Democracy Now! is broadcasting from Tokyo, Japan, today in the first of three special broadcasts. At a critical time for Japan and the region, we begin our coverage looking at the country’s rightward political shift under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was re-elected just over a year ago. As head of the Liberal Democratic Party, Abe is known as a conservative hawk who has pushed nationalistic and pro-nuclear policies. In December, he visited the controversial Yasukuni war shrine, which honors Japanese soldiers who died in battle, including several war criminals who were tried by the International Military Tribunal after World War II. The visit sparked outrage from China and South Korea, who consider the shrine a symbol of Japanese militarism and its refusal to atone for atrocities committed in the first half of the 20th century. We speak about Japan’s increasingly pro-nuclear, nationalistic stance with Koichi Nakano, professor at Sophia University in Tokyo and director of the Institute of Global Concern.
Japan is getting ready to mark the third anniversary of one of the world’s worst atomic disasters. It was March 11, 2011, when a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that struck Japan’s northeast coast. The twin disasters triggered a meltdown at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The radiation that spewed from the plant stranded more than 315,000 evacuees. In the years following the Fukushima disaster, tens of thousands of Japanese have taken to the streets to march in opposition to nuclear power. In the nearly three years since the disaster, the Fukushima cleanup and decommissioning efforts have been complicated by leaks of highly radioactive water. The effort has also suffered from a lack of oversight and a shortage of workers, which Reuters reports has led to Japan’s homeless population being easy prey for recruiters. Following the disaster, Japan halted nearly all nuclear-related projects. However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party reversed its campaign pledge to move Japan away from nuclear power just one week after coming into power in December 2012. Today, Japan’s trade ministry said it would approve a revival plan for the utility responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster: Tokyo Electric Power Company. This will be the second attempt to restore the utilities’ depleted finances. We speak with David McNeill, a longtime foreign correspondent based in Japan who writes for the Independent of London, the Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications. McNeill is co-author of the book, "Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster."
We continue to look at the fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant crisis in 2011 with a documentary about the former residents of Futaba, where the facility is located. "Nuclear Nation: The Fukushima Refugees Story" follows them in the first year after the disaster as they live communally in an abandoned school near Tokyo. Many mourn the loss of family members and their homes, and worry about the impact of radiation exposure on their health. We play excerpts from the film and are joined by director Atsushi Funahashi.
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