Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Greenpeace: "Fukushima nuclear disaster: who profits and who pays?"

"Fukushima nuclear disaster: who profits and who pays?" by Jan Haverkamp, posted at, addresses the injustice and inadequacy of the nationalization ("socializing risk") of Fukushima nuclear disaster liability:
Last week, the inevitable finally happened. The company responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, has been nationalised. Japan’s trade and industry minister Yukio Edano announced a de facto state take-over of the company with a further injection of $12.5bn, bringing the total of state capital in TEPCO to $33.2bn. Edano has said that: “Without the state funds, (TEPCO) cannot provide a stable supply of electricity and pay for compensation and decommissioning costs”.

The total direct costs of the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe for TEPCO, including compensation and clean up, are estimated at over $100bn. Many Japanese, however, experience in their daily lives that the damages are considerably higher because most of their claims and losses go uncompensated and most of their suffering goes unrecognised.

The nationalisation of TEPCO, together with a legal practice called “channelling of liability” in which all liability related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster has to be channelled to TEPCO, means Japanese taxpayers and ratepayers will foot most of the bill.

An infuriating aspect of this story is that in a recent presentation by General Electric (GE) about its “success” over the past 50 years, there was not a word about the Fukushima disaster and nothing approaching an apology. Yet the Fukushima disaster was affected by well-known problems related to GE’s Mark 1 design, which was used at all four troubled reactors. Furthermore, GE was involved in maintenance throughout the four decades of the plant’s operation and had 44 on site at the time of the accident.

GE, together with its corporate mates from Hitachi, which is responsible for the construction of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4, and Toshiba, which delivered Reactor No. 3, as well as Ebasco, Kajima, Areva and many others, have mostly kept mum about their involvement...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Eclipse over Komazawa Park, Tokyo

(May 21, 2012 eclipse over Komazawa Park, Tokyo. Photo: Kimberly Hughes)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Save Jeju Island: Fr. Mun Jung-hyun receives prestigious Gwanju Prize for Human Rights

(Fr. Mun in yellow "Save Jeju" t-shirt accepts Gwanju Prize. Photo:

Father Mun Jung-hyun, a Catholic priest and leader in the Save Jeju Island movement, accepted the Gwanju Prize for Human Rights, an award given by the May 18 Memorial Foundation to recognize "individuals, groups or institutions in Korea & abroad that have contributed in promoting and advancing human rights, democracy & peace through their work."

The award commemorates the spirit of the May 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement (also known as "518" for its 18 May start) during which pro-democracy citizens battled soldiers in protest of the reign of Chun Doo-hwan, ROK Army general, military dictator of South Korea from 1980 to 1988: "Gwangju received valuable help from others while undertaking the struggle to examine the truth behind the May 18 uprising, and while striving to develop true democracy. In response, we would like to give something back to those who supported our cause for peace and democracy." The prize includes $50,000.

Fr. Mun is the first Korean recipient since the establishment of the award in 2000. This may reflect the concern of many in South Korea about the deterioration of human rights, especially infringements of freedom of assembly and free speech, including press freedoms. In Jeju Island, Gangjeong villagers have been arrested for simply praying in public, for the return of the homes, farms, and community that the South Korean government seized from them, without following due process of law, to make way for a navy base. Instead of sustaining and developing the democratic society established through the Korean democracy movement of the 1980's, South Korea, under the repressive and corrupt Lee administration, is going backwards: resurrecting practices common during its period of military dictatorship.

Fr. Mun was critically injured on April 6 of this year in a fall during a struggle when a policeman tried to stop him from completing "Stations of Jeju," a variation of "Stations of the Cross," a walking devotional. Although his physicians said he would have to stay in the hospital for at least six months to heal multiple fractured spinal vertebrae, he was able to leavel after only two weeks. Immediately after his release, he visited Dr. Song Kang-Ho, a fellow clerical peace activist, in prison and the villagers and activists’ sit-in protest site in front of the Jeju Island government hall, and then returned to the village where everyone joyously welcomed him.

(Gangjeong villagers in sit-in protest at the Jeju Provincial Government office. Although banner reads "The world comes to Jeju and jeju goes to the world," the office is always closed to the Gangjeong villagers, despite Jeju being their ancestral homeland. Photo: Emily Wang)

We join human rights and democracy supporters around the world in a heartfelt congratulations to Fr. Mun, the Gangjeong villagers, and the Save Jeju Movement for this outstanding recognition of their work to further human rights and democracy,

(Supporters celebrate. Photo: Peaceberry Han at Save Jeju Island on FB)

(For more background on Gwanju and the Korean democracy movement of the 1980's, investigative journalist (one of the best on Cold War Korea and Japan) Tim Shorrock's website includes in-depth reportage.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Food Inc. Director Robert Kenner To Visit Tokyo (May 19 & 21) & Osaka (May 22)

Via  the Consumers Union of Japan:
CUJ is glad to be able to invite US documentary director Robert Kenner to Japan. His film Food Inc. is a great exposure of the way the food industry and especially Monsanto have hijacked farming and food processing, creating a situation where it is almost impossible for consumers to know what we are eating. While the focus is on the US agribusiness, it also applies to practices in many other countries, and the frequent abuse against farmers, food factory workers, animals and the biodiversity on our planet.

Robert Kenner is an Emmy-Award winning film maker. He will participate at three screening events and give talks while in Japan. Everyone is welcome!

Tokyo: May 19 (Sat) 13:30-18:00
Tokyo Women’s Plaza (Omotesando station)
Entrance Fee: 1,000 Yen

Tokyo: May 21 (Mon) 14:00-16:00
House of Representatives 2nd Bldg, Multi-purpose Hall (1st Floor)
(衆議院第2議員会館 1階 多目的ホール)
Entrance Fee: Free

Osaka: May 22 (Tue) 13:30-17:30
Osaka International House Center
Entrance Fee: 1,000 Yen
More on Food Inc. from the film's website:
In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Etsuko Urashima: "Let’s Turn Mt Kushi into a Forest of Life ...On the 40th Fortieth Anniversary of Okinawa’s Reversion to Japan"

View from Mt Kushi across firing ranges towards Henoko 

Via The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, "Okinawa’s Nature Groaning – Let’s Turn Mt Kushi into a Forest of Life. On the Sixtieth Anniversary of the San Francisco Treaty and the Fortieth Anniversary of Okinawa’s Reversion to Japan" by Urashima Etsuko with an introduction by Gavan McCormack:

May 15 marks 40 years since Okinawa “reverted” from US military administration to Japan, but the celebrations in 2012 will be muted. While few Okinawans regret the fact of reversion, there is widespread resentment over the fact that the national government continues to insist the prefecture serve US military ends first and foremost.

Newspaper opinion surveys taken on the eve of the commemoration found that 69 percent of Okinawans believed they were the subject of inequitable and discriminatory treatment because of the heavy concentration of US military bases, and nearly 90 percent took the position that the Futenma Marine Base should either be unconditionally closed and the land simply revert to Ginowan township or else be moved away, whether elsewhere in Japan or beyond it. That figure exceeds even the opposition of the time of the Hatoyama government (84 percent) less than two years ago.

A similar 90 percent oppose the deployment within Okinawa of the accident-plagued MV22-Osprey VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft that the Pentagon, backed by the government of Japan, promises to deploy in Okinawa from July.

Such is the strength of this sentiment that Okinawa’s governor, the conservative ex-bureaucrat Nakaima Hirokazu, visiting Tokyo at the time of the announcement, declared that such a deployment would be “extremely impossible “ (sic), and suggested that if the aircraft were really so safe they could be deployed in Tokyo’s Hibiya or Shinjuku Gyoen parks.2 The outrage deepened a week later when it was announced that the aircraft would be assembled and first tested at Naha Military Port, little more than a stone’s throw from Okinawa’s capital, Naha. Naha mayor Onaga described it as the worst proposal ever, and declared that he could not contain his fierce anger at the way the people of Okinawa and Naha were being mocked.3 Medoruma Shun, the prefecture’s pre-eminent novelist, also widely respected as its conscience, called upon the governor to convene a mass meeting of Okinawans to formally declare their opposition.

The points of confrontation between Tokyo and Okinawa slowly multiply and deepen in seriousness – Ginowan City, home of the Futenma Marine Base; Nago City, designated site for a Futenma replacement facility; Kadena City, 22,000 of whose citizens are suing (the biggest civil suit in Japanese history) to try to recover their peace from the constant noise caused by landings and takeoffs from the city’s USAF base; and Yonaguni Island, where residents mobilize to prevent the deployment of Japanese Self Defense Forces (for the first time). Throughout the island anger spreads at the prospect of a new threat – the vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, MV22-Osprey (discussed by Urashima) now scheduled to be introduced to the island in July.

In the north of Okinawa Island, little attention is paid to the appropriation of forests by the US marine forces based at Camp Schwab. On the commemoration of another, closely related, anniversary, the 60th of Okinawa’s formal severance from Japan under the San Francisco treaty of 1952, the writer Urashima Etsuko, like Medoruma a voice of Okinawan conscience, walked up Mt Kushi to reflect on the price that was being paid by nature itself under the weight of priority to the US military. We are pleased to publish an English translation of her April 2012 essay. (Gavan McCormack)

April 28th was the 60th anniversary of the day the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into force in 1952. Under the Treaty, mainland Japan recovered its sovereignty lost in the defeat of the war but Okinawa remained under US military control for a further twenty years. On this day, known in Okinawa as a “day of humiliation,” at the suggestion of a friend I climbed Mt Kushi which overlooks the US Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab training grounds.

The twin peaks of Mt Henoko (332 metres) and Mt Kushi (335 metres) rising up in roughly the middle of the island still today are a fine sight and it is easy to believe that the children of Henoko and Kushi villages used to dispute with each other over which was the more beautiful. But today, from as far away as Henoko village, you can see how the red soil of the mountain has been exposed by shelling practice from the live firing range that surrounds it.

I had thought it would not be possible to climb [in a military area] but, while one cannot climb from the east sea side one can climb from the west because that side is not used as a firing range. Hearing that the mountain was quite an easy walk, and that you could look out over the firing range from the peak, I put on boots and a rain coat – since unfortunately it looked like rain – and set off on the climb...

On reaching the summit I was astonished at the breadth of the shooting range that spread out before me. Being accustomed to look at the mountains from the sea, I had not imagined them to be so vast. The forests of Higashi and Kunigami villages that make up the Northern Training Centre (or “Jungle Warfare Centre”) are so splendid as to be said to be worthy of classification as World Heritage, but this was in no way inferior. Here and there practice sites had been set up and these sites were one source of the firing noises. My friend also said that these sites had been freshly cleared, not existing on the previous occasion when he had come up here. The stick-like poles were, he said, “dummy human targets for shelling.”

...Before the US bombing of Okinawa on 10 October 1944 (which not only reduced Naha City to rubble but caused severe damage throughout Okinawa Island) US forces took aerial photographs of the whole of Okinawa Island, so they knew the exact location of everything. It seems that, by analysing these aerial photographs, they drew up detailed plans for use of the island – just as if there were no people here. You can also see this from the nature of the bombing. To take one example, while many villages were burned by bombing attacks, other, neighbouring settlements escaped unscathed and these were later used as refugee encampments.

When looking over the forest from the peak, my thoughts turn to the US soldiers that once looked down over this forest from the sky. They must have been thinking about how they could make use of this place for war. I thought once again that this precious forest that has given life to so many creatures and sustained the local people must not be allowed to be used for war. It pains me to look upon the withered brown firing range. I want to take back this forest and resurrect it as a forest of life. Moved by such thoughts, I stood on the summit of Mt Kushi.

40th Anniversary of Okinawa's Reversion to Japan: Rally against planned US military use of Osprey aircraft in Okinawa

(Protest at Futenma Air Base, against the planned US military use of
accident-prone Osprey aircraft in Okinawa.
Photo: Masami Mel Kawamura)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Nuclear-Free Activist & Artist Mayumi Oda speaking at the 2011 Moana Nui Conference

Longtime nuclear-free activist and artist Mayumi Oda reveals dark, obscured interconnections between Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl and Fukushima in this moving talk given at the 2011 Moana Nui conference in Hawai'i.
Known to many as the “Matisse of Japan,” Mayumi Oda has done extensive work with female goddess imagery. Born to a Buddhist family in Japan in 1941, Mayumi studied fine art and traditional Japanese fabric dying. In 1966 she graduatied from Tokyo University of Fine Arts. Mayumi’s unique apprenticeship dying fabric for kimonos influences the color and composition of all of her work.

Mayumi has spent many years of her life as a “global activist” participating in anti-nuclear campaigns worldwide. She founded Plutonium Free Future in 1992. On behalf of her organization, Oda lectured and held workshops on Nuclear Patriarchy to Solar Communities at the United Nations NGO Forum and the Women of Vision Conference in Washington DC.
Notes from her speech:
I'm 70-years-old now. I was born the year right before Pearl Harbor. For 70 years, I've been struggling with nuclearism. I was 4-years-old when my country was detonated with atomic bombs...

The shadow image of people without any body left stuck in concrete walls...just absolutely scared me as a child.

When my sister country, Korea, had a war, and people crossing over in the cold, it just made me so anxious, I grew up with this kind of fear of....As a child, I thought it was a kind of stupidity, how could people get involved with this.

Now with Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Fukushima, I feel like Japanese were born to deal with this incredible legacy of nuclear development...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Makiko Segawa: After The Media Has Gone: Fukushima [reopening of Minami-soma], Suicide, and the Legacy of 3.11

In-depth, eyewitness report from Fukushima by Makiko Segawa published at APJ: "After The Media Has Gone: Fukushima, Suicide and the Legacy of 3.11" explores realities in the exclusion zone:
The March 11, 2011 disaster attracted thousands of reporters and photographers from around the world. There was a brief deluge of Japanese and international media coverage on the first anniversary, this spring. Now the journalists have packed up and gone and by accident or design Japan’s government seems to be mobilizing its agenda, aware that it is under less scrutiny...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Gavan McCormack: "The Okinawan Alternative to Japan’s Dependent Militarism"

Hundreds of thousands of people are still homeless in Tohoku; unemployment, hunger and poverty are on the rise in Japan, especially among elders (40 percent live on incomes of less than $1,000/month); 28 percent of Japanese in their twenties consider suicide; Unit 4 of the Fukushima Nuclear Plant is not just a domestic, but also a global nuclear hazard.

Yet, to the detriment of attending to these urgent issues, Tokyo is focusing on and spending billions of dollars in Japanese taxpayer money to support US military build-up in Africa (building Japan's first military base since the Pacific War in Djibouti) and the Asia-Pacific (building a joint US-Japan training facility on Tinian, the Pacific atoll that was the launching point of the nuclear bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and before that, a site for a Japanese Pacific War base. "Most Japanese will think of this as a new base, so there is some irony in that, in fact, we would be going back to one of our old bases,” said Takashi Kawakami, a Takushoku University military affairs professor.

Given this preoccupation with military spending and build-up at a time of multiple domestic crises in Japan, Gavan McCormack's "The Okinawan Alternative to Japan’s Dependent Militarism" published at The Asia-Pacific Journal in 2008, is more relevant than ever:
In the post-Cold War world, the US has called for Japan to play a greatly stepped up military role (from the 1996 “Guidelines” to the 2005-6 “Beigun Saihen” or US military realignment), and governments in Tokyo have done their best to comply. My understanding of this is that these measures deepen and reinforce Japan’s dependence and therefore its irresponsibility, transforming the long-term dependent and semi-sovereign Japanese state of the Cold War into a full “Client State.” Far from pursuing its own “values, traditions, and practices,” (as other scholars have argued) 21st century Japan scraps them in order to follow American prescriptions, and the present political confusion stems at root from this identity crisis.

US Officials...offer Japan a steady stream of advice – pushing, pulling, and manipulating it in the desired direction, to “show the flag” and “put boots on the ground” in Iraq, to send the MSDF to the Indian Ocean (and keep it there), to revise Ampo de facto and the Constitution explicitly. Yet few ordinary Japanese people share these priorities. It is as much these days as most can manage to cope with livelihood problems – pensions, welfare, and jobs - and so governments, torn between their desire to serve Washington and their need to seem to be serving their own people, always incline to attach priority to the former.

In the post Cold War decades, the contest in Japan between civil society and state power has nowhere been sharper than in Okinawa...

It is just 400 years since the Okinawan (Ryukyuan) king enunciated the principle of Nuchi du takara or non-resistance, in the face of the Satsuma samurai’s Sengun, initiating the process of forceful incorporation by Japan.

Sengun militarism has been the bane of Okinawa ever since - under Satsuma, the modern Japanese state, the US, and now the joint US-Japan regime. Article 9 was in 1946 a new and astounding reversal for mainland Japan, but for Okinawa it was a reversion to an ancient ideal, and to the centuries when the culture of these islands was a byword for sophistication, culture and peace...

"Only a recovery of Nuchi du takara values (and within them, presumably, a reassertion of cooperative, non-market, yuimaru values) can hope to save it. Plainly the Yambaru can be either militarized or protected, can follow either “Sengun” or Nuchi du takara, not both."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Buddhists, Christians, Shintoists, Rightists, Leftists, Centrists Join to Co-create Nuclear-Free Japan

(Photo: The Ehime Shimbun)
Buddhists and Christians in Japan have long collaborated on peace (Article 9), justice, and environmental issues. At the 2008 Global Article 9 conference in Tokyo, rightists and leftists joined the mainstream in a call to protect the Japanese Peace Constitution, abolish nuclear weapons, and to support related peace, justice, environmentalist causes. Japanese civil society is v. cooperative, collegial; groups and individuals work together in established networks now standing together for a nuclear-free Japan...

This great post (and comments) at EXSKF on an article from The Ehime Shimbun reveals the depth of shared concern across diverse groups in Japan, "Buddhist Monks Sit-in, Calling Christians to Join Them; Ultra-Right Joined by Ultra-Left in Hunger Strike Against Nuclear Power Plants:

Buddhist monks in Matsuyama City in Ehime Prefecture in Shikoku are staging the sit-ins to protest against the prospect of restarting Ikata Nuclear Power Plant, which sits just outside the largest active fault in Japan (Median Tectonic Line) and part of the plant is built on the landfill. The monks are calling out to Christian churches to join them in the protest.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) reports that the Interfaith Forum for Review of National Nuclear Policy (IFRNNP), an interfaith (Christian, Buddhist, Shinto) group that formed after 3/11, is now questioning the adequacy of radiation protection standards, charging industry bias:

International radiation protection standards have historically weighed radiation risks and cost-benefit considerations in such as way as to protect the nuclear power industry at the expense of radiation victims, a Japanese interfaith network has said.

The Interfaith Forum for Review of National Nuclear Policy held a meeting from April 17-19 in Fukushima to debate claims by the Japanese government regarding the effects of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, which took place in March 2011. The government, following standards set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, a Canadian organization of scientists and policy makers, has said “there is no immediate [radioactive] impact on human bodies” from the disaster.

The Tokyo-based IFRNNP ― an 800-member anti-nuclear network co-led by 40 Japanese Buddhists, Christians, and Shintoists ― invited Kozo Inaoka, a Japanese physicist and author of a book about radiation exposure, to the meeting to lecture about the ICRP’s history and “ideological character.”

In his book, A History of Radiation Exposure, Inaoka claims the radiation protection standards are “scientifically disguised social standards” allowing the industry to impose exposure levels that suit its needs as it develops nuclear plants.