The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 36. 2011  
September 5, 2011  
New Articles Posted
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In This Issue


At the start of the new academic year, we encourage
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Our home page has two new features. One is a guide to the more than 100 articles we have published on the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power meltdown which is transforming Japan and reshaping issues of nuclear power globally. Secondly, the list of articles now indicates all articles available in Japanese translation or original, as well as other languages.

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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Vivian Blaxell, Sorrow, History and Catastrophe in Japan After the 3.11 Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Meltdown: A Personal Encounter



When my marriage ends I am in the middle of reading Norwegian Wood.  Traumatized by the news that Naoko, the enigmatic and troubled woman he loves, has committed suicide, Murakami's narrator, Watanabe Toru, packs his rucksack, empties his bank account and takes the first express train out of Tokyo. For months he wanders through Japan from town to town. He sleeps in doss houses and car parks, stations, and on beaches, eats anything or not all. Movement is meant to be the antidote to Watanabe's trauma and sorrow, and what Watanabe does inspires me. Shocked and grieving, I travel. I go back to Japan planning to leave my sorrow behind me, dump it in the exhaust of Pratt and Whitney jet engines, meditate it away at a Zen temple, return to the safety of a land that was once my home, forget the loss in work and weeks of wandering throughout southwestern Honshu. But once I go, what I find in Japan is more sorrow than I have ever known, more loss than it seems possible for any community to sustain. In my quest to escape my own sorrow I find many other sorrows layered across time and space in a Japan deeply etched by the traumas of catastrophe, traumatic memory and history. Once I am there in Japan, it is all so sad or so enduring in the sadness, that my own grief at losing the person I love more than any other is simultaneously exacerbated and absorbed by it.

By the time I begin my therapeutic journey, the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns in north-eastern Japan, which left more than 20,000 people dead or missing, whole cities razed and iodine, cesium and strontium in the air, water and land, are relegated to page three or four in the international press. Gaddafi, Syria and the sexual crimes of the chief of the IMF now have pride of place. I had turned off the television on March 20, unable to watch any more. And even though my profession as a specialist in Japanese history and politics meant that I followed the many aftermaths of the March 11 disaster, I had done so in a clinical way: data about the Fukushima nuclear power plants; millisieverts; efforts to contain what seemed almost uncontainable; analyses of likely effects on economic growth; criticism of a system of governance that allows energy companies like TEPCO to get away with negligence in the siting, construction, maintenance and criticality management of nuclear power plants.

The author reflects on personal and social tragedy from Japan's Okunoshima Island (the center for production of poison gas) to Hiroshima to Fukushima and 3.11 while traveling across Japan.

Vivian Blaxell is an Asia-Pacific Journal Associate.  A researcher on the spatial, cultural and social practices of Japanese colonialism, she currently lives in Melbourne, Australia.  

Recommended citation: Vivian Blaxell, Sorrow, History and Catastrophe in Japan After the 3.11 Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Meltdown: A personal encounter, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 36 No 3, September 5, 2011.

Read more . . .
Matthew Penney, Contamination Outside Fukushima

The extent of radioactive contamination in Fukushima Prefecture is at the center of important debates as some scientists, NGOs, and citizen's groups argue that the Japanese government has not gone far enough in dealing with the fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi accident and has deliberately downplayed the potential health effects of radiation. With so much attention focused on Fukushima, however, there has been less consideration of the impact of the crisis, ongoing since March 11, on other parts of Japan. The August 22 issue of AERA magazine, published by Japan's major progressive newspaper Asahi Shimbun, ran a feature on contamination in the Kanto region entitled Kanto no ko kara hoshano (Radiation Detected from Kanto Children), which broadens discussions of the Fukushima Daiichi crisis' potential impact. Below is a summary of the AERA article, published under the byline of editor Yamane Yusaku.

Read more . . .

Kang Sangjung and Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Tunneling Through Nationalism: The Phenomenology of a Certain Nationalist

Throughout the modern era, issues of nationalism and national identity have lain at the heart of intellectual debate in Japan, but the contours of the debate have repeatedly changed over time.

From the 1950s onward, as Japan rose from the ashes of defeat to become an economic superpower, visions of ethnic homogeneity and unique culture were widely propagated by the Japanese state and media, and were embraced by a number of commentators in the US and Europe as well as in Japan itself. During the 1990s, this economic and cultural nationalism came under sustained criticism, triggered in part by the collapse of the economic bubble. Yet, far from hastening the demise of nationalism, the two decades of relative economic stagnation from the early 1990s onward were marked by the rise of new and more overtly politicized nationalist ideologies, and by impassioned debates over the nation and its destiny. More recently, some commentators have suggested that a rightward shift is occurring in Japanese intellectual life, bringing together people from opposite ends of the political spectrum into a new nationalist consensus.
For the past two decades or so, Kang Sangjung, who is a second-generation member of the Korean community in Japan and a professor at the University of Tokyo, has been an active and influential participant in debates about nationalism in Japan and beyond. In this article, he reflects on the shifting context and nature of nationalism in Japan, and on changes in his own view of nationalism over the period from the 1970s to the present day. Nationalist discourse (he suggests) needs to be seen in the broader context of economic and political transformations, not only within Japan itself but also on a regional and global scale. From this perspective, the intense debates surrounding nationalism that erupted from the 1990s onward reflect a profound transformation in the relationship between "nation" and "state": a transformation that demands a deep rethinking of nationalism in the twenty-first century context.

Kang Sangjung is a Professor specialising in political theory and inter-Asia relations in the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, University of Tokyo. His most recent works include Omoni (2010) and Rida wa Hanpo mae o Aruke: Kim Dae-jung to iu Hito (2009).

Tessa Morris-Suzuki is Professor of Japanese History in the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University. Her most recent works include Borderline Japan: Foreigners and Frontier Controls in the Postwar Era (2010) and To the Diamond Mountains: A Hundred Year Journey Through China and Korea (2010).

Recommended citation: Kang Sangjung, 'Tunneling Through Nationalism: The Phenomenology of a Certain Nationalist with an introduction by Tessa Morris-Suzuki,' The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 36 No 2, September 5, 2011

 Read more . . .