The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 27. 2014    

July 7, 2014    
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Jeff Kingston        
Self-immolation Protests PM Abe Overturning Japan's Pacifist Postwar Order      

On June 29, 2014 a man set himself on fire in Tokyo to protest PM Abe Shinzo's bid to lift constitutional constraints on Japan's military forces, that is to subvert the Constitution by fiat. In subsequent days, tens of thousands of citizens have gathered outside the prime minister's residence to loudly protest this initiative. Opinion polls, even those conducted by reliably right-wing news organizations, indicate widespread opposition to his renunciation of pacifism and very little support for collective self-defense (CSD).

This article
scrutinizes the NHK government broadcaster's "blackout" of this extraordinary act of political protest to help explain why many Japanese in fact believe that Abe is more of a threat to Japan than China or North Korea. Has Abe hijacked democracy in Japan by renouncing Article 9 and the nation's pacifist postwar order?   

Jeff Kingston is the Director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan and an Asia-Pacific Journal editor. He is the editor of Natural Disaster and Nuclear Crisis in Japan: Response and Recovery after Japan's 3/11, Routledge 2012 and the author of Contemporary Japan (2nd edition), London: Wiley 2013.


Christopher Hobson   
What Role for Nuclear Power in Japan's Future? 
While there is often a hope that disasters may act as a major catalyst, following 3/11 it appears that there has been more continuity than change in Japanese politics. Japan is still struggling to deal with the complex ramifications of the nuclear accident at Fukushima Dai-ichi. The larger national debate on nuclear energy has not moved forward in recent years, yet the serious political, economic and technical challenges that have emerged following the fateful events of 11 March 2011 are slowly forcing Japan to come to terms with the role nuclear energy might play in its future.

This article focuses on the social impact of the disasters and ensuing consequences for energy policy in Japan. Whereas much of the debate concerning Japanese nuclear power has centred on the question of closure versus resumption, here the author considers the changing character of the debate in light of changes in the nuclear industry and the new regulatory regime that could result in partial resumption of a number of nuclear power plants in the coming years. Hobson argues that the direction Japan is headed will solve neither the economic nor environmental challenges it faces in securing its energy supply, nor will it satisfy the anti-nuclear majority or pro-nuclear business groups.

Christopher Hobson is Assistant Professor, School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University and Visiting Research Fellow, United Nations University. He is the coeditor with Paul Bacon and Robin Cameron of Human Security and Natural Disasters (Routledge 2014), and coeditor with Paul Bacon of Human Security and Japan's Triple Disaster (Routledge 2014).

Robin Kietlinski    
Sports, Motherhood, and the Female Body
in Contemporary Japan

The fact that women can bear and nurture children - that their bodies have organs that are adapted to the functions of motherhood - has served as a major obstacle to the full participation of women in many arenas of society. The notion of female biological inferiority is perhaps nowhere in sharper focus than in the world of sports. This article examines the relationship between sports and the female body, considering specifically how motherhood has been used to either limit or promote the role of women in sports.


The dynamic relationship of women with their bodies must be taken into consideration for us to more fully understand the role and status of women in a socio-historical context. The author unpacks traditional Japanese and Western conceptions of sports and the female body, and draws on discourses of motherhood in Japan to reconcile the increasingly celebrated yet fraught identities of "mama-san senshu" (mother-athletes) in contemporary Japanese society.


Robin Kietlinski is Assistant Professor of History at LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York. She is the author of Japanese Women and Sport: Beyond Baseball and Sumo (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2011), and has contributed chapters to Sport, Memory and Nationhood in Japan: Remembering the Glory Days (London: Routledge, 2012).


Brian Daizen Victoria
Zen Masters on the Battlefield (Part II)

This is the second in a two-part series that explores the complex relationship between a number of prominent practitioners of Zen Buddhism and wartime violence. Part I of this series looked at the battlefield experiences of Sōtō Zen Master Sawaki Kōdō during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5. This segment examines the life and writings of Nakajima Genjō (1915-2000), a Rinzai Zen Master with even more extensive battlefield experience.


The author contemplates how the disastrous outcome of the Asia-Pacific War (1937-1945) influenced Nakajima's spiritual and battlefield philosophies and distinguishes him from his predecessor Sawaki. The essay includes firsthand material from DaizenVictoria's 1999 interview with an aged Nakajima, who reflects on his own role in Japan's wartime aggression and his subsequent reflections.  


Brian Daizen Victoria holds an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from Sōtō Zen sect-affiliated Komazawa University in Tokyo, and a Ph.D. from the Department of Religious Studies at Temple University. His major writing include Zen At War (Rowman & Littlefield) and Zen War Stories (RoutledgeCurzon).   


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