The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 44. 2012   

November 5, 2012   
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We launch today our Fund-raising appeal on the occasion of our tenth anniversary. The Journal needs your financial support to take the next step in expanding our work and placing it on a firm long-term trajectory. We draw your attention to our work on 3.11, and our new course readers, an initiative to be launched this week. We ask that you consider joining our sustainers at a minimum rate of $25, and particularly that those in a position to do so consider a larger contribution in the range of $100-500 to enable us to hire a part-time managing editor. Please go to the red sustainer button on our home page to contribute.

This week Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill provide a preview of their just-published first hand account of Japan's 3.11 triple disaster, Strong in the Rain. Shinjo Ikuo and Gavan McCormack respond to the latest rape incident in Okinawa's Trampled Islands, locating it in the tortured history of the bases. And Paul Christensen examines haafu identity and athletic celebrity in Japan and the US through the lens of the pitching sensation Yu Darvish, the latest Japanese import to the US.

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Our subscribers via this Newsletter, as well as through Facebook and Twitter now number 6,000. We invite you to  help us expand these numbers by informing colleagues, associates, students and friends who might find our work useful. The best way to do so is to send along a recent article of interest and invite them to subscribe via our homepage either to receive the Newsletter or to receive notification via Facebook or Twitter. Another good way is to include APJ in your syllabus.

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.

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Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill, Chapter 4: Meltdown 



Strong in the Rain, a new book co-authored by Japan Focus coordinator David McNeill and Lucy Birmingham, Time magazine's Tokyo correspondent, tells the story of Japan's 2001 triple disaster through the eyes of six ordinary Japanese people.  The books follows the six - a housewife, a fisherman, the mayor of the coastal city of Minamisoma, a student, a foreign teacher and a maintenance worker at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as they deal first with the shock of the initial earthquake and tsunami, then the horrific consequences of the nuclear disaster.  In this except from Chapter Four, plant worker Watanabe Kai (a pseudonym) and Mayor Sakurai Katsunobu begin to realize the full scale of the triple meltdown at the Daiichi plant and what it will mean for their lives.   


Recommended citation: Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill, "Meltdown: On the Front Lines of Japan's 3.11 Disaster," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 10, Issue 44, No. 1, November 5, 2012.

Paul Christensen, Darvish in Texas: haafu identity and athletic celebrity

In early December 2011 the Nippon Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) "posted" Yu Darvish, making him eligible to field contract offers from Major League Baseball (MLB) teams in the United States.1 Darvish, a tall, handsome then 24 year old who, from 2005-2011, was the team's ace pitcher, had been the frequent subject of speculation: would he, and if so when, leave Japan for American baseball. By December 19 the Texas Rangers had won the posting process with a bid of $51.7 million dollars, paid entirely to Nippon Ham, payable upon the successful negotiation of a contract with Darvish. Several weeks later a six year, $60 million dollar agreement was signed and the next round of Darvish's athletic endeavors was set to unfold outside Japan.

If the details above told the complete tale, the movement of Darvish, as well as Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and other dominant Japanese baseball players to the United States, would be but another piece in the "global circulation of professional athletes, a phenomenon of increasing importance at this historical juncture". Darvish, however, adds a new and important twist to this global circulation of elite athletes, specifically their flight to the US baseball Mecca, and all the cultural, nationalistic, and political implications embodied therein. The popular curiosity and media-driven celebrity around Darvish stems in part from his association, as the son of an Iranian father and Japanese mother, with the label haafu (half) as a major component of his public identity.

Paul Christensen teaches in the Department of Anthropology at Union College. 


Recommended citation: Paul Christensen, "Darvish in Texas: haafu identity and athletic celebrity," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 10, Issue 44, No. 2, November 5, 2012.


 Read More. . . 

Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill, Chapter 4: Meltdown 


In September 1995, recognition of the Okinawan problem in its present acute form originated from the rape of a 12-year old school girl by three US servicemen. The prefecture galvanised in fury and elicited a pledge the following year from the two national governments that Futenma Marine Air Station would be returned "within five to seven years." Sixteen years on, there is no sign whatever of that happening; instead Futenma's runways are reinforced, the base's military functions upgraded, and plans for a new ("substitute") base in the north, at Henoko, are pressed forward in the face of islandwide opposition.

"Futenma" and "Henoko" were the major focus of the Okinawan struggle during the decade and a half that followed. Now they are joined by "Osprey." During the environmental impact study required for the Henoko project, the government of Japan deliberately withheld any mention of the planned impact of an entirely new type of aircraft that the Pentagon planned to introduce, the MV22-Osprey (VTOL, or vertical take-off and landing) aircraft, eventually informing Okinawan local governments by a cursory one page fax in 2011. The Osprey is not only a significant upgrade on existing helicopters, twice as fast, carrying three times as much load, and with an operational radius four times greater, but it also has a bad safety record, including two crashes and one emergency landing just in 2012. Okinawan outrage grew. All 41 of the prefecture's local city and town and village assemblies, and the Okinawan parliament (the prefectural assembly), passed resolutions of opposition, and 105,000 people gathered in a mass meeting in
September 2012 to make clear that the prefecture spoke with one voice on the issue.


Shinjo Ikuo is a professor in the Faculty of Law at Ryukyu University. He published this article (Japanese title:  "Jurin sareru shima (3) kichi to boryoku todokanu koe") in the Okinawan daily, Ryukyu shimpo, on 29 October 2012.

Gavan McCormack is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator and co-author, with Satoko Oka Norimatsu, of Resistant Islands - Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, Rowman and Littlefield, 2012

Read More . . .