The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 11. 2013    

March 18, 2013    
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Who are the victims of Japan's 3.11 earthquake-tsunami-meltdown? Over the last two years, we have explored the plight of Japanese victims including the 20,000 killed in the tsunami, the 300,000 plus refugees, many of whom may never return to their homes or livelihood; the victims of radiation from nuclear workers to residents of localities that suffered and continue to suffer high levels of radiation. Roger Witherspoon, in an extraordinary piece of investigative journalism, extends that understanding to the thousands of US naval personnel who participated in Operation Tomadachi and who were caught without warning or adequate preparation, in areas subject to high radiation following the Fukushima meltdown. In the first of a two part series, Witherspoon examines their plight and introduces the law suit some have filed against TEPCO for lying about the radiation released and endangering their lives. Many now face life-threatening diseases for which the US Navy provides no compensation or support following their active duty service. Richard Falk ranges widely over the meaning of the Iraq War on its 10th anniversary, assessing the consequences for the Iraq people, for the region, and for Americans. Three articles address artistic themes: Matthew Penney introduces the controversial "Human Dogs" of artist Aida Makoto at the Mori Art Museum; Asato Ikeda talks with artists Ken and Julia Yonetani about their uranium art; Christopher Nelson provides an insider's account of the politics of performance in Okinawan contemporary folk dance.

Our home page has a category Featured Articles. This will take you to the most widely read articles of recent times and over our decade of publication. Check it out.

What have been the most widely read articles at APJ? To find out, click on "Top Ten Articles" at the top of the home page, for the top articles of the last month, last year, last five years and last decade.

Our home page has a number of important features. There is a powerful search engine that permits search by author, title, and keyword, found in top left of the home page. For most purposes, author's surname or a keyword entered in Title is most useful. Another 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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Roger Witherspoon, Fukushima Rescue Mission Lasting Legacy: Radioactive Contamination of Americans

Who are the victims of Japan's great 3.11 earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown? This journal has documented the heavy price paid by the more than 20,000 who died in the tsunami, the hundreds of thousands driven from their homes by the combination of tsunami and meltdown, and the nuclear workers who have fought to bring the radiation at the Tepco plants under control at risk of their lives. Roger Witherspoon extends this analysis to the US servicemen and women of Operation Tomodachi who were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation with little preparation or protection. And in many cases with no access to medical care after completing their terms of service. Some of them are now suing Tepco for lying to the US government and Navy in a hope of recovering damages and treatment, as described and documented below. This is the first of two major articles on their plight and their fight. Asia-Pacific Journal

Roger Witherspoon has spent more than 40 years working in all forms of the media as a journalist, author, educator, and public relations specialist. Along the way, he has written extensively on state and national politics, foreign affairs, finance, defense, civil rights, constitutional law, health, the environment, and energy.

Recommended Citation: Roger Witherspoon, "Fukushima Rescue Mission Lasting Legacy: Radioactive Contamination of Americans," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 11, No. 4. March 18, 2013.


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Richard Falk, The 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War

After a decade of combat, casualties, massive displacement, persisting violence, enhanced sectarian tension and violence between Shi'ias and Sunnis, periodic suicide bombings, and autocratic governance, a negative assessment of the Iraq War as a strategic move by the United States, United Kingdom, and a few of their secondary allies, including Japan, seems unavoidable. Not only the regionally destabilizing outcome, including the blowback effect of perversely adding weight to Iran's overall diplomatic influence, but the reputational costs in the Middle East associated with an imprudent, destructive, and failed military intervention make the Iraq War the worst American foreign policy disaster since its defeat in Vietnam in the 1970s. Such geopolitical accounting does not even consider the damage to the United Nations and international law arising from an aggressive use of force in flagrant violation of the UN Charter, embarked upon without any legitimating authorization as to the use of force by the Security Council. The UN hurt its image when it failed to reinforce its refusal to grant authorization to the United States and its coalition. This was compounded by the fact that the UN lent support to the unlawful American-led occupation that followed. In other words, not only was the Iraq War a disaster from the perspective of American and British foreign policy and the peace and stability of the Middle East region, but it was also a serious setback for international law, the UN, and world order.   

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law, Princeton University, and United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. His recent books include Richard Falk, Mark Juergensmeyer and Vesselin Popovski, eds., Legality and Legitimacy in Global Affairs and Richard Falk and David Krieger, The Path to Zero: Dialogues on Nuclear Danger.


Recommended citation: Richard Falk, "The 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 11, No. 3. March 18, 2013.

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Matthew Penney, "Human Dogs", Aida Makoto, and the Mori Art Museum Controversy

On February 11, the Asia-Pacific Journal ran David McNeill's piece on the Mori Art Museum's controversial Aida Makoto exhibit "Sorry for Being a Genius". McNeill's piece attracted critical comments, one linking to the People Against Pornography and Sexual Violence's Letter of Protest against the Aida exhibit.
This protest has focused on Aida's "Human Dogs" series. I will not link to the disturbing images here, but interested readers can locate them with a Google Image search for "Aida Makoto, dog". In his recent work, Aida has attempted to meld anime and manga visuals with the techniques and conventions of the "orthodox" Japanese art tradition. The "Human Dog" paintings - which show nude girls, their arms and legs severed so they appear to walk on all fours, being led around on dog leashes - were almost certainly inspired by Nagai Go's manga Violence Jack, which ran off and on between 1973 and 1990. In the series, a post-apocalyptic story in which Japanese society collapses after a series of natural disasters and the survivors are ruled over by sadistic strongmen, a male and female pair is made into "human dogs" by "Slum King", the brutal boss of the Kansai region who considers himself a latter day samurai lord. Slum King's samurai affects link the series with understandings of Japanese history as the domination of the masses by a minority elite that has monopolized violence. Aida's paintings are in "traditional" style. Is it enough, however, to simply bring Nagai's horrifying images into "high art"? Violence Jack shows both male and female characters being tortured in this way but Aida uses only young girls - sparking accusations of child pornography. Nagai's characters continue to resist and struggle to retain their humanity in degrading circumstances while some of Aida's girls appear as dogs - seeming to beg or at least to have the happy earnestness of pets. Is Aida adding anything here? It can be argued that his work erases much of the subtlety that Nagai managed to work into his mostly pulpy manga work. Is Aida's addition simply misogyny posing as the artistic transgressions of an "unapologetic genius"?

Matthew Penney is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Concordia University, Montreal, and an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator.    


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Asato Ikeda, On Uranium Art: Artist Ken + Julia Yonetani in Conversation with Asato Ikeda

In this interview, Asato Ikeda speaks with artists Ken and Julia Yonetani, the creators of uranium art. The Yonetanis share with us emotions that have motivated them to create the uranium art and their interests in Aboriginal stories and worldviews, and in post-war Japanese cultural images of nuclear power and catastrophe.

Asato Ikeda earned her PhD from the University of British Columbia and co-edited, with Ming Tiampo and Aya Louisa McDonald, Art and War in Japan and its Empire: 1931-1960 (Leiden: Brill, 2012).  As the 2012-2013 Anne van Biema fellow at the Freer | Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution, she is currently working on a monograph tentatively titled Soldiers and Cherry Blossoms: Japanese Art, Fascism, and World War II.

Recommended citation: Asato Ikeda, "On Uranium Art: Artist Ken + Julia Yonetani in Conversation with Asato Ikeda," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 11, No. 1. March 18, 2013."


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Christopher T. Nelson, Dances of Memory, Dances of Oblivion: The Politics of Performance in Contemporary Okinawa

In Okinawa, as perhaps anywhere else, the past exists uneasily alongside the present. It can pass unnoticed, occasionally rising for a moment of recognition, slipping away again under the weight of the routine tasks of daily life.  And like the unexploded bombs that still lie close to the surface of the Okinawan landscape, it can erupt into the present, casting its shadow over a future not yet experienced. Memories, wrenching and traumatic, can tear the fabric of the everyday, plunging those who experience them into despair and even madness. They haunt the present with their melancholy demands for repression, making their presence known in the prohibitions that they have engendered.
For decades, Okinawans have tried to come to grips with a past that reaches so insistently into the present-memories of the battlefield, repressive colonial policies, and the disinterested neglect of the American-led reconstruction. The collective struggle of Okinawan survivors, secondary witnesses and activists to critically reexamine the past unearths complex and overdetermined traces inscribed in memory and in graphic representation.  


Christopher T. Nelson is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a specialist in the anthropology of contemporary Japan. His work on Okinawa can be found in his book Dancing with the Dead: Memory, Performance and Everyday Life in Postwar Okinawa (Duke Press) and in the collection Over There: Living with the U.S. Military Empire from World War Two to the Present, edited by Maria Höhn and Seungsook Moon (Duke Press), both published by Duke University Press.


Recommended citation: Christopher T Nelson, "Dances of Memory, Dances of Oblivion: The Politics of Performance in Contemporary Okinawa," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 11, No. 2, March 18, 2013.

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