AAA member, David H. Slater, is an associate professor of cultural anthropology in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and the Graduate Program of Japanese Studies at Sophia University, Tokyo. His most recent article, “Fukushima Women Against Nuclear Power: Finding a Voice from Tohoku” was featured in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. Below is an excerpt of the article. To read the complete article, please click here.
From the very first, it has been quite difficult to politicize earthquake and tsunami hit Tohoku, despite the poor planning, the slow and uneven response, the failure to provide aid in a timely way in the days and weeks afterward, and the often poorly organized evacuation centers—an issue which resulted in a number of unexplained deaths. Now, the temporary housing facilities virtually insure that communities, or what is left of them, will stay dysfunctional for a while, even as their residents are often the ones called upon to manage their own relief. While the silences of fatalism and the shock of such a terrible disaster have been noted, anyone who has been to the Northeast on a regular basis is aware that the frustration and anger erupt in different ways almost every day. The point, however, is that rarely does it emerge in the unified voices of protest, rarely in coherent demands for systematic help, almost never in anger expressed in a way that the rest of the nation can hear.
In contrast, the threat of nuclear radiation and critiques of the nuclear industry have been skillfully politicized in ways that have led to the largest set of demonstrations in Japan (with the exception of Okinawa) since the US-Japan security treaty protests of the 1960s and 1970s. These protests have been based in Tokyo, utilizing urban networks of activists who have provided the digital framework for organization that has brought together an older generation of anti-nuclear activists, young families, hip urbanites, office workers and union protesters. This is, perhaps ironic, considering that many of the protesters and marchers rarely have contact with Tohoku. The nuclear threat, organizers say, extends beyond Tohoku, even beyond Japan. And indeed, this is the message that has been heard around the world, as the anti-nuke protest and politics were staged with specific reference to Fukushima (sadly, rarely with respect to the wider ‘Tohoku’ region).
To read the entire article and watch the interviews, click here.