The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 13. 2012   

March 26, 2012   
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In This Iss

Three articles this week explore dimensions of the theme: citizens under attack. Lawrence Repeta documents the initiative of Osaka Mayor Hashimoto, arguably Japan's most charismatic politician, in an attack on city government workers designed to break the unions and consolidate his power. Paul Jobin and Miguel Quintana examine complementary issues pertaining to the radiation and contamination exposure of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant workers and Fukushima citizens.

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Paul Jobin, Fukushima One Year On: Nuclear workers and citizens at risk


Paul Jobin began research on Japanese (and Taiwanese) nuclear plant workers in 2002, mainly at Fukushima Daiichi. After March 2011, he conducted further interviews in Fukushima and Hamaoka and joined rounds of negotiation launched by labor groups with the Ministry of Health and Labor.

In this interview he ranges widely across issues of the safety of nuclear workers at the plant and citizens outside, government policies to protect against radiation, the levels of radiation at the plant and beyond, and questions of safety and risk.

Paul Jobin is Director, French Center for Research on Contemporary China, CEFC, Taipei Office, and Associate Professor, University of Paris Diderot.

Recommended citation: Paul Jobin, 'Fukushima One Year On: Nuclear workers and citizens at risk,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 13, No 2, March 26, 2012.

 Read more . . .
Miguel Quintana, Radiation Decontamination in Fukushima: a critical perspective from the ground

A massive decontamination effort is underway in Fukushima Prefecture to lower radiation levels in areas affected by nuclear fallout. The program, worth billions of US dollars, is presented by the government as a necessary step to allow the early return of some 160,000 residents displaced by the crisis. But authorities have yet to address a number of key issues, including the long-term storage of contaminated materials, criticism about the effectiveness of cleanup operations, and residents' concerns about their immediate future.

Cleanup projects inside evacuated areas - a total of 11 townships inside the 20-km exclusion zone or in heavily contaminated sectors northwest from the plant - are under the direct responsibility of the central government. Full-scale operations are set to begin this summer.

Outside those areas, the government says 104 municipalities across 8 prefectures are affected by radiation levels above 1 millisievert per year (mSv/year), the exposure limit for civilians recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.  Decontamination there, which typically includes the removal of 5 centimeters of top soil, asphalt, and the use of high-pressure cleaners on roofs and other surfaces, is to be performed by local authorities and financed by the government. The critical question remains: will cleanup elimination dangerous radiation? And where will the contaminated soil and materials be stored?

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).

Recommended citation: Miguel Quintana, "Radiation Decontamination in Fukushima: a critical perspective from the ground," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 13, No. 3, March 26, 2012.

 Read More. . . 
Lawrence Repeta, Mr. Hashimoto Attacks Japan's Constitution

On February 6, 2012 Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru issued an order to all Osaka City employees compelling them to disclose personal information concerning labor union activity, their support for political candidates, and other sensitive matters.  The survey includes such questions as "In the last two years, have you participated in any activities in support of a particular politician?" and "In the last two years, has a co-worker ever requested that you vote for a particular politician?"  It goes on to request the identities of such co-workers or others who invited the respondent to participate in political activities.  Each respondent must provide name, employee number and work description.  (An English translation of the Hashimoto Survey is found at the end of the article.) 

The audacity of this inquiry into workers' political and union activities and relationships is breathtaking.  This is an intellectual strip search designed to enable the Mayor to create detailed personal profiles of all Osaka City employees.  If these survey results are compiled, Mr. Hashimoto will be able to identify his political supporters and opponents with a few key strokes and then be free to find ways to reward and punish at his leisure.  Protections for fundamental rights have been embedded in democratic constitutions all over the world and in international human rights treaties precisely to protect against this kind of abuse of power. Including Japan's Constitution. What is at stake in this case?


Lawrence Repeta is a professor of law at Meiji University in Japan and an Asia-Pacific Journal associate. He is author of the chapter on law and society in the "Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society," edited by Theodore C. Bestor and Victoria Bestor. He is the author and translator of the survey.


Recommended citation: Lawrence Repeta, 'Mr. Hashimoto Attacks Japan's Constitution,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 13, No 1, March 26, 2012


 Read more . . .