The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 18. 2012   

April 30, 2012   
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Jennifer Robertson, From Uniqlo to NGOs: The Problematic "Culture of Giving" in Inter-Disaster Japan

In Japan, March is the month when the "awakening of insects" (keichitsu) and the vernal equinox (shunbun) are observed, the latter a national holiday. March is also the month when unthinkable things have happened, from the deadly Subway Sarin Gas Attack in Tokyo launched by the Aum Shinrikyo sect on 20 March 1995, to the magnitude 9.0 earthquake of 2:46 p.m., 11 March 2011 followed by a mega-tsunami that shredded the northeast coast and precipitated the meltdown of several Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear reactors. The coastal areas closest to the epicenter of the quake shifted four meters eastward and sank 1.2 meters; the main island of Honshu sank by an average of 2.4 centimeters. According to a National Policy Agency Report, as of March 2012, 15,854 people were killed,26,992 injured,and 3,155 remain missing; 129,225 buildings were smashed to bits, and over a million seriously damaged. 325,000 people are still living in prefab barracks, and only about six percent of the 23 tons of debris have been disposed. The seventeenth and first anniversaries of the subway attack and devastating earthquake were commemorated this past March.

2012 saw the inauguration of yet another March event. At 10 a.m. on 16 March, Uniqlo re-reopened its flagship store on the Ginza (Tokyo's Fifth Avenue). The twice-renovated site now boasted a twelve-story glass vitrine of inexpensive casual clothing. When I arrived an hour later, the double line of customers waiting their turn to snag the colorful Chinese-made t-shirts and jeans stretched well over two blocks (Fig. 1). Police and television crews were everywhere. Multilingual Uniqlo clerks with megaphones expertly shepherded the customers into the store.

I visited the prefab Uniqlo in Kesennuma (Miyagi prefecture), where I joined dear friends, who survived the tsunami, for the first-year anniversary of the multiple disasters. I will write about the commemoration we attended at a Buddhist temple. But first, I want to look more closely at Japanese NGOs and NPOs, including the Japanese Red Cross, as they, and not the Japanese central or local governments, have been the main clearing houses for earthquake and tsunami relief funds.

Jennifer Robertson is Professor of Anthropology and the History of Art at the
University of Michigan,Ann Arbor. She is the author of TAKARAZUKA: SEXUAL POLITICS AND POPULAR CULTURE IN MODERN JAPAN and editor of A COMPANION TO THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF JAPAN among other books. Robertson is also the editor of COLONIALISMS, a book series from the University of California Press.


Recommended citation: Jennifer Robertson, "From Uniqlo to NGOs: The Problematic "Culture of Giving" in Inter-Disaster Japan," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 18, No. 2.

Read More. . .

Peter Lee, Uranium Boom and Plutonium Bust: Russia, Japan, China and the World   

Over the last decade, the world of fissionable material has experienced a quiet revolution. Plutonium, once the lethal darling of nations seeking a secure source of fuel for their nuclear reactors (and their nuclear weapons) has fallen from favor. Uranium has replaced plutonium as the feedstock of choice for the world's nuclear haves. And business is booming.

Asian powers like China and India, concerned about energy security and environmental degradation-and despite the disaster at Fukushima-are turning to nuclear power.  The demand for uranium is expected to grow by over 40% over the next five years.

In an unexpected but, in retrospect, logical development, Russia is emerging as the dominant global player in the nuclear fuel industry, with the apparent acquiescence of the United States. Today, as Russia sheds some of its bloated Soviet-era nuclear arsenal, it ships legacy plutonium to the United States to provide almost half of the fuel burned in American nuclear plants. At the same time, the Russian government is moving aggressively to establish its state-run nuclear corporation, ARMZ, as a dominant player in the worldwide rush to increase uranium production.

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US global policy. He is the moving force behind the Asian affairs website China Matters which provides continuing critical updates on China and Asia-Pacific policies. His work frequently appears at Asia Times.

Recommended citation: Peter Lee, "Uranium Boom and Plutonium Bust: Russia, Japan, China and the World," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 18, No. 1.


Read More. . .