The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 49. 2014       

December 8, 2014

New Articles

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This issue explores the crisis of the Abe administration, contemporary Japan and the US-Japan relationship. On June 29, a formerly homeless man set himself on fire in Shinjuku, nearly killing himself. Two days later, the Abe cabinet announced its decision to change the interpretation of the constitution  to allow "collective self-defense." A month ago, another man succeeded in committing suicide  at Hibiya Park in Tokyo; Nitta Susumu, a member of the socialist group Shisō Undō, was protesting against the cabinet decision and the planned new US military base in Okinawa. Satoko Oka Norimatsu looks at the significance of suicide as a method of protest and the historical links to earlier suicides in the Kishi and Satō administrations.

Two days after Onaga Takeshi was elected as Governor in Okinawa and one day after Yonaguni town council voted to hold a referendum on the plan to build an SDF base there, PM Abe announced he would dissolve the Lower House.  Gavan McCormack comments on the significance of the three  events as manifestations of a struggle which is best perceived at the periphery, but  is deeply rooted in the nature of the Japanese state. He analyzes the background of the Okinawa and Yonaguni problems, arguing that the peripheral islands demonstrate a serious alternative to the policies of the Abe administration, representing the biggest crisis for Japan and the US-Japan security relationship since the inauguration of the San Francisco Treaty system 62 years ago.

Steve Rabson presents a pamphlet prepared by the city of Nago explaining what is wrong with the US military's plan to build a new base in Henoko, which lies within its city limits. This is the latest attempt by Nago mayor Inamine Susumu to bring the protest against the base to the American people, who has twice visited the US to meet government officials. It provides a thorough yet easily accessible report on the disproportionate burden of U.S. military bases borne by Okinawa residents, and on the devastating impact the proposed air base would have on residents and the environment.

Since the disaster, Fukushima Medical University has been testing children in high exposure areas, and 56 have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, with another 47 likely, out of nearly three hundred thousand examined. The normal prevalence of this cancer among minors is one to two in one million. However, the position of the university is that there is no connection to radiation exposure. Piers Williamson examines the arguments made by the university's representatives, arguing that it is too early to be certain and that the possible link to radiation must not be rejected without due consideration.

Today, Japan has some of the strictest anti-cannabis laws in the world. Punishment for possession is a maximum 5 years behind bars and illicit growers face 7-year sentences. For decades, these laws have stood unchallenged, but, as Jon Mitchell reports, now increasing numbers of Japanese people are speaking out against prohibition, attempting to teach the public about Japan's long-forgotten history of cannabis.

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