The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 32. 2011  
August 8, 2011  
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In This Issue


Once again 3.11 and its aftermath are in the spotlight. McNeill & Adelman offer some surprising answers to the cause of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. The Tokyo Shimbun offers a critique of government compensation plans. David McNeill profiles a young Fukushima worker prepared to sacrifice himself for others. Heinrich Reinfried addresses questions of stereotypes of Japan. 

Many of our most important articles appear in What's hot and they bring a diversity of sources and reports from Ground Zero in Tohoku and Tokyo. "What's hot" presents 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.

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David McNeill & Jake Adelstein, What happened at Fukushima?



It is one of the mysteries of Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis: How much damage did the March 11 earthquake do to the Fukushima Daiichi reactors before the tsunami hit?  The stakes are high: If the quake structurally compromised the plant and the safety of its nuclear fuel, then every other similar reactor in Japan will have to be reviewed and possibly shut down.  With virtually all of Japan's 54 reactors either offline (35) or scheduled for shutdown by next April, the issue of structural safety looms over the decision to restart every one in the months and years after.

The key question for operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) and its regulators to answer is this: How much damage was inflicted on the Daiichi plant before the first tsunami reached the plant roughly 40 minutes after the earthquake?  TEPCO and the Japanese government are hardly reliable adjudicators in this controversy. "There has been no meltdown," top government spokesman Edano Yukio famously repeated in the days after March 11.  "It was an unforeseeable disaster," Tepco's then President Shimizu Masataka improbably said later.  As we now know, meltdown was already occurring even as Edano spoke.  And far from being unforeseeable, the disaster had been repeatedly forewarned.

The authors offer compelling evidence from interviews with workers and technicians at the plant.

David McNeill writes for The Independent, The Irish Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator.

Jake Adelstein worked primarily as a police reporter for The Yomiuri newspaper from April 1993 to November 2005; he was the first foreigner to write in Japanese for a national newspaper. He now runs the website, writes for Japanese periodicals and The Atlantic Wire, and does risk management consulting for foreign firms in Japan. He is the author of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.

Recommended citation: David McNeill and Jake Adelstein, "What happened at Fukushima?," The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 32 No 2, August 8, 2011.

 Read more . . .
APJ Feature, Tokyo Shimbun's Devastating Critique of Fukushima Compensation Bill

On July 27, Tokyo Shimbun, a leading critic of the Japanese government's approach to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, ran an editorial which lays bare the many contradictions and problems of the compensation bill currently under discussion. The editors accuse the government of supporitng vested interests at the expense of taxpayers and protecting TEPCO in ways that may make alternative energy strategies impossible.
The Asia-Pacific Journal's translation follows.

 Read more . . .

David McNeill, A young man sacrificing his future to shut down Fukushima



Watanabe Atsushi (not his real name) is an ordinary Japanese man in his 20s, about average height and solidly built, with the slightly bemused expression of the natural sceptic. Among the crowds in Tokyo, in his casual all-black clothes, he could be an off-duty postman or a construction worker. But he does one of the more extraordinary jobs on the planet: helping to shut down the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
That job, in a complex that experienced the first triple-reactor meltdown after Japan's 11 March earthquake and tsunami, means he will never marry or raise a family for fear of health problems down the line, and may not even live to see old age. But he accepts that price. "There are only some of us who can do this job," he says. "I'm single and young and I feel it's my duty to help settle this problem."

 Read more . . .   



Heinrich Reinfried,Sushi and Samurai: Western Stereotypes and the (Mis)Understanding of Post-Tsunami Japan


 Das Magazin: Dr. Reinfried, as has been demonstrated to us once again during the last three weeks, there is probably no other culture with which we are so unfamiliar as we are with Japan. Accordingly, many unrealistic images are projected by the media. For years, a poetic image of Japan as in the movie Lost in Translation has prevailed, but now martial images are being revived. Some writers have even referred to the deployment of fire-fighters in Fukushima as kamikaze missions.

Heinrich Reinfried: That's absurd. In Germany, too, nuclear plants employ contract
workers on a regular basis. This is standard practice in the industry. Being Japanese is certainly not a prerequisite to taking on such a dangerous job.

This interview with a Swiss scholar of Japan explores culture and stereotypes of Japan.

Heinrich Reinfried is senior lecturer in East Asian Studies at the University St. Gallen, Switzerland.

This is an abbreviated version of an article published in German in Das Magazin (English: "The magazine"). Das Magazin is a Saturday supplement of the Zurich newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, the Basler Zeitung and the Berner Zeitung.

FINN CANONICA ( is editor-in-chief and BIRGIT SCHMID is editor of Das Magazin.

Recommended citation: Heinrich Reinfried, "Sushi and Samurai: Western Stereotypes and the (Mis)Understanding of Post-Tsunami Japan," The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 32 No 1, August 8, 2011.

 Read more . . .