The Melting Sun: Japan’s Nuclear Follies

In light of all the recent information that has come to light about TEPCO and the Japanese nuclear industry’s problems and involvement with anti-social forces, not to mention the industry’s history of criminal malfeasance, we have decided to repost Professor Kingston’s chapter on the subject. It’s from his eerily prescient book  Contemporary Japan  published long before the Fukushima triple meltdown. It’s a long read but well-worth it. We first posted this in June of 2011. 

They (the Japanese power companies including TEPCO) are also seeking to extend the shelf life of their plants to 60 years, double what experts thought prudent when they built the plants. In the context of fewer and shorter inspections, and a record of falsifying safety reports, the implications are unsettling in light of the potential harm of an accident.“–August 24th, 2010, Jeff Kingston. Professor of History and Director of Asian Studies at Temple University writing in his book Contemporary Japan: History, Politics, and Social Change Since The 1980s

CONTEMPORARY JAPAN explores the cover-up, accidents, and corruption endemic to Japan's nuclear power industry. An excellent book on modern-day Japan.

“Polls consistently reveal that 70-75 percent of Japanese have misgivings about nuclear power and fear that serious accidents might happen….”

Those fears were well founded. The history of Japan’s nuclear industry is as dark as Fukushima Prefecture was on the night of March 11th, when a 9.0 earthquake devastated  the nation and a meltdown took place at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) ‘s Fukushima Daiichi Reactor. TEPCO is only one company among several that has had nuclear “accidents.”  In his book published in 2010, Professor Kingston describes the problems and history of Japan’s nuclear power industry. With his permission, Japan Subculture Research Center is publishing the relevant chapters from his book cited above. The book eloquently and objectively sheds light on a the problems endemic in Japan’s nuclear power plants, the ministries that oversee them, and the private companies which manage them, often quite badly and to the detriment of the general public.

pg. 149

Nuclear Follies

The Japanese government puts a great deal of faith in, and spends massive amounts of money on, nuclear energy. This reflects policy-makers’ dream of securing energy self-sufficiency and explains why two-thirds of the national energy research and development budget is devoted to nuclearpower. In terms of reducing carbon emissions and reducing dependence on oil imported from the Middle East, it is a sensible policy. However, there are good reasons why the majority of Japanese remain skeptical about nuclear power.

Japan has witnessed a series of nuclear accidents over the past two decades that raise serious concerns in an earthquake-prone nation with ambitious nuclear power plans. Japan is totally dependent on imported energy and has thus invested billions of dollars since the 1950s in developing its nuclear energy program. Public concerns about the safety of nuclear power contrast sharply with official insistence that the nation’s facilities are both safe and necessary. Polls consistently reveal that 70-75 percent of Japanese have misgivings about nuclear power and fear that serious accidents might happen.

With dwindling reserves of fossil fuels, high prices, and growing concern about greenhouse gases related to consumption of these fuels, the prospects for the nuclear power industry have brightened considerably. Advocates assert that nuclear power is the trump card in the battle to reduce emissions and curb global warming while critics suggest it is more of a wild card given the risks, high costs, and long-term waste disposal issues involved.

Japan currently operates 55 nuclear power plants, up from 32 in 1987, that supply nearly 35 percent of its electricity needs. The government plans to raise the share of energy generated by nuclear power to 41 percent by 2014. Since 1998 two nuclear power reactors have started up with six more currently slated for installation or expansion. In the following sections we examine some notorious incidents and aspects of Japan’s nuclear power program that help explain why so many Japanese have considerable qualms about the potential environmental consequences. Continue reading The Melting Sun: Japan’s Nuclear Follies

"Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in Japan. The New Victims: Japanese Teenagers"

子ども性被害防止で相談HP

Note: I’ve been working with the Polaris Project Japan, a non-profit organization that combats human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children, since 2005 and recently agreed to be their temporary public relations director.  In the last year, a lot of the calls coming to Polaris Project Japan were concerning Japanese teenage women who appeared to have been forced into the sex industry–not foreign women.  It does seem that the Japanese government has been enforcing the anti-human trafficking laws to the point where there are significantly fewer non-Japanese women being made sex-slaves. However, it seems they have been replaced by young Japanese teenage girls, many of them runaways or abused children. 

Polaris Project Japan had the brilliant idea of reaching out directly to these girls by making a mobile-phone web-site aimed at them, that was user friendly, and could offer some good advice.  Young schoolgirls don’t read newspapers, don’t watch as much television as they did, and most of their communications is over cell-phones and social networking sites. Unfortunately, such sites have also becoming prime hunting grounds for pimps, low-life yakuza, and pedophiles who seek out fresh meat to use themselves or sell to others. 

 

A mobile phone web-site aimed at helping Japanese teenage victims
A mobile phone web-site aimed at helping Japanese teenage victims

NHK, Japan’s answer to the BBC gave the website some good coverage this morning. 

The contents of the consultations that Polaris Project Japan and their partner organization Yukon have gotten are quite unpleasant. 

 

● From Host Club Patron To Forced Prostitution 

   A male Host asked a young victim come visit his club without worrying about money. After his begging continued, she went to the club a few times. Then, a different man from the club asked her for a few hundred thousand yen (a few thousand dollars) for the food and drinks she had consumed. She received threatening phone calls and was even ambushed at her own home. The men kept pressuring the girl to pay the bill, coercing her to go and work in the sex industry. Around that time, she was put in touch with Polaris, and after consulting with the police, she is safe once again.  

Note: I covered incidents like this one as far back as 2000, when I was still a police reporter assigned to the 4th district. It’s a classic technique that yakuza or general low-lives use to force young women into the sex trade.  Host clubs seems to be the equivalent of trafficking recruitment centers in many parts of Japan. 

 

● A 14-year-old farmed out as a prostitute by her classmates

 Her friends told her that she had a bad attitude, and forced her to apologize by paying money earned from prostitution. A few months later, through some website, she was introduced to a customer, and forced into prostitution. It had already been taken up as a case as a juvenile victim when she contacted this organization. She says, “I’m out of the situation, but I have nowhere to go. I always feel depressed.I let myself get picked up for casual sex, abuse my body, and start crying for no reason.” Polaris Project Japan provides  her regular counseling and the support she needs. 

  Anyway, these are some of the cases that have come up in the last year, there probably are a lot more.  Below is the press release for the web-site. The press conference was held April 1st (Japan time)  at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan. 

 

 

 


Polaris Project Japan Launches a New Mobile Website:

To help victims of child/teen prostitution

and child pornography and prevent further exploitation

 

The Polaris Project Japan (PPJ) is the Japanese branch of Polaris Project in Washington DC.  PPJ has been operating a hot-line for human trafficking victims for several years In the last year, PPJ has been receiving more and more calls not just from the traditional human trafficking victims–foreign women ensnared in the sex industry–but Japanese teenage girls who have been lured or forced into the sex industry and can’t get out, and sometimes even been asked by their own parents to work in the industry to make money for their family members. 

 

Contrary to the popular picture of Japanese teenage prostitutes as clueless teenagers who just want to earn money to buy a designer bag–many of the girls now in the industry are there because of financial necessity and a lack of support for abused girls and boys who run away from home. 

Many of these victims are recruited over the internet and or/are sold over social networking sites by their pimps–like commodities. 

The National Police Agency reported in 2008 internet Profile sites and Social networking sites are the hotbeds of child sex crimes, surpassing the net dating sites (which were originally the hub of sex trafficking).

 

It is hard to measure the extent of the problem because no Japanese government agency has attempted a comprehensive survey, and the laws protecting children are administrated by many different government agencies and ministries that do not share information or work together.

 

To provide an effective and systematical intervention to prevent sexual exploitation of adolescents and help victims, Polaris Project is launching a website:

¨       To provide an environment to seek counseling in a safe and anonymous way.

¨       To give information to questions like “What happens if….”, rather than sending simple “Stop” or “Danger” signs.

¨       To eliminate the embarrassment and fear of seeking counseling face to face by allowing contacts via website and phone.

¨       To inform the victims of additional channels of help available.

 

Polaris Project will also be working with The Children’s Human Rights Committee of the Japan Lawyer’s Association, Prefectural Women’s Centers, and Children’s Shelters to make sure that the children calling receive the best care and advice possible. It will also advertise on sites popular with Japanese youth to make sure the message reaches those who are most vulnerable.


About Polaris Project
Polaris Project is a non-profit organization that combats human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children. It was established in 2002 in Washington D.C., USA. In 2004, the Japan office was launched in Tokyo. Our activities and projects include victim outreach, multi-lingual hotline, victim support, and workshops for public and government agencies in positions of direct contact with victims.

 

Suicides Using Toxic Fumes Soar in Japan

In the first chapters of Hanayagi Genshu’s book Nigetara Akan!, she outlines the problem of suicide in Japan shockingly clearly — one person every fifteen minutes dies by their own hand in Japan. This article? Just more proof of the problem.

From the New York Time Website

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

October 31, 2008 TOKYO (AP) — More than 870 people have killed themselves in Japan by inhaling toxic fumes from household chemicals this year, 30 times more than the total for all of last year, the government said Friday. Continue reading Suicides Using Toxic Fumes Soar in Japan

Tokyo Vice featured in South China Post Sunday Book Section

 

The stories Jake Adelstein wrote as a crime reporter for a Japanese newspaper have earned him and his family a death threat from one of the country’s most notorious and influential yakuza. Writing a book about crime and criminal culture in Japan is likely to have further enraged the Tokyo uderworld. Adelstein never planned it this way.  

Continue reading Tokyo Vice featured in South China Post Sunday Book Section

Tokyo Vice Featured on Australian ABC Radio International's "The Media Report"

Jake Adelstein was featured on The Media Report on June 5, 2008. The audio download and transcript are available from abc.net.au

Continue reading Tokyo Vice Featured on Australian ABC Radio International's "The Media Report"