The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 7. 2014    

February 17, 2014    
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Yasuhiko Abe



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David McNeill and Paul Jobin
Japan's 3.11 Triple Disaster: Introduction 


Three years ago Japan's northeast was pummeled by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, triggering a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The plant spewed much of its payload into the surrounding air, countryside and sea, leaving damage that will be with us for decades. Much of what we know about the disaster is still shrouded in mystery. This article introduces the work of four writers who uncover new perspectives on disaster-related issues in marking the third anniversary of 3.11: Philip C. Brown, Kyle Cleveland, Shineha Ryuma and Tanaka Mikihito, and Yasuhiko Abe.  
David McNeill writes for The Independent and other publications, including The Irish Times, The Economistand The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator and coauthor ofStrong in the Rain: Surviving Japan's Earthquake, Tsunami and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). 
Paul Jobin is Associate Professor, University of Paris Diderot, Department of East Asian Studies, Section of Japanese Studies, an associate researcher at the French Center on Contemporary China (CEFC), and an Asia-Pacific Journal Associate. 
Philip C. Brown
Call it a 'Wash'? Historical Perspectives on Conundrums of Technological Modernization, Flood Amelioration and Disasters in Modern Japan


In this article, Philip C. Brown looks at the long-term, unintended or unimagined consequences of modernizing projects to control sea or river floods. The Northeast Japan triple disasters have raised questions about the adequacy of government planning for water damage at Fukushima, yet other components of the built environment also contributed to loss of property and life in unanticipated ways. To illustrate the long history of such "surprises" associated with large-scale construction, in addition to exploring ways in which the built environment shaped the tsunami's impact, Brown examines negative consequences from the construction of the Okotsu Diversion Channel (Niigata). Through the example of a major flood in Tochio (Niigata), the author shows unexpected links to a government policy, the Meiji Land Tax Reforms, that did not deal with water control at all. Analyzing primary sources on the emblematic cases of river flood in Niigata from the Meiji period forward, Brown develops insights that can be transposed in the case of 3.11.
Philip C. Brown teaches Japanese and East Asian History, for the Department of History, The Ohio State University (USA). His work to date has primarily focused on Japanese history ca. 1570-1868. His most recent book is Cultivating Commons: Joint Ownership of Arable Land in Early Modern Japan (Hawaii UP 2011).
Kyle Cleveland
Mobilizing Nuclear Bias: 
The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis and the Politics of Uncertainty 


This paper analyzes institutional response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, looking at how experts and key decision-making elites in the United States assessed the crisis and set policies as representatives of their organizations. In particular, it examines two related issues: the reactor meltdowns and the dispersion of radioactive fallout. Kyle Cleveland analyzes the political consequences of the divergent interpretations which developed in the first few days of the crisis around these issues. The author also touches on the differences in perception between various foreign governments, and examines the political implications of the crisis for international alliances in Japan. 
Kyle Cleveland is Associate Professor of Sociology at Temple University's Japan Campus in Tokyo and was the founding Director of TUJ's Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (now Associate Director), for which he organizes a lecture series, academic conferences and symposia.  

Shineha Ryuma and Tanaka Mikihito
Mind the Gap: 3.11 and the Information Vulnerable


After the 3.11 triple disaster, massive information flooded the media. However, a comprehensive picture of the information ecosystem regarding 3.11 is yet to emerge. This article presents a quantitative analysis of a large amount of information and discourses concerning 3.11. In addition to gaps in information about damage and danger, Shineha Ryuma and Tanaka Mikihito find that the areas most affected by the triple disaster had a greater number of people lacking access to vital information. These people were not only left behind during the first weeks of the catastrophe, but also thereafter, in the agenda for reconstruction. The authors conclude that, compared to urban areas, even before the event, the areas that were most affected by the triple disaster of March 11 had a much greater number of the information vulnerable
Shineha Ryuma is Assistant Professor at the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Kanagawa. Tanaka Mikihito is Associate Professor at Waseda University, Tokyo. 
Shineha Ryuma and Tanaka Mikihito have studied the media discourses regarding life-science, science journalism, and science & technology policy. They have published a book in Japanese on 3.11 (The Disaster Vulnerable and the Vulnerable) and a book chapter in Science Information and Politics after the Disaster of March 11 in Japan edited by Nakamura Masaki. 

Yasuhiko Abe
Safecast or the Production of Collective Intelligence on Radiation Risks after 3.11 


Safecast is a network of concerned citizens created after 3.11 to measure nuclear radiation and provide these measurements in real time on the Internet. This is one among many instances of the production of information on radiation risks after 3.11. While Safecast has contributed to the collective intelligence on these risks, its members have claimed that such measurements and data are "politically neutral". This article examines the role of Safecast in contributing to sociotechnical systems about nuclear risks. Yasuhiko Abe investigates the extent to which post-Fukushima DIY networks' measurement data is a legitimate scientific source for nuclear risk knowledge. The author's findings in this study indicate the important role of Safecast in shaping the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. 
Yasuhiko Abe is a PhD candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. He has published several articles related to discourses about nuclear power in Japan, including "Risk assessment of nuclear power by Japanese newspapers following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster" International Journal of Communication (2013).