Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Head of Okinawan branch of Japanese Defense Ministry compares DC-Tokyo forced US military construction in Okinawa to "rape"; assault on Yanbaru Forest

Takae activists show rape comment report to military construction workers. (Photo:Takae Blog)

Recently the head of the Okinawan branch of Japan's Defense Ministry compared DC-Tokyo forced US military construction in Okinawa to "rape." For his transparent comment about US-Tokyo strategy, Satoshi Tanaka was fired yesterday.

Earlier this month, Tanaka moved ahead, despite local oppostion, with military construction in biodiverse Yanbaru Forest, a subtropical rainforest in northern Okinawa, Yanbaru, a habitat for unique, indigenous species, to make way for US military V-22 "Osprey" aircraft training and testing heliports.

The U.S. Marines, the manufacturer, and congressional representatives from the district in Texas in which the factory is located, have lobbied for years against the axing of the expensive, accident-prone military  aircraft from the U.S. defense budget. This Iron Triangle even beat out former Vice President Dick Cheney who argued against the program. Despite extreme costs, accident risks, and no strategic value for the aircraft, US Marines have pushed to build heliports for the Osprey aircraft in Okinawa since they need someplace to put them, according to some U.S. foreign affairs analysts.

As a result, residents of Takae, an eco-village in Yanbaru Forest, have been in a cold war with the U.S. Marines for years. Residents report assaults by U.S. military helicopters against civilian protesters. Some fly low to the ground, terrorizing villagers destroying their property, and damaging forest trees. One villager reported that a U.S. soldier demanded food, at riflepoint, while laughing at her. These are just a few reports that reflect the tip of an iceberg of accounts of U.S. military injuries and intentional infliction of emotional distress upon local people.

The pattern of U.S. military abuse of northern Okinawans is not recent, but historical. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military forced Takae villagers to dress like Vietcong for war games. US troops sprayed toxic herbicides in the forest. For these Okinawans, U.S. military assaults upon Okinawan property and persons have been continuous from the Battle of Okinawa through the Vietnam War era to today:

Okinawa's two major newspapers, Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Shimpo reported at length on Tanaka's "injudicious remark"; Japanese newspapers called it "indiscreet." It might be better described as a Freudian slip.

More background information on the movement to protect Takae and Yanbaru Forest:

"Voice of Takae".

WWF's "No Military Helipads in Yanbaru Forest".

"Saving the Okinawan Woodpecker," (The Center for Biological Diversity).

John Feffer's Okinawans Continue to Resist in Takae (HuffPost, Feb. 25, 2011).

Jon Mitchell's "Postcard from Takae," ( Foreign Policy in Focus).

Peace Not War Japan’s Film/Live Music Festival Highlights Citizen Movements: Mt. Takao・Okinawa's Yanbaru Forest・ Iraqi Refugees in Jordan (TTT, Nov. 12, 2009).

Takae Village Sit-in protest against US Helipads in Pristine Yanbaru Forest (TTT, Jan. 25, 2010).

"Peaceful New Earth Celebration" in Tokyo spotlights Okinawa, indigenous cultures, sustainability, & global networking (TTT, June 24, 2010).

Biodiversity 100: Preserve the biodiversity on Okinawa Island, including Yanbaru Forest's spiny rat, Noguchi's Woodpecker, & Namiye's Frog (TTT, Oct. 27, 2010).

Save Takae Village and and the biodiversity of Yanbaru Forest (TTT, Jan. 4, 2011).

"Latest Photos of Nonviolent Action to Protect Okinawa's Yanbaru Forest" (TTT, Feb. 3, 2011)

"Futenma is not the only problem" by Yoshio Shimoji (The Japan Times, Feb. 20, 2011).

More background on the V-22 Osprey:

"Key Amendments to H.R.1, Fiscal Year 2011 Appropriations Bill" compiled by The New York Times. (Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (Democrat, Illinois sponsored an Amendment To Eliminate Financing for the V-22 Osprey Aircraft (H.AMDT.13). The House of Representatives voted (326 to 105, mostly Republican, but also Democrats) against this amendment; resulting in U.S. taxpayers footing the bill for at least $415 million for the V-22 Osprey aircraft this year. So far, the Osprey has cost Americans $60 billion.)

"V-22 Osprey: A Flying Shame" ( TIME Magazine's Sep. 26, 2007 cover story).

"Accidents and incidents involving the V-22 Osprey" (Wikipedia).

"Cuts to U.S. defense budget would hurt some investors, RBC Capital report says" (National Post, Nov. 16, 2010.)

"The Military Money Pit" by Joshua Green (The Boston Globe, June 17, 2010). (Green quotes Dick Cheney's description of the V-22 Osprey as a "turkey.")

"Panel commissioned by Barney Frank recommends nearly $1T in defense cuts" (, June 11, 2010).

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Global Gandhian Moment" — Fukushima, Okinawa, the World, Occupy & Civic Empowerment

Peace Studies and Okinawa scholar Satoko Oka Norimatsu renders a historical analysis of a Japanese political pattern of sacrificing backwaters for the temporary economic benefit of those in privileged zones of urban centers.

Of course, destroying entire regions, ecosystems, and peoples is not a traditional Japanese societal pattern. It was borrowed from the Anglo-Saxon industrial model and has been the basis of global colonial and neoliberal "development." It would take an encyclopedia to chart the forced sacrifice of peoples and ecosystems throughout our planet, for the profit of a miniscule elite, over the centuries.

It would also take an encyclopedia to chart the citizen movements that have arisen throughout the world to challenge these patterns of exploitation and destruction.

Norimatsu, director of the Peace Philosophy Centre in Vancouver and a co-founder of the Network for Okinawa, compares the plight of Okinawans, who have campaigned nonstop since 1996, against forced new U.S. military construction at biodiverse Yanbaru Forest and Oura Bay to the more recent plight of residents of post 3/11-Fukushima. Both groups have endured national governmental and establishment media dismissal of their collective concerns. As a result, Okinawan and Fukushima citizen movements and citizen media, have grown to address a myriad of issues, in parallel the burgeoning of action of citizen groups worldwide.

Norimatsu's fierce take, "Fukushima and Okinawa – the “Abandoned People,” and Civic Empowerment":
Will people of the periphery choose to remain abandoned? Certainly not all. In Northeastern Japan, many people have stood up, taking safety into their own hands. Citizen groups conduct independent radiation measurements and publish their own radiation protection guides. Anti-nuclear power demonstrations spread, with a scale and intensity not seen in mainland Japan since the 1960s anti-Anpo (Japan-US Security Treaty) movement. As seen in Sato Eisaku’s words quoted above, perceptions of commonality between Okinawa and Fukushima – the state imposition of military bases or nuclear reactors on the basis of discrimination against marginal and vulnerable areas at the expense of well-being of those living there — seems to be growing in Japan, awakening some with sympathy with the Okinawan situation on a level not seen before 3.11.

Though the scale of current anti-nuclear demonstrations in Japan are not comparable to those of anti-base movements in Okinawa for the past six decades that mobilize as much as ten per cent of the population, it is notable that some mainlanders seem to emulate the Okinawan movement, using the same symbolic colour yellow, and slogans like “life is precious” (“Nuchi du Takara” in Okinawan). As in the “Arab’s Spring” movements of 2011, civic voices spread through newly emerging social media such as Facebook and Twitter, integrating existing movements, connecting different generations, and merging anti-nuclear, anti-base, anti-neoliberal and the burgeoning “Occupy” movements, suggesting a broader possible social base for movements throughout Japan.

Because of increasing public distrust in the government and mainstream media’s information concerning the crippled nuclear reactors and radiation risks, internet media have attracted a surge of new users in post-3.11 Japan. There is an emerging crop of internet journalists, such as Iwakami Yasumi, Uesugi Takashi, Kinoshita Kota, and Shiraishi Hajime, and many others, as well as widely read bloggers and Twitterers29 Their influence threatens the monopoly on information of the Japanese government and major media, leading the government to call on telecommunication companies to 'take appropriate measures to prevent groundless rumours on the internet...'

With Okinawa’s all-island determination to refuse construction of another military base on their land in the face of unremitting pressure form the Japanese and US governments, and with people across the nation awakening to new dimensions of citizenry and autonomy through alternative media and direct action, are we living in “a global Gandhian moment," as international law scholar Richard Falk suggests, in which the “abandoned people” are empowered and engaged in non-violent confrontations with established powers, making the impossible possible?

An answer is in each of us, and how we capture this critical historical moment.
Satoko Oka Norimatsu is a writer and educator based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is Director of Peace Philosophy Centre and a Coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. Her upcoming book co-authored with Gavan McCormack, “NO! Okinawa’s Message to Japan and the United States” will be published in spring 2012 by Rowman and Littlefield.

Japan Meteorological Agency: Half of radioactive materials from Fukushima fell into sea

A division of the Japan Meteorological Agency announced that up to 80 percent of the radioactive contamination from the 3/11 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster fell into the ocean, but the remaining airborne material circled the planet on jet stream winds. The Meteorological Research Institute said its computer simulations calculated that radioactive materials, including cesium-137, were blown northeastward from 3/11 toward Siberia and Alaska before mostly falling into the Pacific.

Remaining atmospheric nuclear radiation blew over the Pacific coast of the United States around March 17. Radioactive particles that remained aloft completed their first round-the-globe trip by March 24.

Kyodo via The Mainichi Daily News:
A screen capture of a map released on Nov. 11 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology displaying accumulated radioactive cesium levels in eastern Japan. (Image: Mainichi)

Half of radioactive materials from Fukushima fell into sea: study

November, 17, 2011

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- More than half of the radioactive materials that were emitted into the atmosphere in the days after the Fukushima nuclear disaster have since fallen into the ocean, according to a recent simulation by a team of researchers.

Between 70 and 80 percent of the radioactive cesium from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Fukushima Prefecture had fallen into the sea by April, with the rest having fallen on land, according to the simulation done by the Meteorological Research Institute in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, and other researchers.

"The Fukushima nuclear power plant is located on the eastern edge of Japan, so only small amounts ended up falling on land because (such materials) get carried by the westerlies between March and April," said Yasumichi Tanaka, a senior researcher at the Japan Meteorological Agency institute and a member of the research team. However, it suggests the fallout that did not make landfall polluted the ocean, he added.

A simulation model applied in the study was developed by the institute and the agency, and was used to see how such radioactive isotopes as cesium-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137 got dispersed in the days after the disaster triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

On the premise that the materials were dispersed with each particle being the size of less than 1 micrometer, the simulation showed they largely completed a trip around the globe in roughly 10 days after first crossing the Pacific.

Once released into the atmosphere, the materials were dispersed mostly northbound and reached the western coast of the mainland United States around March 17 after passing through eastern Russia and Alaska, according to the simulation. They are likely to have largely completed a round-the Earth trip around March 24.

Most of the radioactive materials fell with rain as they got carried through the atmosphere, the study showed, saying that about 65 percent of the cesium-131 released into the air in the disaster has since fallen into the sea.

The results of the study will be presented to an academic meeting in Nagoya that began Wednesday.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Empathy gene?

Thoughtful discussion of latest on empathy research at Ed Yong's blog at Discover:
Consider the OXTR gene. It creates a docking station for a hormone called oxytocin, which has far-ranging effects on our social behaviour. People carry either the A or G versions of OXTR, depending on the “letter” that appears at a particular spot along its length. People with two G-copies tend to be more empathic, sociable and sensitive than those with at least one A-copy. These differences are small, but according to a new study from Aleksandr Kogan at the University of Toronto, strangers can pick up on them after watching people for just a few minutes.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Korean Protest Culture: Struggle for Democracy — "still being negotiated, in parliament & on the street..."

Citizens and students participating in a candlelight vigil demonstration against the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) at Seoul Plaza attempt to march down street while police assault them with water cannons, Nov. 23, 2011. (Photo: The Hankyoreh: "FTA fallout")

"Candlelight Vigil (Chopul): Widespread since the 2002 Yang-ju incident in Kyoung-gi Province. A U.S. military vehicle killed two school girls, but the American military court exonerated the driver, bringing discontent with U.S. military presence to a boil. Nationwide candlelight vigils ensued, quickly becoming a dominant protest genre..." (Text: Gabriele Hadl. Photo: Kyoto Journal)

The Nov. 23 South Korean police assault on citizens during a candlelight vigil against the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) in Seoul brings home the reality that South Korea has only been a democracy since the late 1980's. It took South Koreans decades of political and social resistance to overturn the U.S.-backed military dictatorship established after the Korean War that followed the even more notorious Japanese military dictatorship of the peninsula.

The Lee Myung-bak administration has attempted to turn back the clock and undo many of the democratic reforms of the 1990's. This, in turn, has given rise to an intensification of resistance: a part of everyday culture in South Korea. Engaged scholar Mark Selden, editor of The Asia-Pacific Journal, notes that South Koreans have created the most vibrant and sustained grassroots democratic movement in the Asia-Pacific, comparable only to the Okinawan movement in intensity, longevity, and creativity.

Korean-Jewish-American filmmaker Koohan Paik explains the South Korean passion for democracy:
When I was a child in South Korea during the 1960s, we lived under the repressive dictatorship of Park Chung-hee. Anyone out after 10 p.m. curfew could be arrested. Anyone who tried to protest the government disappeared. A lot of people died fighting for democracy and human rights.

Today, the South Korean people carry in living memory the supreme struggles that forged the freedom they currently enjoy. And after all they’ve sacrificed, they are not going to give that freedom up.
In "Korean Protest Culture", a photo essay for the Kyoto Journal, Gabriele Hadl describes some of the many symbolic actions found in Korean social movements:
Downtown Seoul has more protest spots than coffeehouses. Protesters of many persuasions have taken up a permanent, rotating residency in front of the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential mansion, while the American embassy is never without riot police.

For most of the country’s history, demonstrations have been put down with an iron fist. In the 1960s, widespread protest won a three-year respite from dictatorship. Though short-lived, it piqued the hunger for democratic reform. Dissent then burned underground for two decades. Ultimately, the military regime could not contain it. In 1985, the struggle was reignited en masse, and a two-year protest campaign brought down the government. No velvet revolution here, but a series of powerful, sustained confrontations, culminating in a radical rewriting of the social contract. Its provisions are still being negotiated, in parliament and on the street...

A labor media activist reflects, “We separate action and daily life…go to a rally, then home. We have to integrate struggle into our everyday lives.”
Background on the KORUS FTA candlelight vigil demonstration:

The Hankyoreh:"Preventing a KORUS FTA train wreck"

• Tim Shorrock: "Korea-US Trade Agreement: The Hidden History":
...In fact, KORUS represents a major victory for U.S. multinational corporations, banks and financial institutions, which have lobbied intensively for the pact for more than half a decade. It’s also a major setback for Korean and American unions. Both (with the exception of the U.S. United Auto Workers) saw that KORUS, like NAFTA, was above and beyond an investment agreement designed to improve conditions and decrease risk for foreign capital while doing nothing to improve labor rights (dismal in both South Korea and the United States, as recognized by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions) or lift the general conditions of workers and consumers in either country. Now that the AFL-CIO has failed to convince a Democratic president and Senate to oppose it, it remains to be seen if South Korea’s labor-led opposition can muster the strength to defeat the treaty in Seoul. We shall see...

The South Korean-U.S. free trade agreement (KORUS) cannot be seen apart from U.S.-South Korean security ties, the presence in South Korea of more than 30,000 U.S. troops and a 50-year economic relationship that has been heavily weighted towards American interests. From this perspective, KORUS is the fourth attempt by the United States to force its economic will on South Korea over the past half-century.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Eight months after disaster, tsunami survivors taking things as they come

For Tokue Ohyama, an octogenarian resident of Ishinomaki City in Miyagi prefecture, some days since last March have been harder than others.

“Shortly after the tsunami hit, when I felt lonely I sometimes wished that it just would have swept me away,” Ohyama confided when I met her last weekend in the temporary housing unit where she is now living. I was there helping to serve coffee and sweets through a volunteer initiative run by a local organization to make sure that survivors—particularly the elderly with no other family—are not left in isolation. “Now that I have made friends here, though, I’m feeling much more positive,” she added.

And positive she was indeed. She had been the first to come into the community room where our makeshift café had been set up, beaming as she proudly offered a plate of delicious pickled daikon radish that she had prepared for the gathering. I strained to understand her speech due to her strong local dialect (as did the non-local Japanese volunteers, to my relief), but despite the language barrier, she was clearly playful and even satirical. “That tsunami chased me so fast that I swear it was in love with me!” she said, cackling with obviously ironic laughter.

At Ohyama’s side was Shoko Matsunaga, who has found herself acting as a leader of sorts among the housing unit’s mostly female residents. “After the tsunami, while spending those several long days stranded in the freezing cold with no electricity, food or drinking water, I honestly thought I would not make it,” she said softly. “The fact that I am actually sitting here right now in fact feels like a dream. I am so incredibly thankful for having survived, and I want to spend the rest of my life doing whatever I can to try and help others.”

Top: Temporary housing unit, still under construction

Bottom: Shoko Matsunaga (left) and Tokue Ohyama (right), with volunteers in the background

A total of some 20,000 people in Ishinomaki are now living in the temporary housing units. While being thankful for the shelter, residents must put up with a lack of privacy due to paper-thin walls that let in every noise made by neighbors at all hours. And in several instances, residents bedridden from depression or illness have actually died without anyone discovering so for days.

“One additional significant problem we are facing now in these housing units is that of suicide,” explained Toshihiko Fujita, who founded a small organization in Ishinomaki based at the Koganehama Community Center, where my partner and I volunteered over the weekend. “It’s crucial to build community through activities such as common meals and café events, so that no one will succumb to loneliness and isolation.” The community center is used as a gathering space for local citizens and volunteers alike, and often hosts events for locals put on by NGO volunteers, such as art therapy workshops, massage sessions, community meetings, and more.

Fujita, who saw his mother swept away by the tsunami, has been working tirelessly since the day after the disaster struck—beginning with the traumatic work of clearing away bodies. Again trying to lighten the heaviness of the subject at hand, he commented dryly, “Here, we just call ourselves the mudbusters.”

With the extent of the damage to cities that faced the tsunami’s destruction, including Ishinomaki, mud will indeed be a steady reality for the months and even years to come. On Sunday, after having spent a comfortable night outside the local community center inside a parked mobile home that Fujita has made available for visiting volunteers, a group of us joined up with members of another volunteer organization known appropriately as "It’s Not Just Mud".

While several of the volunteers had been involved with the relief operations since the days immediately following the disaster, it was quite disconcerting for me as a first-time volunteer to encounter personal items—coins, dishes and ceramics, a remote control, a section of a car stereo, chopsticks, baby-sized silverware— while standing inside a ditch shoveling mud.

Top and bottom: The "It's Not Just Mud" crew at work

Despite having seen images of the tsunami’s destructive path through photographs and videos, it was a similarly jarring experience to walk near the coastline and see row after row of completely gutted homes and shops, some with toppled futons and furniture still as they were just after the wave hit.

An indescribable sensation also made me pause as I walked past Watanoha Junior High School, separated from the ocean by a mere thin stretch of forest, with its busted windows and its clock stopped eerily at 3:46 PM—exactly one hour after the earthquake had struck, and likely 30 to 45 minutes after the tsunami had reached land. I imagined the students having a normal day at school before the tragedy struck, laughing and joking in the now empty stairwells. Had they managed to escape in time, I wondered? Where were they now?

Obviously, in two days I was only able to scrape the surface of the issues that survivors continue facing in Ishinomaki and other disaster-hit areas (although I definitely plan to return soon). According to community leaders leading recovery efforts at the grassroots level, such as Fujita, a full recovery is years ahead, with local families continuing to face the agonizing decision of rebuilding or leaving to start anew.

Fujita also pointed out that such issues are further compounded by other problems such as local and national government apathy, a general lack of community cohesiveness, and local in-fighting over issues such as resource distribution in the wake of the disaster. “I’m so busy that I have not even had time to do my own grieving,” he admitted. “Maybe in a year or two, when things have settled down, I’ll have that luxury.

"Reparing buildings is one challenge, but repairing hearts is another one altogether," he added. "The trauma that people here have experienced is profound."

Fujita describing the problems facing Ishinomaki citizens, berating the Japanese mainstream media for its lack of coverage of issues facing survivors in affected areas, and urging volunteers from around the world to come join the relief effort

Top: 800 heads of Chinese cabbage donated by a farmer from Nagano prefecture, which Fujita drove around delivering to members of the local community together with a personalized message from the farmer

Bottom: Flyer announcing a tea-drinking and craft-making workshop at the Koganehama Community Center

Despite the enormity of existing obstacles, which seem to make the efforts of individual volunteers only miniscule, each shovelful of mud—as well as each and every human interaction—truly does make a difference, as I learned when being thanked countless times by residents who were so clearly grateful for the work of volunteers.

While chatting with another woman after our mobile café had moved to a second temporary housing area on Saturday afternoon, the conversation flowed easily from the NHK trophy ice skating competition, which was on television in the background, to more serious matters. She told me that she had lost almost every one of her friends in the tsunami—and that she dreamt of them every night. She then began describing earlier memories, when she had been a young woman in her late teens during the second world war.

“The military police used to walk around with bamboo spear weapons in case they came across any U.S. military enemies, and we were not even allowed to be caught using any words that came from the English language, such as kyabetsu (“cabbage”) or bo-ru (“ball”), she reflected. “I lost my chance to fall in love because of that war. What a meaningless waste it all was.”

Shoko Matsunaga, while she didn’t specifically mention the wartime past, did say at one point, “I certainly never thought I would be here sitting at a table with an American. And now, here I am, meeting volunteers from all over the world.

“Truly, I have so much to be thankful for.”

Top: Sign at entrance to local shrine: "Caution--Falling Rocks"

Bottom: Scenery in undamaged areas of Ishinomaki, with gorgeous rolling vegetable fields

Ishinomaki-based volunteer organizations:

It’s Not Just Mud

Peace Boat Emergency Relief Operation

Ishinomaki Volunteer Support Base: Kizuna (Japanese only)

Japan Emergency NGO (JEN)

Toshihiko Fujita’s volunteer troupe (e-mail:

--Kimberly Hughes

Friday, November 18, 2011

Marilynne Robinson: "The earth has been under nuclear attack for almost half a century."

While on sabbatical in Canterbury in the 1980's, American novelist and essayist Marilynn Robinson was shocked to learn that, during that period, the largest known source of radioactive contamination of the world's environment was Great Britain. For decades, the UK has been discharging nuclear waste from Sellafield, a nuclear weapons and nuclear waste reprocessing complex, into the Irish Sea. The complex, located in a national park (which includes the Lake District) on the northwest coast of England, just south of Scotland, has been storing tons of nuclear waste in an open pit which Robinson calls "the world's nuclear dustbin."

The writer explored her findings in a long essay, Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State, and Nuclear Pollution. Robinson maps out historical threads between the abuse of state authority and power, predatory capitalism, and exploitative, throwaway attitudes that prioritize profit before human lives and the natural environment. Robinson specifically charts the movement from the pre-Elizabethan Poor Laws to state-sponsored industry in the UK.

This revelatory book, published in 1989, was essential reading before the Fukushima era: to enlighten us to the realization that many nations have been nuking themselves and the entire world via radioactive nuclear waste emissions on a daily basis for decades (as well as via the 2,083 "test explosions" conducted in their own backyards or "colonies").

Long before the the Bush/Blair invasion of Iraq on the basis of nonexistent WMD and the preoccupation with possible issues with Iran and North Korea, Robinson questioned the rationality of fears over potential nuclear weapons capabilities and deployment, in light of widespread inattention regarding ongoing nuclear hazards, including the continuous dumping of radioactive nuclear wastes into the Irish Sea at Sellafield.

She concludes, "It is a very comfortable thing to think that the greatest threat to the world is a decision still to be made, which may never be made—that is, the decision to engage in nuclear warfare. Sadly, the truth is quite otherwise. The earth has been under nuclear attack for almost half a century."

Sellafield Nuclear Plant is visible from much of England''s Lake District National Park. 

In the first part of her prescient and essential book, Robinson describes the layers of history that resulted in the creation of the radioactive nightmare known as Sellafield, located in an otherwise idyllic backwater of England:
:...the largest commercial producer of plutonium in the world and the largest source, by far of radioactive contamination of the world's environment, is Great Britain...The primary producer of plutonium and pollution is a complex called Sellafield, on the Irish Sea in Cumbria, not far from William and Dorothy Wordsworth's Dove Cottage. The variety of sheep raised in that picturesque region still reflects the preference of Beatrix Potter, miniaturist of a sweetly domesticated rural landscape.

The lambs born in Cumbria are radioactive. This fact is ascribed to the effects of the Russian nuclear accident at Chernobyl, but Sellafield is so productive of contamination that there is no reason to look elsewhere for a source. Testing of lamb and mutton was only undertaken some months after Chernobyl, though the plant at Sellafield routinely releases plutonium, ruthenium, americium, cesium 137, radioactive iodine, and other toxins into the environment as part of its daily functioning. The fact that food had not been tested systematically in an area whose economy is based on the production of food as well as the production of plutonium is characteristic of British policy, wherever there is a potential impact of industrial practice on public health.

It should be noted that the plant at Sellafield was built by the British government. It was developed and operated by the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, and then given over to British Nuclear Fuels Limited, a company wholly owned by the British government. It should be borne in mind that the plant receives waste and reprocesses plutonium for profit, to earn foreign money...

The plant is expanding. Wastes from European countries, notably West Germany, and from Japan are accumulating there, while the British develop means of accommodating the pressing world need for nuclear waste disposal. Their solution to the problem amounts to extracting as much usable plutonium and uranium from the waste as they find practicable and flushing the rest into the sea or venting it through smokestacks into the air. There are waste silos, some of which leak uncontrollably. In an area called Driggs, near Sellafield, wastes are buried in shallow earth trenches. Until the practice was supposedly ended in 1983 by the refusal of the National Union of seamen to man the ships, barrels of nuclear waste were dropped into the Atlantic. In other words, Britian has not solved the problem of nuclear waste, but has in fact greatly compounded it, in the course of producing plutonium in undivulged quantities...

And then the British are not especially fortunate. Sellafield has had about three hundred accidents, including a core fire in 1957, which was, before Chernobyl, the most serious accident to occur in a nuclear reactor. Sellafield was called Windscale originally, until so much notoriety attached itself to that name that it had to be jettisoned. That an accident-prone complex like this one should be the storage site for plutonium in quantity is blankly alarming...
Robinson questions appearance and realities of "democracy" in the UK and other parts of the world in which a tiny minority makes decisions affecting entire populations, largely without their knowledge or input. These decisions made on the basis of exorbitant taxpayer-enabled profit; the nuclear industry would not survive without government subsidies and protections
For thirty years a pool of plutonium has been forming off the English coast. The tide is highly radioactive and will become more so. The government inspects and plant and approves the emissions from it. The government considers the plant poorly maintained and managed, and is bringing pressure to lower emissions. The government is expanding the plant and developing another one in Scotland. Foreign wastes enter the country at Dover and are transported by rail through London..Whose judgment and what reasoning lie behind these practices and arrangements? The question is never broached...

No hearing will ever convene to assess the wisdom of shipping radioactive wastes through a populous capital, or dumping them into the sea, or extracting weapons materials from them to be shipped by air into Europe, and through North America to Japan...

This book is essentially an effort to break down some of the structures of thinking that make reality invisible to us...

I am so angry to the depths of my soul that the earth has been so injured...This book is written in a state of mind and spirit I could not have imagined before Sellafield presented itself to me, so grossly anomalous that I had to jettison almost every assumption I had before I could begin to make sense of it...I must ask the reader to pardon and assist me, by always keeping Sellafield in mind—Sellafield, which pours waste plutonium into the world's natural environment, and bomb-grade plutonium into the world's political environment. For money.

...For decades, the British government has presided over the release of deadly toxins into its own environment, for money, using secrecy, scientism, and public trust or passivity to preclude resistance or criticism and to quiet fears...

If Americans have heard about Sellafield nuclear waste dump and plutonium factory, they have heard the name Windscale, which appears from time to time with little or no elaboration in lists of nuclear accidents. The Windscale fire of 1957, which for our purposes is the history of the public-relations strategies surrounding the event, bears an uncanny, not to say unnerving, similarity to the recent accident in the Ukraine. Windscale was the most serious accident in a nuclear reactor before Chernobyl. It occured in a graphite-moderated reactor with the sole function of producing plutonium for British bombs...

The clientele of Sellafield is a Who's Who of technologically advanced countries: Japan, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Holland, and Sweden. France has its own pipeline into the sea at Cap de la Hague on the English Channel...

According to the New Scientist, in 1986 the Central Policy Planning Unit of the Ministry of the Environment suggested that "it would be prudent to place restrictions on any development along and off the coast near Sellafield which could disturb the concentrations of radioactivity building up in mud and silts."
In her concluding words, Robinson links Sellafield with parallel nuclear history affecting other backwaters throughout the globe. It took more than Chernobyl, it has taken Fukushima, to awaken a majority of citizens in Japan to understanding and action. Fukushima families follow Cumbrian families who raised money to purchase their own Geiger counters because they cannot rely on the UK government's radiation monitoring. At intervals over thirty years, they protest and strike. Yet, most people worldwide know nothing about the suffering of the residents who live daily with plutonium and other nuclear radiation from a nuclear complex in one of England's tourist destinations.
Maybe the beaches at Sellafield had begun to glow in the dark. Islands in the Pacific that were used for atomic testing glowed for years, and contamination levels at Sellafield are like those at testing sites.

...the world's public arrives at this parlous moment with a grinding history behind it, badly educated, starved of information, full of sad old fears and desperate loyalties, injured in its self-regard, acculturated to docility and stoicism...There is no agora, where issues are really sorted out on their merits and decisions are made which, at best and worst, give permission to political leaders to carry our policies the public has approved. This model assumes information of a quality that is by no means readily available to us. It assumes a reasonableness and objectivity which allow information to be taken in and assimilated to our understanding, and in this we are also thoroughly deficient...

My greatest hope, which is a very slender one, is that we will at last find the courage to make ourselves rational and morally autonomous adults, secure enough in the faith that life is good and to be preserved, to recognize the grosser forms of evil and name them and confront them...We have to...consult with our souls, and find the courage, in ourselves, to see, and perceive, and hear, and understand.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Could studies of the decades of radioactive (plutonium) contamination at Sellafield, UK help in understanding Fukushima radiation risks?

(Via Shut Sellafield: Image:

Map of nuclear radiation at Sellafield, in northwest England, just south of Scotland, on the Irish Sea: "In 1990 a government funded project used helicopters to survey radiation "hot spots" in the area. The map (above) shows the radiation levels are highest (red and brown) around the estuary of the Rivers Esk and Mite and around Sellafield itself." (Image:

This week the UK government gave approval to NuGen (owned by Spanish multinational Iberdrola and French multinational GDF Suez)* to construct a new nuclear plant at Sellafield, a plutonium manufacturing and nuclear waste reprocessing complex plagued with a history of accidents, radiation (plutonium) contamination, and tons of nuclear waste:
...Britain has held firm in the post Fukushima-era to the advancement of nuclear power, unlike many large European economies like Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Belgium, all of whom are either abandoning their nuclear power capacities or have voted not to begin building nuclear facilities to begin with in the wake of the Japanese disaster.

Germany will be phasing out its nuclear power plants in favour of renewable energy by 2022 and Switzerland is following suit in 2034. Belgium has said it will shutter its oldest plants by 2015, with the remainder to come offline by 2025, dependent on whether the country can find alternative power sources. And Italy voted overwhelmingly in a summer referendum not to even start a nuclear programme.

Even Japan has opted for a 40-year nuclear phase out plan.
The announcement of the construction of the multi-billion-pound nuclear fuel plant has followed the closure of an identical plant, shut down because it was unfit.

The UK built the Sellafield nuclear complex in the 1940's for the same reason as the US constructed the toxic Hanford nuclear complex in Washington State and the Soviets constructed the Mayak complex in Siberia: to produce nuclear weapons. As with Hanford and Mayak, the region around Sellafield, located in England's largest national park has become a nuclear waste dump. The park, which includes the Lake District, is a tourist destination.

For decades, Sellafield dumped radioactive waste by pipeline into the Irish Sea. The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention) reported Sellafield has deposited an estimated 200 kilograms (441 lb) of plutonium into the marine sediment of the Irish Sea. Cattle and fish are contaminated with plutonium-239 and caesium-137 from Sellafield.

Sellafield, where Japanese nuclear energy companies sent nuclear waste for reprocessing, also produced Technetium-99, a radioactive element created from reprocessing, which Sellafield also discharges into the sea. Between 1952 and 2009, Sellafield discharged more than 47,855 terabecquerel of cesium-137 and strontium-90, two of the most dangerous radioactive elements to human health, according to calculations based on data from the U.K. Environment Agency and the Journal of Radiological Protection.

In 1983, high radioactive discharges of ruthenium and rhodium 106 resulted in the closure of beaches along a 10-mile stretch of coast in Cumbria, along with warnings against swimming in the sea. Greenpeace protested the discharges by attempting to cap the pipeline gushing radioactive waste into the sea. Their Geiger counters indicated radioactivity at 1,500 times the "normal" level.

An open pit has been used to store radioactive waste, including over a ton of plutonium (some from the Tokai Mura plant in Japan). The pool is not watertight and has been leaking.

A 1997 UK Ministry of Health report stated that children living close to Sellafield had twice as much plutonium in their teeth as children living more than 100 miles (160 km) from the nuclear complex; afterwards a UK official stated that the plutonium did not present a health risk. However, instances of leukemia in children who live on the English and Irish coasts reflect anomalies: the rate of childhood leukemia in the area near Sellafield exceeds the national average by ten times; one child in sixty in Seascale, the village of nearest the plant, will die of of leukemia.

Both the Irish and Norwegian governments have sought the closure of the facility.

On Aug. 3, the government (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)) owned MOX (plutonium) fuel plant, subsidized by British taxpayers, was closed. Its primary customers were Japanese nuclear plants, including Fukushima Dai-Ichi:
"The Hamaoka plant, owned by Chubu, the intended recipient of the first fuel, is currently closed awaiting extensive reinforcement work. Following Chubu, Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power Company] were destined to take 50% of the plant output and they as owner of the Fukushima plants are clearly facing the most extreme challenges."

Speculation about the future of the plant has been rife for months, as it became clear that the Japanese nuclear industry was unlikely to recover after Fukushima.

The NDA said: "[We have] concluded that in order to ensure that the UK taxpayer does not carry a future financial burden from [Sellafield Mox plant] that the only reasonable course of action is to close [the plant] at the earliest practical opportunity."

The NDA said it would continue to store Japanese plutonium safely, and "further develop discussions with the Japanese customers on a responsible approach to support the Japanese utilities' policy for the reuse of their material".
Sellafield still dumps eight million liters of radioactive nuclear waste into the Irish sea—every day.

How has this radioactive (especially plutonium) contamination affected fish and agricultural food products from the region surrounding Sellafield? When did cancers, including leukemia, begin to spike? Is the UK keeping and sharing longitudinal records on radiation levels and correlating these with cancers and other disorders (heart disease) correlated with nuclear radiation exposure? This kind of information might be helpful to residents of Fukushima and Japan, many whom express concern at plutonium exposure from MOX fuel, which was manufactured at Sellafield and used at Fukushima.

The Sellafield Nuclear Complex:
• REPROCESSING: 2 Plants - B205 Magnox, responsible for gross discharges and historic enviromental contamination. THORP, opened1994, adding greatly to discharges. Failing to meet 10 year target of 7000 tonnes. No new overseas contracts.

• VITIRFICATION: Opened 1991. Subsequent poor performance and accident rate. Third production line being constructed after original lines failed to meet yearly targets.

• ENCAPSULATION: 2 Plants. Drumming solid and sludge intermediate level wastes from historic and current operations. At least 30 years before any UK final disposal site for wastes.

• MOX: 2 Plants. Demonstration facility (MDF) producing 8 tonnes MOX fuel per year since 1993 for Europe and Japan. New 120t plant (SMP) not yet licensed to operate due to concerns on justification and viability. No plans to use MOX fuel in UK power stations.

• REACTORS: 4xMagnox 50MW. Operating 25 years beyond original life-span, until recently producers of Plutonium for UK weapons
* In December, 2014, Toshiba (Westinghouse's parent company) bought Iberdrola's stake in the NuGen Sellafield consortium. Hitachi acquired the Horizon nuclear project in 2012.

Some sources:  (Articles dated before 2008 are cites in Marilynne Robinson's meticulously researched Mother Country: Britain, The Welfare State, and Nuclear Pollution, published in 1989):

• "Dublin demands Sellafield action" (Ian Black, The Guardian, Feb. 18, 1984).
• "More pollution found on coast near Sellafield" (The Guardian, March 10, 1984).
• "'Plutonium food' sought for children" (Richard Evans, The Times, May 21, 1985).
• "Shut this open sewer" (New Scientist, Feb. 27, 1986).
• "A lot of fuss about a few millisieverts" (Sharon Kingman, New Scientist, May 15, 1986).
• "Majority say No to nuclear power" (Steve Vines, The Observer, Sept. 14, 1986).
"Minister admits total failure of Sellafield 'MOX' plant" (Geoffrey Lean, March 9, 2008).
• "Ministers gamble on new £6bn Sellafield plant" (Steve Connor, Oct. 10, 2011).
"Toshiba pays £85m for stake in NuGen to build nuclear plant at Sellafield" (The Telegraph, Dec. 24, 2013). 
"NuGen agree plans to build first new UK nuclear plant" (The Telegraph, June 30, 2014). 

Environmentalist Watchdog Groups:

Shut Sellafield

• Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment

People Against WYLFA-B (The campaign against a new nuclear power station at Wylfa, Anglesey (Cymraeg: Yr ymgyrch yn erbyn atomfa newydd yn y Wylfa, Ynys Môn)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Voices from Fukushima: Japanese citizens demand accountability on domestic, global levels as government continues reckless nuclear policies

Eight months have passed since the disaster of March 11th, since which time I have been riding the same emotional see-saw as many others after emerging from the cocoon of fear and shock that ruled the initial days and weeks following the outbreak of the nuclear crisis. When facing the choice, however, of engaging my critical mind or succumbing to the more comfortable state of mind that most others here seem to have clearly chosen—blissful denial—I seem to find myself on most days choosing the latter.

With the exception of occasionally attending and writing about Japan’s steadily growing anti-nuclear movement, I have by-and-large opted to focus upon my everyday life and personal concerns. For some living in Fukushima, however, no such escape option exists. Every day is filled with uncertainties and questions with regard to matters of basic survival: What food is safe to eat? Can I drink this water? Is it is safe to send the kids outside to play?

Outraged at being forced into this situation, a group of Fukushima women decided to take things to the next level by holding a sit-in last week in front of the Ministry of Economy. Organized by members of NGOs and ordinary citizens, the first leg of the sit-in from October 27-30 was attended exclusively by women from Fukushima, then followed by a week-long solidarity sit-in action until November 5th for anyone else who wished to offer their support.

With the national and prefectural governments continuing to add insult to injury following the 3.11 triple disaster by making one outrageously irresponsible decision after the next, there is plenty to be indignant about: Stopping citizens from attempting their own radiation measurements, radioactive dumping in Tokyo Bay, feeding Fukushima schoolchildren with quite possibly contaminated food, and releasing negligent information regarding radiation figures, for starters.

I visited the sit-in the end of the final week, after darkness had fallen. Around 30 or 40 women (and a few men) were in attendance—a small number compared to the hundreds who were normally there during the daytime, I was told. Speaking with the woman staffing the registration tent, I could barely hear our exchange because of trucks parked nearby with a loudspeaker blaring the same message over and over again: “How dare you women come here and protest without identifying yourself! Each and every one of you should put your face and name on the Internet. What kind of cowards are you?” Unreal.

"Women's Action: We Don't Need Nuclear Power!"

“Typical men!” commented the woman I was speaking with, referring to the voice behind the loudspeaker, as I turned to make my way to those assembled for the sit-in. Trying my best to ignore the loud distraction (and to quiet my own anger at those causing it), I sat down with the women and began listening to the speaker addressing the group. Born and raised in Fukushima but living in Ibaraki at the time of the 3.11 disaster, long-time anti-nuclear activist Yuko Yatabe was propelled by shock to travel to Chernobyl following what had happened in her home prefecture. There, she met with citizens in order to discuss the lessons that might be learned for those in Fukushima now facing similar anxieties.

Yatabe showing artwork drawn by a child from Chernobyl

In response to Yatabe’s presentation, one woman raised her hand and commented about the need for Fukushima citizens to become self-empowered with regard to their own health. I approached her as the group was dispersing to ask her what she meant. I learned that she was named Ms. Shirai, and that she ran a grassroots network for alternative energies. “If people in Fukushima are fearful and depressed, their immune systems will be compromised, and they will be at an increased risk for succumbing to the negative effects of radiation,” she told me in an extremely animated voice. “I am trying to reach as many people as I can with the message that there are things they can do to increase their chances of staying healthy, such as waking up early and absorbing positive energy from the sun, or thoroughly cleaning their food in order to reduce possible radiation consumption.”

Shirai, who aims to help empower Fukushima citizens to take charge of their own health

I returned to the sit-in several days later during the afternoon, when one or two hundred participants were in attendance. I was delighted to meet Ruiko Muto, a Fukushima woman whose moving speech during the September anti-nuclear action in Shinjuku had gone viral (at least in Japanese circles) and had inspired me greatly. “While men may try and approach the world intellectually, we women feel things—particularly the power of life itself,” she told me. “And I believe that there is nothing wrong with approaching activism from this emotional perspective.”

“This may appear to be Fukushima’s problem, but as a matter of fact, it will very soon be Tokyo’s problem, as well as that of other Japanese cities,” said another woman, Setsuko Kuroda, who had also traveled from Fukushima for the sit-in. “For this reason, we must all begin working together and cooperating.”

I also ran into Yuko Yatabe again, and was thrilled to see that she was together with a small group of women including Yukie Tokura from the STOP! Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant movement and performance artist/activist Rena Masuyama who were on their way to deliver a petition to the Diet demanding that Japan cancel a plan to export contaminated food from Fukushima. Thanks go to Shingetsu News for filming the meeting:

Perhaps the most egregious of all (in)actions—the failure to protect children—is now the subject of a worldwide petition from Avaaz that is still collecting signatures. The petition’s website (which was updated November 11th) reads:

Right now, thousands of local residents are still trapped in the highly contaminated areas in and around Fukushima City. With black rain falling from the sky and local crops poisoned, children in families left destitute by the tsunami can’t afford to get out — and the government is failing to help them.

But a group of brave mothers have taken to the streets to ensure their children are helped out of the disaster zone. Hundreds of supporters from around the country have gathered for a sit-in outside the Ministry of Economy in Tokyo demanding that Prime Minister Noda grant their children the opportunity to evacuate. We can stand with them.

This is, literally, the fight of their lives. Children, sitting in the midst of radioactive contamination, don’t have a day to lose. In hours, the government will decide whether to act at an emergency meeting -- let's build a giant outcry for a healthy future for Fukushima children. Sign the urgent petition on the right and forward this campaign widely -- it will be delivered directly to the Prime Minister's office before the meeting.
This blog article from Greenpeace gives beautiful insight into the hopeful aspects of the Fukushima women’s protest, and Tokyo area blogger Ruthie Iida gives a thought-provoking account of her visit to the sit-in on her website, Kanagawa Notebook. Finally, British-born, Paris-based Japanologist Kevin Dodd gives a nuanced account about the post-3.11 culture of silence surrounding nuclear issues (which I also referenced above) on his website Senrinomichi.

As I was leaving the sit-in during my second visit, one woman approached me to say that she had been extremely inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the way that it had taken off globally after being motivated by the Arab Spring and similar demonstrations in Europe. “These protests have their roots in the very same problems as do the nuclear issue in Japan,” she told me pointedly. “The nuclear industry are the 1%, while the rest of us are the 99%. If we want to solve these problems, it is critical that people from around the world continue working together in solidarity.”

--Kimberly Hughes

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Japan's 99%: 11,668,809 (so far) Signatures Against Joining TTP "Free Trade" Agreement (a preventable "Fourth Disaster" that would destroy Japan)

Many thanks to Martin Frid at Kurushii for a sensitive compilation/analysis of the Japanese citizenry's decision on the radically neoliberal Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) "free trade" agreement:

Japanese farmers protest the TPP. (Photo: NHK World)

You may not know it, but Japanese people are very vocal and very outspoken. They protest a lot! Foreign media usually does not bother to cover activism in this part of the world. The current protests here in Japan against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a case in point.

Over 11 million Japanese people have signed a petition against TPP. They realize that "free" trade is nothing but a massive assault that will force impossible conditions on their livelihoods. What is so "free" about that?

It could be called the fourth disaster to strike in 2011, after the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

Joining TPP negotiations to eliminate 90% of agricultural tariffs would make it impossible to live in rural Japan.

TPP might lead to a lowering of Japan's food self-sufficiency from around 40% to 13%.

Asking Japan to import 87% of its food? That would essentially kill one of the best reasons this country has for attracting tourists. It would kill a way of life, both for small restaurants that depend on local produce, and for fancy places that assure its customers that they provide the very best. It would make rice farming next to impossible, thus all related farm activities in areas that are known for their delicious rice to collapse. These are not empty words in a country that appreciates its farmers. Consumers here are strong supporters of the agricultural policy that has evolved in spite of external pressure.

I have no idea where all those people in rural areas would move, what they would do, how they are supposed to manage.

Farmers are the backbone of rural Japan, and they contribute to Japan's cuisine, with more Michelin Guide 3 star resturants than France, and a very high level of food safety we all can enjoy - also in the cities.

That is connected to postal services, banking and other services in rural areas. Pensions? Health insurance? Hospitals? Ambulance services?

These are other sectors that are targeted for the direct assault and deregulation by the proposed TPP rules.

But the people here clearly understand the gravity of the situation. Thus, they protest. Wouldn't you??

11,668,809 people (so far, and counting) are against the TPP.
Read the rest of this excellent post with links here.

Shisaku has more updates on TPP and lively, great analysis with an emphasis on political actors.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"We are not right-wing, we are not left-wing~ We are Ainu": First ever Ainu political party to be launched

Saturday, October 29th, 2011 marks a revolution in Japanese politics: the first time in Japanese history a minority group has announced it will form its own political party. After witnessing the success of minority and indigenous political parties around the world, members of the Ainu community in Hokkaido decided to create their own party to campaign for their issues.

Led by Shiro Kayano, the President of the Kayano Shigeru's Nibutani Ainu Museum (named after his late father), Hokkaido Ainu Association Board Member Hideo Akibe, Hokkaido Ainu Association Ebetsu City-branch head Yuji Shimizu and their supporters made the announcement at the Symposium on Multicultural Education in Japan hosted by the World Indigenous People's Network-Ainu in Sapporo. The party is not affiliated with the Hokkaido Ainu Association and will start functioning in January.

Flyer for Symposium on Multicultural Education with photos of Shiro Kayano (top left), Yuji Shimizu (center left), Hideo Akibe (center right), and Nomoto Hiroyuki (bottom left)

Shiro Kayano stated at the symposium:
What is needed for the Ainu people is unity. We need to unite the Ainu people and our supporters. Some people say that because we were traditionally hunters and gathers so we can not unite as one. However, we also practiced fishing and small-scale agriculture, so this argument holds no ground. We can unite.
The Ainu people have been no stranger to politics. Kayano's father, Shigeru Kayano, served as a House of Councilor's member from 1994 until 1998. While Shigeru Kayano was the only Ainu person that won a seat in parliament, other Ainu people have campaigned for seats including Kaori Tahara, a former member of the New Party Daichi.

Hideo Akibe added:
Having Shigeru Kayano in the parliament played a huge role in the enactment of the Ainu Culture Law in 1997. I feel it may be destiny, after the passing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and us holding the 2008 Indigenous Summit in Hokkaido, that this move to form a political party has come about.
Shiro Kayano further elaborated on the necessity for Ainu people to have their own political party where their issues are not overshadowed or ignored:
Ainu issues are put on the back burner while other issues gain more attention in Japan. Many people believe that the 1997 Ainu Cultural Law and 2008 parliament resolution to recognize Ainu as indigenous people solved the issues that Ainu people have faced, but in reality, they have not not. So, we need to rise up! Similar to the Arab Spring, maybe this marks the beginning of an Ainu Spring!
A member of the Planning Committee for the Ainu Party who wished to remain nameless explained that current governmental policies, laws, and panels on Ainu policy do not take adequate steps to realize any of the inherent indigenous rights to which the Ainu are entitled, nor any other priorities that Ainu have, including issues related to poverty and education. He also noted:
We hope that with an Ainu political party, not only can we push for policies that realize Ainu rights, but we can draw attention to the multicultural nature of Japan while pushing for policies that address a variety of Ainu issues.
Hiroyuki Nomoto, Tokyo Metropolitan University associate professor and member of the Planning Committee for the Ainu Party explained that although the policy stances of the party have not been decided, discussions have revolved around the following points:
  • the restoration of Ainu rights
  • the realization of the coexistence of multicultural groups in Japanese society
  • the creation of a sustainable society based on harmony with Nature
The Ainu Party which is aiming to bring at least ten candidates to parliament in 2013, will help bring Ainu issues to the forefront of Japanese policy deliberations. It may also provide a platform for other minority groups, such as Zainichi Koreans in Japan to raise their voices against violations of their rights. Currently, Zaiinichi Korean organizations are campaigning for their schools to become accredited by the government. At present, with "international" English schools as an exception, any school that does not use Japanese as its main language cannot become accredited, forcing its students to jump through countless hurdles to matriculate into universities.

The idea behind the Ainu party is for Ainu people to unite to promote their own issues, while taking steps towards a multicultural Japan where all minorities can live in harmony. As Hideo Akibe explained: "We are not right-wing, we are not left-wing~ We are Ainu."

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Monday, November 7, 2011

Music and Art Peace Academy art exhibit and T-shirt contest for a sustainable future ~ Friday, November 18th @Tokyo

MAPA (Music and Art Peace Academy) will be holding a collaborative art event at M Event Space in Daikanyama on Friday, November 18th to promote a sustainable world. Artists are encouraged to submit their own original artwork that represents sustainability from October 21st to November 10th, 2011. All art forms are welcome - painting, digital art, collage, photos, recycled artwork- anything! All proceeds will be donated to the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World coordinated by Peace Boat scheduled for January 14-15, 2012 in Yokohama.

As explained on the homepage for Parties for Peace, a groundbreaking group that envisions stimulating events which utilize art, music, and dance as a platform to "help raise awareness and fundraise for important International campaigns to promote environmental awareness, human rights and sustainability":

The MAPA project invites individuals, organizations, musicians, artists, photographers, designers, writers, actors, videographers and promoters who are interested in social and environmental issues to work together to promote a culture of peace through music and art and join the Peace Boat global voyage for the Music and Art Peace Academy onboard.

Peace Boat is a Japan-based international non- governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment. Peace Boat seeks to create awareness and action based on effecting positive social and political change in the world.
MAPA is also accepting entries for their Tshirt and Eco-bag design contest! They will choose one design to print on their Tshirts to be displayed at the event on the 18th of November.

To have your work displayed at the event or to enter the T-shirt contest, simply simply send your proposal for the event or T-shirt design to Emilie McGlone at by November 10th.