Thursday, June 30, 2011

Japanese interfaith group headed by Kyoto temple seeks closure of Futenma air base & cancellation of proposal for new U.S. base in Henoko

On June 21, 2011, a new Japanese interfaith group comprised of Protestant and Catholic Christians and Buddhists (represented by a temple located in Kyoto) announced their support of the Okinawan prefectural and local governments in their goal for the unconditional closure of U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma and the abolition of plans to destroy biodiverse Oura Bay to make way for a new U.S. military base.

Berard Toshio Oshikawa, the Bishop of Naha made a similar announcement on June 27, 2011, calling for the closure of US military bases in the Japanese prefecture. The Conventional Franciscan declared, “Japan has enjoyed peace for over 60 years, but the war has still not ended in Okinawa."

This follows a 2010 appeal from the National Christian Council in Japan (NCCJ) urging U.S. churches to gain awareness, pray and appeal to their government about the impact of U.S. plans for military expansion in Henoko and Oura Bay. Rev. Isamu Koshiishi, the moderator of the NCCJ, explained, "The beautiful coral reef, which had provided a livelihood for the villages and which was the seabed home of the endangered dugong, would now be destroyed with landfill for the purpose of constructing a military base for waging war."

An estimated 12,500 US troops, 95,000 Japanese troops, and up to 150,000 civilians lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa, which took place in 1945.
Japanese interfaith group opposes U.S. bases on Okinawa
By Hisashi Yukimoto
ENI News
21 June 2011

Tokyo (ENInews): A new interfaith group in Japan has joined local opposition to the U.S. military presence on the southern island of Okinawa as the two countries announced on 21 June that they have postponed the 2014 deadline for relocating a U.S. Marine base there, due to the plan's unpopularity.

"The lives of Okinawan people are still threatened [by the bases]," said the Tokyo-based group composed primarily of Buddhists and Christians. "We as religionists have the same resolution in caring for life and protecting peace," the group said in a statement adopted at its launch on 17 June. "We will address the problem of U.S. military bases in Okinawa," it said.

In Washington, D.C. on 21 June, a joint statement by the two countries said plans for the relocation would not meet the 2014 date, but would be carried out "at the earliest possible date" after 2014. Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa are in the U.S. capital for talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Under a 1996 agreement between the U.S. and Japan, the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station, currently based near the densely-populated area of Futenma on the main Okinawa island, was to be relocated to an offshore coral reef area near the village of Henoko.

In 2006, the relocation plan was to be completed by 2014 as part of a U.S. military realignment, but the plan has been strongly opposed since 1996 by local residents and supporters nationwide, including Okinawan Governor Hirokazu Nakaima and many Okinawan residents. The local government has said that the bases hinder regional development and that there are concerns with crime, aircraft operations, noise pollution and environmental pollution.

The interfaith group is led by Tainen Miyagi, a Buddhist Abbot of Seigoin temple in Kyoto; the Rev. Isamu Koshiishi, moderator of the National Christian Council in Japan and Bishop Daiji Tani, president of the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace. The group's name in Japanese is: "Religionists Group for Okinawa Without Bases - To Seek Removal of Futenma Base And Cancellation of the Construction of New Base in Henoko."

The site of a significant World War II battle, Okinawa hosts about half of the nearly 50,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan. After the war, the Okinawa bases were used to dispatch U.S. troops to conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dr. Janette D. Sherman on Chernobyl, Fukushima, Nebraska nuke plants, babies, animals, trees, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, seven generations...

• Must-see 10-minute video report from Link TV, "Chernobyl: The Real Story" with Dr. Janette D. Sherman and Professor Alexey Yablokov.

"Is the Dramatic Increase in Baby Deaths in the US a Result of Fukushima Fallout?" by Janette D. Sherman, MD & Joseph Magano:
Spewing from the Fukushima reactor are radioactive isotopes including those of iodine (I-131), strontium (Sr-90) and cesium (Cs-134 and Cs-137) all of which are taken up in food and water. Iodine is concentrated in the thyroid, Sr-90 in bones and teeth and Cs-134 and Cs-137 in soft tissues, including the heart. The unborn and babies are more vulnerable because the cells are rapidly dividing and the delivered dose is proportionally larger than that delivered to an adult.

Data from Chernobyl, which exploded 25 years ago, clearly shows increased numbers of sick and weak newborns and increased numbers of deaths in the unborn and newborns, especially soon after the meltdown. These occurred in Europe as well as the former Soviet Union. Similar findings are also seen in wildlife living in areas with increased radioactive fallout levels.

Janette D. Sherman, M. D. is a specialist in internal medicine and toxicology. She has recently completed the translation and editing of the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature, written by A. V. Yablokov, V. B. Nesterenko and A. V. Nesterenko, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in December 2009.
See more at

Friday, June 24, 2011

Karl Grossman on cover-ups & Anne Landman on U.S. media failure re Fukushima

"The Big Fukushima Lie Flies High"

By Karl Grossman
Karl Grossman's Blog
June 16, 2011

The global nuclear industry and its allies in government are making a desperate effort to cover up the consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. “The big lie flies high,” comments Kevin Kamps of the organization Beyond Nuclear.

Not only is this nuclear establishment seeking to make it look like the Fukushima catastrophe has not happened—going so far as to claim that there will be “no health effects” as a result of it—but it is moving forward on a “nuclear renaissance,” its scheme to build more nuclear plants.

Indeed, next week in Washington, a two-day “Special Summit on New Nuclear Energy” will be held involving major manufacturers of nuclear power plants—including General Electric, the manufacturer of the Fukushima plants—and U.S. government officials.

Although since Fukushima, Germany, Switzerland and Italy and other nations have turned away from nuclear power for a commitment instead to safe, clean, renewable energy such as solar and wind, the Obama administration is continuing its insistence on nuclear power.

Will the nuclear establishment be able to get away with telling what, indeed, would be one of the most outrageous Big Lies of all time—that no one will die as a result of Fukushima?

Will it be able to continue its new nuclear push despite the catastrophe?

Nearly 100 days after the Fukushima disaster began, with radiation still streaming from the plants, with its owners, TEPCO, now admitting that meltdowns did occur at its plants, that releases have been twice as much as it announced earlier, with deadly radioactivity from Fukushima spreading worldwide, and with some countries now changing course and saying no to nuclear power, while others stick with it, a nuclear crossroads has arrived.

“No health effects are expected among the Japanese people as a result of the events at Fukushima,” the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry trade group, flatly declared in a statement issued at a press conference in Washington last week.

“They’re lying,” says Dr. Janette Sherman, a toxicologist and contributing editor of the book Chernobyl: The Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009. Using medical data from between 1986 and 2004, its authors, a team of European scientists, determines that 985,000 people died worldwide from the radioactivity discharged from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster...”
"What Happened to Media Coverage of Fukushima?"

By Anne Landman, PR Watch
June 24, 2011

After a few weeks of covering the early aftermath of Japan's earthquake and tsunami, the U.S. media moved on, leaving behind the crisis at Fukushima which continues to unfold. U.S. politicians, like Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, have made disappointing and misleading statements about the relative safety of nuclear power and have vowed to stick by our nuclear program, while other countries, like Germany and Italy, have taken serious steps to address the obvious risks of nuclear power -- risks that the Fukushima disaster made painfully evident, at least to the rest of the world...

Efforts to bring problems at Fukushima under control are not going well, either. Japanese authorities only just recently admitted that nuclear fuel in the three damaged Fukushima reactors has likely burned through the vessels holding it, a scenario called "melt-through", that is even more serious than a core meltdown. Months of spraying seawater on the plant's three melted-down fuel cores -- and the spent fuel stored on site -- to try and cool them has produced 26 million of gallons of radioactive wastewater, and no place to put it.

After a struggle, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), finally managed to put in place a system to filter radioactive particles out of the wastewater, but it broke down soon after it started operating. A filter that was supposed to last a month plugged up with radioactive material after just five hours, indicating there is more radioactive material in the water than previously believed.

Meanwhile, TEPCO is running out of space to store the radioactive water, and may be forced to again dump contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean. TEPCO already dumped some water into the ocean weeks ago, amid protests from fisherman, other countries and environmental organizations. And even if TEPCO does successfully filter the contaminated water and manage to bring its radioactivity down to acceptable levels, the utility will still have to deal with the pile of radioactive sludge the process will produce.

The plan they've come up with to deal with the sludge is to seal it in drums and discard it into the ocean, which may cause even more problems. Greenpeace has already found levels of radiation exceeding legal limits in seaweed and shellfish samples gathered more than 12 miles away from the plant. The high levels of radiation in the samples indicate that leaks from the plant are bigger than TEPCO has revealed so far...

Dahr Jamali: Full Meltdown: Fukushima Called the 'Biggest Industrial Catastrophe in the History of Mankind'"

"Full Meltdown: Fukushima Called the 'Biggest Industrial Catastrophe in the History of Mankind': Scientific experts believe Japan's nuclear disaster to be far worse than governments are revealing to the public by Dahr Jamali, Al Jazeera:
"Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind," Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, told Al Jazeera...

"Fukushima has three nuclear reactors exposed and four fuel cores exposed," he said, "You probably have the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactor cores because of the fuel cores, and they are all in desperate need of being cooled, and there is no means to cool them effectively."

TEPCO has been spraying water on several of the reactors and fuel cores, but this has led to even greater problems, such as radiation being emitted into the air in steam and evaporated sea water - as well as generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive sea water that has to be disposed of.

"The problem is how to keep it cool," says Gundersen. "They are pouring in water and the question is what are they going to do with the waste that comes out of that system, because it is going to contain plutonium and uranium. Where do you put the water?"

Japan's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters finally admitted earlier this month that reactors 1, 2, and 3 at the Fukushima plant experienced full meltdowns.

TEPCO announced that the accident probably released more radioactive material into the environment than Chernobyl, making it the worst nuclear accident on record.

Meanwhile, a nuclear waste advisor to the Japanese government reported that about 966 square kilometres near the power station - an area roughly 17 times the size of Manhattan - is now likely uninhabitable.According to Gundersen, the exposed reactors and fuel cores are continuing to release microns of caesium, strontium, and plutonium isotopes. These are referred to as "hot particles".

"We are discovering hot particles everywhere in Japan, even in Tokyo," he said. "Scientists are finding these everywhere. Over the last 90 days these hot particles have continued to fall and are being deposited in high concentrations. A lot of people are picking these up in car engine air filters."

Radioactive air filters from cars in Fukushima prefecture and Tokyo are now common, and Gundersen says his sources are finding radioactive air filters in the greater Seattle area of the US as well.

The hot particles on them can eventually lead to cancer.

"These get stuck in your lungs or GI tract, and they are a constant irritant," he explained, "One cigarette doesn't get you, but over time they do. These [hot particles] can cause cancer, but you can't measure them with a Geiger counter. Clearly people in Fukushima prefecture have breathed in a large amount of these particles. Clearly the upper West Coast of the US has people being affected. That area got hit pretty heavy in April..."

Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan.

He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.

"Most of the reactors in Japan were designed by US companies who did not care for the effects of earthquakes," Dr Sawada told Al Jazeera. "I think this problem applies to all nuclear power stations across Japan."

Using nuclear power to produce electricity in Japan is a product of the nuclear policy of the US, something Dr Sawada feels is also a large component of the problem.

"Most of the Japanese scientists at that time, the mid-1950s, considered that the technology of nuclear energy was under development or not established enough, and that it was too early to be put to practical use," he explained. "The Japan Scientists Council recommended the Japanese government not use this technology yet, but the government accepted to use enriched uranium to fuel nuclear power stations, and was thus subjected to US government policy..."

Gundersen pointed out that the units are still leaking radiation.

"They are still emitting radioactive gases and an enormous amount of radioactive liquid," he said. "It will be at least a year before it stops boiling, and until it stops boiling, it's going to be cranking out radioactive steam and liquids."

Gundersen worries about more earthquake aftershocks, as well as how to cool two of the units.

"Unit four is the most dangerous, it could topple," he said. "After the earthquake in Sumatra there was an 8.6 [aftershock] about 90 days later, so we are not out of the woods yet. And you're at a point where, if that happens, there is no science for this, no one has ever imagined having hot nuclear fuel lying outside the fuel pool. They've not figured out how to cool units three and four."

Gundersen's assessment of solving this crisis is grim.

"Units one through three have nuclear waste on the floor, the melted core, that has plutonium in it, and that has to be removed from the environment for hundreds of thousands of years," he said. "Somehow, robotically, they will have to go in there and manage to put it in a container and store it for infinity, and that technology doesn't exist. Nobody knows how to pick up the molten core from the floor, there is no solution available now for picking that up from the floor."
Read the rest of Jamali's article here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Call for Nominees: 2011 Yayori Awards seek to honor activists, artists, journalists working on women’s issues worldwide

The organizing committee for the Yayori Awards is pleased to announce that nomination forms are now available for the 2011 competition.

The Yayori Awards were created through the final will and funds of the late Yayori Matsui, a well-known journalist, feminist/human rights activist, and founder of the Asia-Japan Women’s Resource Center (AJWRC). Her profile may be accessed here.

The Yayori Awards are presented during each competition round in two separate categories:

1) The Women's Human Rights Activities Award (commonly referred to as the Yayori Award) is presented to a grassroots-level woman activist, journalist, or artist (either an individual or group) who works with socially marginalized peoples to solve serious social issues in Asia and other regions, and whose work helps to create a 21st century free from war and discrimination against women.

Nomination forms for this award must be submitted in English. Self-nominations will not be accepted.

2) The Yayori Journalist Award is presented to a woman journalist or artist (either an individual or group) who vividly portrays the situation of women from a global gender perspective. Self-nominations for this award are acceptable. Since the nominee’s future work shall be subject to publication in Japanese, all submissions must be in the Japanese language.

Winners in both categories will receive a certificate and a monetary award in the amount of 500,000 yen. In the event that multiple awardees are selected for the Yayori Journalist Award,the money will be divided amongst all recipients.

The organizing committee is seeking nominations from around the world for both awards, and will send printed leaflets upon request. The deadline for this year’s competition is August 25, 2011.

Detailed information regarding the awards, including a leaflet, nomination forms, and list of past award recipients are all available on the Yayori Award website.

Past winners have included a group of women working to bring justice to victims of sexual violence committed during the civil war in Guatemala, a feminist photojournalist from Nepal working on issues of peace and human rights, and numerous others doing important work for empowerment and justice at the grassroots level. The Japan Times did a feature story on the 2008 Yayori Journalist Award winner's work on the fight against nuclear power plants in a Japanese town.

[See this previous post at Ten Thousand Things for a description of the 2010 Yayori Award winners and their work for human rights.]

Mikiko Ishihara
Secretariat of the Committee for the Yayori Award
C/O Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center,
14-10-211, Sakuragaoka, Shibuyaku, Tokyo
150-0031 Japan
Tel: 81 3 3780 5245
Fax: 81 3 3463 9752

Monday, June 20, 2011

Iejima, birthplace of Okinawan resistance

As the governor and citizens of Okinawa face the latest military threat to their quality of life and safety (planned deployment of accident-prone V-22 Osprey transport aircraft for low-level flight training in Futenma), Jon Mitchell's article exploring  the origins of Okinawan resistance to the U.S. military human rights and property rights violations brings home the longevity of the  Okinawan struggle  for freedom from the military violence throughout their islands.

In 1955, 300 US soldiers with rifles and bulldozers dragged women and children from their beds, destroyed their homes and slaughtered their goats after they refused to voluntarily leave their farms in Iejima, one of Okinawa prefecture's small islands, to make way for a U.S. bombing range. When the forcibly removed farmers were allowed to return after incarceration for resisting the seizures of their homes and farms, the soldiers forced them to live in tents on barren land. With no crops, they foraged on the margins of the bombing range for shrapnel to sell for scrap, where soldiers shot at them. Despite these atrocities, Iejima's farmers refused to succumb to demoralization and defeat.

Leader Shoko Ahagon drew up policies inspired by Gandhi to guide their political action: nonviolent resistance and mass demonstrations. This resulted in some concessions and the prevention of U.S. deployment of nuclear missiles on the island in 1966. Ahagon is now known as the founder of the Okinawan civil rights movement:
Iejima: an island of resistance: Jon Mitchell traces the roots of Okinawa's civil rights movement


During the 30-minute ferry ride from Motobu on mainland Okinawa, Iejima reveals itself in stages. First, Mount Tacchu emerges above the waves like a chunk of the peanut brittle for which the island is renowned. Next, the wind-blown scent of countless thousands of hibiscuses sweetens the stink of the ship's diesel engines. Finally, swaths of sugar cane come into view — followed by khaki-green tobacco fields and white sand beaches flanking the island's southern shores.

Man of peace: Shoko Ahagon, father of Okinawa's civil rights movement, is seen in this poster welcoming visitors to the Treasure House of Life museum.

Without question, Iejima is a beautiful place — but dig a little deeper and you soon realize that, beneath its rich red soil, there lies an awful lot of suffering.

Most visitors are well aware of the savage fighting that raged on and around the island during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Some tourists pose for photographs next to a monument that marks the spot where Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. war correspondent Ernie Pyle lost his life on April 18, 1945, while others clamber through the shattered ruins of the island's former pawn shop.

However, judging by the lack of names in the visitor book of the Treasure House of Life museum, very few people know about the second American invasion of Iejima — the one that occurred in 1955.

"Here on the island, we don't use the phrase 'postwar,' " explains Shoko Jahana, the museum's caretaker. "For us, it is as though we are still living in a war zone."

In the barracks-like museum, photographs chronicle the underhanded way in which, 56 years ago, the U.S. military went about transforming the western half of Iejima into an aerial bombing range.

With all of Okinawa under U.S. administration, the authorities started by tricking the landowners into signing voluntary evacuation papers, Jahana says. But then, when some families refused to leave, 300 U.S. soldiers with rifles and bulldozers dragged women and children from their beds, tore down their homes and slaughtered their goats.

"That's when Ahagon-sensei decided to act," says Jahana, pointing to a large poster of a smiling man with a tanned face.

Shoko Ahagon — the father of the Okinawan civil rights movement — was not your average farmer. As a young man, he converted to Christianity and went to Cuba to seek his fortune. Returning to Iejima, he'd embarked upon a temperance campaign. His experiences of talking the island's hard-drinking menfolk into abandoning their awamori spirits would prepare him well for his bid to persuade the Americans to return their land.

Inspired by Gandhi's principles of passive resistance to British rule in India, Ahagon drew up a list of policies for the farmers in their dealings with the military. These included the need to stay calm and retain faith in the inherent good of individual Americans. These policies are painted in big letters on the museum's wall — and they continue to inspire Okinawa-wide struggles against the presence of U.S. bases.

Another tactic still influential today is the organization of mass demonstrations. In July 1955, Ahagon led the displaced farmers on a seven-month circuit of the Okinawan mainland in order to inform people of their mistreatment. At a time when the United States kept the Okinawan press strictly censored, this "Beggars' March" won the farmers much-needed publicity for their plight — yet the U.S. military remained unmoved.

Upon their return to Iejima, the farmers were forced to live in tents on the barren land to which they'd been relocated. With their crops gone, they resorted to foraging on the margins of the bombing range for shrapnel to sell for scrap. The museum's photographs show the tragic consequences of such desperate actions — farmers were shot by American soldiers, maimed by stray bullets or blown limbless as they attempted to defuse unexploded ordnance.

Despite these atrocities, Ahagon and the farmers never gave up on their appeals to the conscience of the U.S. military.

Over the years, this unrelenting pressure bore fruit — their vigilance prevented the islanders from suffering the crimes so common elsewhere on Okinawa, and they won the right to farm their fields when the range was not in use. "But even today," explains Jahana, "about 30 percent of Iejima remains under U.S. control."

After leaving the museum, I head to the island's west coast in order to see for myself the American base. While the military has moved its live ammunition drills elsewhere, it continues to use the installation to practice parachute drops — and barbed-wire fences cordon off a massive expanse of Iejima's most fertile farming land. Outside the base, in the ashes of a farmer's bonfire, I spot charred cartridges and the tail fin of a rocket — reminders of the bitter harvest some islanders died collecting.

A short walk away stands an A-framed building with freshly painted slogans on its walls. This is the hut from where Ahagon and the farmers used to ensure that the Americans' exercises did not stray beyond the confines of the base — and it was from here that, in 1966, they staged a successful campaign to prevent the U.S. military from installing nuclear-armed Nike missiles on the island.

Recalling the museum's photographs of this hut packed full with demonstrators, I peer through the building's windows. Its newly painted exterior proves deceptive — inside, the room is thick with dust and looks abandoned to the spiders.

Behind me, an elderly farmer pulls up on his tractor. When he finds out I've just come from the museum, he tells me he used to know Ahagon well. "Ahagon-sensei dedicated his whole life to the islanders of Iejima. He was a hero," he declares.
Read the entire article, and see more of Jon Mitchell's photos at The Japan Times.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Filmmaker Hitomi Kamanaka on the effects of nuclear weapons & nuclear energy plants

Interview with filmmaker Hitomi Kamanaka featured in "Atomic Mom" (a documentary about two mothers: a scientist who facilitated the US nuclear bomb program and a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing).

In this clip filmed shortly after 3/11,  prophetic filmmaker Hitomi Kamanaka talks about her trilogy of documentaries exploring the effects of nuclear weapons and energy industry on the lives of people worldwide.

They include Hibakusha at the End of the World (about victims of nuclear radiation exposure from Japan (nuclear bombings) to Iraq (depleted uranium) to the US (nuclear test bombings), also called Radiation: A Slow Death), Rokkasho-mura Rhapsody, about the decrepit nuclear reprocessing (plutonium) plant at the northeastern tip of Tohoku, and Ashes to Honey, about local residents' and environmentalists' 30-year resistance to the planned Kaminoseki nuclear plant in the Inland Sea National Park.

Kamanaka concludes by predicting the revival of active grassroots democratic participation in Japan. (The mass protests of the Hydrangea Revolution are not new to Japan. In the late 1950's and 1960's, millions of Japanese people from all walks of life demonstrated against the US-Japan Security Treaty (ANPO) which allowed the US to maintain nuclear weapons and military bases in the mainland Japan and Okinawa. The impetus behind this earlier movement was the same as today's: the desire to live a nuclear-free, peaceful life. Despite the protests from all sectors of Japanese society, Prime Minister Kishi rammed ANPO through parliament; it was during this same period that the first nuclear power plant in Japan (Tokai) was built in the 1960's in Ibaraki.)


Hitomi Kamanaka's website:

 "Complicity and Victimhood: Director Kamanaka Hitomi's Nuclear Warnings" published at The Asia-Pacific Journal last year.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Citizens in Japan take proactive action as Fukushima radiation threats loom; ask for international support in signing petition, e-mailing officials

13 min. video showing highlights of Saturday 6/11 video in Shinjuku, Tokyo (shorter video may be watched here).

This past Saturday June 11th, which marked exactly three months since eastern Japan was struck in rapid succession by a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, citizens gathered in cities and towns the world over in impassioned demonstrations to let their government officials know in no uncertain terms that the era of nuclear power is over.

The event, known collectively as 6.11 Anti Nukes Day, included solidarity demonstrations held in Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, Taiwan and the United States. In cities across Japan, the demonstrations were of course particularly poignant given the ongoing uncertainty of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Several events were held in the nation’s capital of Tokyo alone, where the largest drew some 20,000 people to the central district of Shinjuku in a pulsing, unbarred, and at times raucous expression of emotion.

On one hand, recent weeks have seen several positive developments that are being cautiously celebrated, including the shutdown of the Hamaoka nuclear plant (dubbed the “world’s most dangerous”), the increasing likelihood that plans will be scrapped for the Kaminoseki nuclear facility, and Prime Minister Kan’s announcement of Japan’s serious commitment to alternative energies within the nation’s future energy policy. Unanswered questions continue to percolate, however, regarding the issue of Fukushima’s fallout (both literal and otherwise) underneath the surface of mainstream public discourse, which seems to have forgotten about the crisis altogether as daily life has shifted back to “normal”.

This state of collective denial seems exactly the way that officialdom in Japan wants to keep things, judging by the number of baton-wielding police officers sent out to cover Saturday’s event—which far surpassed what would have been necessary for the ostensible purpose of “traffic control”. When I arrived for the evening portion of the Shinjuku demonstration, I was stunned to be greeted by an ocean of blue cop uniforms literally as far as I could see. This served two purposes: first, making the general public unaware of what was actually happening, since several layers of officers were surrounding the demonstrators, thereby blocking the action from view (and making it inaccessible to would-be participants); and second, giving the impression that whatever was going on was so “dangerous” as to necessitate such intense police coverage.

When I was finally able to join the event—after taking a circuitous route and ducking in between cops to reach it— I found instead a chilled-out atmosphere including a reggae singer performing anti-nuke songs atop a sound truck, people waving creative signs and handing out flyers, and others holding candles in silence. It was a peaceful, artistic and inspiring gathering—and the average passerby did not even know that it was going on.

Illustrated downloadable information guide for first-time protest-goers, also available via the website of Hajime Matsumoto, who runs the Shiroto no ran ("Amateur Revolt") shop and social collective in the Tokyo neighborhood of Koenji where 15,000 people gathered in April for an anti-nuke demonstration that he organized.

Among the many other Japanese cities hosting demonstrations on Saturday was Koriyama in Fukushima prefecture, where Tokyo resident Hideaki Matsuura decided to offer support to those who have been facing the disaster more intimately. “I thought the demo would be quite big since Koriyama has suffered significant radiation damage, but I was surprised to see that there were only around two or three hundred people there—and further shocked to see that almost no one was wearing face masks,” he told me. “During speech time, however, people gave very moving appeals about how their lives have been damaged, and how they and their families continue to fear for their safety.”

He also told me that he spoke after the event with a woman who described the culture of silence and complicity that continues to reign in Fukushima whereby people are culturally obliged to follow their elders—most of whom get their information from the mainstream media rather than the internet, and thereby believe the official assurances that radiation from the plant is “safe.” As a result, she said, anyone who goes against this prevailing logic—by wearing a mask, for example, or expressing a desire to move to a safer area—risks bullying and/or ostracization from the community.

An international collective known as “Todos Somos Japon: Fissures in the Planetary Apparatus” organized following the 3.11 disaster released a statement in support of the June 11th demonstrations in Japan that included the following:
Our thoughts should go especially to the women of Japan who, we are told, are those who are most strongly opposed to the government propaganda about patriotism and sacrifice. We understand they are struggling to resist this suicidal logic, which demands their families consume radioactive products to show the world that all is well in this country and a nuclear disaster is something we can live with. Their struggle is our struggle and their resistance needs our support.
Indeed, with official information non-forthcoming regarding the actual level of dangers, average citizens have had to take matters into their own hands in order to protect their safety and livelihoods. A friend of mine who is an organic farmer and surfer living along the coast of Chiba prefecture—which lies due south of Fukushima—has purchased a Geiger counter, as have many other farmers, in order to regulate the levels of radiation that may be affecting her fields. “I moved away from the city because I wanted a more natural lifestyle, but as soon as my dream was achieved, we suddenly had to begin living with all the fears and unknowns of radiation,” she lamented. “As a surfer, the idea of having to stay away from the ocean is unthinkable. Due to the real possibility of radiation contamination, however, I and most other surfers I know try to limit the time spent in the water—and then make sure we are living healthy lifestyles in order to limit any potential negative effects to our health.”

“In fact, this whole scare has made me appreciate the ocean—as well as life itself—even more deeply,” she added. “If it becomes too dangerous I may eventually have to move elsewhere, but I love living here and will do everything in my power to stay.”

The internet has been a powerful ally to citizens in Japan who seek to bypass official media channels in order to find and share information regarding what is actually happening with regard to the ongoing nuclear disaster. With the installation of a live webcam aimed directly at the Fukushima Daichi plant, for example, citizens are now able to monitor the situation and send out alerts via e-mail and Twitter when—as happened last week, for example—smoke was seen being emitted from one of its reactors.

A message that has recently been circulating around the Japanese Twittersphere calling for action reads as follows:
Here are a few examples of what is happening now in Japan:

1. The Japanese government allows fresh food to be on the market although it contains radiation 20-30 times higher than the global safety standard.

2. The Japanese government does not do anything even with food that contains radiation higher than Japanese safety standards.

3. The Japanese government does not inform its citizens of the results of the seafood radiation investigation, and does not allow Green Peace to conduct a thorough investigation of the sea environment around Japan.

4. According to UK researchers, more than 400,000 additional cancers will occur within the next 50 years on account of the radiation if no preventive efforts take place.

5. Air dose levels of radiation do not reflect the actual doses. Official air doses are half or quarter of the actual doses.

6. The Japanese government insists that 20mSv/year is safe for children at a school yard. The amount is 20 times higher than previous safety standards.

7. Data and information about Fukushima has been hidden, although radioactive particles keep spilling into the water and air every day.

8. Several millions of residents who evacuated from the area surrounding Fukushima still live in public buildings,gymnasiums, and such. There is no plan for them yet.

9. Several millions of Geiger counters donated by foreign counties are sitting, unused, in a warehouse.

Please send an email about these issues to the following Japanese officials:

Mr. Naoto Kan, prime minister (for all of the above):

Mr. Hosokawa, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (Points

Mr. Takagi, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Points 5, 6):

Mr. Kaieda, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Points 7, 8)

Mr. Matsumoto, Foreign Ministry (Point 9):

Please urge them to:

1) Conform to global standards on radiation safety in terms of food, water, and the environment

2) Check radiation levels in the air and water, and on the ground, which are more suitable to protect human life

3) Make all updated radiation information easily available to everyone

4) Disclose information and data regarding the Fukushima plant to Japanese and also the world

5) Take appropriate care of residents who have evacuated and who want to evacuate from Fukushima prefecture

6) Utilize the Geiger counters and other resources donated from foreign countries
Itsumi Kakefuda, a researcher with the Digital Human Research Center (affiliated with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial science and Technology), who translated the above appeal into English, said this with regard to fears among parents in Fukushima/Tokyo:
While different from the PTSD that is occurring within the afflicted areas, many parents of schoolchildren in the Tokyo metropolitan are also expressing fear, anger, and anxiety because of the confusion and lack of information. Clearly, the fundamental problem is the government and TEPCO, because of their horrible crisis communication. Sometimes this stress turns into cognitive/emotional overload, which can then lead instead to denial. Many interpersonal conflicts have also been increasing between those who are extremely concerned and are calling for action, vs. those who have chosen not to worry about the situation.
Others challenging the official line that radiation is safe and harmless are many artists and musicians, including Rankin’ Taxi, who performed at last Saturday’s gathering in Shinjuku. The group teamed up with the Ainu Dub band for the powerful “You Can’t See It and You Can’t Smell It Either," that minces no words (nor images) in its criticism of nuclear power and the handling of the Fukushima crisis:

Internationally renowned author Haruki Murakami delivered a speech last week in Barcelona upon receipt of the Catalonia International Prize wherein he interrogated the values of “efficiency” and “convenience” that he argues led to the Fukushima crisis via Japan’s passive acceptance of nuclear power. He then went on to poignantly challenge human beings across the globe to together create a future that instead prioritizes life and humanity. An English translation of Murakami’s speech is available at the “A Daily Life in Uptown Tokyo” blog .

Further information on what actually occurred at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the days and weeks following the crisis, which went unreported in establishment news for months, is available in CNN interviews with physicist Dr. Michio Kaku and nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson.

For more on radiation and precautions against its potential negative effects, see thes essays from herbalist Ingrid Naiman and this lecture by Kyoto University Professor Hiroaki Koide.

Additional reports on Saturday’s demonstrations across Japan may be read in the New York Times and Tokyo Progressive. Paul Jobin's "Dying for TEPCO? Japan's Nuclear Contract Workers" published at The Asia-Pacific Journal providess disturbing insight into the top-down workings of the nuclear power system as it plays out in Japan, and Dahr Jamail's "Fukushima: It's Worse Than You Think" at Al Jazeera online powerfully discusses the Fukushima disaster in its historical context.

Your signing a petition to stop the remaining nuclear reactors in Japan and a transition to clean, safe energy sources would be greatly appreciated. It may be accessed here.

- Kimberly Hughes

KJ: Sulak Sivaraksa on July 24 at Chionji Temple

Via Kyoto Journal on FB, Sulak Sivaraksa in Kyoto:
One to put in the diary: An Engaged Buddhist, activist and recipient of the 2011 Niwano Peace Prize, Sulak Sivaraksa from Thailand is giving a talk on "Creating a post-3/11" at Chionji Temple on Monday 24th July at 2pm. Doors open 1:30 tickets Y1500.
People seeking to live spiritually must be concerned with their social and physical environment. To be truly religious is not to reject society but to work for social justice and change.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Small is Inevitable: Shift from Consumption-Driven to Sustainable Paradigm

John Einarsen's In the Realm of the Bicycle is not only poetic; it is prophetic.

Firmin DeBrabander's "The Green Revolution Backfires: Sweden’s Lesson for Real Sustainability" published June 10 brings us counterintuitive news that Sweden's greenhouse emissions have increased since Stockholm began pushing electric and hybrid cars because people are driving them more.

The philosopher's conclusion: we cannot save the world by "greening" old habits. The only solution: reduce, even stop driving cars.

The consumption-driven "American Dream" (oversized cars and houses) has turned out to be an environmentally disastrous "World Nightmare" model that can no longer be pushed onto developing countries if the world is to survive: DeBrabander notes that we must shift to a reverse direction, making less developed societies the new paradigm:
American industry hungrily targets the rising Chinese consumer class. For the sake of the planet, we better hope it doesn’t get its way. Consider: China currently has a car ownership rate approximately one-sixth that of the US. If China achieves car ownership rates comparable to the US, that would put an additional 800 million cars on the road. And that’s just China. Even if we somehow succeeded in making China’s fleet super efficient, it would still be more than the planet can handle.
More on this inevitable shift from "Seeking a Cultural Revolution: From Consumerism to Sustainability" by Matthew Berger at Inter Press Service last year:
The last 50 years have seen an unprecedented and unsustainable spike in consumption, driven by a culture of consumerism that has emerged over that period, says a report released Tuesday by the Worldwatch Institute.

This consumerist culture is the elephant in the room when it comes to solving the big environmental issues of today, the report says, and those issues cannot be fully solved until a transition to a more sustainable culture is begun.

"State of the World 2010" subtitled "Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability" tries to chart a path away from what Worldwatch president Christopher Flavin calls "the consumer culture that has taken hold probably first in the U.S. and now in country after country over the past century, so that we can now talk about a global consumerist culture that has become a powerful force around the world."

In this culture, says the book-length report, people find meaning and contentment in what they consume, but this cultural orientation has had huge implications for society and the planet. The average U.S. citizens, for instance, consumes more each day, in terms of mass, than they weigh. If everyone lived like this, the Earth could only sustain 1.4 billion people...

"In India and China, for instance, the consumer culture of the U.S. and Western Europe is not only being replicated but being replicated on a much vaster scale," Flavin says.

Consumption has risen sixfold since 1960, the report says, citing World Bank statistics. Even taking the rising global population into account, this amounts to a tripling of consumption expenditures per person over this time. This has led to similar increases in the amount of resources used – a sixfold increase in metals extracted from the earth, eightfold in oil consumption and 14-fold in natural gas consumption.

"In total, 60 billion tons of resources are now extracted annually – about 50 percent more than just 30 years ago," the report says.

Escalating resource consumption has also led to unsustainable systems of distributing and producing those resources. In the field of agriculture, for instance, every one dollar spent on a typical U.S. food item yields only about seven cents for the farmer, while 73 cents goes to distribution, says the report's chapter on shifting to a more sustainable agriculture system.

It points to this as one outcome of increasingly unsustainable consumption habits. These habits have formed only recently – the same dollar yielded 40 cents for the farmer in 1900 – but they have now become ingrained, it says.

This consumption is based on more than individual choices. As co-author Michael Maniates says, "We're not stupid, we're not ignorant, we don't even have bad values."

Rather, we are acting under the heavy influence of cultural conventions that influence our behaviour by making things like fast food, air conditioning and suburban living feel increasingly "natural" and more difficult to imagine living without, he says.

To prevent future environmental damage, "policy alone will not be enough. A dramatic shift in the very design of human societies will be essential," says the report...Most of the report, in fact, discusses action that has been and can be taken to shift the cultural paradigm, rather than the damage the current paradigm has done.

The 244-page report cites a wide variety of examples such as the enshrining of the rights of nature into Ecuador's constitution and schools pushing children to think more sustainably by giving them healthy, locally-grown lunches and encouraging them to walk or bike to class...

The report also points to the roles different societal institutions can play in spurring cultural shifts. Among these, religion, government, the media, businesses and education all have key roles to play. Taken separately, their efforts might seem small, admits Assadourian, but taken together they can effect real change.

"Keep in mind that consumerism had its beginning only two centuries ago and really accelerated in the last 50 years... With deliberate effort we can replace consumerism with sustainability just as quickly as we traded home-cooked meals for Happy Meals and neighbourhood parks for shopping malls," he says, alluding to the tenuousness of what appear to be deep and solid cultural roots.

"Eventually consumerism will buckle under its own impossibility," predicts Assadourian. We can either act proactively to replace it with a more sustainable cultural model or wait for something else to fill the void, he says...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

John Einarsen: In the Realm of the Bicycle

John Einarsen says this about his new book of photographs:
Each encounter I had with a member of this vast race revealed an individual with a personality all its own, the result of a history at once common and mysterious. Inevitably, I came to see them as they really were: creatures who populated the niches and nooks and corners and alleys of neighborhoods and streets and lives....

Most of the images in the book were taken in Kyoto over the years.
Cycle Kyoto adds this note:
Each photo in In the Realm of the Bicycle is a haiku, a brief fleeting moment that contains a larger truth.
To view a sample some of the pages, go to:

John Einarsen is the founding editor & art director of Kyoto Journal, an iconic English-language quarterly that emerged from Kyoto during the 1980's, about to embark a new incarnation online.

The cover is by Tiery Le.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death & evil

Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.

- Dr. Martin Luther King quoting historian Arnold Toynbee

Japan's Toll Update: Deaths, Missing, Homeless, Without Electricity or Running Water,

Reuters on June 11, 2011:
... An asterisk indicates a new or updated entry.

DEATH TOLL * A total of 15,405 people were confirmed dead by Japan's National Police Agency as of Friday, while 8,095 were missing.

NUMBER OF PEOPLE EVACUATED * About 90,109 people were in shelters around the country as of Friday, the National Police Agency said.

The government has also set up an evacuation area around Tokyo Electric Power Co's quake-stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, with a 20-km (12-mile) radius. More than 70,000 people lived in the largely rural area within the 20 km zone. It is unclear how many of them have been evacuated, but most are believed to have left.

Another 136,000 people, who live within a zone extending a further 10 km, have been advised to stay indoors. The government has also asked people to leave certain areas beyond the 20 km exclusion zone around the plant because of accumulated radiation contamination, and that children, pregnant women, and hospitalised patients should stay out of some areas 20-30 km from the nuclear complex.

HOUSEHOLDS WITHOUT ELECTRICITY * The March 11 quake and tsunami initially left millions of households in the northeast without electricity, but as of June 3 the number of homes without power had declined to 121, Tohoku Electric Power Co said.

HOUSEHOLDS WITHOUT WATER * At least 58,000 households in three prefectures were without running water as of Friday, the Health Ministry said.

NUMBER OF BUILDINGS DAMAGED * At least 111,414 buildings have been fully destroyed, washed away or burnt down, the National Police Agency of Japan said as of Friday.The government estimates the material damage from the quake and tsunami alone could top $300 billion, making it by far the world's costliest natural disaster.

The top estimate would make it the world's costliest natural disaster...

Japan's government approved in April a 4 trillion yen ($49 billion) emergency budget for disaster relief in without resorting to new borrowing.

* But it is bracing for heavier reconstruction spending later this year that could amount to 10-15 trillion yen which will require issuing new bonds and, eventually, raising taxes.

NUMBER OF COUNTRIES OFFERING AID * According to the Foreign Ministry, 159 countries and 43 international organisations have offered assistance. ($1 = 80.330 Japanese Yen) (Compiled by Tokyo Political and General News Team)
Many of these countries and NGOs offered assistance without requiring payment from Japanese citizens. Read the entire article here.

New Japan Women's Association & War Resisters League: End U.S. Base Payments from Japan and Remove U.S. Bases

A request from the New Japan Women's Association and the War Resisters League: "End U.S. Base Payments from Japan and Remove U.S. Bases":
As the people of Japan are facing a nuclear crisis second only to the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in Ukraine and a future of uncertainty about the impacts of radiation in Japan, support a call by Shinfujin (the New Japan Women's Association) to demand that the U.S. government relieve Japan of its close to $1.6 billion in yearly payments to the U.S. to "host" U.S. military bases in their country.

The Japanese people need these resources for their own recovery from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that killed over 13,000 people and left 150,000 people without homes. Take action to write your Congressperson and President Obama and ask them to relieve the Japanese of their payments to the U.S. war machine and to remove all U.S. military bases from Japan.

The War Resisters League affirms that war is a crime against humanity. We therefore are determined not to support any kind of war, international or civil, and to strive nonviolently for the removal of all causes of war, including racism, sexism and all forms of exploitation.
At the urging of Washington during the Cold War, Tokyo, in contradiction to its pacifist Constitution, built up a vast defensive military to protect the archipelago from invasions and attacks. Tokyo is one of the top military spenders in the world; and, also at the urging of Washington, has contributed financially to U.S. wars in East Asia and Central Asia.

Since the Cold War, according to Japan scholars of "Reverse Course" (the shift during and after the U.S. Occupation of Japan from democratization to transforming Japan into a U.S.-managed Far Eastern bulwark against the USSR and communist China), Washington hawks with ties to military industries have pushed Tokyo militarists (includinng direct descendants of WWII-era militarists put back into power with CIA assistance) to abandon Japan's pacifist constitution. Michael Schaller in "America's Favorite War Criminal: Kishi Nobusuke and the Transformation of U.S.-Japan Relations" writes:
Evidence in a variety of open and still classified U.S. government documents strongly indicates that early in 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, making what he and his aides earlier called a "big bet," authorized the CIA to provide secret campaign funds to Japanese Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke--formerly an accused war criminal--and selected members of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Of course, these influences ought not be equated with Liberal Democratic Party (members of the LDP have supported Article 9, the Peace Clause of the Japanese Constitution at great political cost); but instead with elements in the Japanese bureaucracy which indicated their presence during the Hatoyama administion. They obstructed the idealistic former prime minister's promise to stop new U.S. military construction in Okinawa and efforts to use diplomatic rather than military responses to conflicts in East Asia.

The end goal of remilitarists is to make way for increased Japanese taxpayer spending on U.S. military products and U.S. wars; to allow Japanese military industries to partner with U.S. military industries to produce weapons for export; and to send Japanese soldiers to fight in U.S. war zones. Japanese citizens pay for most the costs of 90-100 U.S. military installations throughout Japan, except for the salaries of U.S. troops.

The 3/11 triple tsunami/earthquake/triple nuclear meltdown disaster is set to break the record as the world's costliest disaster.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Messages from Henoko, Okinawa

See Martin Frid's eco-blog Kurashi for coverage of Japan-wide June 11 anti-nukes events

Picnic-Demo in Sapporo

Follow Martin Frid's eco-blog Kurashi for English-language coverage of Japan-wide June 11 anti-nukes events:
I can't count the number of anti-nuclear demonstrations going on today all over Japan.

There are 2 big events in Tokyo, there is a "Peace Walking" parade in Date, Fukushima, as well as large events in Sapporo, Fukuoka and Yokohama. And many more places - I'm following a few of them as they use Twitter and upload photos. Live-blogging from your event? Let me know!

Those who have organized anti-nuclear protests in Tokyo and the organizations called e-shift and Fukushima Genpatsu Jiko Kinkyu Kaigi (Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Emergency Congress) are jointly calling citizens of not just Japan but the world for the action against nuclear power on the day of the three-month-anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster.

What is “e-shift”? (A society to fulfill denuclearization and new energy policy):

In the wake of the nuclear accident at Fukushima 1st plant on March 11, 2011, this society was established with groups and people who decided to fulfill denuclearization and the natural energy-oriented sustainable energy policy.

1. “Minimization of accident damage” and “Clarification where responsibility lies”

2. “Creation of recommendations for denuclearization and sustainable energy policy” and “Fulfillment of the recommendations”

3. “Transmission of valuable information to citizens “ and “Creation of social movements”

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ainu and Okinawan Human Rights- UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommendations to Japan

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discimination meeting at the UN (Photo courtesy of the International Movement against all Forms Discrinination and Racism)

The Japanese government has been receiving increasing criticism for its policies towards the indigenous people of Japan. Just last week, the Shimin Gaiko Centre (Citizens' Diplomatic Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) submitted a report to the United Nations Forum on Indigenous Issues, detailing the abuses of Ainu and Okinawan human rights by governmental plans to build an industrial waste disposal site on sacred Ainu land in Monbetsu, and to construct new bases in Okinawa.

Furthermore, in February 2010, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) also submitted a report on Japan. Based on CERD's findings, they recommended:
  1. The establishment of a national human rights institute
  2. The observance of the indigenous rights of the Ainu people
  3. The engagement in consultation with Okinawan representatives to promote their rights
In March 2011, a year after the recommendations were made, the Japanese government submitted a document in response. While acknowledging the need for a national human rights institution and the insufficiency of current efforts to prevent and handle human rights infringements, the Japanese government has yet to initiate the drafting of legislation on the matter.

Japan reports that the Meeting for the Promotion of Ainu Policies will ensure the respect of Ainu rights as guaranteed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP):
In order to promote policies by sincerely listening to the opinions of the Ainu people, five of fourteen members of the Meeting for the Promotion of Ainu Policies were appointed from among the Ainu people. Each working group is also making efforts to reflect the Ainu people’s opinions in the policies through their participation. In addition, two prominent scholars of international human rights law participate in the Meeting as well.
There are more Ainu people included in these policy meetings than ever before. Previous expert panels on Ainu policy have included only 1 Ainu person or none at all. However, each working group has the participation of two Ainu people each making the majority of each group non-Ainu. While the " two prominent scholars" are key members of both groups, one Ainu participant is left out of both of the working groups entirely.

The working groups are focusing on the establishment of a "symbolic space for ethnic harmony" and conducting "survey of the living conditions of the Ainu people outside Hokkaido." A multitude of pressing issues covered by UNDRIP, including the Ainu right to control their education, are completely neglected. Therefore, the Japan Society for the Study of Adult and Community Education is currently researching the issues surrounding education for other indigenous peoples in Japan. The Shimin Gaiko Gaikou Centre further analyzed the workings of the Meeting in their response to the Japanese government's comments on CERD:
While the Meeting for the Promotion of Ainu Policies stresses that it refers to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it has not clearly indicated which paragraphs of the Declaration are taken into considerations, and how these are reflected in their work. Looking into the substantial work of the Meeting, we have not found any essential parts of the Declaration that have been being reflected in its work. Now, the two working groups are have almost reached their own conclusion, however, it is hard to say that the Meeting takes into consideration the various voices of the Ainu living in and out of Hokkaido in their promotion work, and its transparency and representation is still questionable.

We recommend that the Meeting for the Promotion of Ainu Policies or future successive agency of the Meeting has a structure in place to reflect the various voices of the Ainu and allows the Ainu to take their own initiatives in the work of the Meeting.

The Shimin Gaiko Centre also notes that the government has yet to set up a third working group in accordance with the CERD recommendations.

In addition to recommendations based on UNDRIP, CERD also urged Japan to ratify the International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 which specifically covers indigenous and tribal rights. Japan responded that it can not ratify the convention because some provisions are "not consistent with the legal system of Japan." Japan specifically noted: Article 9- respecting the customs of indigenous people in penal matters; and Article 10- giving preference to indigenous methods of punishment other than confinement in prison for indigenous peoples. Japan argues ILO No. 169 would permit the unequal treatment of Japanese citizens. In response, the Shimin Gaiko Centre recommends:
the Government list up all provisions contained in the Constitution, laws and systems that are not consistent with the provisions contained in ILO No. 169, and study how such provisions could be revised so that Japan ratifies ILO Convention No. 169. In doing so, it is recommended that the government conduct a consultation with the Ainu Peoples and Ryukyu/Okinawa Peoples to examine which provisions of the ILO Convention need to be implemented. It is very unrealistic that the Ainu and Ryukyu/Okinawa Peoples request the implementation of Article 9 and 10.
Should the Japanese government follow these recommendations, ILO No. 169 could be ratified with revisions.

Finally, in respect to recognizing the rights of the Okinawan people, the government responded by detailing the actions it has taken on a governmental level to develop the economy of Okinawa, arguing that the Japanese Constitution guarantees the rights of Okinawan people. Shimin Gaiko Centre notes that taking actions only on a governmental level will not ensure Okinawan rights are respected:
In its follow-up information submitted to CERD, the government limited itself to explaining only about its Okinawa promotion measures in the legal and institutional framework, which, according to their explanation, are based on the intentions and interests of the Okinawa prefectural government. CERD, however, encourages a wide range of consultations with Okinawan representatives. It is inadequate and insufficient to guarantee the human rights of the Okinawan people only by responding to what the Okinawa prefectural and municipal governments have requested.

We recommend that in addressing the structural discrimination against the people of Okinawa, the Japanese Government guarantee the rights of the Okinawan people in the context of CERD.

Japan has an obligation to ensure that the Ainu and Okinawan people are fully represented in policy deliberations and that their rights are respected. By following the recommendations of the Shimin Gaiko Centre it can be possible to overcome the institutional exclusion of their voices.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ainu and Okinawan Human Rights- United Nations Forum on indigenous issues

The tenth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues convened at the United Nations Headquarters, New York from the 16th to 27th of May. Shimin Gaikou Centre (Citizens' Diplomatic Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) vice president, Makiko Kimura, on behalf of her organization, Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact, Forest Peoples’ Programme, Citizens' Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa, No Helipad Takae Resident Society, and Mo-pet Sanctuary Network, submitted a collective statement to the forum.

These organizations urge the Japanese government to fully realize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and address human rights violations against the Ainu and Okinawan communities. Japan ratified UNDRIP in 2007, and subsequently recognized the Ainu people as the indigenous people of Japan, but does not recognize the indigeneity of the Okinawan people despite UN recommendations.

The report addresses how the government of Japan has violated Articles 29 and 32 of UNDRIP by authorizing projects which affect the lands and/or resources of indigenous peoples (including Okinawans) without "free, prior and informed consent" of the indigenous inhabitants. The report highlights a proposed industrial waste facility project in Monbetsu, Hokkaido, and the (de)construction which will result from the proposal of a new U.S. military base and helipads in Okinawa. The organizations request the direct intervention of the Special Rapporteur to the forum to halt further construction and ensure the establishment of a system by which the Ainu and Okinawans must provide free, prior, and informed consent before such projects are authorized.

Monbetsu City is the site of a sacred river for the Ainu people. Its original name in the Ainu language is Mo-pet, meaning "quiet river." Ainu have sustained themselves from this river and surrounding lands for thousands of years.

"The river used to be naturally winding, with deep pools..the fish breeds naturally here. Once the waste facilities are built and operated, it could bring fatal effects to the wild salmon's habitat."
Despite the historical and intimate relationship between the river and Ainu people, Hokkaido Prefecture, without any consultation with local inhabitants, approved the construction of a dumping site in this natural sanctuary:
First, regarding the Ainu people, the city government of Monbetsu, a municipality in Hokkaido Prefecture (traditional Ainu territory), authorized a plan to build an Industrial Waste Dumping Site near the Monbetsu river on February 26th, 2010. The Monbetsu River is one of the most important places for the co-existence between the Ainu culture and the natural environment, and an important site for autumnal salmon spawning in the Monbetsu area. A traditional ceremony (Kamui Cep Nomi) to thank the deities for providing the Ainu with lots of salmons was revived in 2002, and the ceremony is conducted every autumn by the local Ainu community.

Prior to the authorization, the local Ainu community in Monbetsu, working in collaboration with local Japanese groups supporting environmental conservation, demanded that the city government respect the UNDRIP including land, cultural and environmental rights and the principle of "Free, Prior and Informed Consent" (FPIC) and review the plan from the indigenous peoples’ perspective. However, the city government, unfortunately, has not given any consideration to the Ainu rights and has now authorized this project. As a result, the construction work has been already started, and the local Ainu people have sent application to the Prefectural Pollution Examination Commission (PPEC) to look into the matter.
In 2010, 56 indigenous organizations and 25 supporting NGO and NPOs joined together to gather signatures to a petition calling on Hokkaido prefecture to halt construction plans. One of the petition's signatories, the Ainu Art Project, is producing an animated film entitled The Fox of Shichigoro Stream that describes industrial waste facilities's destructiveness near Hakodate, in southern Hokkaido.

The report also urges the Japanese government to abrogate its proposal to construct a U.S. military base in Henoko and Oura Bay, the ecologically fragile habitat of the Okinawan dugong, and six new helipads in Takae.
Second, regarding the Ryukyuan/Okinawan people, the Government of Japan has not implemented the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which call on the government to recognize Ryukyuan/Okinawan people as an indigenous people. As a result, as reported by UN Special Rapporteur Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Doudou Diene, the heavy presence of the U.S. military bases in Okinawa remains as a form of discrimination against the people of Okinawa. At present, two new military base construction proposalss are being carried out under the agreement between the governments of Japan and the U.S., despite the longtime opposition from local indigenous peoples’ communities.

One massive U.S. military base is being constructed in Henoko and Oura Bay. While the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) expressed its concerns about this plan in the closing statement of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP10) in Nagoya in 2010, the Government of Japan has ignored the concerns raised in the statement and is proceeding with the plan. Another military base, six new helipads, is being constructed in Yambaru forest, Takae district of the Okinawa island. In response to their protest, the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the local agency of the Government of Japan, has filed Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation (SLAPP) against local indigenous community members.
The SLAPP was filed against the sit-in demonstrators at Takae. SLAPPs are gaining currency by Japanese corporations and governmental bodies. They seek to pressure defendants into acquiescence by overburdening them with the cost of legal defense, not only infringing on human rights, but also intimidating citizens into silence. Chugoku Electric Power Company has also filed a SLAPP against those protesting against the Kaminoseki nuclear plant.

The report recommends the following:
1. We recommend the Government of Japan shall establish national and local systems in conjunction with indigenous peoples to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, in accordance with the UNDRIP.

2. We recommend that the City Government of Monbetsu shall respect Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the local Ainu community concerned, and to reconsider the authorization of the Industrial Waste Dumping Site.

3. We recommend that the Governments of Japan and the U.S. immediately stop the construction of the military bases in Henoko and Oura bay, as well as helipads in Takae and review these proposals.

4. We request the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people shall use his good office to directly intervene in the Government of Japan regarding the construction of the Industrial Waste Dumping Site in Monbetsu city, Hokkaido Prefecture, and the construction of military bases in Henoko and Oura bay and helipads in Takae, Okinawa Prefecture.
Although the Japanese government recognizes the Ainu as indigenous people, this is in name only. Ainu are not guaranteed rights stipulated by UNDRIP. Therefore, Ainu experience rights infringements not only in Monbetsu, but also in Biratori where the government is planning to build another dam upsteam from the defunct Nibutani Dam and in Asahikawa where issues still remain over land promised to the Ainu by law. Furthermore, Hokkaido University refuses to return Ainu remains stolen from gravesites; the Tokyo Ainu have been repeatedly denied the right to build an Ainu community facility in Tokyo; and the Japanese government ignores requests to honor the right for the Ainu to control their own education.

Unless Okinawans are recognized as indigenous people by Japan, it is uncertain whether UNDRIP can be used as a tool to liberate them from the imposition of U.S. military bases. Competing viewpoints among Okinawans complicate this situation: many do not wish to be considered indigenous in the UNDRIP sense. However, growing solidarity in the international indigenous movement support the Ainu and Okinawan struggles and ensure that human and indigenous rights laws will continue to develop in Japan in keeping with global trends.

- Posted by Jen Teeter