The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 11. 2012   

March 12, 2012   
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In This Iss

This issue, published on the first anniversary of the 3.11 disaster is devoted exclusively to the issues of disaster and recovery, including our second special issue in two weeks. We begin, however, with a poem by farmer-poet Maeda Arata, "Amidst the Invisible Terror," which conveys the sense of anger and abandonment that has been strikingly missing from media coverage, sentiments that we believe are widely shared by hundreds of thousands of victims of the multiple disasters whose lives remain in limbo. Matthew Penney provides a detailed analysis of Japanese press treatment of 3.11. Miguel Quintana provides a rigorous analysis of the data on ocean contamination as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. While the Japanese government seeks to restart the 43 out of 45 nuclear reactors that are presently idle, Andrew DeWit suggests that Japan could well be on its way to a post-nuclear future based on rapid development of renewable sources powered by a feed-in tariff system that is being supported by local government, capital and NGOs. Yau Shuk-ting, Kinnia is the editor of a special supplement on Responding to Disaster:  Japan's 3.11 Catastrophe in Historical Perspective which ranges broadly over the disasters of the twentieth century and their representations in manga, film, and diverse media. The supplement includes:
* Yau Shuk-ting, Kinnia, Introduction
* Matthew Penney, Nuclear Nationalism and Fukushima
* Susan Napier, The Anime Director, the Fantasy Girl and the Very Real Tsunami
* Yau Shuk Ting, Kinnia, Therapy for Depression: Social Meaning of Japanese Melodrama in the Heisei Era
* Timothy S. George, Fukushima in Light of Minamata
* Shi-lin Loh, Beyond Peace: Pluralizing Japan's Nuclear History
* Brian Victoria, Buddhism and Disasters: From World War II to Fukushima

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. We thank the many readers whose support has allowed us to continue to expand post-3.11 coverage of Japan and the Asia-Pacific 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 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 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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Maeda Arata and Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Amid Invisible Terror: The Righteous Anger of A Fukushima Farmer Poet


A farmer's poem, "Amid Invisible Terror, We Were Witnesses", first appeared in the July 18 edition of Shimbun Nomin (Newspaper "Farmer"), a publication of the Japan Family Farmers Movement "Nominren," and was immediately recited at anti-nuclear rallies across the nation. Maeda Arata, a seventy-five year old farmer, poet and writer, lives in Aizumisato-machi in eastern Fukushima. The poem was written four months after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster of March 11, 2011. Now, a year later, the fury and despair that the poem conveys continues to speak for hundreds of thousands of residents who lost their homes, land, family members and livelihood.


Maeda Arata: member of Fukushima Farmers' Alliance, resident of
Aizumisato, Fukushima Prefecture

Andrew E. Barshay: Professor, University of California at Berkeley

Satoko Oka Norimatsu is a writer and educator based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is Director of Peace Philosophy Centre and a Coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.

Recommended citation: Maeda Arata with an introduction by Satoko Oka Norimatsu,'Amid Invisible Terror: The Righteous Anger of A Fukushima Farmer Poet,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 11, No 9, March 12, 2012.

 Read more . . .

Matthew Penney, The Fukushima Anniversary: Japanese Press Reactions


March 13 marks the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of the coast of northern Japan and left over 15,000 dead. Over 3000 are still missing. Memorial ceremonies have been held all over the country.  

This essay will examine how the Japanese press is dealing with the issue of nuclear responsibility on the 3.11 anniversary to assess how lessons are being interpreted and what facets of the disaster are being highlighted.
Matthew Penney is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Concordia University, Montreal. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator.


Posted March 11, 2012. 

 Read more . . .

Miguel Quintana, Ocean Contamination in the Wake of Japan's 3.11 Disaster



Radioactive particles released after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continue to spread along the seashore and rivers of eastern Japan, creating underwater hotspots as far as Tokyo Bay, according to recent scientific studies. But the full magnitude and impact of the contamination, already considered the largest case of unintended1 marine pollution by radionuclides in history, has yet to be established.

Experts have pointed out four main routes of ocean contamination, namely the initial atmospheric fallout, direct releases from the plant, rivers draining particles that fell over land, and groundwater. Only the first two categories have been quantified so far.

Estimates regarding the total amount of cesium-137 (half-life of 30 years) released into the ocean remain subject to debate. France's Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety Institute (IRSN) estimated in October that direct releases into the sea totaled 27 Petabecquerels (PBq)2 between Mar. 21 and mid-July, representing "the largest release of artificial radionuclides in the marine environment ever observed." The same month, the Norwegian Institute for Air Research said that total releases from the plant amounted to 36 PBq, 80 percent of which were deposited in the water. This article assesses the major survey data.

Miguel Quintana is a freelance journalist and translator based in Tokyo. He is a regular contributor to Nuclear Intelligence Weekly (Washington DC) and correspondent for Le Soir (Belgium). He was aboard the Umitaka Maru as an observer on the TUMSAT survey mission in July 2011.

Recommended citation: Miguel Quintana, 'Ocean Contamination in the Wake of Japan's 3.11 Disaster,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 11, No 8, March 12, 2012.


 Read more . . .  
Yau Shuk-ting, Kinnia,  Responding to Disaster:  Japan's 3.11 Catastrophe in Historical Perspective: Introduction

In the Heisei Era (1989-) Japan has experienced numerous crises, ranging from political, financial, and social turmoil to natural disasters, inviting comparison with the turbulent early decades of Showa (1926-1989) history. In the face of calamity, however, the Japanese people  have repeatedly surprised the world with their resilience and stoicism, and some would say, new forms of resistance to state and corporate power.In this special issue we reflect on the meaning of "natural disaster" and its interface with human action. When humans come into play, mishandling of a situation creates disasters. To what extent can it be said that the crises discussed here, some of the Major crises that Japan faced during the long twentieth century, can be attributed to human errors? How has knowledge of these crises affected the credibility of authorities both state and corporate in the wake of 3.11?

The essays bring together discussion of many of the most significant disasters in modern Japanese history, with authors offering insights and opinions from different perspectives on the disasters as well as state and societal responses to them in light of the recent 3/11 Earthquake.

Recommended citation: Yau Shuk-ting, Kinnia, 'Responding to Disaster: Japan's 3.11 Catastrophe in Historical Perspective: Special Issue of The Asia-Pacific Journal,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 11, No 1, March 12, 2012

 Read more . . .


Susan J. Napier S. Thompson, The Anime Director, the Fantasy Girl and the Very Real Tsunami

Of the many gifted directors within Japanese animation, arguably the most imaginative and certainly the most prolific is Miyazaki Hayao. Miyazaki's works over the last three decades have consistently dealt with catastrophe on both a personal and a universal level, often focusing on young people and their reactions to a devastated world. This paper examines the treatment of disaster in the films, concentrating particularly on his most recent film Gake no ue no Ponyo, (Ponyo). Ponyo is discussed in the context both of Miyazaki's general treatment of disaster and in relation to the tsunami of March 11.

Susan Napier is Professor of Japanese Studies at Tufts University. She teaches on literature and film, including a course on the cinematic imagination of disaster called "The Cinema of Apocalypse." Originally a specialist in Japanese literature, she is the author of From Impressionism to anime: Japan as fantasy and fan cult in the mind of the West and Anime from Akira to Howl's moving castle : experiencing contemporary Japanese animation.

Recommended citation: Susan Napier, 'The Anime Director, the Fantasy Girl and the Very Real Tsunami,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 11, No 3, March 12, 2012.

 Read more . . .
Yau Shuk-ting, Kinnia, Therapy for Depression: Social Meaning of Japanese Melodrama in the Heisei Era

This paper examines the social meanings embedded in Japanese melodramas produced since the 1990s and their use by the public for comfort and healing in an attempt to deal with declining confidence, both personal and national, in the wake of the burst of the bubble economy. It notes, further, how the Japanese media has used similar tropes in an effort to rebuild morale in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake.

Yau Shuk-ting, Kinnia is Associate Professor at the Department of Japanese Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kinnia is the author of Japanese and Hong Kong Film Industries: Understanding the Origins of East Asian Film Networks. Her latest book, An Oral History of Japanese and Hong Kong Filmmakers: From Foes to Friends (The Hong Kong University Press, 2012) will be published soon.

Recommended citation: Yau Shuk-ting, Kinnia, 'Therapy for Depression: Social Meaning of Japanese Melodrama in the Heisei Era,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 11, No 4, March 12, 2012.

Read more . . .
Timothy S. George, Fukushima in Light of Minamata  

The mercury discharged into the sea by the Chisso factory in Minamata, and the radiation released by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, are not entirely different "accidents," although one was the result of a "natural disaster" and one not. Minamata offers hints of future developments as Japan attempts to respond to and recover from Fukushima.

Timothy S. George is Professor of History at the University of Rhode Island. His publications include Minamata: Pollution and the Struggle for Democracy in Postwar Japan (2001), and he is co-translator of Harada Masazumi's Minamata Disease and of Saitō Hisashi's Niigata Minamata Disease. He has spent 16 years in Japan since 1962.E-mail , and see here.

Recommended citation: Timothy S. George, 'Fukushima in Light of Minamata,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 11, No 5, March 12, 2012.

 Read more . . .


Shi-Lin Loh, Beyond Peace: Pluralizing Japan's Nuclear History

This paper examines the construction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as signifiers of "peace" in postwar Japan. It offers alternate ways of understanding the impact and significance of "Hiroshima and Nagasaki" in historical context and argues that national readings of the history of the cities obscure nuances in the local narratives of the atomic bombs in each place.

Shi-Lin Loh is a third-year candidate in the Ph.D. program on History and East Asian Languages at Harvard University. She specializes in the history of modern Japan, with side interests in modern Chinese and German history, and is planning a dissertation on the culture and politics of the nuclear age in Japan.

Recommended citation: Shi-Lin Loh, 'Beyond Peace: Pluralizing Japan's Nuclear History,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 11, No 6.

Read more . . .
Brian Victoris, Buddhism and Disasters: From World War II to Fukushima   

This article explores the longstanding relationship between Buddhism and disasters in Japan, focusing on Buddhism's role in the aftermath of the Asia-Pacific War and the Tohoku disaster of March 2011. Buddhism is well positioned to address these disasters because of its emphasis on the centrality of suffering derived from the impermanent nature of existence. Further, parallels between certain Buddhist doctrines and their current, disaster-related cultural expressions in Japan are examined. It is also suggested that Japanese Buddhism revisit certain socially regressive doctrinal interpretations.

Brian Daizen Victoria holds an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from Sōtō Zen sect-affiliated Komazawa University in Tokyo, and a Ph.D. from the Department of Religious Studies at Temple University.   In addition to a 2nd, enlarged edition of Zen At War (Rowman & Littlefield), major writings include Zen War Stories (RoutledgeCurzon). He is professor of Japanese Studies and director of the AEA "Japan and Its Buddhist Traditions Program" at Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Recommended citation: Brian Victoria, 'Buddhism and Disasters: From World War II to Fukushima,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 11, No 7, March 12, 2012.

 Read more . . .