Promoting a More Lively Planet

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Kyle Phan

When the earthquake damaged Fukushima a couple years ago, I knew something big had occurred because radiation is not a simple matter. It was only when I came to Japan that I learned from a documentary that the aftermaths of the earthquake are indeed, really bad. People are protesting against nuclear power and the Japanese government must decide where to throw away its nuclear waste. It appears the situation got way out of control, and some people are ignoring the situation. I can’t really blame the people of Fukushima for feeling powerless, but I think everyone, especially countries who use nuclear power, should brainstorm solutions and learn from the situation instead of ignoring it. To prevent future scenarios involving nuclear radiation, the situation must be approached both locally and internationally because an environmental crisis could happen at any given time to any country that uses nuclear power.

In order to improve the conditions at Fukushima, it is really important that the government first stops denying the situation. The people with power need to take responsibility for their decisions of building the nuclear plant at Fukushima and start developing perspective of the unequal treatment of the people of Fukushima. Japanese politicians and any person with power needs to move away from their self-interests (tragedy of the commons) and realize the injustice of the situation because environmental crisis can happen to any person regardless of social background. If the Japanese government has the money, then why not fix the situation and help the victims of Fukushima? Allowing the nuclear waste pile up somewhere or discarding the waste to some poorer area in Japan or even China (environmental racism) is no solution.  If they decide to get rid of the waste like that, the politician must make sure no people inhabit the area, but doing so, either way has implications for the environment which must be handled internationally.

Since dealing with nuclear waste is easier said than done, I think the top scientists of every country that uses nuclear power should collaborate for some feasible solutions because they are the experts on the subject. The Earth is our home and we should work together to alleviate pollution! If we can’t fix the problem right now, we must strive for the future: people all over the world must start pursuing alternative sources of energy! Maybe we should invest in solar panels, or better yet, better funding for STEM research might be the answer. Since Jeffrey Jousan has said the US is partially the reason why Japan first began using nuclear power, I also think US could offer some assistance in cleaning up the waste.  I think everyone would agree that both the poor and the rich are alive because of what the Earth offers: the water you drink, the air you breathe, the food you eat, you’re alive because of the Earth.

Clearly, the current issues goes deeper than what has been mentioned. It is obvious that something must be done with the power differences among the power companies and the Fukushima victims. With that being said, only the Japanese can fix their own problem. The people with power must develop the perspective of the victims and realize that Fukushima are “Japanese” people too. In order for progress to be made, the younger generation needs to stop isolating themselves from the polluted environment (inverted quarantine) and start being getting their voices heard by those with power! Maybe we can’t fix Fukushima, but in order for environmental conditions to change for the people of Fukushima, there needs to be more support for environmental change. The Fukushima moms can’t be out fighting by themselves. Being aware is not enough, it is time for people to start being active in the process! However, it is difficult because of limiting factors such as the cultural values of Japanese people not wanting to appear troublesome to other people and the “lack of freedom of press in Japan.” People internationally also need to start being active with environmental movements because nuclear waste has implications to our home, the Earth.


Press Freedom Index 2013″ 2013. 11 Dec. 2013.,1054.html

Social Movements and Japanese Political Culture

English: Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Rally on 19 ...

English: Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Rally on 19 September 2011 at Meiji Shrine Outer Garden 日本語: 2011年9月19日に明治神宮外苑で行われたさようなら原発集会 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Chihiro Kobayashi

When I was in the U.S., I joined some social movements such as “Stop Modern Slavery Walk” and “9.11 Unity Walk” for the first time. My image toward the U.S. is that they insist and try to change their society by themselves through social movements if the current society is not what they want. Therefore, when they want to change the society, social movements are one of the most important ways.

However, in Japan, many people would think social movements are a bad thing and they avoid doing it. One of the biggest reasons why Japanese people do not join social movement is that they fear the bizarre eyes toward people those who join movements such as demonstration march. I do not say there is no social movements at all in Japan, but I think the understanding toward social movements is lower than other countries. Since demonstration type of social movement is hated by Japanese, it is important to find the suitable social movement instead to change our society better.

At the Japanese Political Culture Theory class, I learned Japanese people tend to avoid joining social movements as their culture. Instead, they tend to rely on others to change the society. For example, in the case of politics, many Japanese people complain current policies and criticize about the government as well. However, Japanese citizens tend not to make social movements to change these, instead they depend on politicians to change these problems. I do not really know if these tendency is because of Japanese culture as I learned in the Political Theory class, but I think it is sure that many Japanese have negative image toward social movements. However, I think Japanese people need to have better understanding toward social movements because it is difficult to make our society only by depending on the politicians.

In the past seven years, the Prime Minister of Japan has changed seven times, and Japanese citizens do not expect politicians to make our society better anymore. Since Japanese cannot rely on and trust politicians anymore, how we can change our society? I think we individuals need to join social movements and speak out about the problems to the government.

For example, more and more anti-nuclear plants demonstrations have been occurring in Japan recently, since the Fukushima Nuclear disaster. However, Japanese still might avoid joining a social movement, such as a demonstration march, because they do not want to be seen as bizarre in the eyes of other people. I think there are many other ways which is more suitable for Japanese cultural characteristic to join social movements which is other than demonstration. For example, in the case of anti-nuclear power plants, we have these variety of social movements.

  1. Voting for anti-nuclear politicians: Social Democratic Party and Communist party are anti-nuclear plants.
  2. Purchasing campaign: By buying the products from local area, they can appeal that they do no need to depend on money from the nuclear power plants but they can be independent.
  3. Consumer Boycott: Avoid buying the products which company is related to building nuclear power plants, such as Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Hitachi, Ltd.
  4. Changing the deposit account: Our deposit which is deposited in mega bank such as Japan Post Bank and Bank of the post office is used in bond purchases, and as a result, it will be used to construct dam construction and nuclear power plant constriction. By changing the bank account such as to National Association of Labor banks, it is possible to prevent our deposit from being used for building nuclear power plant. (Stop Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant)

Even though these social movements do not stand out openly rather it is more hidden movement different from demonstration march in the city, these movements still have big power to change the society. Also, even if we cannot change our society and policies, we can still influence public policy by bringing attention to the issues. Considering the recent lack of trust in politicians, we individuals need to stand up to make our society better.

I think it is important for Japanese people to find the best suitable social movements for them, based on their political culture (avoiding demonstrations) because we have different culture and characteristics from Americans and other countries. These little by little hidden social movements might change not only policies but also might change people’s negative perspective toward the social movements in the future.


“Stop Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant.” Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

TEPCO, Nuclear Disaster & Spaghetti-Os: Bad Deeds Get Rewarded

by Robert Moorehead

I’m re-blogging Jake Adelstein‘s brilliant post from the Japan Subculture Research Center. Adelstein figures out TEPCO’s plan: to do a sufficiently poor job of cleaning up the Fukushima nuclear disaster that the Japanese government has to take over. The more TEPCO spends cleaning up the mess, the less profit it makes. So it spends as little as possible, until the situation becomes so untenable that it gets relieved of the responsibility.

As Homer Simpson said, “If adults don’t like their jobs, they don’t go on strike. They just go in every day and do it really half-assed.”

The mis-measurement of radiation at the plant is especially mind-blowing: TEPCO used devices that maxed out at 100 millisieverts, thereby avoiding having any record of the true radiation levels, which were later measured at 1800 millisieverts, which enough to kill a person after 4 hours of exposure.

This clever use of technology reminds me of the speedometers on American cars in the 1970s and 1980s, which topped out at 85 mph. So, if you floored the gas pedal and kept it floored as you flew down the highway, you would have no visual cue that you were going any faster than 85. Unless you looked out the window, of course.

Or maybe if you don’t want to know how much weight you’re putting on, but you’re expected to weigh yourself every day, get a scale that tops out at your ideal weight.

TEPCO, Nuclear Disaster & Spaghetti-Os: Bad Deeds Get Rewarded.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO, is getting a lot of criticism for its inept clean-up attempts of the Fukushima nuclear power plant site, which had triple-meltdowns in March of 2011—after the company had failed to take precautions which might have prevented the meltdown in the first place. There is also a 4th reactor where spent fuel rods are waiting to be extracted, and if mishandled they have the potential to release huge amounts of radiation into the air. TEPCO, like the Central Intelligence Agency, has a wonderful legacy of failure, and now it literally has “a legacy of ashes”.

To read more, check out Jake Adelstein’s full post.

原発20キロ圏内に生きる男 – Alone in the Zone

by Robert Moorehead

Jeffrey and Ivan have just released another powerful video on Fukushima—this time from inside the evacuated zone with some farmers who have refused to leave. It’s a powerful, moving look at the damage inflicted by the nuclear disaster, and the lives affected by it.

‘Women of Fukushima’ is available for free online viewing

Women of Fukushima

The documentary “Women of Fukushima” is available for free online viewing this week.

by Robert Moorehead

To highlight the ongoing difficulties experienced by many in Japan, the wonderful and inspiring documentary ‘Women of Fukushima’ is available for free online viewing this week. To see the documentary, click on the image above and you’ll be taken to

What’s Changed, 2 Years After Fukushima?

As one: People join hands Sunday morning on a beach in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, ahead of the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. | KYODO

by Robert Moorehead

Two years ago today, at 2:46pm, Japan suffered one of the worst disasters in its history. A magnitude 9 earthquake shook for 6 minutes, followed by a massive tsunami that destroyed entire cities and carried people and debris out to sea. The quake and tsunami also crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, taking out its backup power generators and safety systems. Tens of thousands remain displaced and likely never to return to their homes.

I watched news coverage of the tsunami and nuclear disaster from the safety of the United States, while my suitcases sat packed and ready for travel to Japan to start my position at Ritsumeikan. I heard American broadcasts warn of everything but Godzilla marching down the street, and Japanese broadcasts calmly, quietly, try to balance informing the public with protecting those in power. Somewhere in between those two extremes lied the news people needed to hear, and that is still largely ignored in the mainstream Japanese press.

Governments across Japan conducted disaster drills on the anniversary of 3-11.

Governments across Japan conducted disaster drills on the anniversary of 3-11.

This week, TV news have covered elements of the nuclear disaster in detail, and undoubtedly many people across the country will observe a moment of silence at the time the quake struck. But for the those who had to evacuate, there is likely no going back. Many still live in poorly built temporary housing and struggle to form new community ties. Victims of the disaster continue to struggle with domestic violence, unemployment, depression, and suicide. And many live just outside the evacuation areas, near radioactive hotspots, and in areas where radiation cleanup work has been shoddy and ineffective. The yakuza, Japan’s labor broker of last resort, have done well in the aftermath of the disaster, but how about the people of Tohoku?

While disasters often bring people together, leading us to help each other and to sacrifice for the common good, eventually the institutionalized patterns of corruption and inequality reappear. Prior to the disasters, the regulatory bodies that ostensibly existed to protect the public from the deadly hazards of nuclear power, instead served to protect the profits of the agencies they were supposed to regulate. This brazen failure of governance raises the question I have asked my Japanese students each semester, whom does the government serve? Does it represent you, your voice, your interests, or those of Japan’s corporate oligarchy? Is the system rigged in their favor? The questions are largely rhetorical, but I often get the sense that students had not previously given this issue much thought.

Nobel laureate writer Kenzaburo Oe (right), joins a demonstration after an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo on Saturday, March 9, 2013. Thousands of anti-nuclear demonstrators rallied in Tokyo, urging Japan’s government to abandon nuclear power. — PHOTO: AFP

One cliche often heard in Japan was that 3-11, much like 9-11, changed everything. The challenge Japan faces is whether the events changed anything at all. Beyond the buildings and nearly 20,000 lives that were lost, what has changed?

The Abe administration moves ahead with plans to restart Japan’s nuclear power plants, and a newly restructured nuclear regulatory agency struggles for legitimacy. Will the new agency actually regulate the industry? Will the agency shut down nuclear power plants that were built on active earthquake faults? Will it enforce new safety regulations? Will the government be able to turn down the companies that have invested billions in plants and fuel processing facilities? Who will the government represent in making those decisions?

A protester holds an anti-nuclear power sign at a rally in Tokyo on Saturday, March 9, 2013. Thousands of anti-nuclear demonstrators rallied in Tokyo on Saturday, urging Japan’s government to abandon nuclear power. — PHOTO: AP

My students tell me that Japanese people don’t protest and that there are no social movements in Japan. And if you only read the mainstream press, this perspective makes sense. But tens of thousands of people across Japan continue to protest the return to nuclear power. Will these voices be represented in government? (It’s also disheartening to hear my students ignore 60 years of protest in Okinawa, but that’s the subject for another post.)

It will take another 40 years to decommission the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, requiring the use of technologies not yet invented to remove melted nuclear fuel from inside the damaged reactors and spent fuel pools. Righting the country’s course will require continued vigilance. If that happens, then 3-11 will really have changed everything.

Ishinomaki—Then and Now

by Robert Moorehead

Filmed in Ishinomaki in November, 2011, this documentary includes interviews with survivors of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters of March 11. This moving documentary is the recipient of Best Documentary and the Grand Prix prize at Super Shorts Film Festival, 2012.

The video is also available in the following languages:

The filmmakers have also released “The Women of Fukushima,” a documentary film that examines the experiences of eight women whose lives have been changed by the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant. This disaster has compelled these women to become activists in the social movement against nuclear power in Japan.

My Japanese students often tell me that there are no social movements in Japan, and that Japanese people don’t participate in such events. Not only does this view negate the existence of 60 years of protest in what is now Okinawa prefecture, but it also views the people who participate in such movements as somehow different from everyone else in Japan.

The “Women of Fukushima” challenges this view, by giving viewers a feeling of connection with these women. Hopefully this connection will compel more Japanese to speak up and demand a safer future for them and their children.

“The Women of Fukushima” is available for online rental and purchase (for only $8) at

Social movements in Japan after 3.11

by Yurino Kawamura

Social movements in Japan have been popular after 3.11 earthquake and Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident. Social movements used to be popular in Japan among university students in the 1960s to 1970s. Students of many universities, such as University of Tokyo or Nihon University, gathered into several thousands to protest for various reasons such as being against for tuition raise or change in university dorms rules. Although these movements achieved their goals to some extent, according to their violent aspect which lead to more than 100 death in total, rapidly scaled down. Since then, these movements have long been slowed down for several decades. However, as the Internet became widespread among citizens, social movements gradually retrieved its popularity. One of the recent and relatively large-scale protest was anti-Fuji television protest held in August 2011. This protest focused on the T.V. programs of Fuji television and accused that it was too much supportive for a specific country. Focusing on a fact that T.V. programs disregarded Japanese figures compared to those from a specific country, many conservatives joined to the protest. It can also be noted that social media such as Twitter or Niconico Douga played an important role in wide-spreading the protest to a massive scale. Although several thousand people have gathered, achievement of this protest is difficult to measure and is quite arguable.

Currently most popular social movement in Japan is no doubt anti-nuclear protests which had quickly spread throughout Japan after 3.11. Framing the issue as health problem especially upon small children, anti-nuclear protests have rapidly gained support from mothers nationwide. Focusing on the health issues, protesters complain that politicians cannot abandon nuclear power because they are receiving support from economic community. Framing nuclear power with economic growth and anti-nuclear power with children’s health is effective in penetrating anti-nuclear policies into housewives and mothers of small children. Protests have gathered more than a hundred thousand people in front of the office of Prime Minister. The fact that this many people have gathered shows how popular this protest has become. Now, I am keeping an eye on the next election for the House of Representative. After the 3.11 earthquake, many new parties calling for no-nuclear policies have been formed. Considering that these policies have been adopted because of the citizens’ protest, if these new parties acquire many seats in the House of Representative that means citizens’ protests have changed the political framework. Since I am eager to know how much effect can the protests make, I want to know how much change will this protest bring about.