The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 24. 2011  
June 13, 2011  
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In This Issue


The Journal has now published more than fifty articles on the catastrophe that has shaken Eastern Japan since 3.11. This week is no exception. Perhaps you noticed, as The New York Times did in referring its readers to APJ as a major source on the earthquake/tsunami/meltdown. If you appreciate this work, we would be pleased to hear from more of you. This means that we need your financial support as subscriber or donor via Paypal to help defray the heavy expenses this additional coverage has entailed.

Many of our most import articles on 3.11  appear in What's hot and they bring a diversity of sources and reports from Ground Zero in Tohoku and Tokyo. "What's hot" present breaking stories and provides information beyond the headlines, to cast them in broader perspective. What's hot is regularly updated, at times on a daily basis, and we invite you to consult it and contribute to it.

We encourage those who wish continuing coverage of the earthquake and aftermath to follow the English and Japanese coverage on the Peace Philosophy Facebook page: 


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Peter Dale Scott, Rape in Libya: America's recent major wars have all been accompanied by memorable falsehoods




It is a troubled Time for NATO's campaign against Libya. President Obama has seen a near-revolt in Congress against the costly war, while Defense Secretary Gates in Brussels has warned his European allies that their tepid response "is putting the Libya mission and the alliance's very future at risk." Back home, according to the London Daily Mail, "Mr Gates has requested extra funds for Libya operations, but has been rebuffed by the White House."

The past history of American wars tells us that, when the war-going begins to get tough, the professional p.r. campaigns get going, often with wholly invented stories. For example, when in 1990 Defense Secretary Colin Powell was expressing doubts that the United States should attack Kuwait, stories appeared that, as revealed by classified satellite photos, Saddam had amassed 265,000 troops and 1500 tanks at the edge of the Saudi Arabian border. Powell then changed his mind, and the attack proceeded. But after the invasion a reporter from the St. Petersburg Times viewed satellite photos from a commercial satellite, and "she saw no sign of a quarter of a million troops or their tanks."

The history of American foreign interventions is littered with such false stories, from the "Remember the Maine" campaign of the Hearst press in 1898, to the false stories of a North Vietnamese attack on U.S. destroyers in the so-called Second Tonkin Gulf incident of August 4, 1964. We know furthermore that in their Operation Northwoods documents, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962 proposed a series of ways, some of them lethal, to deceive the American people in order to engineer a war against Cuba.

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs Oil and War, The Road to 9/11, and The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. His most recent book is American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection and the Road to Afghanistan.

Recommended citation: Peter Dale Scott, Rape in Libya: America's recent major wars have all been accompanied by memorable falsehoods, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 9, Issue 24, No. 4, June 13, 2011.

  Read more . . .  
Sakai Yasuyuki, Japan's Decline as a Robotics Superpower: Lessons From Fukushima

Robots were a major force in the automation drive that made Japan the most competitive nation in manufacturing in the 1980s. That glory seems to have faded in recent decades, and Japanese robotics are no exception.

The two articles that follow highlight the failures of R&D in Japanese robotics engineering that were dramatically and tragically revealed by the earthquake and tsunami-driven meltdown of TEPCO's nuclear power plants at Fukushima. Contrary to expectations that Japan would be a leader in manufacture of disaster relief robots that could have been used in problem solving and cleanup in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, three months after 3.11, Japan's robots have yet to make a significant contribution. These articles explain why Japan, in general, its robotics industry in particular, proved unprepared for severe nuclear accidents, and how haphazard the government and the nuclear industry has been in developing robots that could have eased the crisis.

Sakai Yasuyuki is a mechanical/electronics engineer based in Kariya city, Aichi prefecture, working for one of the largest automotive parts suppliers. He studied Ecological Economics, Values & Policy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Recommended Citation: Sakai Yasuyuki, Japan's Decline as a Robotics Superpower: Lessons From Fukushima, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 9, Issue 24, No. 2, June 13, 2011.

 Read more . . . 

Miyamoto Yuki, Ninomiya Shohei and Shin Kyon, The Family, Koseki, and the Individual: Japanese and Korean Experiences

It was over before it began.

Kayama Megumi and Watanabe Tsugio filed their appeal with the Tokyo District Court on 14 February. Ms. Kayama wanted to keep her family name after marriage. The court rejected the appeal after only ten days without hearing arguments. "I've never had a gate closed in my face so quickly," said Ms. Kayama.
They are now demanding damages on the basis of sexual discrimination, as Article 24 of the Constitution guarantees gender equality and respect of individual rights, and Article 13 the right to personal happiness. In contrast, the law requiring married couples to adopt the husband's name is based solely on an "agreement" (gōi) between the parties involved. Three others are parties to the suit, including two other women: a young university lecturer from Tokyo and a 75-year-old from Toyama. Kayama and Watanabe are filing an administrative appeal against the refusal to accept their marriage application by Arakawa Ward, Tokyo.

This three-part article examines Japan's koseki system, its consequences for individual and gender rights, and the pressures for change.

Miyamoto Yuki is a member of the editorial board of Shukan Kin'yobi; Ninomiya Shohei is Chair, Department of Law, Ritsumeikan University, and author of Family Law 家族法第3版(新世社 2009年)(3rd edition); Shin Kyon is affiliated with the Gender Research Center, Ochanomizu University.

Recommended Citation: Miyamoto Yuki, Ninomya Shohey, and Shin Kyon, The Family, Koseki, and the Individual: Japanese and Korean Experiences, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 9, Issue 23, No. 3, June 6, 2011.

  Read more . . .


Ueno Rei, Suicide Prevention Needs to Be a Top Japanese National Priority

The number of deaths by suicide in Japan on March 1, 2010 was 138. The current administration had monitored the total number of daily suicides in 2004 and 2008, but this was the highest daily total. This does not include the number of deaths by car accidents on that day. The average number of deaths due to car accidents in 2009 was 4,914, or about 13 people per a day. The suicide rate is almost ten times higher than the rate of deaths by car accidents. This article is a plea to recognize and confront this social problem.

According to statistics released this May by the Metropolitan Police Department, 32,573 people killed themselves in 2009. For the last decade, every year the suicide numbers have been well over 30,000. I do not think I am exaggerating when I call Japan "Jisatsu Taikoku" (The World's Suicide Leader). According to the government, suicide is a private matter and not a public policy issue. Thus, regardless of the number of suicides, the government has done nothing to intervene. However, when 360,000 people have killed themselves over the past dozen years, I would say it is already well beyond a private matter. These numbers are of epidemic proportion, sufficient for us to consider establishing a public suicide prevention project. Among developed nations, this is the highest rate in the world-after Russia, which has terrible economic hardships and poverty, and a tremendous alcoholism problem. If we do not do something soon, Japan's suicide rate could surpass that of Russia, and we would literally become the world's suicide leader.

This article was published in the October 2010 Sekai.

Ueno Rei, born in 1962, is a nationally recognized journalist. His most recent book Gan no Jidai, Kokoro no Kea (Care from the Heart in the Era of Cancer) was published by Iwanami.

Recommended citation: Ueno Rei, Suicide Prevention Needs to Be a Top Japanese National Priority, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 9, Issue 24, No. 3, June 13, 2011.

  Read more . . . 
Aaron Gerow, War and Nationalism in Yamato: Trauma and Forgetting the Postwar

The recent spate of Japanese films dealing with World War II or with Japan fighting modern wars raises questions about what kind of histories are being narrated, both wartime and postwar, what they say about Japanese responsibility for war and atrocities in the Asia-Pacific War, and how they relate to current trends in nationalism. The fear is that such movies resonate with other phenomena, from the comments of Japanese officials, most recently exemplified by the speeches and writings of retired General Tamogami Toshio, Japan's former Air Self-Defense Force [ASDF] Chief of Staff, to popular manga like Kobayashi Yoshinori's work, that seem to legitimize Japan's pursuit of war in East Asia and deny Japanese responsibility for atrocities. I have already argued in Japan Focus, with regard to two cinematic imaginations of Japan at war, the alternative World War II history Lorelei (Rorerai, Higuchi Shinji, 2005), and the Maritime Self-Defense Forces mutiny movie, Aegis (Bokoku no ijisu, Sakamoto Junji, 2005), that such fears of a rising revisionist nationalism in cinema are not always justified.2 Both works present a "victorious" Japan, populated by young people willing to sacrifice themselves for their community, but through an entertainment cinema that appears so conscious of a consumer base with conflicting opinions about the war and nationalism, that it attempts to construct a hegemonic vision of the nation that appeals to all sides, only to end up portraying an empty Japan that can mean anything to anyone.
One could argue that this emptiness is a product of the fact that these films, both of which are fantasies, do not carry the burden of the real memory of WWII and its aftermath. What of the recent films that take up actual historical moments and figures, such as kamikaze pilots or other suicidal missions?

Aaron Gerow is Associate Professor of Film Studies and East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University. His book, A Page of Madness came out from the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan in 2008, and Visions of Japanese Modernity: Articulations of Cinema, Nation, and Spectatorship, 1895-1925, was published in 2010 (the Japanese version will be coming out from the University of Tokyo Press). He also co-authored the Research Guide to Japanese Film Studies with Abe Mark Nornes (Center for Japanese Studies, 2009).
Recommended citation: Aaron Gerow, War and Nationalism in Yamato: Trauma and Forgetting the Postwar The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 9, Issue 24, No. 1, June 13, 2011.

Read more . . .


Asia-Pacific Journal, Alternatives to the IAEA: Greenpeace and Japanese Municipalities Measure Radiation

On June 8, the Wall Street Journal reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which promotes itself as "the world's center of cooperation in the nuclear field", has come under fire for its handling of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi crisis. NGOs accuse them of whitewashing, while officials from G8 countries have expressed concerns that the IAEA has been slow in providing clear information about the Fukushima radiation release and the situation at the Daiichi plant. The organization is also accused of not being sufficiently critical of the Japanese government.
The WSJ reports that diplomats have expressed concerns about potential conflicts of interest and "questioned the IAEA's ability to serve as a global nuclear safety watchdog and its ability to handle a nuclear disaster, particularly when most of its resources are dedicated to promoting peaceful use of nuclear energy, a mandate from its founding in 1957." Many feel that since the IAEA exists to promote nuclear power, representatives have incentives to play down the seriousness of the situation in Fukushima and the potential for widespread public health effects. The Guardian has reported fierce criticism from former Soviet nuclear experts who felt the IAEA to be ineffective in the aftermath of Chernobyl. Iouli Andreev, a scientist who participated in the Chernobyl clean-up, describes the organization as negligent and is quoted as saying: "After Chernobyl, all the force of the nuclear industry was directed to hide this event, for not creating damage to their reputation. The Chernobyl experience was not studied properly because who has money for studying? Only industry. But industry doesn't like it."

Ironically, this close relationship between industry and the major international regulatory body is mirrored domestically in Japan where the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is responsible both for overseeing and for promoting nuclear power.t a single case of cancer can be traced to him and that he is even safe to drink!

 Read more . . .