination showers that would be of little avail in the event of a serious emergency. In fact, planning for a very serious nuclear emergency is in many respects not possible. According to Moret, the scale of the disaster would be of such magnitude as to render any conceivable emergency response totally inadequate and ineffective.

We reprint geoscientist Leuren Moret's insightful warning published in 2004.

Leuren Moret is a geoscientist who worked at the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Weapons Laboratory on the Yucca Mountain Project, and became a whistle-blower in 1991 by reporting science fraud on the project and at Livermore. She is an independent and international radiation specialist, and the Environmental Commissioner in the city of Berkeley, Calif. She has visited Japan four times to work with Japanese citizens, scientists and elected officials on radiation and peace issues. She can be contacted at

This is a slightly edited version of an article that appeared in The Japan Times, May 23, 2004. First posted at Japan Focus on November 29, 2005.

 Read more . . . 

David McNeill, Back from the Brink

Like most Japanese men, Katsunobu Sakurai read apocalyptic comic book stories about the future when he was a boy. He never expected to live through one of those stories himself.
A common plot sees a modern city reduced overnight to a ghostly husk as fears of nuclear contamination empties it of people. Businesses shut and food, water and petrol run out. Old people left behind begin dying. The city mayor makes a desperate televised appeal for help. Such is real life in Sakurai's city of Minami-Soma.
Over 71,000 people lived here before March 11. Today there are fewer than 10,000. About 1,470 are dead or missing, the remainder are scattered throughout Japan in over 300 different locations, "as far as we can tell," adds Sakurai, who took over as mayor in January. Dangling from his neck are two radiation counters, a reminder that the nightmare that descended on his city last month has yet to end.
Mayor Sakurai briefly became one of the most famous faces of Japan's disaster when he posted an 11-minute video on YouTube pleading for help. The March 11 quake and tsunami had pulverised the city's coast, but it was its proximity to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant 25 km away that transformed the city's predicament into an existential crisis.


  Read more . . . 
Matthew Penney,  Unease or Untruth? - The Removal of Nakamura Koichiro

Magazine Shukan Post has reported that energy bureaucrat Nakamura Koichiro of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency was told to stand down from official press conferences after asserting on March 12, the day after the quake, that evidence pointed to a meltdown underway at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The Shukan Post argues that key cabinet members including Prime Minister Kan Naoto and Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio - who has been praised for his steady demeanor through the crisis - removed Nakamura from his position for "making the public feel uneasy".
In the weeks since the crisis began, Nakamura's original assertion has been vindicated and the Shukan Post editors argue that if his original claims were taken more seriously by the government, rushing the injection of seawater into the stricken reactors may have prevented hydrogen explosions and radiation leaks. Edano in particular is accused of "sealing off" Nakamura's position by contending instead that "We have no way to directly examine [the condition of] the reactor."

Read more . . . 

Roger Pulvers,  The Dream of Lafcadio Hearn

Roger Pulvers' novel The Dream of Lafcadio Hearn brings to life the encounter of the Greek-Irish expatriate journalist-writer with Japan and the Japanese. Arriving in Japan in 1890 after twenty years in the United States, Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo)'s fourteen-year immersion in Japanese life provided the basis for a series of books that established him as the most influential interpreter of Japan in the West. But what Japan? The novel brings out the clash between Hearn's idealized vision of a society rooted in ancient lore of the grotesque, the macabre and the quaint, and the thrust of industrialization and war that was transforming a rising imperial power.

This article introduces Hearn and provides an excerpt of the novel.

Roger Pulvers is an American-born Australian author, playwright, theatre director and translator living in Japan. He has published 40 books in Japanese and English and, in 2008, was the recipient of the Miyazawa Kenji Prize.He is the translator of Kenji Miyazawa, Strong in the Rain: Selected Poems. The Dream of Lafcadio Hearn is his most recent book.

Recommended citation: Roger Pulvers, The Dream of Lafcadio Hearn, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 15 No 3, April 11, 2011.

 Read more . . . 

Asia-Pacific Journal Editors, SOS from Minami Soma City

The mayor of Minami Soma, one of the cities closest to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, has posted vidoes appealing to the Japanese government and international community for supplies and evacuation assistance. This video, recorded on March 24, describes the plight of locals and criticizes the Japanese government's confusing "voluntary evacuation" order. (Japanese and English)


 Read more . . . 

Asia-Pacific Journal Editors, SOS from Minami Soma City

The mayor of Minami Soma, one of the cities closest to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, has posted vidoes appealing to the Japanese government and international community for supplies and evacuation assistance. This video, recorded on March 24, describes the plight of locals and criticizes the Japanese government's confusing "voluntary evacuation" order. (Japanese and English)


 Read more . . .