Top>Opinion>On the Chuo Hyoron Special Feature: "3.11 Complex Disaster and Challenges for Japan"


Yoshimi Akiyama

Yoshimi Akiyama [Profile]

On the Chuo Hyoron Special Feature: "3.11 Complex Disaster and Challenges for Japan"

Yoshimi Akiyama
Professor, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: Early Modern English Literature, Criticism

Read in Japanese

Background of the special feature

In its 278th issue which came out in January, the Chuo Hyoron (The Chuo Univ. Review), a quarterly magazine published by the Chuo University press, ran a special feature on the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.

The massive earthquake and tsunami, along with the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster, continues to affect us on various levels, although a year has passed. Strong aftershocks continue to this day, and we still have a very long way to go in dealing with the situation at the nuclear power plant. Help with carrying on with daily life is still necessary for those affected and in terms of healing their spirit, we cannot use such fine-sounding phrases as "time heals all wounds". Such words do not match the scale of the disaster and in fact generate a more serious problem.

In the first half of last year, when the shock of the disaster was many times more vivid and direct than it is today, many members of the university faculty wanted to give their opinions about the situation which was then developing before their eyes. Among them was Professor Kenji Takita, whose proposal to write about the disaster found strong sympathy on the journal's editorial committee. It was the beginning of the special feature.

I think it is not complacent to say that the Chuo Hyoron runs excellent features in every issue. (I strongly recommend the back numbers, which never fail to surprise by their wide variety of their content.) It has delved into topics that were either not covered much by the mass media or that had been forgotten, overlooked, or neglected. I think that the best articles in the quarterly have been made possible by exploring such topics carefully from a detached standpoint. While a quarterly publication offers time for consideration, it is difficult for it to run a feature that is timely or that responds immediately to an event. Responding to this disaster is a good example - if an article has taken three months to be published, it cannot be described as timely. (Actually, planning a feature for half a year or more than a year is not uncommon in the case of Chuo Hyoron.)

However, we chose to prepare a special feature, while fully aware of these disadvantages. We were undoubtedly swayed by our own feelings, and the tremendous impact of the Great Earthquake.

Understanding the Great East Japan Earthquake as a complex disaster

An earthquake, tsunami, and damage to a nuclear power plant ultimately developed into a complex disaster on an enormous scale, in which both natural and man-made factors were inextricably intertwined. Therefore, in discussing the disaster, we must regard it as a multi-tiered, multi-aspect subject and analyze it from many angles. It is from such a viewpoint that this special feature was prepared.

Regarding the natural element to the disaster, it is self-evident that field investigations and surveys are of utmost necessity. In considering the man-made aspects, on the other hand, it must be seen as a historical event created by the trajectory of modern Japan; part of the policy of building nuclear power plants to enable economic growth in resource-scarce Japan. The major force which shaped this trajectory is Japan's Nuclear Power Village, including central and local political organizations as well as the mass media. We cannot consider this disaster completely without understanding the man-made aspects of it, which were brought about by such a driving force.

With these issues in mind, we asked experts at Chuo University (some of who had already contributed to this Opinion section) to consider the major issues of the 3.11 disaster. The following is an outline of the contents (honorifics omitted).

(1) Earthquake Recognition, Analysis and Measures
- Overall arrangement of issues and problems to be discussed on disaster measures and responses (Kenji Takita, Faculty of Law)
- Presentation of possible restoration measures for an economically declining Japan in view of long-term economic prospects (Toshiki Tomita, Faculty of Law)

(2) Recovery
- A critical review of rebuilding aspects of the living environment such as public transportation in the recovery plan, based on a field survey conducted in disaster-stricken coastal areas (Eiji Shiomi, Faculty of Economics)
- Proposals for a new social model using the concept of green infra in establishing a town regeneration plan for Rikuzentakata, based on a field survey (Masayoshi Tanishita, Faculty of Science and Engineering)

(3) Nuclear Power Plant Problem
- A detailed analysis of the nuclear plant situation based on the experience of involvement in nuclear power studies as an expert on nuclear energy, and a critical review of the existing systems which contributed to the disaster (Jun Tateno, formerly Faculty of Commerce)
- A clear and sharp analysis of the concealment and the lack of accountability that plagues all the related parties, including the government and TEPCO (Shuhei Okuyama, Faculty of Law)

(4) Toward the Future-(A) Using Alternative Energy Resources
- A piece on promoting naturally renewable and other alternative energies, through the implementation of the Sailing Solar-Cell Raft Project in the Pacific Ocean (Takaji Kokusho, Faculty of Science and Engineering)

(5) Toward the Future-(B) The Role of Chuo University if a big earthquake hits Tokyo
- A consideration of the possible roles and functions of Chuo University, which is located on the periphery of the national capital, in the event of a major earthquake in Tokyo, based on the experience of the founder of a volunteer network and of his involvement in recovery support and survey activities (Hideo Nakazawa, Faculty of Law)

March, 2012

The above is a brief list, but I hope it conveys the essence of the diverse feature articles, which aimed to comprehend the complexity of the disaster. I believe these articles are important and hope they are widely read.

Last week (the end of February), television news programs reported the results of investigations based on the disaster response records of the Japanese Cabinet and the committees involved. A year has now passed, and we can expect more facts to emerge, meaning that more analysis will be necessary.

Everyone-not only those involved in these special features-must strongly hope and demand thorough disclosure of information and facts related to the disaster, particularly involving the nuclear power plants, as well as accurate analysis and discussion based on such information. In that sense, the featured essays, written in the fall of last year, are essentially interim or tentative current status reports. I am sure, however, that the voices of the authors, many of who reflected on their own actions, will be of interest to readers and in turn stimulate reflection on their own attitudes to the disaster. Perhaps they will feel encouraged - perhaps challenged.

Yoshimi Akiyama
Professor, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: Early Modern English Literature, Criticism
Born in 1955 in Shizuoka Prefecture. Graduated from the Department of Liberal Arts (British Section), the University of Tokyo in 1979, and from the Master Course of English Literature at the University of Tokyo in 1982. He took up his current position in 1994, after serving as a full-time lecturer and then assistant professor of the Faculty of Law at Chuo University.
Member of the editorial committee of Chuo Hyoron since 2001 (currently the committee chairperson). Supervisor of the film club.
Major translation books include: Complete works of Hemingway's Fishing Literature-Volume 2: The Ocean [Hemingway tsuri bungaku zenshu-gekan umi] (Sakufu-sha, 1983), Gabriel Josipovici, Writing and the Body (Kinokuniya Company Ltd., 1987).