Fukushima disaster prompts history professor to investigate JapanHistorians in the News
tags: Japan, Fukushima
Katsuya Hirano grew up in Hitachinaka, Japan, where he said the government led citizens to believe nuclear energy was harmless. Now, after several nuclear accidents, the public is less willing to believe what Hirano calls the “safety myth.”
The 2011 Fukushima disaster prompted Hirano, a history professor, to investigate what he thinks is purposeful coordination between the government, major media outlets and energy companies to profit from nuclear energy despite the risks.
He began compiling an oral history of the event by interviewing individuals affected by and involved in Japan’s nuclear energy policy. His next interview will be published Friday in The Asia-Pacific Journal, to observe the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima accident.
The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 triggered three nuclear meltdowns that left hundreds of thousands of Japanese homeless, wrote The New York Times.
Hirano said he thinks the government initially downplayed the seriousness of the 2011 nuclear meltdowns, evacuating only residents who lived within a 2-kilometer radius of the power plant. Government officials later expanded the evacuation radius to 20 kilometers, after realizing the severity of the situation.
Last May, the journal published Hirano’s first article, which included an interview with Murakami Tatsuya, former mayor of Tokaimura, the site of nuclear accidents in 1997 and 1999. Tatsuya compared nuclear energy to a drug, alleging governments and energy companies have become addicted to its profitability.
Hirano said his research mostly focuses on post-feudal Japan, but his investigation of Fukushima has led him to believe the Japanese government obstructs democracy and transparency to bolster a strong national identity and maximize profit.
“(Japan’s nuclear energy policy) is a fundamentally undemocratic energy policy,” Hirano said. “No one benefits from this other than energy companies and maybe the government, too.”
Toulouse Antonin Roy, a graduate student in history who researches colonial Japan, said he applied to UCLA because he had heard of Hirano’s work. He said he hoped to collaborate with Hirano because they research similar topics.
Roy said he thinks the central government has historically neglected Japan’s northeast islands, which host both Fukushima and Tokaimura. During the post-war period, the government sanctioned the area for nuclear power development. ...
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