The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 25. 2014    

June 23, 2014    
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Our lead article is Grant Evans' analysis of the Thai coup in light of the profound changes in Thai economy and society of recent decades.

Two articles address the continuing debate in Japan and internationally about the effects of radiation following the 3.11 triple disaster. Nakasatomi Hiroshi examines the fierce controversy at Fukushima University concerning post-3.11 safety and the policies of authorities that consistently downplayed the dangers. The Manga "Oishinbo" presented by Eiichiro Ochiai centers on the phenomenon of nosebleeding in the wake of the disaster. The controversy was sufficient to force the closure of one of Japan's supremely popular manga after a run of many years, leaving the controversy unresolved.

What is the place of film censorship under dictatorship and democracy? Two articles examine the Korean "cinema of assimilation" under Japanese colonial rule, and the little known Korean independent cinema in Occupation Japan under US rule.

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Grant Evans       
The Seismic Shifts Behind the Coup in Thailand     

Thailand has been in crisis since an armed forces coup overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September 2006, ultimately forcing him into exile. To understand the crisis in Thai politics, it's important to examine the momentous changes Thai society has undergone in recent decades. If certain key institutions, such as the monarchy, have not yet been transformed, then they are about to be. Old relationships have been destabilised; new ones are not yet in place. It is this setting - the perfect opening for a populist demagogue like Thaksin - that explains much more about contemporary Thailand than the grossly simplified image of a struggle between the "rural poor" and the urban middle class and elites. In this article, the author assesses the oligarchic nature of Thai politics, as well as past and future prospects for a more democratic government.  
Grant Evans is a senior research fellow in anthropology at the École Française d'Extrême-Orient, Vientiane, Laos. He was a professor of anthropology at the University of Hong Kong. His books have focused on Laos; from peasant studies to 'royal studies', political ritual and memory, and more generally Lao history.

Nakasatomi Hiroshi 
After Nuclear Disaster: The decision-making of Fukushima University authorities, the threat to democratic governance and countermovement actions
Translated by Caroline Norma

Japan is widely known as the only country in the world to have sustained nuclear bombing. The country developed in the postwar period with an awareness of this fact. But this awareness should be tempered by the understanding that Japan is also the world's only country in which the government has caused citizens to suffer both nuclear attack through reckless warring, as well nuclear contamination again in peacetime through reckless nuclear power policy-making. These two nuclear events exist in historical parallel.

Japan's education system was a focus of postwar democratisation. The democratisation of Japan's universities was an essential part of the reforms. But, times change. The Fundamental Law of Education was amended in 2006 to become more socially conservative; overnight, universities became part of an 'industry-university-government' alliance. This change, together with a  decline in the ability and willingness of Japanese universities to resist the impositions of the corporate world and government, is a causative factor in the response of Fukushima University to the recent nuclear disaster. 

Here we present two journal articles written by the author: the first, from 2011, after the Great Tohoku earthquake and nuclear disaster, describes the response of Fukushima University to the nuclear disaster, and efforts by students and staff within the University to build more critical awareness of the situation and foster more activist approaches. The second piece written in 2014, describes criticism he attracted during and after his one-year University campaign on nuclear safety after the disaster. In this sequel, the author seeks to clarify a widespread and damaging misunderstanding about his political stance on the issue of voluntary evacuation. 
Nakasatomi Hiroshi lectures in constitutional law at Tokushima University, and is engaged with a wide range of social issues in Japan. He is an expert on human rights jurisprudential approaches to issues of disaster evacuation and nuclear radiation.

Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University, Australia, and has a forthcoming book with Bloomsbury (2015) called Japanese comfort women and sexual slavery during the China and Pacific wars.
Eiichiro Ochiai 
The Manga "Oishinbo" Controversy: Radiation and Nose Bleeding in the Wake of 3.11

"Oishinbo" or "Gourmet Craze" is a popular Japanese manga (comic) series centered on gourmet food that has been continuously published since 1983. A recent episode in the comic dealing with nose bleeding in the wake of 3.11 has provoked an unusual controversy. In this essay, the author analyzes the politicized discourses of fear, uncertainty, and scientific reasoning that have grown up around two conflicting viewpoints: One is "denial of the fact" that many people have experienced nose bleeding after the Fukushima incident, with the assertion that nose bleeding cannot be caused by the radiation emitted from Fukushima Dai-ichi. The other view is that nose bleeding observed among the people of Fukushima prefecture and surrounding areas, including Tokyo, could very well be caused by radiation, as suggested in the comic. The issues of the effects of radiation, especially on children, however, are hardly comical.

Eiichiro Ochiai has taught and conducted research in chemistry at universities in Japan, USA, Canada and Sweden. His publications include "Bioinorganic Chemistry, an Introduction" (Allyn and Bacon, 1977), "Bioinorganic Chemistry, a Survey" (Elsevier, 2008), and "Chemicals for Life and Living" (Springer Verlag, 2011).
Brian Yecies and Richard Howson 
The Korean "Cinema of Assimilation" and the Construction of Cultural Hegemony in the Final Years of Japanese Rule

During the late 1930s, as the Japanese government formalized the assimilationist ideology of "Japan and Korea as One Body", cinema in Korea experienced a fundamental transformation. Korean filmmakers had little choice but to make co-productions that aimed to draw Koreans toward Japanese ways of thinking and living, while promoting a sense of loyalty to the Japanese Empire. Within this colonial context, and especially after the 1940 Korean Film Law facilitated the absorption of the Korean film industry into the Japanese film industry, a particular type of masculine hegemony was encouraged by a comprehensive censorship process.

This article illustrates how this process worked, by drawing on some key theoretical concepts of hegemony to analyze the construction of masculinity in three notable wartime co-productions: Angels on the Streets (1941), Spring in the Korean Peninsula (1941), and Suicide Squad at the Watchtower (1943). The authors analyze how the colonial authorities sought to reorient Korean audiences toward a particular worldview by means of a process that they label "cinema of assimilation" - a cultural hegemonic exercise designed to draw Koreans closer to the social, political and economic habits and priorities of their occupiers.

Brian Yecies is Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Wollongong and author of Korea's Occupied Cinemas, 1893-1948, New York: Routledge, 2011 (with Ae-Gyung Shim); and The Changing Face of Korean Cinema, 1960-2015 (forthcoming).


Richard Howson is a Senior Lecturer and Discipline Leader for Sociology, Cultural Studies and Science Technology Studies at the University of Wollongong, author of Challenging Hegemonic Masculinity (2006), and co-editor of forthcoming).

Shota Ogawa  
Korean Film Companies in US Occupied Japan: Imagining an Independent Korean Cinema in a Transnational Mediascape

This piece reveals the history of little known film companies founded by Koreans in US Occupied Japan (1945-1952). Despite the powerful tide of decolonization and "ethnic renaissance" that energized the cultural activities of newly liberated Koreans in both Japan and the Korean peninsula, the practical activities of the Korean film companies in Occupied Japan were entangled in complex economic, ideological, and cultural realities. Here, the author engages a cross-media approach to understand the full scope of Koreans' engagement with film in postwar Japan. The documentation--notably the censorship records of SCAP (Supreme Commander of Allied Powers), advertisements placed in Japanese and Korean print media, and documents kept by the Korean organizations--offers invaluable insight into the ambitions, methods, and impacts of the Korean film companies and the character of US censorship.

This article calls for a new understanding of a critical turning point in Japanese film history, one which recognizes the dynamic transnational negotiations involving former colonial subjects. Ultimately, the author uncovers how Korean film producers negotiated and strategically responded to the idiosyncratic media environment of Occupation-era Japan to realize a vision of a Korean national cinema within Japan.


Shota Tsai Ogawa is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His study was supported by the Short-term Research Grant from AAS Northeast Asia Council, and completed with the generous help of colleagues Iskander Zulkernain and Sohl Lee as well as productive comments from the reviewers.