Inter-Asia Cultural Studies: Movements

17.1 visual essay
17.1 visual essay



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  »  Issues Contents  2013-07-03 Featured essay

Buildup of nuclear armament capability and the post-war statehood of Japan: Fukushima and the genealogy of nuclear bombs and power plants

MUTO Ichiyo (Translated by Kimberly HUGHES and MUTO Ichiyo)


ABSTRACT This essay was written under the impact of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear catastrophe to locate the nuclear power issue in a context broader than energy and environment. “Peaceful use of nuclear energy” was brought in by the US in the mid-1950s as part of its psy warfare to cleanse atomic power of the horrifying image of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki massacre. “Peaceful use” as such was accepted as a symbol of progress even by left intellectuals. But the Japanese ruling groups situated it in their long-term military context. In the ensuing decades, the government carried out huge national nuclear programs said genuinely for energy supply. But in 1965-72, the government undertook serious studies on Japan’s nuclear armament, concluding that though Japan would stay non-nuclear “for the time being,” it would keep its techno-economic capacity ready to produce nuclear bombs anytime needed. This essay examines Japan’s nuclear power in reference to the major defining factors of the postwar Japanese statehood – the US-Japan security alliance (anpo), Okinawa as the pivot of anpo, the rightists’ ambition to revive the glory of the prewar Empire, and Japan’s position in the US-China relationship. The Fukushima disaster and Okinawa’s resistance to military colony status rocked this whole structure, bankrupting the postwar statehood. What next people are now urged to define.


Keywords: Fukushima, Hiroshima, nuclear power, Okinawa, security treaty
Author’s biography
Born in 1931 in Tokyo, Muto Ichiyo is a writer on political and social affairs, and activist engaged in the anti-war movement and other social movements since the 1950s, including the anti-Vietnam war Beheiren movement (1965-74); founded English magazine AMPO in 1969, the Pacific-Asia Resource Center (PARC) in 1973, played a leading role in organizing the People’s Plan 21 program (1989-2002); founded the People’s Plan Study Group (PPSG) based in Tokyo in 1998 and currently its board committee member; taught as seasonally visiting teacher at the sociology department, Binghamton University from 1983 through 2000; ARENA fellow.

Translator’s biography
Kimberly Hughes is a freelance translator, writer, university lecturer and community organizer. Originally from the United States, she has been based in Tokyo, Japan since 2000; a contributor to the “Ten Thousand Things” blog affiliated with the Kyoto Journal magazine (, which features positive social action projects taking place in Japan and beyond; most recently, focused upon local citizen-led movements  for reconstruction and sustainable, nuclear-free energy sources following the disaster in Japan in March 2011.

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