Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Green Action briefing from Kyoto: Nuclear accident evacuation planning in central Japan

Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action, a Kyoto-based nuclear-free advocacy organization, speaks about nuclear power accident emergency planning in central Japan. Plans call for the evacuation of more than a quarter million people to sites such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Green Action: Japanese citizens sue, saying "No!" to restart of nuclear power in Japan

Instead of moving forward and focusing on the development of better energy conservation methods and renewable energy, Japan, under the Abe administration, is going backward.  Japanese energy companies, the second highest importers of coal in the world after Chinese energy firms, are spending billions of dollars on new coal-fired plants.  Moreover, the Abe administration has aggressively promoted the export of nuclear plants overseas and is now pushing for the restart of nuclear plants in Japan, despite the opposition of the majority of citizens.

Our friends at Green Action, a Kyoto-based nuclear-free advocacy organization led by Eileen Mioko Smith, recently released this video press statement about their legal action to stop the restart:
On March 20th 2014, Japanese citizens gathered at the Osaka District Courthouse at the final session of the injunction lawsuit (filed in 2012) against the restart of Fukui Prefecture's Ohi nuclear reactors units 3 and 4.

Currently all nuclear reactors in Japan have been temporarily shut down following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in March 2011. However, Japanese electric utilities have 17 applications in to restart reactors. The Ohi reactors are among the first slated for restart. The litigants are seeking that the courts address three main issues:

1) underestimation of earthquake impact on the reactors

2) no method of preventing radioactive discharge into the ocean in the event of a serious accident

3) not taking into consideration an active fault very near the emergency coolant pipe, or faults moving simultaneously near the reactor site.

(Note: Past earthquake examples show that Japanese earthquakes produce greater seismic motion with the same AREA of earthquake fault shifting than foreign earthquakes.)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Die for Japan: Wartime Propaganda Kamishibai (paper plays)

The Abe administration's move—towards political censorship, fuller remilitarization (this week the Japanese government discarded a half-century ban on the export of weapons), and overturning Article 9, the Peace Clause of the Japanese Constitution—has reminded many of prewar and wartime Japan.

Professor Jeffrey Dym's (Sacramento State) terrific Die for Japan: Wartime Propaganda Kamishibai opens a window on popular Japanese culture of that period. The  2012 short documentary film explores how the wartime government appropriated kamishigai, a form of popular Japanese street art, to exhort Japanese people to embrace death during war as a duty to the state.

Dym shows how wartime Japanese propaganda glorified dying for the nation, and, in contrast, American Second World War propaganda glorified killing the enemy.
We live in an increasingly visual culture and I believe it is important for us as scholars to become involved in creating and adding scholarly contributions to it and not just as talking heads in a documentary. Thus, I have embarked on a road I call "visual scholarship."

I would like to announce the publishing of an eighteen minute documentary--"Die for Japan: Wartime Propaganda Kamishibai" (paper plays; 国策紙芝居)--I recently completed. The film examines Japanese propaganda from a unique angle and the film could be used to spark classroom discussion, particularly if paired with an American wartime propaganda film like "Know Your Enemy Japan."

Recent posts on Japanese concern about remilitarization:

 "Kenzaburo Oe, Jakucho Setouchi, Masahide Ota found “1000-member committee to prevent Japan from entering wars" (Rally @Hibiya Park, March 20, 2014)" (March 18, 2014)

"Yoji Yamada's Kabei (Our Mother) explores repression and militarization during wartime Japan" (April 2, 2014)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Yoji Yamada's Kabei (Our Mother) explores repression and militarization during wartime Japan

Since the Koizumi administration (2001-2006), LDP-run Japanese governments have enthusiastically moved towards increasing political repression (especially freedom of expression), concomitantly with remilitarization (yesterday the Japanese government discarded a half-century ban on the export of weapons). These shifts, reminiscent  of 1930's and early 1940's Japan, have not only triggered concerns in other Asian countries, but has also in Japan: bringing to the surface memories of the build-up to Japan's last war.

This illuminating interview,"YOJI YAMADA: Voice of dissent revives forgotten war memories," by Mark Schilling with an antiwar filmmaker  (published at JT in 2008) reflects these concerns.  (Yamada is renowned in Japan for his 1969-96 film series Otoko wa Tsurai Yo (Tora-san) that follows the romantic ups and downs of a goodhearted peddler;  at a deeper level, the series is an exploration of postwar Japanese society from the perspective of ordinary people living on the economic margins.)  Kabei takes a similar perspective at an earlier time period: exploring how prewar repression and militarization affected the lives of ordinary Japanese individuals and their families.

(Yoji Yamada.Photo: Yoshiaki Miura)

...Based on a memoir by Teruyo Nogami, a script supervisor for Akira Kurosawa for more than four decades, "Kaabee" is a family drama set in Tokyo in 1940-41, when war clouds were darkening and freedom of expression was vanishing.

In the opening scene the father, a scholar of German literature, is arrested on the charge of shisohan (a"thought" crime).

The mother, played by Sayuri Yoshinaga, then has to raise her two young daughters, Teruyo and Hatsuko, on her own, though her art-student sister (Reiko Dan) and her husband's bumbling-but-dedicated former student (Tadanobu Asano) rally to her side.

"Kaabee" is set in the early 1940s, but its themes, including the suppression of dissent, still have relevance today. Was that your main reason for wanting to make this film?

What attracted me first was the childhood memoir by Teruyo Nogami. Her father was actually arrested under the Peace Preservation Law (which had the goal of clamping down on communists, labor activists and opponents of Japan's militarism) and spent time in jail. That's what Japan was like in 1940 and 1941, but Japanese today don't know this. I wanted to rekindle their memories. Those were frightening times, when Japan started the Pacific War with an unstoppable wave.

Can we say the same frightening, out-of-control forces that started that war are absent from Japan today? In 1945 we made what was supposed to be a strong commitment to peace. But now (certain forces) are trying to change the "peace Constitution."

Japan should have remained the one country in the world with no military and a prohibition against war (in the Constitution). Now Japan is going along with America and the Bush administration. I have doubts about whether that's right.

I imagine that the audience in Berlin will understand this theme.

Yes, in the 1930s and 1940s Germany went through similar experiences. We were both fascist countries. It must have been scary to oppose Hitler at that time, so I think the German audience will understand that aspect.

I've seen a lot of Japanese movies about the war, but yours is something different — you focus on one family instead of combatants.

There aren't many films about that specific time. The movies made in the 1940s had to pass military censors, so they don't express any reality. The movies made after 1945 are also lacking in that they don't portray the lives of ordinary people during wartime...

What message would you like people to take away from the film?

When the war ended in 1945, Japan was the loser and there was an international trial. Then (former Prime Minister Hideki) Tojo and other Class-A war criminals were hanged. But in Japan the police had been rounding up people who were opposed to the war and killing them without trial. About 60,000 people were arrested.

In Germany, those who cooperated with the Nazis were tried in German courts, separately from the Nuremberg War Crime Trials. In Japan we didn't have that. The husband in "Kaabee" is basically killed by the police, but the killers weren't put on trial. They brazenly returned to the police force.

Japan made a wonderful postwar Constitution, but no amends have been made for past wrongs. In Germany, the Nazi collaborators were made to pay for what they did; in Japan, a war criminal could became prime minister, such as Nobusuke Kishi, the grandfather of our recent prime minister, Shinzo Abe. There's something strange about that...
The rest of this important interview at the above link.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Vernal Equinox in Kyoto: Weeping Plum Blossoms at Jonangu Shrine

Looking for images of Spring Equinox in Kyoto, and these are the most beautiful: Deep Kyoto's stunning set of photos of weeping plum in full bloom at Jonangu Shrine.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How Gary Snyder's and Daniel Ellsberg's chance meeting in Kyoto in 1960 changed them and world history...

Ryoanji stone garden, Kyoto (Photo: Wikipedia)

In The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves..., Donald Rothberg suggests that change is mysterious and always possible, illustrating his point by relating an encounter between poet Gary Snyder and Daniel Ellsberg in Kyoto.  This chance meeting influenced the latter's decision to release "The Pentagon Papers" to the media, with the hope it would speed the end of the Vietnam War:
Daniel Ellsberg tells the story of meeting activist, poet, and Zen practitioner Gary Snyder by chance at a bar near the Zen monastery of Ryoanji in Kyoto, Japan, in 1960. Ellsberg was living in Tokyo, working on nuclear weapons policy for the Office of Naval Research, through the Rand Corporation.  Snyder was then midway through a nearly ten-year period of Zen practice, staying at or near Zen monasteries for the bulk of that time.

Ellsberg had gone to see the Zen garden at Ryoanji because he had read about it in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums in which Snyder was the lightly fictionalized major figure.

The impact and memory of Ellsberg's conversations with Snyder at the bar and the next day at Snyder's cottage, Ellsberg later reported, played a significant role in his later decision, some nine years later, to divulge the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the planning of the Vietnam War. Ellsberg's action was a major contribution to the turn against the war in public opinion and political discussions in the United States.
Gary Snyder on the porch of 
Shoden-ji Rinzai temple, Kyoto.

Daniel Ellsberg in Vietnam (4 years after meeting Gary Snyder; 
5 years before he released The Pentagon Papers). 

More about Daniel Ellsberg's shift in awareness (and advice to peace builders, and thoughts on Gary Snyder) in this 2006 interview at Busted Halo:
 I’d like peoples’ consciences to be re-thought and reshaped as much as possible to adopt new norms of nonviolence and truthfulness and that’s a fairly revolutionary change in awareness and specifically in conscience for many people...

Learning from people who have already had that conversion is very helpful. In my case, it was crucial for me to meet people who were of that mind and who were going to prison rather than to take part at all in what they saw as a wrongful war...So I think that courage is contagious and coming into contact or exposing yourself to people who are taking those risks is very helpful and a first step toward doing it yourself... And doing the reading, readings like Joan Valerie Bondurant’s Conquest of Violence, for example, on Gandhian theory, Gandhi himself or Barbara Deming...

You know, the difference that I see between Gandhi and Gandhi’s thought in Buddhism is that there is a very explicit activist theme to Gandhi in which the idea of organized nonviolent civil disobedience in particular but withdrawal of support and even obstruction of wrongful activities are a major factor. And there is a strain of what is called Engaged Buddhism that Joanna Macy and Gary Snyder and others have been prominent in and my wife is attracted to. But that is just one way of being Buddhist and in general, the teachings didn’t point toward organized activity, mass activity, dedicated to changing processes in society or wrongdoing in society. It had more of an emphasis on inward transformation rather than transformation of a society.

Daniel Ellsberg's website:

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers:

Daniel Ellsberg: Secrets: Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kenzaburo Oe, Jakucho Setouchi, Masahide Ota found “1000-member committee to prevent Japan from entering wars" (Rally @Hibiya Park, March 20, 2014)

ARTICLE 9: Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
The Abe administration wants to reinterpret and revise the Japanese Peace Constitution to send the Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF) fight on behalf of other nations under the rubric of "collective defense."

This is not a new political struggle.  Okinawans have been on the front lines of the remilitarization of their prefecture since 1945, when the American military took over former Japanese bases and began a decade-long series of seizures (by force) of Okinawan farms and homes, for further base expansion. The ink was barely dry on Japan's pacifist Constitution, when in the early 1950's, Allen Dulles agitated for full Japanese remilitarization. The then Secretary of State wanted a Japanese military of between 300,000 and 350,000 men, to assist in US wars in Asia. Richard Nixon, as vice-president, supported Dulles, stating that Article 9 was a "mistake" while visiting Tokyo in 1953.

However, Dulles and other Cold War hawks were repeatedly thwarted by the majority of Japanese citizens who resisted the call to war (albeit during the sacrifice of Okinawa, which endured direct US military rule until 1972, serving as a major US weapons testing and combat training site during the wars in Korea and Vietnam).  Historian John Dower attributes Japan's pacifist policy to the democratically expressed will of the people, in John Junkerman's 2006 documentary film, Japan's Peace Constitution:
People who remembered what war was really like said, "We can't do this again. We have to cherish these ideals." The government, however, was saying, "Oh, we've got to go along with America." And so you have this split in Japan...
In the face of the Japanese citizenry's overwhelming support of Article 9, Japanese postwar governments fell into a gradual, barely noticeable process of chipping away at the prohibitions of Article 9 and growing JSDF capability. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Japan now ranks in the top ten countries in the world in military expenditure.

This slow pace shifted when neo-cons wielded control of US foreign policy during the Bush-Koizumi years.  Not only did they instigate the invasion of Iraq, but they also resurrected Cold War tensions in Asia, after a decade of thawing relations between China and Japan. Former PM Koizumi bowed to American neo-con demands to hasten Japan's remilitarization, at the same time he began his controversial visits to Yasukuni Shrine, reopening wartime wounds. During the Japanese neo-con's tenure, he worked to erode the remaining vestiges of Article 9, going as far as to send 1,100 members of the Japan Self Defense Force to Iraq (ostensibly for non-combat support), even though Iraq has never posed a threat to Japan.

Perhaps because of ongoing remorse for the millions of people killed during the Second World War, and perhaps because of vivid memories of fire bombings of all of Japan's major cities, the Battle of Okinawa, and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese and Okinawan mainstream challenged Koizumi's support of the US invasion of Iraq, similarly to the ongoing challenge of the Abe administration's assaults on what's left of Article 9, the only thing that keeps Japan from falling into the abyss that is war.

Concerned about their nation, high profile Japanese figures are increasingly speaking out on behalf of Article 9, the peace clause. On the eve of his birthday in December, Emperor Akihito (tutored by an American Quaker during his youth) defended Article 9. Then, on the eve of his birthday in February, Crown Prince Naruhito attributed Japan's peace and prosperity to the pacifist Constitution.

And this month, The Asahi, the Japan Daily Press and the Ryukyu Shimpo (one of Okinawa's two major daily newspapers) reported on the establishment of a “1000-member committee to prevent Japan from entering wars." Founding members include Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe, Buddhist nun Jakucho Setouchi, and former Okinawa governor Mashide Ota.

The Asahi:
"We have to stop the move to allow the Cabinet to undermine Article 9 simply by reinterpreting the Constitution," said constitutional scholar Yasuhiro Okudaira, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo and one of the 16 founding members of the group...

"While Japan should contribute to world peace, it is becoming a country that can export arms and enter war," said writer Keiko Ochiai, another founding member.

Tetsumi Takara, a professor of constitutional law at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa Prefecture, commented, “For the Okinawan people who have experienced war, it looks as if war is imminent.”
Distinguished writers, scholars and other academics in Japan have joined forces to challenge the government’s move to reinterpret the country’s Constitution. A group aiming to gather one thousand members, calling themselves the “1,000-member committee to prevent Japan from entering war..."

...Writer Makoto Sataka also reminded, “If the right to collective self-defense is granted, Japan would cross the line of ‘self-defense’ and also defend other countries, obliging Japan to engage in a war led by the United States.”

...Currently, 83 people have already signed the group’s appeal, including writer Jiro Akagawa, songwriter Reiko Yukawa and actor Bunta Sugawara.
Ryukyu Shimpo:
In an attempt to prevent the reinterpreting of Japan’s Constitution by the Abe administration to be able to defend allies who come under attack, on March 4, distinguished intellectuals set up a group called the  They proclaimed, “We will step up our criticism of and protest action against the government which has been trying to change Japan to enable it to enter wars. They treat Article 9 as a dead letter and approve the use of the right of collective self-defense.”

Founders of the committee are cultural workers and intellectuals such as writer Kenzaburo Oe, Buddhist nun Jakucho Setouchi and play writer So Kuramoto. Tetsumi Takara, a professor of graduate school of law of the University of the Ryukyus took part in the press conference. Former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota also joined as a founding member.

In their announcement, they referred to Okinawa, which hosts U.S. military bases, as being closely related to the issue of collective self-defense. They criticized the government, saying, “Without lessoning Okinawa’s burden of hosting the bases, they are forcing through building a new base in the Henoko district of Nago."

The committee will hold a rally on March 20 at the Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall in Tokyo. In addition, they will work to collect signatures and set up committees across the country."

John W. Dower, "Asia and the Nixon Doctrine: The New Face of Empire, Open Secret: The Kissinger-Nixon Doctrine in Asia, Eds. Virginia Brodine and Mark Selden, 1972. 

Japan's Peace Constitution (Transcript), Director: John Junkerman, 2006.

More Info: 

Article 9 Association 

Global Article 9 Campaign

Lawrence Repeta, "Japan’s Democracy at Risk – The LDP’s Ten Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change,The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, July 15, 2013.

John Junkerman, "The Global Article 9 Conference: Toward the Abolition of War," The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, May 25,  2008.

Craig Martin, "The Case Against Revising Interpretations of the Japanese Constitution," The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, May 29, 2007.

Yoshikazu Sakamoto, "The Postwar and the Japanese Constitution: Beyond Constitutional Dilemmas," The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, November 10, 2005.

Monday, March 17, 2014

7th Annual NY Peace Film Festival @NY March 21-23, 2014

Via our friends at the NY Peace Film Festival:
7th Annual New York Peace Film Festival

11 Films - France, Iran, the Gaza strip, Japan, and the U.S. - including two animated shorts, 7 full-length & 26 minute documentary, and the 1952 French anti-war classic, Forbidden Games (Jeux intedits).

Kick-Off Party: Friday, March 21, 2014@ 7:00PM - 9:00PM

Saturday, March 22, 2014 @12:00 PM - 9:00PM
Sunday, March 23, 2014 @1:00PM - 6:30 PM

at All Souls Unitarian Church
1157 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10075 (at 80th Street)


Advance Tickets $12 / day -
$15 / day at the door (cash only)

Ticket is valid for 1 day throughout the program!


Day 1: Sat. March 22, 2014 - 12:00pm-9:30pm

12:00pm-1:24pm: Occupy Love (2012) Documentary Feature
Dir. Velcro Ripper followed by Q/A

1:50pm-2:45pm: Brick by Brick (2007) Documentary Feature

2:45pm-3:15pm: A Matter of Pace (2013) Documentary Short
Dir. Bill Kavanagh followed by Q/A

3:40pm-4:50pm: Broken on All Sides (2012) Documentary Feature
Dir. Matthew Pillischer followed by Skype Q/A

5:20pm-6:50pm: The Target Village (2013) US Premier Documentary Feature
Dir. Chie Mikami followed by Skype Q/A

7:30pm-9:30pm: X Years Later (2012) NY Premier Documentary Feature
Dir. Hideaki Itoh followed by Skype Q/A

Day 2: Sun. March 23, 2014 - 1:00pm-6:30pm

1:00pm-2:26pm: Forbidden Games (1952) Classic Feature
Dir. Rene Clement

2:30pm-2:40pm: Tears (2013) World Premier Animation Short
Dir. Yahya Ghobadi followed by Skype Q/A

3:05pm-4:05pm: Where Should the Birds Fly (2013) Documentary Feature
Dir. Fida Qishta followed by Q/A

4:30pm-5:00pm: 663114 (2011) Animation Short
Dir. Isamu Hirabayashi followed by Skype Q/A

5:00pm-6:00pm: Bidder 70 (2012) Documentary Feature
Dir. Beth & George Gage followed by Q/A

For complete description of each films, please go to