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Japan Copes with Calamity

Edited By Tom Gill, Brigitte Steger and David H. Slater

Four years after the 3.11 disaster in Japan, this acclaimed collection of ethnographies in English on the Japanese communities affected by the giant Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters continues to be the only one of its kind. With a new preface offering an update on the affected communities, this volume brings together studies by experienced researchers of Japan from field sites around the disaster zone. The contributors present the survivors’ struggles in their own words: from enduring life in shelters and temporary housing, through re-creating the fishing industry, to rebuilding life-ways and relationships bruised by bereavement. They contrast the sudden brutal loss of life from the tsunami with the protracted anxiety about exposure to radiation and study the battle to protect children, family and a way of life from the effects of destruction, displacement and discrimination. The local communities’ encounters with volunteers and journalists who poured into Tohoku after the disaster and the campaign to win compensation from the state and nuclear industry are also explored. This volume offers insights into the social fabric of rural communities in north-eastern Japan and suggests how the human response to disaster may be improved in the future.

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Part 2 Coping with Life after the Nuclear Disaster

Extract

David McNeill Them versus Us: Japanese and International Reporting of the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis On 7 April 2011, as Japan tottered back to its feet after the 11 March calam- ity, I chaired a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) held by Higashikokubaru Hideo, then a candidate in Tokyo’s gubernatorial election. A famous comedian before he entered politics, Higashikokubaru was uncharacteristically sombre as he discussed what Japan must do to recover from the terrible damage inf licted by the disas- ter. A major problem, he intoned, was the non-Japanese reporting of the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. ‘Do you think we foreign journalists have done a bad job of reporting the disaster?’ I asked him and he turned, unsmiling, to face me full on for the first time. ‘Yes, I do’, he replied. That stinging rebuke in the venerated sixty-year-old home of the for- eign press in Japan epitomized criticism of American and European jour- nalists in the month after 3.11. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Af fairs led the criticism of ‘excessive’ coverage in April, singling out the Blade, a local US newspaper from Toledo, Ohio, that ran a cartoon depicting three mush- room clouds, one each for Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima.1 Newsweek Japan was one of several publications to take up the cudgel against shrill, alarmist gaijin (foreigner) reporters (Yokota 2011). ‘The foreign media in Japan … has been put on a pedestal as the paragon of journalism, and was viewed as a source of credibility....

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