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Assignment: Japan’s Prewar Territories

Assignment: Japan’s Prewar Territories

Assignment: Japan’s Prewar Territories

NOW FOR AN ORIGINAL PAPER ASSIGNMENT:Assignment: Japan’s Prewar Territories

Despite “the loss of 52 percent of Japan’s prewar territories, the return of five million persons to a country about the size of California, the loss of 80 percent of Japan’s shipping, and the destruction of one-fifth of [its] industrial plants and many of [its] great cities,”* Japan is now a major global economic power. China, with a population more than ten times larger, is only now beginning to catch up with Japan in GDP; India, despite its impressive strides in recent times, remains far behind.

Ideas and Politics The Japanese Agenda: A Sampler

Nuclear Power, Energy Security, and Public Safety

The earthquake and tsunami in March 2011—twin natural disasters compounded by a manmade disaster—raised questions about the wisdom of Japan’s heavy reliance on nuclear reactors for electric power generation. What followed was intense public scrutiny and criticism of the government—in particular, its failure to monitor and enforce robust safety standards.

A blue ribbon panel of experts set up by the Japanese Diet issued a scathing report in July 2012, concluding, “The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power Company, the owner of the six Fukushima plants] and the lack of governance….” Further, the culpable parties, “effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accident.” And, finally, “the accident was clearly ‘man-made’.”

The policy dilemma, however, is not easily solved. Japan’s energy security is extremely tenuous: it has an export-oriented manufacturing economy, a modern, highly urbanized population, and at best modest indigenous fossil-fuel resources. Japan thus has to import almost all its coal, oil, and natural gas.

A Culture of “Reflexive Obedience”

The chairman of the above-mentioned expert panel, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical doctor, declared Fukushima “a profoundly man-made disaster—that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.” But he also placed blame on Japanese culture: “What must be admitted—very painfully,” wrote Dr. Kurokawa, “is that this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan.’ Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture; our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity.” The paradox of an open society with a closed culture impenetrable to outsiders is one key to understanding the challenges Japan faces in the new global economy of the twenty-first century.