“It is always possible to perceive in one form of speech the echo of another.”
– Daniel Heller-Roazen, Echolalias
“Eppur, si muove.”
– Galileo Galilei at trial before the Inquistion
Throughout the modern era, Japan has cultivated a crucially fantasy-laden class of professional spokespersons whose job descriptions are to mislead and dissimulate in front of the public about whatever form of unethical conduct with disastrous consequences is currently being enacted in Japanese society (whether for the lack of oversight, endemic institutional corruption, or condoned criminality one finds spread throughout the country’s political, economic and social institutions). This isn’t fundamentally unique to Japan. But what is extraordinary about the phenomenon is its transparency to an observor.
Granted, we live in a highly reflexive age in which every world power now disseminates propaganda and deception with a knowing wink. Witness the Obama administration’s almost daily disclaimers with respect to the Guardian/ Snowden / Greenwald revelations about NSA spying on and collecting of ordinary Americans’ communications. It’s not as if we don’t know that Obama is being totally insincere when he says that the government would have revealed this program and had a similar public airing of the issues it raises whether Snowden had committed his now infamous whistle-blowing act or not. We can say with certainty that we would have had nothing of the kind. But all the same, the President was indulged by the U.S. media, which reported his statements with a knowing nod, in the tradition of alternately applauding official sincerity and openness, or punishing officialdom for insufficiently pursuing Snowden – with a Bin Ladenesque Navy Seal team operation. And in the end, our message reception goes on, and we respond in an inversion of the way the mathematician and astronomer, Galileo who, having been presented with a tour of the instruments of torture possessed by the Inquisition, recanted his theories that demonstrated that the earth moves around the sun (instead of the other way around), at which point he is said to have then quietly muttered , “eppur, si muove.” “And yet, it moves.” No matter what the power of the institution might have forced upon him, his conviction, it is said, remained unmoved. The truth is out there for us; but – nearly inversely to the credible laws of physics – the charades, fictions and mythologies that maintain power also function, regardless.
An egregious, ugly instance of this form of fakery and dissimulation which was particularly offensive to me when it occurred was committed by Professor Masayuki Tanamura of the Waseda University Faculty of Law, a venerable modern Japanese institution, who printed an editorial concerning Japanese parental abduction in Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun in early 2011 – a time when I still burned with incredulity that while my son had been kidnapped, the wheels of justice had clearly fallen off their axles. The editorial was entitled, ‘Is International Child Abduction a Crime?‘ and concluded that for Japanese, it was not! (An assertiion that would have shocked numerous parents who had access or custody rights to their children denied by aggressive police activity, including my fellow left-behind parent, Christopher Savoie, who spent weeks in a Japanese prison for claiming his officially, judicially granted rights to recover his children). In this extraordinary rationalization of international child abduction, the influential and prestigious Professor, a member of Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice, a member of an advisory committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a domestic relations conciliator and councilor for the Tokyo Domestic Court (who nonetheless never completed his doctorate) made the following shocking statement:
“[In Japan] Taking children away without permission does not constitute a crime and is not regarded as illegal…”
“Moreover, in terms of the parent-child relationship after divorce, Japan has deeply rooted unique sentiments of parents and children, ideas held by persons involved, and customs, such as nurturing by the mother and a strong tie between a mother and children, which are not found in Europe.”
“This fact,” the esteemed Professor, Ministerial Advisor, and Domestic Court Conciliator says, ” indicates vast differences between Europe and Japan.” That a professor and empowered government official could make such statements without creating a public scandal and being relieved of his official duties is an extraordinary instance of the insularity and seat-of-the-pants-pseudo-reasoning-posing-as-authority that goes on surrounding the Japanese abduction of children in particular, and the family courts in general.
(See Mark West’s amusing and disturbing book Lovesick Japan, for an account of the whimsical nature and resulting horrors of judgments routinely made in Japanese family courts where there is a glaring dearth of the benefits of expertise or serious study of the consequences of judicial opinion and action.)
Mothers and fathers “in Europe” must have been astonished to learn of the extraordinary difference that is found in the Japanese mother-child relationship. I know, as a counterfeit European myself, that my understanding of culture was either completely wrong or was going to be badly shaken by this very ‘special’ declaration by the professor. He continued his “explanation” of the anti-abduction Hague Convention which Japan was then feeling increasingly pressured to sign:
“The convention also guarantees the right of visitation between parents and children, and attempts to prevent causing further child abduction, taking into consideration the feelings of a parent who is not living with the children.”
One is tempted to note the complete absence from this formulation of consideration of the horrific impact on the child of being abducted, having the parent on whom his deepest identity formation and psychological reliance and trust has depended on until the point of the crime committed. Further down, Tamamura reiterates that to refuse to return a child to his parent can be justified on the basis that to do so would be “against the basic principles regarding human rights or the guarantee of fundamental freedoms.“ This would by Japanese standards be considered a defense of children, and even a liberal-minded one at that. The full text of the article can be found here:
Tamamura – Yomiuri 2011 – Is International Child Abduction a Crime?
Without doubt, there are many adequate minds and well-informed persons situated in various posts in Japan who could easily counteract the heavily compromised, interested, nationalistic hubris and myth-making of this sort of official if they were given the opportunity to join the institutions of power, reform them, and begin to try to enunciate theory and practice from a position that is not supremacist, racist, sexist dogma; but the habits of Japanese institutions are bent very heavily in this direction for now, and trends visible to us here are entirely not promising.
Here is a more recent story:
Through the Magic of Willpower, Japan’s Highly Contaminated Nuclear Wastewater in the Sea and Groundwater Will Stay in Port! Says U. of Tokyo! Sighs of Relief Heard.
A case in point is found in the official dialogue concerning the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster which has been worsening steadily since the accident occurred in 2011, with no end or improvement in sight. Below is a report on the heavily leaking contaminated wastewater surrounding and leaking from the plant site in which it is claimed, without irony, that the probability is high that the many tons of highly contaminated water which have been dumped from the plant over the last two years is likely to remain in the harbor area surrounding the plant, and is unlikely to mix the water of the open seas and spread further. It will be a miraculous outcome were it to resemble the truth; but it seems unlikely even to a minimally thoughtful newspaper-perusing reader such as myself.
Exclusive: Japan nuclear body says radioactive water at Fukushima an ’emergency’
Watchdog issues fresh Fukushima radioactivity alert
(Reuters) – Highly radioactive water seeping into the ocean from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is creating an “emergency” that the operator is struggling to contain, an official from the country’s nuclear watchdog said on Monday.
This contaminated groundwater has breached an underground barrier, is rising toward the surface and is exceeding legal limits of radioactive discharge, Shinji Kinjo, head of a Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) task force, told Reuters.
Countermeasures planned by Tokyo Electric Power Co are only a temporary solution, he said.
Tepco’s “sense of crisis is weak,” Kinjo said. “This is why you can’t just leave it up to Tepco alone” to grapple with the ongoing disaster.
“Right now, we have an emergency,” he said.
Tepco has been widely castigated for its failure to prepare for the massive 2011 tsunami and earthquake that devastated its Fukushima plant and lambasted for its inept response to the reactor meltdowns. It has also been accused of covering up shortcomings.
It was not immediately clear how much of a threat the contaminated groundwater could pose. In the early weeks of the disaster, the Japanese government allowed Tepco to dump tens of thousands of metric tons of contaminated water into the Pacific in an emergency move.
The toxic water release was however heavily criticized by neighboring countries as well as local fishermen and the utility has since promised it would not dump irradiated water without the consent of local townships.
“Until we know the exact density and volume of the water that’s flowing out, I honestly can’t speculate on the impact on the sea,” said Mitsuo Uematsu from the Center for International Collaboration, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute at the University of Tokyo.
“We also should check what the levels are like in the sea water. If it’s only inside the port and it’s not flowing out into the sea, it may not spread as widely as some fear.”
NO OTHER OUTLET FOR WATER
Tepco said it is taking various measures to prevent contaminated water from leaking into the bay near the plant. In an e-mailed statement to Reuters, a company spokesman said Tepco deeply apologized to residents in Fukushima prefecture, the surrounding region and the larger public for causing inconveniences, worries and trouble.
The utility pumps out some 400 metric tons a day of groundwater flowing from the hills above the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the basements of the destroyed buildings, which mixes with highly irradiated water that is used to cool the reactors in a stable state below 100 degrees Celsius.
Tepco is trying to prevent groundwater from reaching the plant by building a “bypass” but recent spikes of radioactive elements in sea water has prompted the utility to reverse months of denials and finally admit that tainted water is reaching the sea.
In a bid to prevent more leaks into the bay of the Pacific Ocean, plant workers created the underground barrier by injecting chemicals to harden the ground along the shoreline of the No. 1 reactor building. But that barrier is only effective in solidifying the ground at least 1.8 meters below the surface.
By breaching the barrier, the water can seep through the shallow areas of earth into the nearby sea. More seriously, it is rising toward the surface – a break of which would accelerate the outflow.
“If you build a wall, of course the water is going to accumulate there. And there is no other way for the water to go but up or sideways and eventually lead to the ocean,” said Masashi Goto, a retired Toshiba Corp nuclear engineer who worked on several Tepco plants. “So now, the question is how long do we have?”
Contaminated water could rise to the ground’s surface within three weeks, the Asahi Shimbun said on Saturday. Kinjo said the three-week timeline was not based on NRA’s calculations but acknowledged that if the water reaches the surface, “it would flow extremely fast.”
A Tepco official said on Monday the company plans to start pumping out a further 100 metric tons of groundwater a day around the end of the week.
The regulatory task force overseeing accident measures of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, which met Friday, “concluded that new measures are needed to stop the water from flowing into the sea that way,” Kinjo said.
Tepco said on Friday that a cumulative 20 trillion to 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium had probably leaked into the sea since the disaster. The company said this was within legal limits.
Tritium is far less harmful than cesium and strontium, which have also been released from the plant. Tepco is scheduled to test strontium levels next.
The admission on the long-term tritium leaks, as well as renewed criticism from the regulator, show the precarious state of the $11 billion cleanup and Tepco’s challenge to fix a fundamental problem: How to prevent water, tainted with radioactive elements like cesium, from flowing into the ocean.