The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 25. 2012   

June 18, 2012   
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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.


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 Jon Mitchell, Agent Orange at Okinawa's Futenma Base in 1980s


The U.S. Marine Corps buried a massive stockpile of Agent Orange at the Futenma air station in Okinawa, seriously sickening the base's former head of maintenance and potentially contaminating nearby residents and the ground beneath the base.
According to service members stationed on the island, the barrels were abandoned in Okinawa at the end of the Vietnam War - when the U.S. government banned the dioxin-laden defoliant for health reasons - and were buried at the installation in the city of Ginowan after the Pentagon ignored repeated requests to safely dispose of them, according to the veterans who served at the installation in the 1970s and 1980s.

Closing down Futenma has been the center of a bitter 16-year struggle by Tokyo and Washington to realign U.S. forces on the island - and a recent poll by Ryukyu Shimpo showed that 90% of Okinawans were opposed to the base. These latest allegations are likely to raise fears that even after Futenma's eventual shutdown, the land beneath the base will be too poisoned for civilian use for decades, as is the case with former U.S. installations that stored Agent Orange in the former South Vietnam.  


Jon Mitchell is a Welsh-born writer based in Yokohama and represented by Curtis Brown Ltd., New York. On 15 May 2012, Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting aired an hour-long documentary based upon Jon's research called 枯れ葉剤を浴びた島 - Defoliated Island. This was followed by a 90-minute program - The Scoop Special - aired by TV-Asahi on 20 May 2012. He has written widely on Okinawan social issues for the Japanese and American press. He teaches at Tokyo Institute of Technology and is an Asia-Pacific Journal associate.


Recommended citation: Jon Mitchell, "Agent Orange at Okinawa's Futenma Base in 1980s" The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 25, No. 3, June 18, 2012.


Andrew DeWit, Japan's New Green Political Innovators Respond to Government Attempts to Restart Nuclear Power Plants  


Just when it seemed Japanese politics was being pulled back into the hands of the collusive interests who brought us Fukushima, it's thrown up another surprise. The reformists, centred in innovative capital and local government, seem to have found a new, and very promising, avenue to fight against the revanchist old guard that still dominates the central government. On June 10, Iida Tetsunari, the director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies and of Softbank CEO Son Masayoshi's Japan Renewable Energy Federation, announced that he would be a candidate for governor in the July 27 Yamaguchi Prefectural election. Iida is among the driving forces behind the renewable energy movement in Japan.  


Andrew DeWit is Professor in the School of Policy Studies at Rikkyo University and an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator. With Iida Tetsunari and Kaneko Masaru, he is coauthor of "Fukushima and the Political Economy of Power Policy in Japan," in Jeff Kingston (ed.) Natural Disaster and Nuclear Crisis in Japan.

Matthew Penney, Summer Nuclear Plant Restarts and Japanese Public Opinion
Amid the Noda government's push to restart Japan's idled reactors, a new Pew Research Center poll of Japanese public opinion shows that support for nuclear energy continues to decline.
70% of Japanese polled say that reliance on nuclear power should be "reduced" compared to 44% last year. Just 4% say that reliance on nuclear power should be "increased" compared to 8% last year. 25% say that current rates of nuclear reliance should be "maintained", down 21% from last year's 46% level.
There are also indications that the current DPJ government may be headed for disaster at the polls. A burst of communal feelings and optimism, encapsulated in the "kizuna" (bonds) buzz-word chosen as the Chinese character most representative of 2011, appears to be waning. In answer to the question "Has the March 2011 earthquake/tsunami made Japan stronger or weaker?" 39% said "stronger", down 19% from last year. 47% said "weaker", up 15% from last year. These numbers may be tied to the high rate of dissatisfaction at the government's response to 3.11 - 60% disapprove of the government's approach while only 37% are positive.

Matthew Penney is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Concordia University, Montreal. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal Coordinator. See his article "Nuclear Nationalism and Fukushima" here.



Sonia Ryang, North Koreans in South Korea: In Search of Their Humanity  


It is well known that tens of thousands of North Koreans have left their country to wander around China and vicinity, and if fortunate, to settle elsewhere, notably in South Korea. Most arrive via Southeast Asia or Mongolia, frequently aided by a South Korean Christian missionary organization. This scenario has been recognized in the new millennium as, and I speak with caution, a pattern. With caution, because after all, there cannot be a pattern for refugees or exiles to leave, travel, and settle, as their existence is inherently unsettling. This article highlights one such instance-North Koreans who reach South Korea. I do so by contrasting the representation of North Koreans on South Korea's silver screen, or more precisely, the transformation of such representation, on the one hand, and the actual fate of former North Koreans who reach South Korea. In the following I re-visit two South Korean movies, Shiri (1999) and Joint Security Area (2000), both of which represented North Koreans in new ways and received critical acclaim as well as academic attention. While much has been said about the two, it is not what has been said that is important, but how it has been said, in connection with whom and at what historical juncture. In this regard, there is a perception gap between North Koreans depicted in film and North Korean neighbors who live next door. I first draw Shiri and Joint Security Area to the reader's attention and present my own interpretation. Following that, I discuss a connection-or, more precisely, the lack thereof, that exists between these films and the current situation that North Koreans in South Korea face.   


Sonia Ryang is Professor of Anthropology and International Studies and C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family and Korea Foundation Chair of Korean Studies in the University of Iowa. Her books include North Koreans in Japan: Language, Ideology, and Identity, Love in Modern Japan: Its Estrangement from Self, Sex, and Society, and North Korea: Toward A Better Understanding. Her most recent book is Reading North Korea: An Ethnological Inquiry (2012 Harvard University Press).


Recommended citation: Sonia Ryang, "North Koreans in South Korea: In Search of Their Humanity," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 25, No 1, June 18, 2012.

Read More. . . 

Trent Maxey, Jipangu: Re-imagining Defeat in 21st-century Japan

Using Kawaguchi Kaiji's graphic novel Jipangu (2001-2009) as an example, this essay explores a horizon of historical consciousness revealed by alternative histories of the Asia-Pacific War. Alternative histories of the war attempt to remove the stigma of defeat but also betray the extent to which contemporary Japan is unimaginable without the experience of defeat. Jipangu suggests a limit to the alternative pasts imaginable in early-twenty-first-century Japan.

Trent Maxey is Associate Professor in the Departments of History and Asian Languages & Civilizations at Amherst College.


Recommended citation: Trent Maxey, "Jipangu: Re-imagining Defeat in 21st-century Japan," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 25, No. 2. June 18, 2012.

Mark McLelland, Death of the "Legendary Okama" Togo Ken: Challenging Commonsense Lifestyles in Postwar Japan 


"What's wrong with being a fag? What's shameful about being a fag? Why is it wrong for a man to love a man? Why is it wrong for a woman to love a woman? What is shameful is living a lie. What is shameful is not loving others." Tōgō Ken campaign slogan.

Tōgō Ken, bar owner, occasional singer and actor, pornographer, gay magazine editor, political candidate, social activist and all round "legendary okama" died from cancer on April 1, 2012, at the age of 79. Since the early 1970s Tōgō had campaigned tirelessly in support of a range of sexual minority issues that were much broader than the gay rights agenda with which he is most often identified. The political support group that he founded, the Zatsumin no kai (Miscellaneous people's association), as its name suggests, sought to bring together a range of people whose sexual and lifestyle choices placed them outside the Japanese mainstream or, as Tōgō was later to frame it, contravened "common sense" (jōshiki) conventions structuring intimate relationships. These individuals included sexual minorities such as transgenders, lesbians and gay men, but also extended to sex workers. Tōgō also welcomed those who engaged in stigmatised heterosexual practices such as sadomasochism and he even spoke of the ostracism faced by divorcees, mistresses and children born out of wedlock.

Tōgō's identification with individuals whose "failure" to conform to social mores brought on stigma from friends, colleagues, family and neighbours, was clear in the unabashed manner in which he identified himself as "The okama Tōgō Ken" in his political campaigning.2 He proudly announced the fact that he was "Tōgō Ken the faggot" from the back of his campaign truck, sometimes clutching a bunch of roses and at other times a boyfriend's hand. Tōgō was far removed from today's gay assimilationists, proudly proclaiming his polyamorous nature and rejecting marriage, child-rearing and all the trappings of conventional family life.  


Mark McLelland is Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Wollongong and author of Queer Japan from the Pacific War to the Internet Age, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005; and Love, Sex and Democracy in Japan during the American Occupation, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.


Recommended citation: Mark McLelland, "Death of the "Legendary Okama" Tōgō Ken: Challenging Commonsense Lifestyles in Postwar Japan," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 25, No. 5. June 18, 2012.


Alexis Dudden , Korean Americans Enter the Historical Memory Wars on Behalf of the Comfort Women


Immigrant groups in the United States routinely build monuments and memorials to commemorate historical traumas in their homelands. Plaques and statues that recall the Nazi destruction of Jewish communities throughout Europe in the middle of the 20th century together with commemorative stones dedicated to Ireland's 1972 Bloody Sunday are as American as California rolls (to name but two examples). Collectively, these monuments mark a particular group's ascendant political power, which, by American definition, comes about through economic success. Moreover, such testimonials weave a common narrative that binds people of disparate backgrounds within the same group in a diffuse land. The history involved is as much about the present as the past.
The Japanese government's willful decision to ignore this routine feature of American society in its myopic effort to deny its nation's historical crimes is nowhere more evident than in its most recent behavior in northern New Jersey. On May 1, 2012 Japan's New York Consul General Hiroki Shigeyuki crossed the Hudson River together with four Japanese parliamentarians to meet with James Rotundo, the mayor of Palisades Park, New Jersey, to urge him to take down a small plaque erected in his town in October 2010 to honor the memory of Korean comfort women.  Consul General Hiroki reportedly offered to plant some cherry trees and donate books "on Japanese culture" to the town in exchange for getting rid of the small stone.



Recommended citation: Alexis Dudden, "Korean Americans Enter the Historical Memory Wars on Behalf of the Comfort Women" The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 25, June 17, 2012.


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