Satsuki Takahashi - Postdoctoral Research Associate in East Asian Studies, Princeton University
In the wake of the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster, some of Japan’s environmental heroes were transformed almost instantly into its villains. The 3/11 earthquake and tsunami seriously damaged northeastern Japan’s fishing ports, and the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant polluted the coastal waters and ensured that fish caught anywhere nearby would be undesirable on the market. In responding to the multifold disaster, the Japanese government announced coastal modernization as the pillar of its master plan for reconstructing the devastated fishing communities. The proposal calls for new ocean frontiers-namely, privatization of fishing and development of oceanic alternative energy along the tsunami/nuclear devastated coastal waters. Among its key opponents are the very coastal fishers who had for years been described by the Japanese government as models of sustainable fishing. This presentation traces the physical and conceptual travels of radiation through ocean currents, seafood consumption, and the media, using ethnographic research in the region before and after the disaster to argue that the post-Fukushima reconstruction narratives are part of Japan’s prolonged pursuit of modernity.