Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Asahi: Fukushima leader blasts Kan's plan to transform Fukushima into a nuclear waste dump

Noriyoshi Ohtsuki reports on the local response to former PM Kan's last-minute proposal before he left office: "Fukushima leader blasts nuclear waste site plan" at Asahi Japan Watch today:
A key business leader has lashed out at a government plan to construct an interim storage facility for radioactive waste in Fukushima Prefecture, site of an ongoing nuclear crisis, rather than in Tokyo.

Toshio Seya, a former banker and head of the Fukushima Chamber of Commerce and Industry, asked during a regular news conference on Aug. 30: "Why doesn't the government build (the proposed facility to store radioactive waste) in Tokyo's Odaiba district? After all, the beneficiary of nuclear power is Tokyo."

Greenpeace: Fukushima Schools Unsafe After Clean-Up

Finance Greenwatch:
"Greenpeace: Fukushima Schools Unsafe After Clean-Up" (PlanetArk)

August 30th, 2011

Greenpeace said on Monday that schools and surrounding areas located 60 km (38 miles) from Japan’s tsunami-hit nuclear power plant were unsafe for children, showing radiation readings as much as 70 times internationally accepted levels...

David McNeill: "Why the Fukushima disaster is worse than Chernobyl"

David McNeill's latest, "Why the Fukushima disaster is worse than Chernobyl", published at The Independent:
Slowly, steadily, and often well behind the curve, the government has worsened its prognosis of the disaster. Last Friday, scientists affiliated with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the plant had released 15,000 terabecquerels of cancer-causing Cesium, equivalent to about 168 times the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the event that ushered in the nuclear age. (Professor Busby says the release is at least 72,000 times worse than Hiroshima)...

Many parents have already sent their children to live with relatives or friends hundreds of kilometres away. Some want the government to evacuate the entire two million population of Fukushima Prefecture. "They're demanding the right to be able to evacuate," says anti-nuclear activist Aileen Mioko Smith, who works with the parents. "In other words, if they evacuate they want the government to support them."

So far, at least, the authorities say that is not necessary. The official line is that the accident at the plant is winding down and radiation levels outside of the exclusion zone and designated "hot spots" are safe.

But many experts warn that the crisis is just beginning. Professor Tim Mousseau, a biological scientist who has spent more than a decade researching the genetic impact of radiation around Chernobyl, says he worries that many people in Fukushima are "burying their heads in the sand." His Chernobyl research concluded that biodiversity and the numbers of insects and spiders had shrunk inside the irradiated zone, and the bird population showed evidence of genetic defects, including smaller brain sizes.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Help save South Korea's only natural dolphin habitat in Jeju Island

Every summer, hundreds of dolphins, traveling from Alaska, visit the sea off the village of Gangjeong, Jeju Island. Video courtesy of Yang Dong-Kyu, a filmmaker who took this hauntingly beautiful footage of the dolphins responding to his calls during summer 2009. 

Jeju Island, a World Heritage Site, is a jewel of biodiversity. The southern coast of Jeju Island is home to soft coral habitat. In 2001, the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration designated it a national monument protection area. The Gangjeong coast is a seasonal habitat for hundreds of dolphins that live there from June until September. They migrate from Alaska through the North Pacific Ocean to Jeju Island, the only dolphin habitat in South Korea.

And now the South Korean government wants to destroy the dolphin habitat and the traditional farming and fishing village of Gangjeong to build a naval base to house warships. Jeju activist Sung-Hee Choi asks "Where will the sea creatures go?" Let's hope not into Jeju Island's dolphin aquariums.

Tragically, the South Korean government, which has one of the worst environmental protection ratings in the world, does not realize a need protect the nation's only natural dolphin habitat.  Supporting (wild) dolphin-friendly tourism at Jeju, one of the world's most beautiful tourist havens would bring visionary shift to its environmentally destructive track record.

Please help stop Seoul's planned destruction of this beautiful coast. To learn how, visit Save jeju Island.

The Cove star praises Miyake island's dolphin watching; hopes Taiji dolphin slaughter will end

The world's eye is again turning on Taiji, Wakayama, where local fishermen annually kill thousands of dolphins with harpoons. Among countless forms of systematic animal abuse worldwide, Taiji's dolphin hunt vies with the worst (American aerial "trophy" shooting of wolves and Canadian clubbing of baby seals) in its needless cruelty.

The Japanese government defends the dolphin hunt at Taiji as part of Japanese culinary culture, however large-scale dolphin kills at Taiji only began in 1969. " Does anyone know a Japanese person who has actually eaten a dolphin?

Let's also hope the dolphin activists who come to Taiji will also speak out against the planned dolphin aquarium in Kyoto.

The Cove star praises dolphin-watching in Japan, hopes slaughter will end in Taiji
Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press
Aug 26, 2011

TOKYO - The star of the Oscar-winning movie about dolphin-killing in Japan had only praise for a small island off the eastern coast that thrives on snorkeling with dolphins, and he urged the rest of the country to follow that example. Ric O'Barry was heading to Taiji, the southwestern town made notorious in the documentary The Cove, where the annual dolphin hunt is set to start Sept. 1. But he stopped along the way at the island of Miyakejima for a look at how dolphins can be spared and used for tourism.

"It's very encouraging to see people celebrating dolphins, respecting dolphins, and I'm all for that," O'Barry said Friday. "We support them all the way."

Chikara Atsuta, an official with the tourism agency at Miyakejima, said he welcomed O'Barry's praise, and expressed hopes more people from abroad would visit the island of 2,700 people, 180 kilometres (110 miles) south of Tokyo.

"I feel so grateful," he said. "We do not hunt dolphins."

Miyakejima's dolphins live in the area so residents have even given them names. In contrast, dolphins are migratory in Taiji and so the same kind of dolphin-watching would be difficult to duplicate.

But O'Barry urged Taiji to turn to whale-watching and other forms of tourism that are kinder to animal life.

O'Barry said he will lead a prayer ceremony in Taiji for people who have died in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster and for the dolphins about to die in the hunt. He is travelling by bus with two dozen people who are all dolphin-lovers, he said.

Wakayama Prefectural police have said some 100 riot police are carrying out drills to prepare for possible confrontation with activists as the annual dolphin hunts begins, including chasing boats and making arrests...

O'Barry was an expert at training dolphins, such as the ones for the 1960s "Flipper" TV series, until he had a change of heart and instead devoted his life to saving dolphins...

Only about 2,000 dolphins are caught in Taiji every year. But the slaughter, as captured in The Cove, directed by Louie Psihoyos, is so striking that the town has become synonymous with the practice.

In that film, fishermen on boats scare dolphins into a small cove and bayonet them. The dolphins writhe in pain and turn the waters red with blood...
Read the entire article here. The Cove website:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tatsuhiko Kodama: Fukushima fallout 30 times Hiroshima's; urges systematic monitoring & efficient decontamination

Fukushima fallout said 30 times Hiroshima's: Expert paints dire picture of decontamination zone, slams government for foot-dragging

Staff writer
The Japan Times
Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011

Kodama, a professor of systems biology and medicine at the University of Tokyo, used clear-cut terms to get his message across. His ruthless criticism of the government's slow response has been viewed at least 1 million times.

"It means a significantly large amount of radioactive material was released compared with the atomic bomb," he told the Diet committee.

"What has the Diet been doing as 70,000 people are forced to evacuate and wander outside of their homes?"

Despite a hard-nosed image, the expert on radiology and cancer briefly showed a softer side while speaking to The Japan Times about his two grandchildren and their summer in the Tokyo heat.

"A lot of people ask me this, but Tokyo is safe from radiation now," Kodama, who heads the university's Radioisotope Center and the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, said Aug. 12.

"My two grandchildren swim outside in the pool, and there is no concern with the safety of food at this point."

But his expression became grave when discussing the 20-km no-go zone in Fukushima, explaining that decontamination of such areas will take not years but decades.

There are places he wouldn't let his grandchildren spend time outdoors freely, even in areas outside of the restricted zone.

"Cesium has been detected from urine and breast milk from those residing in Fukushima Prefecture, and the cause for that is still not specified," he warned...

"My theory is this — instead of trying to decide what is safe and what isn't at this point, we should focus on properly measuring the level of contamination in each area and on how to cleanse them."

According to Kodama, the Radioisotope Center estimates that radioactive materials released from Fukushima No. 1 amount to about 29.6 times of that released by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The group also found out that radiation from Fukushima will only decrease by one-tenth per year, which is about 100 times slower than radiation from the bomb...

Another sign of a lax government can be seen in how local governments appear to be short of equipment to measure radiation contamination in food and other produce.

Considering that contamination will be a major problem for the next couple of decades, the central government shouldn't hesitate to invest in and develop, even mass-produce, equipment that can allow checks for radiation.

Some companies have told Kodama it would only take three months to develop a system for efficient radiation measurement.

Kodama advised the government to take two different approaches in decontaminating Fukushima.

The first step should focus on creating a rough map of the wider area and the level of contamination, possibly using remote-control helicopters and Japan's advanced GPS system.

For emergency decontamination procedures, each community should have a call-in center that conducts quick cleanups once a request is made from residents...

"I am aware that there are many opinions regarding nuclear power. However, I believe all of us can agree that Fukushima and the surrounding area needs to be decontaminated as soon as possible," he said.
Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

John Einarsen's In the Realm of the Bicycle up for People's Choice Award!

 Congratulations to John Einarsen for the nomination of his recent book of photography, In the Realm of the Bicycle, for a People's Choice Award.

The photographer (and KJ's founding editor, stylish art director) uses photography as a medium to expand and deepen perception. In this book, the focus is bicycles in Japan's ancient capital, but the field of vision is infinite:
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:

The cover of In the Realm of the Bicycle is by long-time KJ graphic designer Tiery Le.

The Kyoto Journal: Perspectives From Asia (a/k/a KJ) emerged from Kyoto's international cultural milieu during the 1980's; the iconic English-language quarterly will embark a new incarnation online in September.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lao Tzu: War as futile death wish & collective funeral

One who would guide a leader of men in
the uses of life
Will warn him against the use of arms for
Even the finest arms are an instrument of
An army's harvest is a waste of thorns
In time of war men, civilized in peace,
Turn from their higher to their lower
But triumph is not beautiful.
He who thinks a triumph beautiful
Is one with a will to kill.
The death of a multitude is cause for
Conduct your triumph as a funeral.

- Lao Tzu

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hiroshima Ground Zero 1945 @ Int. Center of Photography, NYC, May 20-Aug. 28, 2011

(Photo: Hiroshima Ground Zero 1945 I International Center of PhotographyMay 20-Aug. 28, 2011)
Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945 Public Panel Discussion
ICP, 1133 Avenue of the Americas
Wednesday, August 17, 7:00pm
General Admission: $5. Free for ICP Members and Students
RSVP online.

Panelists: Erin Barnett, Adam Harrison Levy, Greg Mitchell

What can a suitcase, found in a pile of trash, tell us about Hiroshima and its legacy?

The suitcase was found eleven years ago by a man out walking his dog in Watertown, Massachusetts. Inside were 700 photographs of post-bomb Hiroshima. The images depict an annihilated city: twisted girders, imploded buildings, miles of rubble. This was the original Ground Zero, a term first used in 1946 to describe the epicenter of the blast.

Since then, accounts by survivors of the bombing have been published, documentaries have been produced, and historians have fiercely debated the decision to drop the bomb.

And yet, the photographic record of what took place in Hiroshima has long been absent. A U.S. military film crew, which shot the only color footage in the city (and focused on the human effects of the bomb), found that their images would be suppressed for decades. Our lack of visual evidence of the atom bomb's effect has helped us to deny its devastating impact. Think of photographs of Auschwitz after it was liberated and a series of powerful images come to mind: haunting pictures of war's destructive impact. But think of Hiroshima and what comes to mind is the mushroom cloud. Terrifying in its way, with its bulbous head and towering stem, it is nonetheless an abstract image freed of human agency and human consequence.

Join us for a discussion on how the ground-breaking images that make up the Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945 exhibition at ICP were discovered and how the moving footage shot in post-bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki was censored by the U.S. government. Panelists include Greg Mitchell, the author of Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made (2011) and co-author (with Robert Jay Lifton) of Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial (1995), Assistant Curator of Collections Erin Barrett, and writer and freelance documentary film producer and director Adam Harrison Levy.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gloria Steinem's latest tribute, prayers, & action for Jeju Island

(Photo: Regina Pyon, Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea (SPARK))
The Arms Race Intrudes on Paradise
August 6, 2011
The New York Times

... Jeju isn’t called the most beautiful place on earth for nothing. Ancient volcanoes have become snow-covered peaks with pure mountain streams running down to volcanic beaches and reefs of soft coral. In between are green hills covered with wildflowers, mandarin orange groves, nutmeg forests, tea plantations and rare orchids growing wild; all existing at peace with farms, resorts and small cities. Unesco, the United Nation’s educational, scientific and cultural organization, has designated Jeju Island a world natural heritage site.

Now, a naval base is about to destroy a crucial stretch of the coast of Jeju, and will do this to dock and service destroyers with sophisticated ballistic missile defense systems and space war applications. China and South Korea have positive relations at the moment. But this naval base is not only an environmental disaster on an island less than two-thirds the size of Rhode Island, it may be a globally dangerous provocation besides.

Residents of Gangjeong, the village that is to be home to this base, have been living in tents along the endangered coastline, trying to stave off the dredging and bulldozing. In a vote several years ago at a village meeting, residents overwhelming opposed the base.

They’ve tried to block construction with lawsuits and pleas for a proper environmental impact study. They’ve been fined, beaten, arrested and imprisoned. They’ve gone on hunger strikes, chained themselves to anything available, invited tourists in to see what’s at stake, established Web sites and won support from global peace organizations. Members of the “no base” campaign, including children, camp out along the shore behind high walls erected around the site to conceal the protests. Police officers patrol outside. This has been going on for more than four years...

When I was invited in May to again visit Jeju, by friends in the Korean women’s movement, I could see why it attracts peace conferences, honeymooners, environmentalists, marine biologists, film crews, pilgrims and tourists. But I also visited the peace encampment, within sight of harassing police officers and waiting bulldozers. The mayor of Gangjeong, the leader of the resisters, said quietly that he and others would give their lives to stop construction. His 92-year-old mother walks down from the village to the shore every evening to make sure he is still alive.

Still, the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, a former head of a construction company who was known as “Mr. Bulldozer,” hasn’t yet had a change of heart about supporting the naval base. Indeed, he seems to have the same relationship to construction that President George W. Bush had to oil. But I fear South Korea is a tail being wagged by the Pentagon dog. In contrast, his predecessor, Mr. Roh, said before he died that he regretted only two things: sending South Korean troops to Iraq and permitting a naval base on Jeju Island.

Jeju Island is on a very short list of candidates in a public Internet campaign to choose a new seven wonders of the world, and Mr. Lee is campaigning hard for it. He may have to choose. How can Jeju Island be one of the seven wonders when its claim rests on nature about to be destroyed?

Meanwhile, there are more people signing protest petitions on the Web, calling anyone they know in Washington, or going to Jeju Island to support and safeguard the protesters and show that tourists without guns, not military bases, are its economic future. In my daily e-mails with protesters on Jeju, I learned that bulldozers were spreading small rocks in preparation for laying concrete over lava, and living coral that is a distinctive natural habitat. Once the bulldozers are out of sight, children pick up those rocks, pile them into towers and plant a peace flag in each one.

For myself, I am writing this column, putting a petition on my Facebook page, and hoping for enough Arab Spring-like activism to topple one naval base.

I’ve never known less what will happen. I can still hear the dolphins crying as if sensing danger. But somehow, my faith is in the villagers who say, “Touch not one stone, not one flower..."

Gloria Steinem is an author, an activist and a co-founder of the Women’s Media Center.
Read Gloria Steinem's entire tribute here. See also this TTT post, "Gloria Steinem's message on behalf of Jeju Island, South Korea: Support democracy, peace, & environmental protection".

(Photo: Regina Pyon, Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea (SPARK))

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hiroshima 2011 Citizens' Peace Declaration - 広島 2011 市民による平和宣言

Via Peace Philosophy Centre...The "Citizens Peace Declaration 2011," by a group of NGOs including The Article 9 Group Hiroshima and Peace Link Hiroshima/Kure/Iwakuni, who organize the annual 8/6 Hiroshima Gathering for Peace.

This year, 2,000 people gathered at the "die-in" demonstration at the A-bomb dome, followed by a protest walk to the headquarters of Chugoku Electric to oppose nuclear power and the plan to build a new nuclear power plant in Kaminoseki.
The 2011 Citizens’ Peace Declaration

August 6, 2011

In 1938, with the help of Lise Mitner, the German chemist Otto Hahn discovered the nuclear fission of uranium. Just seven years later, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, indiscriminately killing many civilians in these two cities. This criminal act of mass killing with a tsunami of radio-active fire can only be described as “human madness.” Yet sadly more madness was to follow, as the nuclear powers of the world, particularly the U.S. and Russia, developed and produced further nuclear weapons. As a consequence, radioactive contamination rapidly became a serious global problem, due to uranium mining, production of nuclear weapons, and the nuclear tests conducted in various parts of the world.

In December 1953, at the U.N. General Assembly, the U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, unexpectedly launched the policy “Atoms for Peace,” a concept to promote “the peaceful use” of nuclear energy. The primary reason for launching this policy was an attempt by the U.S. Government to curtail the power of the Soviet Union, which had carried out its first hydrogen bomb test in August that year. “Atoms for Peace” was devised to persuade Western nations to accept plans by the U.S. government and American investments to produce nuclear fuel and technology. Japan was among the most important of the targeted nations. Indeed, it soon became subjugated to the U.S. in two crucial ways: it came under the U.S. nuclear umbrella as part of the military strategy that evolved; and nuclear fuel and technology became part of its energy policy. This has had profound ramifications. On the one hand, U.S. military bases located in Japan, particularly that in Okinawa, were extensively used for many wars that the U.S. engaged in, such as those in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf and elsewhere. On the other hand, the building of nuclear power plants induced the structural corruption among collaborating politicians, bureaucrats and entrepreneurs, and caused severe environmental problems. As a consequence, the U.S. – Japan Security Treaty, based on the nuclear deterrence strategy, as well as the leak of radiation from nuclear power plants and accumulated nuclear waste have long been threatening the livelihoods and well-being of the Japanese people. Despite this, the Japanese government firmly established, and continues to maintain, a political system which permits little criticism of these two issues.

The Japanese government, together with the electric power companies and the nuclear industry, has for many years promoted the myth that nuclear power is clean and safe, covering up various accidents at nuclear power plants and related facilities. The danger manifested by major accidents such as those at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island have also been consistently ignored. The fatal accident at the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant was not in fact an “accident” caused by a natural calamity, but rather a pending time bomb of “self destruction” which was destined to go off. Through its policies the Japanese government is now punishing its own people, as well as those in neighboring nations, with dangerous doses of radiation.

Despite the national crisis, however, not only Japanese cabinet members, but most Diet members, too, are now busy with their own power politics and are therefore totally incapable of dealing with the grave situation that confronts the victims of the earthquake and nuclear accident. As these politicians have neither the strong political commitment to protect civilians, nor any long-term vision on energy and environmental issues, the government countermeasures for this disaster have been less than effective, and there is political chaos. This state of confusion has provided an ideal environment for U.S. military forces to carry out training of their own special troops, specializing in radiation problems, as well as Marines, under the misleading name “Operation Tomodachi.” Every year Japanese taxpayers pay almost US$ 2.5 billion to maintain such U.S. troops in Japan.

Many A-bomb survivors from 1945 have died – often after a lifetime of suffering - or are still suffering from various diseases caused by the blast, fire or radiation. They live with the constant fear that they may suddenly be struck down by a fatal disease like cancer or leukemia. The use of nuclear weapons, which indiscriminately kill large numbers of people for decades afterwards, is clearly “a crime against humanity.” Yet the scale of damage to people and the environment that could be caused by a major accident at a nuclear power plant, where radiation is emitted either from the nuclear vessel or spent fuel rods, may be comparable. In this sense, a nuclear power accident could be seen as an “act of indiscriminate mass destruction” and so “an unintentionally committed crime against humanity.” The Japanese government is trying to cover up this event, adopting an inappropriate protection standard set by the ICRP (International Commission on Radiological Protection).

The wisdom of Hiroshima – that human beings and nuclear power, whether in the form of weapons or energy, cannot co-exist – must be reaffirmed and should be utilized to strengthen and expand our anti-nuclear and anti-war movements. We need to reflect on our hitherto narrow application of the expression “No More Hibakusha (victims of radiation)”, so that it covers not only A-Bomb survivors, but all victims of radiation, including those of nuclear power plant accidents. We need to consider the pain of all the victims of radiation and to think about drastically changing our society that so heavily relies on nuclear technology. Not only do we need to abolish nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants, but we must also devise ways to initiate a hitherto impossible, totally new, peaceful and environmentally harmonious society.

(Coordinator and Author: Yuki Tanaka)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tokyo University Researcher Slams Japanese Government Handling of Fukushima Crisis

Speaking on July 27th to the Committee on Welfare and Labor in the Lower House of the Japanese Diet, University of Tokyo Radioisotope Center Director Dr. Tatsuhiko Kodama delivered passionate testimony regarding the failure of the government to protect citizens living near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant—particularly children—from ongoing nuclear radiation exposure.

At times speaking calmly and at other moments invoking what might be described as principled rage, Kodama joined other worldwide anti-nuclear critics such as Dr. Helen Caldicott and Arne Gunderson (whose recent joint radio discussion may be heard here) in describing the dangers of internal radiation exposure, while also denouncing the inaction of Japanese bureaucrats in their handling of post-Fukushima policy.

This August 9, 2011 article published by The New York Times provides the most damning English-language coverage yet regarding the prioritization of bureaucratic procedures over peoples' lives in immediate post-Fukushima Japan.

Putting the Fukushima tragedy in historical perspective, Madelyn Hoffman, the Executive Director of New Jersey Peace Action, calls for an end to the nuclear era and the suffering that it engenders in her excellent piece "Fukushima. Hiroshima. Nagasaki. When Will It Stop?"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kenzaburo Oe: "History Repeats"

Kenzaburo Oe's "History Repeats" published on March 28, 2011 at The New Yorker:
By chance, the day before th earthquake, I wrote an article, whic was published a few days later, i the morning edition of the Asahi Shimbun. The article was about a fisherman of my generation who had been exposed to radiation in 1954, during the hydrogen-bomb testing at Bikini Atoll. I first heard about him when I was nineteen. Later, he devoted his life to denouncing the myth of nuclear deterrence and the arrogance of those who advocated it.

Was it a kind of sombre foreboding that led me to evoke that fisherman on the eve of the catastrophe? He has also fought against nuclear power plants and the risk that they pose. I have long contemplated the idea of looking at recent Japanese history through the prism of three groups of people: those who died in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those who were exposed to the Bikini tests, and the victims of accidents at nuclear facilities. If you consider Japanese history through these stories, the tragedy is self-evident. Today, we can confirm that the risk of nuclear reactors has become a reality. However this unfolding disaster ends—and with all the respect I feel for the human effort deployed to contain it—its significance is not the least bit ambiguous: Japanese history has entered a new phase, and once again we must look at things through the eyes of the victims of nuclear power, of the men and the women who have proved their courage through suffering. The lesson that we learn from the current disaster will depend on whether those who survive it resolve not to repeat their mistakes...

Like earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural calamities, the experience of Hiroshima should be etched into human memory: it was even more dramatic a catastrophe than those natural disasters precisely because it was man-made. To repeat the error by exhibiting, through the construction of nuclear reactors, the same disrespect for human life is the worst possible betrayal of the memory of Hiroshima’s victims...

Therein lies the ambiguity of contemporary Japan: it is a pacifist nation sheltering under the American nuclear umbrella. One hopes that the accident at the Fukushima facility will allow the Japanese to reconnect with the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to recognize the danger of nuclear power, and to put an end to the illusion of the efficacy of deterrence that is advocated by nuclear powers.
Read Kenzaburo Oe's entire prophetic essay here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Urakami, Nagasaki: August 9, 1945 & Today (renewed community at Ground Zero)

The city of Nagasaki came into being when Portuguese adventurers came to Japan in 1542 and asked Lord Sumitada, who ruled the area, for the use of the beautiful harbor. Japan's most southern island, Kyushu, had long been the archipelago's principal crossroads for Silk Road traders, and, before that, prehistoric travelers, but their route took them through Hakata, an ancient port city, slightly to the north.

After a squabble with Ming China interrupted old commercial routes, the newly arrived traders became the Japanese elite's only source of Chinese silk, Indian and Persian luxury goods, and European guns. Military unifier Oda Nobunaga welcomed the European merchants and accompanying missionaries, aligning with them to create leverage against rival daimyos backed by powerful Buddhist temples in Kyoto. Franscisco de Xavier arrived with other Spanish Jesuits in 1549, and after two years, left behind behind 1,000 converts.

In 1582, after Nobunaga's suicide during a battle in Kyoto, power transferred to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who, inspired by European imperialism, launched an invasion of the Korean peninsula ten years later. Within six months, superior Korean strategists routed his troops (but not before they forcibly brought back tens of thousands of Korean master potters who created renowned Imari and Arita ceramics). Confounded by his loss and threatened by the power of Kyushu's daimyo traders and their European allies, Hideyoshi responded by issuing orders to execute Christians and instituting a draconian policy that came to define Japan: he began closing its borders to foreigners. By this time, hundreds of thousand Japanese in Kyushu had become Christian. Many of the conversions were nominal, ordered by daimyos; yet others would prove enduring.

After Hideyoshi died in 1597, his successor Ieyasu Tokugawa, restored trade with Korea, China, and European-controlled outposts throughout Asia. However the shadow cast by European imperial military power and Japan's growing community of native Christians proved too daunting for following shoguns who partially closed the archipelago's borders (allowing Chinese, Korean, Ryukuan, and Dutch exchanges at some ports).

Japanese Christians were forced to go underground, not to resurface until 1865 when several thousand Catholics from the fishing village of Urakami confessed themselves to a French priest in Nagasaki. In 1895, these descendents of Christians worshipping secretly for two centuries built the first cathedral in Asia in Urakami, a site of repeated earlier persecutions.

(Urakami Cathedral before August 9, 1945)

On August 9, 1945, clouds prevented an American B-29 from dropping a plutonium bomb on its original target, the weapons manufacturing center at Kokura. So the pilot aimed the bomb "Fat Man" towards their alternate target, the spires of Urakami Cathedral, the center point between his secondary targets, Mitsubishi's torpedo factory and steel and arms factory.

(11:02 a.m. atomic bomb "Fat Man" explodes above Nagasaki)

(People walking down a street in Nagasaki, unaware of the plutonium bomb explosion about to hit them.)

(Urakami Cathedral after August 9, 1945)

The plutonium bomb exploded over Japan's (and East Asia's) largest church at 11:02 a.m.—while a priest was beginning midday Mass. More Japanese Christians (8,000 among 70,000 mostly civilian victims) were killed in that moment than in all the previous shogunate persecutions of Christians combined.

(Ground Zero Memorial, a few minutes walk from Urakami Cathedral

In 1959, parishioners rebuilt the cathedral on the exact spot where it was destroyed, on Angelus Street. They decorated the new cathedral with charred angel faces from the bombed building, and left blackened and broken statues of saints (now covered with chains of colorful origami cranes) standing in the front, as a memorial.

(Urakami Cathedral today)

After spending the night traveling on the Akatsuki ("Red Moon"), a slow night train that left Kyoto in the early evening and arrived in Nagasaki early morning, I hopped on a streetcar and found myself in Urakami just as Sunday morning mass at St. Mary's had started. All the seats in the church were filled, so I joined people standing in the entrance way. The women all wore white veils and nuns wore old-fashioned blue habits. In this quiet place, I experienced awe, witnessing a renewed faith community that had experienced archetypal devastation.

After the service, I asked a tall, young, bushy-haired, smiling priest where I could find the ruins of the old cathedral. He asked an older, also smiling parishioner, to show me the broken and charred statues of saints, all covered with chains of colorful origami cranes. Looking into the eyes of the parishioner, a peaceful, even joyful survivor of the atomic bombing, I thought of Dr. Martin Luther King's view that the universe is held together by an invisible force of unsentimental, unshakeable love.

(Broken and burned statue of a saint at Urakami Cathedral)
The recreated community seems to prove that this love that binds people together—is alive in the people of Nagasaki—and more enduring than man's greatest weapon of mass destruction.

(Stained glass street art in the Urakami District)

(More street art depicting the music of peace)

(Children's art in the Urakami District )
— Jean Miyake Downey (text & contemporary photos)

Multiple traumatic effects of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the thousands of nuclear test explosions worldwide; other uranium weapons; and nuclear plant meltdowns have not healed, even if survivors and their descendants have been able to renew their communities. Please support nuclear abolition.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kenzaburo Oe's "Hiroshima and the Art of Outrage" illuminates interconnections between Hiroshima bombing, Okinawa bases, & nuclear "umbrella"

Kenzaburo Oe has been a principal voice in Japan's soul-searching in matters of war and peace since his emergence as a literary wunderkind during the late 1950's. Scholar John Nathan described the novelist as a "spokesman for the postwar generation" whose novels explored the lives of "young Japanese struggling to survive with dignity in desecrated society." Oe said the three seminal influences on his personal and creative development were the birth of his handicapped son, Hikari, and his visits to Hiroshima and Okinawa.

Concerned about the accelerated remilitarization of Japan during the Koizumi-Bush era, Oe joined with prominent Japanese thinkers in founding 9-Jo No Kai (The Article 9 Association) in 2004. In 2008, Oe prevailed in a lawsuit challenging his essay, Okinawa Notes in which the author adhered to the widely accepted assertion that the Japanese military forced civilians to commit mass suicide during the Battle of Okinawa. Earlier this summer, speaking at an Article 9 Association meeting in Tokyo on June 19 (the 50th anniversary of the automatic enactment of the revised Japan-U.S. Security Treaty on June 19, 1960), Oe called for a reduction in military bases on Okinawa in accordance with the Peace Constitution.

In "Hiroshima and the Art of Outrage," published by the New York Times last year, Oe articulates the interconnections between atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the 60-year U.S.-Japan military occupation of Okinawa; and ongoing attempts by military industrialists to undermine Japan's non-nuclear principles:
The Futenma Marine Corps Air Station on Okinawa, one of the largest United States military bases in East Asia, is in the center of a crowded city. The American and Japanese governments acknowledge the dangers of this situation, and they agreed nearly 15 years ago that the base should be moved; however, no move has yet been made.

In 2009 a new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, tantalized Okinawans with the prospect of moving the despised base off the island, but he was recently forced to resign, in part because of his failure to keep that promise. Mr. Hatoyama’s successor, Naoto Kan, has made it clear that he intends to respect the United States-Japan security treaty — a position that, while not directly related to the issue of dialing down the United States military presence in Japan, may indicate which way the wind is blowing.

It was recently reported here that a government panel is about to submit a policy paper to Prime Minister Kan, suggesting that regarding Japan’s “three nonnuclear principles” — prohibiting the production, possession and introduction of nuclear weapons — it was not wise to “limit the helping hand of the United States,” and recommending that we allow the transport of nuclear arms through our territory to improve the so-called nuclear umbrella.

When I read about this in the newspaper last week, I felt a great sense of outrage. (I’ll explain later why that word has such deep significance for me.) I felt the same way when another outrageous bit of news came to light this year: the decades-old, Okinawa-related secret agreement entered into by the United States and Japan in contravention of the third of the three nonnuclear principles, which forbids bringing nuclear weapons into Japan.

At the annual Hiroshima Peace Ceremony on Friday, this year marking the 65th anniversary of the dropping of the atom bomb, representatives from Britain, France and the United States planned to be in attendance, for the first time. This is a public event at which government leaders give speeches, but it also has a more profound and private aspect, as the atomic bomb survivors offer ritual consolation to the spirits of their dead relatives. Of all the official events that have been created during the past 200 years of modernization, the peace ceremony has the greatest degree of moral seriousness... In Edward W. Said’s last book, “On Late Style,” he gives many examples of artists (composers, musicians, poets, writers) whose work as they grew older contained a peculiar sort of concentrated tension, hovering on the brink of catastrophe, and who, in their later years, used that tension to express their epochs, their worlds, their societies, themselves.

As for me, on the day last week when I learned about the revival of the nuclear-umbrella ideology, I looked at myself sitting alone in my study in the dead of night . . . . . . and what I saw was an aged, powerless human being, motionless under the weight of this great outrage, just feeling the peculiarly concentrated tension, as if doing so (while doing nothing) were an art form in itself. And for that old Japanese man, perhaps sitting there alone in silent protest will be his own “late work.”
Read the entire essay here.

(See also: Kenzaburo Oe's "Misreading, Espionage and 'Beautiful Martyrdom': On Hearing the Okinawa ‘Mass Suicides’ Suit Court Verdict," published at Japan Focus in 2008)

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Fukushima Teacher Muzzled Over Radiation"

The Japan Times via Bloomberg:"Fukushima Teacher Muzzled Over Radiation":
Fukushima teacher muzzled over radiation


As temperatures soared above 37 degrees on a recent July morning, schoolchildren in Fukushima Prefecture were taking off their masks and running around playgrounds in T-shirts, exposing themselves to a similar amount of annual radiation as a nuclear power plant worker.

Toshinori Shishido, a Japanese literature teacher of 25 years, warned his students two months ago to wear surgical masks and keep their skin covered with long-sleeved shirts. His advice went unheeded, not because of the weather but because his school told him not to alarm students. Shishido quit last week.

"I want to get away from this situation where I'm not even allowed to alert children about radiation exposure," said Shishido, 48, who taught at Fukushima Nishi High School. "Now I'm free to talk about the risks."

After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami devastated the Tohoku region, the central government evacuated as many as 470,000 residents, including 160,000 because of radiation risks from the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 power plant. More than 2 million people, including 271,000 children, remain in Fukushima, the third-biggest prefecture by size...

Radiation can damage human cells and DNA, with prolonged exposure causing leukemia and other forms of cancer, according to the World Nuclear Association. Children are more susceptible as their cells grow at a faster rate...

Shishido will leave Fukushima for Sapporo on Aug. 8 to join his wife and two children, aged 13 and 10, he said. The teacher aims to create a network there to help the 3,000 evacuees from Fukushima find jobs.

Shishido said he was instructed by school officials not to tell his students that they should wear masks or about how radiation would affect their health. He deleted some comments from his blog after receiving those orders in May.

"I saw little boys playing baseball in a cloud of dust, and I wondered who can protect their future," said Kanako Nishikata, a 33-year-old housewife with a son, aged 11, and daughter, aged 8. "It's shocking to learn a teacher is quitting because he can't protect the students."

A group of parents and children from Fukushima plan to visit education minister Yoshiaki Takaki on Aug. 17 to ask him to evacuate children from the prefecture, she said.

Fukushima Nishi High, which has 873 students, had readings of 0.07 microsieverts per hour in the school building and 1.5 microsieverts per hour in the playground on July 14, still within the safety limits set by the prefecture and central government, said Furukawa, the assistant principal.

The school continues to hold gym classes and sports club activities outside, he said.

"I don't think the children are safe either, and I know the radiation level is still high," Furukawa said. "These days, they are wearing short sleeves and no masks."

An official at the Fukushima prefectural board of education who didn't want to be identified said he was surprised that Fukushima Nishi High clamped down on Shishido's views. The board has sent counselors to the 301 schools it oversees to ensure that children are not suffering mental problems, the official said. The board also asks students and teachers to wash their hands and gargle after playing outside, the official said.

About a fifth of the 1,600 schools in Fukushima are exposed to at least 20 millisieverts of radiation a year, the Network to Protect Fukushima Children from Radiation said, citing the most recent government readings in April. That's the limit for an atomic plant worker set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

More than three-quarters of the schools receive radiation readings of 0.6 microsievert per hour, said the network, a group comprising 700 parents. That's 10 times more than the readings in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on average...
Read the entire article here.