The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 44. 2013    

November 4, 2013    
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What will it take to keep the Asia-Pacific Journal free and vibrant?


We begin our annual fund-raising campaign today with greater strength than at any previous time. In our first week we received $1,000 toward our $10,000 goal. 12,000 regular readers now receive our work via the Newsletter or Facebook and Twitter, and we are investigating making content available through other electronic channels. More than 100,000 articles are accessed monthly by readers in 180 countries. We have created a major archive on Japan's 3.11 triple disaster, the flawed responses, and the creative search for new green energy approaches beyond nuclear power. And our work on US-Japan-Okinawa relations, on territorial conflicts in the Asia-Pacific, and on war and historical memory is now supplemented by a wide range of contributions in the realm of culture . . . film, music, anime, manga and the like in Asia-Pacific perspective. We are reaching out to schools and teachers through our course readers, with ten more to be published shortly. And, for the first time we have NPO status, meaning that U.S. contributions are tax deductible. If you wish to support our campaign in the form of a subscription ($25 or $50; $10 for students and developing countries) please go to the red Sustainer Button on our home page and use Paypal or a credit card. 

Check out the most widely read articles at APJ . . . in the last month, last year, last five years and all time: at Top Ten Articles on our home page.


Asia Pacific Journal NEW Free Downloadable Course Readers!!!


The Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus announces the release of our second set of volume-length e-book compilations of essays on selected topics with explanatory introductions by scholars. The volume editors have chosen articles from the archive that lend themselves particularly well to classroom use and work well as a set.All volumes have been peer-reviewed, in addition to the initial review process before each article was originally posted, and we have permission from all verified copyright holders.


New Course Readers:

** The Japanese Empire: Colonial Lives and Postcolonial Struggle edited by Kirsten Ziomek

** Japan's "Abandoned People" in the Wake of Fukushima edited by Brian Earl

** Public Opinion on Nuclear Power in Japan after the Fukushima Disaster edited by Brian Earl

** The Politics of Memory in Japan and East Asia edited by Sven Saaler & Justin Aukema


They join the earlier publications:

  1. War and Visual Culture edited by Hong Kal and Jooyeon Rhee.
  2. Environmental History edited by Eiko Maruko Siniawer.
  3. War in Japanese Popular Culture edited by Matthew Penney.
  4. Women and Japan's Political Economy edited by Valerie Barske.  


The volumes are downloadable from the Asia-Pacific Journal website as searchable PDFs. From the home page, please click on the button marked Course Readers at the top and center of the page, or go directly to the course reader page. Interested viewers may download a copy of any reader by clicking on the appropriate link at the course readers home page and entering their email address. In addition, viewers may directly download the table of contents of each course reader for a preview of the volume.  


Coming soon . . . ten new readers. 


If you are interested in creating a volume yourself, wish to participate as a reviewer and editor, have suggestions for new topics, or want to discuss another aspect of this project, please contact Laura Hein at




All recent articles  are now available on Kindle, as are several recent articles. If you experience any difficulty in accessing them, please let us know at


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 to discover some of the most important work that has appeared in the journal..

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. 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.  
We invite authors, publishers and directors to bring their books, films and events on East Asia and the Pacific to the attention of our readers. See the home page for information about presenting relevant books and films at our site and for examples of authors, publishers and filmmakers who are presenting their work at the Journal.

Contact Japan Focus by email at

To access our full archive with more than 2,000 articles, and to view the most widely read articles through their titles or via our index, go here. 
Subscription information
The Asia-Pacific Journal is freely available to all. We invite those who wish to support our work by allowing us to make technical upgrades, defray technical, mailing and maintenance fees, and to enable us to expand our output since the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami. Recommended support level: $25 ($10 for students and residents of developing countries); $40 for institutions including libraries, research centers, government offices. If you experience difficulty in subscribing, write to us with the error message at 

 Oguma Eiji, Nobody Dies in a Ghost Town: Path Dependence in Japan's 3.11 Disaster and Reconstruction


Nearly three years have passed since the tsunami that accompanied the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. However, no homes stand on the devastated plains of the afflicted area; 110,000 refugees continue living in temporary residences as of August 2013; large numbers of young people have lost hope and are leaving the places they grew up in in search of jobs and a new start. Why are these things happening?  


It is not due to a lack of government funds. The Japanese state estimates the cost of damage inflicted by the tsunami at 16.9 trillion yen ($1.69 trillion). In response, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) confirmed in January 2013 that it would allot 25 trillion yen over a five-year period from 2011 towards a reconstruction budget; this sum is 6 trillion yen more than what the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which held power at the time of the disaster, had earmarked.


As a preamble to the analysis, let us examine what kind of place the disaster-hit locales are. The Tohoku region has historically constituted a hinterland of Japan's modern development.3 Even within this region, the tsunami-devastated Sanriku area possesses a unique topographical and social configuration.  


Oguma Eiji is a professor in the Faculty of Policy Management, Keio University. His research covers national identity and nationalism, colonial policy, democratic thought and social movements of modern Japan from the perspective of historical sociology. He is interested in socio-historical research on national identity and the political economy of modern Japan and the East Asia region. 

His major English language publications include
The Boundaries of "Japanese" Vol 1. Okinawa 1868-1972 (forthcoming 2014, Trans Pacific Press, Melbourne) Translation of "Nihonjin" no kyōkai: Okinawa, Ainu, Korea, and Taiwan 1868-1972 (1998, Shinyōsha, Tokyo).
"The Hidden Face of Disaster: 3.11, the Historical Structure and Future of Japan's Northeast," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 9, Issue 31, No. 6, August 1, 2011. 

Shi-Lin Loh is a Ph.D. candidate in Modern Japanese History at Harvard University, jointly affiliated with the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and the Department of History. She is also pursuing a secondary field in Science and Technology Studies, and is working on a dissertation envisioned as a synthetic history of the nuclear age in twentieth-century Japan.


Recommended citation: Oguma Eiji, "Nobody Dies in a Ghost Town: Path Dependence in Japan's 3.11 Disaster and Reconstruction," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol.11, Issue 44, No. 1, November 4, 2013.


Andrew DeWit, Abe and Pro-Active Pacifism in the Face of Climate Change
In a wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal on October 25, 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo outlined his plan to enhance Japanese leadership in Asia. He meant leadership on multiple fronts, including the economy, military affairs, and regional engagement. Abe insisted that his interactions with regional representatives showed that "Japan is expected to exert leadership not just on the economic front, but in the field of security in the Asia-Pacific." He lamented Japan's economic malaise of the past two decades, arguing that it has led to an "inward-looking" country, in which students are reluctant to study overseas and the public is unenthusiastic about providing aid to other countries. He linked his still quite vague economic reforms with a vision of productive resurgence: "By regaining a strong economy, Japan will regain confidence as well, and we'd like to contribute more to making the world a better place." 

Whether it is appropriate for Japan to legitimate the use of coercive force and get fully into the international arms trade is not of concern to this article. Rather, the concern here is the assertion that autonomous self-defence is in fact possible in the 21st century. Related to that, I ask whether Abe should be so focused on weapon-centred security to the exclusion of cooperation and collaboration, particularly in the area of climate change and its fallout.

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. 
Antony Slodkowski and Mari Saito, Hard Times in Fukushima

With the third anniversary of Fukushima's triple meltdown approaching, stories of incompetence and corruption in the nuclear cleanup are rife.  A team of Reuters' reporters working in Japan has researched working conditions at Fukushima Daiichi and decontamination jobs outside the plant.  Their findings are shocking.  


Their report focuses on the testimony of three workers with different backgrounds. Accompanying interviews with lawyer Minaguchi Yōsuke and the police make clear that whatever their public pronouncements, Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the government are doing little to stop illegal practices, such as the withholding of danger money by employers. Pay for some of the most dangerous jobs is not much better than the amount paid to convenience store workers. Worker morale is low and there are doubts that the cleanup is even effective. The longer the cleanup goes on, the more the Fukushima Daiichi plant and the decontamination business seem to be falling in the hands of the construction industry and the yakuza.  Wresting control back will not be easy.  


Recommended Citation: Antony Slodkowski and Mari Saito, "Hard Times in Fukushima," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 44, No. 3, November 4, 2013.

Roger Pulvers, Miyazawa Kenji's Prophetic Green Vision: Japan's Great Writer/Poet on the 80th Anniversary of His Death


When Miyazawa Kenji was writing his stories and poems nearly a century ago, Japan was a country with a two-pronged mission: to become the first non-white, non-Christian nation to create a modern prosperous state - and to be the leader of an Asian revival. The Japanese people were obsessed with their cultural identity and their place, as an imperial power, among the first rank of nations in the world. It was an obsession that would lead them to prosecute an aggressive and brutal war in Asia and the Pacific. But in the case of Kenji, his obsessions were directed elsewhere. There is almost no mention of Japan or the Japanese in his works. Many of his stories are set in a land of his own imagining he called Ihatovo - a self-styled Esperanto rendering of his native Iwate, a prefecture in the Tohoku region of northeastern Honshu. And some of his characters bear foreign names, the best known being Giovanni and Campanella in his novel "Night on the Milky Way Train," which wasn't published until 1934, a year after he died. Kenji's mind was obsessively focused on matters that barely occurred to his compatriots. He was on a different mission, a mission naturally not understood in his own era. In fact, as we now know, he was nearly a century ahead of his time. We can give a contemporary name to his mission and its messages: Green Social Design.    

Roger Pulvers is an American-born Australian author, playwright, theater director and translator. He has published 40 books in Japanese and English including The Dream of Lafcadio Hearn. In 2008, he was awarded the Kenji Miyazawa Prize and in 2013 the Noma Award for the Translation of Japanese Literature for his book on Miyazawa Kenji, "Strong in the Rain": Selected Poems.  


Recommended citation: Roger Pulvers, "Miyazawa Kenji's Prophetic Green Vision: Japan's Great Writer/Poet on the 80th Anniversary of His Death," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 44, No. 2, November 4, 2013. 

Peter Simpson, Debarring Questions Over Futenma Airbase

Just over nine years ago, after a US military heavy-lift helicopter crashed into the middle of our university campus1 - only a slightly more muscular stone's-throw from the US Marine Corps' Futenma base than I might be relied on to manage - it was difficult to find anyone on the other side of the fence who could talk in any meaningful way about preventing the same thing happening again.

When I tried to talk to Marine Corps Community Relations during the period immediately following the crash, I was told that they didn't accept calls from the public, but would only communicate with Okinawa's elected representatives, who, just three years earlier, had been described by the US military's own supreme commander as, "all nuts and a bunch of wimps."  My frustration was only slightly alleviated when the US military relented somewhat and allowed me to talk to Kaori Martinez, the Marine Corps Community Relations Officer with whom I eventually managed to have a number of polite conversations.

Peter Simpson teaches at Okinawa International University and lives and works next to the US Marine Corps Futenma air base, located in the center of Ginowan City (pop.95,000). In this article, he draws attention to the anguish and outrage inflicted on the municipality by the forced deployment of the Osprey, a hybrid aircraft about which many safety questions appear to remain unanswered.


Recommended Citation: Peter Simpson, "Debarring Questions Over Futenma Airbase", The Asia-Pacific Journal, November 2, 2013.

Asia-Pacific Journal Feature,"Something is Very Wrong": Osaka Police Target Anti-Nuclear Protesters

On October 17, 2013, Osaka Hannan University Professor Shimoji Masaki spoke at Berkeley on the efforts of anti-nuclear activists in Osaka to fight against government plans to burn radioactive waste from Fukushima. He also detailed his arrest and detention by Osaka police. Shimoji was arrested in December 2012 and held without charge for 20 days for speaking publically and handing out educational material on the dangers of radiation. He sees the arrest as a sign of the increased use of the police and arbitrary arrest to bully and intimidate anti-nuclear activists into silence. No criminal charges were brought against Shimoji, but this incident and other examples of harassment of activists by the police and other agents of the state are having a chilling effect on public discussion of the health effects of radiation and the state of Japan's nuclear infrastructure.    Shimoji offers an account of his experience in Japanese here. He was arrested at home, in front of his wife, by a gang of seven police officers. Shimoji was told that while speaking in public in front of Osaka Station two months earlier, he had refused to leave when ordered to do so by security and engaged in "forcible obstruction of business". He describes this as a "naked lie", highlighting the ability of police in Japan to fabricate stories in order to justify what are essentially arbitrary detentions - no formal charges or presentation of evidence is necessary to hold a "suspect" for up to three weeks.

Read more . . .
Saito Minako, We Need a Dictionary

Languages of politicians have always been treasure troves of lies and deception.  But watching a number of new Japanese phrases the Abe Administration spews out one after another, I started to think that perhaps we even need a special new dictionary for this administration alone.   For example: With respect to the radioactive waste water from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant,[2] the administration used the phrase "being under control(kontororu sarete iru)." But the situation is such that it is actually more fitting to say it is "impossible to control(seigyo fukano)." Another example: the administration's proposal to make Japan "the world's most business-friendly environment(sekaiichi bijinesu no shiyasui kankyo)" seems to be rather more appropriately named "the best environment to prey on workers and consumer."

Saito Minako is an award-winning literary critic, feminist writer, prolific author. Yayoi Koizumi is a Ph.D. candidate in the field of East Asian Literature, Religion and Culture at Cornell University, and also the social media administrator of the Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.  She is currently working on a dissertation tentatively titled: "Negrophilia la Galapagos?: Black Representations in Japan since 1954.