Fukushima's Victories and Victims: Contemplating Alliances Between Japanese Soccer, the State, and Nuclear Power
Elise Edwards - Associate Professor of Anthropology, Butler University
When Japan’s Women’s National soccer team—or “Nadeshiko Japan”—bested the greatly favored United States team in the World Cup Final in Frankfurt, Germany, it was just one of many “firsts” achieved by the skillful and inspiring team. It was the first time Japan had ever beaten the Americans in a total of twenty-six meetings stretching over two decades. It was also the first World Cup Championship for an Asian soccer team, women’s or men’s. Yet, despite this sense of novelty, much of the National Team’s success was thanks to Japanese corporations’ long-standing sponsorship of a semi-professional domestic women’s soccer league, the “L-League,” which provided many promising young women a place to play and develop as athletes. Ironically, one of the strongest sponsors of the L-League and Japan’s National Team program in recent years has been TEPCO, the company responsible for Fukushima’s ill-fated Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster. This talk will explore the entwined relations and mutually beneficial growth plans pursued by TEPCO and the Japan Football Association since the 1990s, particularly in light of the popular media’s story of the Women’s National Team’s championship and its ability to “heal a nation.” Elise Edwards is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History and Anthropology at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her research interests include issues of gender, sexuality, and discourses of national identity in Japan, particularly as they are articulated and disciplined through technologies of sports, recreation, and physical education. She is currently working on a book about soccer, corporate sport, and national identity construction in Japan in the late 1990s and into the present, which is tentatively titled Fields for the Future: Soccer, Nation, and Citizens in Japan at the Turn of the 21st Century. She has also started a new project on Japan’s “hometown” soccer movement, grassroots activism, and public-private relationships. Elise played professional soccer for three seasons in Japan’s L-League in the mid-1990s, and continues to be involved with the sport, serving as the goalkeeping coach for Butler University’s varsity women’s team.