The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 10. 2012   

March 5, 2012   
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In This Issu

Christopher S. Thompson,         


On the eve of the first anniversary of the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami nuclear power meltdown in Japan's Tohoku region we feature a five part series on life on the ground in local communities across the region. Edited by Christoper S. Thompson and Dawn Grimes-MacLellan, it brings together field reports by anthropologists with long experience in the region that seek to convey the possibilities for the future of the region. In addition, David McNeill reports on the fraught history of the struggle to obtain compensation from TEPCO for disaster victims.

Over the last year we have prioritized  coverage of events in Fukushima and Tohoku  and urge you to have a look at what we've done. Your support allows us to continue to expand post-3.11 coverage of Japan and the Asia-Pacific in the coming year as Japan continues to face the gravest challenges since its defeat in war nearly seven decades ago.Watch for more important work on developments in Tohoku and recovery efforts.  

Our home page has two important features. One is a regularly updated guide to the more than 100 articles we have published on the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power meltdown which is transforming Japanese politics and society, and is reshaping issues of nuclear power and energy policy in that nation and globally. Articles are arranged topically. In addition, we have added a guide to some of the most important, and liveliest, online and print sources on 3.11 including blogs and websites.  Second, the list of articles now indicates all those available in Japanese translation or original, as well as other languages.

Many of our widely read 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" offers 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. Find it at the top of the homepage.

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


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Christopher S. Thompson, The Great East Japan Earthquake One Year on: Reports From The Field. Introduction  


On March 11th, 2011 at 2:26 p.m. Japan Time, a magnitude 9.0 earth­quake struck a section of ocean floor off the coast of Northeast Honshu.  The quake unleashed a giant tsunami that rose to over 10 meters in height. Washing over the Sanriku coastline inland from locations in Aomori prefecture southward, it dev­astated the villages, towns, and cities in its path in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures, killing initially over 20,000 residents.  Thousands more were later reported dead.  Coupled with the tsunami-caused near meltdown of reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, this multifaceted disaster, unparalleled in Japanese history, has changed life in the region forever.  The following "Reports From The Field" are an attempt by four American anthropologists intimately familiar with Northeast Japan through decades of fieldwork, to reflect on exactly what happened on 3.11, to assess the nature of the destruction and havoc, and to consider the future of the region, and Japan.


Christopher S. Thompson is Associate Professor of Japanese Language and Culture and Chair of the Department of Linguistics at Ohio University.  He is co-editor of Wearing Cultural Styles In Japan: Concepts of Tradition and Modernity in Practice and numerous articles on Tōhoku culture and traditions.

Recommended citation:  Christopher S. Thompson, 'The Great East Japan Earthquake One Year on: Reports From The Field,' The Asia Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 10, No 1, March 5, 2012.

Read more . . .

William W. Kelly, Tohoku's Futures:  Predicting Outcomes or Imagining Possibilities?


The natural disasters and human failures of 3.11 and the ensuing nuclear plant and radiation crises have dealt incalculable damage to Japan's Tohoku region-to its natural landscape, to its societal infrastructure, and to the lifeways of its people. The massive loss of life, the ravaging of communities, aquacultures, and arable land, and the destruction of schools, businesses, and housing may have been concentrated along Tohoku's Pacific coastal towns, but like the tsunami itself, its damage, dislocations, and repercussions have swept across the entire region, powerfully although unequally.



We are among many other scholars who have been drawn to these tragedies and their aftermath from our deep personal and professional involvements with the people and places of Tohoku, and the challenge and the context raise a basic question: what can we as anthropologists and other social scientists offer at this moment? What is distinctive about our perspective? I have two remarks about this as a contribution to this discussion. One is about prediction and imagination. The other is about local leadership and political amalgamation.

William W. Kelly is Professor of Anthropology and Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies, Yale University. He is the author of Deference and Defiance in Nineteenth Century Japan and co-editor, with Susan Brownell, of The Olympics in East Asia: The Crucible of Localism, Nationalism, Regionalism, and Globalism and The Olympics in East Asia: Nationalism, Regionalism, and Globalism on the Center Stage of World Sports.

Recommended citation: William W. Kelly, 'Tohoku's Futures: Predicting Outcomes or Imagining Possibilities?,' The Asia Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 10, No 2, March 5, 2012.

Read more . . .

Alyne Elizabeth Delaney, A Report from One Miyagi Fishing Community 


There are as many stories to be told about the March 11th tsunami in Japan and its aftermath as there are people in the region.  Many of these stories are poignant; some are heartwarming; most are overwhelming. 

The event also had a significant impact on a great number of people outside of Japan, including many of us who contributed to this issue: researchers who have spent a great number of years living and working with informants, many of whom are counted as close friends.  I, myself, have been visiting Shichigahama for over 20 years; my first interviews with fishing cooperative members took place in the autumn of 1991.1  It is my hope that such a long history in the community can help provide a view of the recovery with some depth of understanding of the relationships and networks which are needed at such a time.

Shichigahama (population 20,396)2 is the smallest town (13km2) in Miyagi Prefecture.  Entrepreneurship is high with many householders working in occupations related to the fisheries, as would be expected in a coastal community, such as in the catching and aquaculture sectors, owning stalls in the nearby fish market in Shiogama, as well as in ancillary industries and farming.  The coastal neighborhoods are populated by long-standing residents many of whom are fishers, farmers, and the self-employed, while the inner part of the town has filled in the last few years with 'bedtowns' for city commuters for the neighboring cities of Sendai, Tagajō, and Shiogama


Alyne Elizabeth Delaney is Lecturer in the Department of Development and Planning at Aalborg University, where she a Senior Researcher in Innovative Fisheries Management.  She is also editor-in-chief of the Commons Digest, the newsletter of the International Association for the Study of the Commons and the author of publications on the ecology and management of fisheries in East Asia (Japan); Southeast Asia (Cambodia and Lao PDR); the EU (Northern Europe), and in Southern Africa (Botswana, Zambia and South Africa). One recent publication is "Algal Management through a Cultural Lens: Examining the Roles of Women and Households in Japanese Nori Cultivation" in CBM - Cahiers de Biologie Marine.

Recommended citation: Alyne Elizabeth Delaney, 'A Report from One Miyagi Fishing Community,' The Asia Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 10, No 3, March 5, 2012.


 Read more . . .  
Dawn Grimes-MacLellan, Students in the field at the site of the Great East Japan Earthquake  

In September 2011, a week shy of the six-month anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and shortly after our arrival in Japan, eight Earlham College students and I boarded a van for the three-hour trip from Morioka to the devastated east coast of Iwate Prefecture.  We had come to Morioka, as a cohort of Earlham students and a faculty leader do every August, to participate in the SICE program , an annual fall semester abroad.  After several weeks of orientation and settling in with host families, we left the comforts and growing familiarity of Morioka to offer what we could to the continuing relief efforts.  Our destination was the mountainous and rugged Tanohata-mura , a village of about 4,000 people known for its impressive Kitayamazaki Cliffs stretching along eight kilometers of coastline.  At Tanohata, we would participate in the first of three relief work activities in which we would take part during the semester. While the contribution of nine visiting Americans paled in comparison to the enormity of the devastation and human loss of the Great East Japan earthquake, the experience was powerfully instructive in calling our attention to universal human and environmental issues while also raising my own awareness of new possibilities for meaningfully connecting undergraduate students with Japan in an age when most students come to their interest in Japan not through homestays or other human interaction but through anime and pop culture icons.

Dawn Grimes-MacLellan is Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies at Earlham College.  She is author of "'Kids These Days...': Globalization and the Shifting Discourse of Childhood in Japan" in Japan in the Age of Globalization edited by Carin Holroyd and Ken Coates, and "Three years in three days:  School excursions as a microcosm of Japanese junior high school," in Why Japan Matters! edited by Joseph F. Kess and Helen Lansdowne.

Recommended Citation: Dawn Grimes-MacLellan, 'Students in the field at the site of the Great East Japan Earthquake,' The Asia Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 10, No 4, March 5, 2012.

Read more . . .


Christopher S. Thompson, Local Perspectives On the Tsunami Disaster: Untold Stories From the Sanriku Coast

Built on a foundation of long-term field­work in Iwate and ethnographic insights gleaned during participation in a disas­ter relief trip to the prefecture in late September of 2011, this account provides ac­cess to the voices of a small group of Iwate coastal lo­cals who are among those who have typically gone un­rep­resented in tsunami-related news stories, pol­icy making, and research.

On the morning of September 25th, 2011 at approximately 9 a.m., I sat in a fold-out jump seat in the front row aisle of a fully loaded 50 passenger tour bus nearing the Port of Kamaishi on the Sanriku coast in Iwate reviewing the day's plan with Kishida Kachō1 a top adminis­tra­t­or at Iwate Prefectural University (IPU), who was kindly acting as our guide for the day.  On the bus were 26 stu­dents and sev­eral staff members from IPU and 16 stu­dents and faculty from my institution, Ohio Uni­ver­sity (OU).  This was our first field trip together.

Christopher S. Thompson is Associate Professor of Japanese Language and Culture and Chair of the Department of Linguistics at Ohio University.  He is co-editor of Wearing Cultural Styles In Japan: Concepts of Tradition and Modernity in Practice and numerous articles on Tōhoku culture and traditions.

Recommended citation: Christopher S. Thompson, 'Local Perspectives On the Tsunami Disaster: Untold Stories From the Sanriku Coast,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, issue 10, No 5, March 5, 2012.

Read more . . .
David McNeill, The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis and the Fight for Compensation  

In March 2011 Shoji Katsuzo was farming rice, vegetables and cows in a small plot of land in Iitate village, Fukushima Prefecture.  Like many in the area, Mr. Shoji's farm was handed down from father to son; his had been in the family since the 1880s.  That history effectively ended on March 11, 2011 when cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant, about 40 km away, failed and nuclear fuel in three of the plant's reactors began to melt down in the wake of earthquake and tsunami.

Mr. Shoji (76) and his wife Fumi (75) today live in two-room temporary housing in Date, about 60 km northwest of the plant after being forced to abandon their property.1 Initially designated outside the 20 km compulsory evacuation zone around the stricken plant, Iitate was ordered cleared in April after non-government observers including Greenpeace and the International Atomic Energy Agency warned that levels of cesium and other radioactive contaminants exceeded official criteria for immediate evacuation.

The Shoji herd has been slaughtered, the crops dug up and abandoned to weeds and the family has joined about 7,000 other nuclear exiles from the town.  Nearly eleven months since the destruction of their land, income and way of life, the Shojis have received about 1.6 million yen (16,376 Euro@ Jan 14, 2012), or about 150,000 yen a month. "We have no expectations of being properly compensated and have given up hope of returning to our homes," says Mr. Shoji.2
As I write, the family is currently waiting for its claim of roughly 2 million yen from Tokyo Electric Power Co., (TEPCO) operator of the Fukushima plant.

David McNeill is the Japan correspondent for The Chronicle of Higher Education and writes for The Independent and Irish Times newspapers. He covered the nuclear disaster for all three publications and has been to Fukushima six times since 11 March 2011. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator.

Recommended citation: David McNeill, 'The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis and the Fight for Compensation,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, issue 10, No 6, March 5, 2012.

 Read more . . .
Sakurai Kunitoshi, The Henoko Assessment Does Not Pass   

On 20 February the opinion of the Okinawa Governor on the Henoko Assessment was published. His opinion could be said to be more severe than any in the history of environmental assessment in Japan.
First, in his prefatory remarks to the Opinion, the Governor makes clear his basic political stance that "getting rid of the dangers of the Futenma airfield is an urgent task, and that it is a practical impossibility to go ahead with the plan to move it to Henoko without getting local consent." For the Governor first to offer his opinion not on the environmental impact report but on the project itself is something that would be inconceivable in a conventional assessment.
Following the victory in the 12 February Ginowan City mayoral election of the candidate, Sakima Atsushi, who had once been ready to accept transfer of the Futenma base to Henoko, there may have been a slight hope on the part of the Noda government that, if Governor Nakaima's ruling party candidates could be victorious in the Prefectural Assembly elections in June, the Governor's stance might soften. However, Governor Nakaima made clear in the Prefectural Assembly on 22 June that, whatever the outcome of the June elections, he would not be changing his position from the demand for [relocation] "outside Okinawa." The governments of Japan and the US had agreed on 8 February to separate the transfer of Marines to Guam from the movement of the Futenma base to Henoko, but the Japanese government, still insisting on the Henoko transfer, was thus stymied.
So what did the main text of the Governor's Opinion have to say about the Environmental Impact Assessment? He flatly rejected it, saying it was extremely inadequate theoretically and that it was difficult to accept its conclusion that "there is no particular objection on environmental grounds to carrying out the project."

Sakurai Kunitoshi is a member of the Okinawan Environmental Network, professor (to 2010 President) of Okinawa University, and a Councilor of the Japan Society of Impact Assessment.

Read more . . .


Andrew DeWit, Japan, the Pentagon, and the Future of Renewable Energy: Battle Lines Form 

Over the past year, the idea that Japan can and should turn rapidly to renewable energy has gone from minority opinion to common sense. We are clearly watching a revolution unfold, but Japan-and not only Japan-should never forget that this is not a solitary run but a race whose prizes include economic development, jobs, and averting global warming. We usually think of the renewable competition as China or Germany, but surprisingly it also includes the US Air Force, the Navy, and the Department of Energy as well as major US corporations. The US Environmental Protection Agency's 1300 member list of Green Power Partners includes US firms such as Intel, which gets 88% of its electricity from renewables, and US municipalities like Austin Texas, which gets 100% of its electricity from green power. The members are ranked by total volume of renewable power used annually. On this basis, the Air Force is 16th. It has 131 renewable projects in operation on 56 bases, with 50 more projects under construction. These projects include solar PV, solar thermal, geothermal heat pumps, wind, landfill gas, and others. The US Air Force plans to raise their current 3% renewable-power rate (roughly equal to Japan's) to 27% by 2016.
The recently announced Obama budget indicates that the White House is accelerating its own cooperation with the US military to achieve energy industrial policy goals, a policy that began early in the Bush Administration years. The Republicans think they see their chance to throw a wrench in the works.

Andrew DeWit is Professor of the Political Economy of Public Finance, Rikkyo University and an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator. With Kaneko Masaru, he is the coauthor of Global Financial Crisis published by Iwanami.

 Read more . . .
John O'Brian, On ひろしま hiroshima: Photographer Ishiuchi Miyako and John O'Brian in Conversation    

In the fall of 2010, Linda Hoaglund visited British Columbia to screen her film ANPO: Art X War at the Vancouver International Film Festival. The documentary peels back the layers of deceit and controversy surrounding the renewal of the 1960 treaty that allowed the United States to continue operating close to 100 military bases in Japan. The photographer Ishiuchi Miyako, who grew up in Yokosuka, a port city near Yokohama where her mother drove a jeep at the U.S. navy base, has a major part in the film. The revelations in ANPO struck a sharp chord with audiences in Vancouver. The force of the film quickly led to conversations between Linda Hoaglund, Satoko Oka Norimatsu and Tama Copithorne. Acting on behalf of Ishiuchi, Hoaglund explained that she wanted to arrange an exhibition of the artist's Hiroshima photographs in Vancouver - and to make the exhibition and its reception the centerpiece of a new documentary film she was directing on Ishiuchi. Anthony Shelton, director of the UBC Museum of Anthropology, agreed to mount the exhibition, Karen Duffek, curator, undertook its organization, and Hoaglund was present at the opening with a Japanese film crew.
ひろしま Hiroshima ran in Vancouver from October 13, 2011, until February 12, 2012. A diverse series of public programs was organized to accompany the exhibition by the museum in conjunction with Tama Copithorne.

John O'Brian and Ishiuchi Miyako discuss Hiroshima, her photography, and the exhibit.

John O'Brian is Professor of Art History at the University of British Columbia. He has published extensively on modern art history, theory, and criticism, and is currently researching the engagement of photography with the atomic era. His most recent book, co-authored with Jeremy Borsos, is Atomic Postcards: Radioactive Messages from the Cold War (Intellect Books, 2011).

Recommended citation: Ishiuchi Miyako and John O'Brian, 'On ひろしま hiroshima: Photographer Ishiuchi Miyako and John O'Brian in Conversation,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, issue 10, No 7, March 5, 2012."

 Read more . . .


Thomas Sikor, Property, State and Society in Vietnam

What is property? What do rights to property cover and what are their limits? To whom do these rights belong? In an era where everything can become a commodity, be branded, trademarked and copyrighted, disputes over property and property rights uncover tensions at every level of society, between and among different levels of the state and various social configurations, from individuals to neighborhoods and whole villages. Disputes over property are also disputes between competing social goods and values. Projects that improve a country's infrastructure for the benefit of the many may infringe on the rights of the few to enjoy their property. Attempts to preserve scarce resources may reduce or eliminate altogether hitherto public access to them.  Communally held property is no longer recognized under new legal regimes. Community norms clash with national laws; market value fails to align with moral values.

In societies that undergo profound change in political regimes such as countries that transitioned into and/or out of socialism, and/or rapid economic growth issues such as these are made visible more often than in societies with more stable political regimes and economic systems. Vietnam, which, within the span of a century, has experienced  colonial rule (and prior to that imperial rule), socialism (in the North), a limited free market economy (in the South) and most recently a market-driven economy combined with a one party political system, offers an excellent opportunity for exploring some of these tensions.

Thomas Sikor is Reader in International Development at the University of East Anglia, UK. He has published on property, resource governance and agrarian change. This article is adapted from the conclusion to State, Society and the Market in Contemporary Vietnam:  Property, Power and Values (edited by Hue-Tam Ho Tai and Mark Sidel, forthcoming Routledge 2012).  Sikor is also co-editor of The Politics of Possession: Property, Access and Authority (2009), Upland Transformations in Vietnam (2011), Forests and People: Property, Governance and Human Rights (2011), and Public and Private in Natural Resource Governance: A False Dichotomy (2008). 

 Read more . . .