Balance of power: Redefining Japan’s energy needs (Crystal and Irfan)

The article is about Fukushima’s push for renewable energy, specifically solar and wind energy, in the wake of the 3.11 disaster. While Fukushima has installed many solar panels in various areas, some villages such as Otama are worried the panels would hurt tourism opportunities. Other factors such as the expensive price of renewable energy compared to nuclear energy or fossil fuels, and difficulty in setting up wind turbines have made people more cautious when it comes to renewables. 

While the article does not explicitly say Japan is a “green nation”, it subtly hints at it, where the article mainly emphasizes on the renewable energy efforts and how much the villages treasure their “natural landscape”. The article also portrays a dichotomy between the government and the villagers in Otama, Fukushima. The villagers try to preserve the beauty of their landscape, or fūkei as McMorran (2014) put it. The government on the other hand has pushed for the implementation of solar and wind energy plants in Fukushima in its endeavours to find alternative sources of renewable energy. People reading the article at first glance might think of Japan as becoming more “green” or eco-friendly, which makes it surprising that Japan still relies on fossil fuels for a large part of its energy consumption. 

Within the article title is the phrase “energy needs”. We can thus derive the conclusion that Japan’s hunt for renewable energy sources is inevitably linked to its environment; energy is extracted from the environment and harnessed for the benefit of Japan’s inhabitants. The article mentions how concern for the environment becomes a point of consideration in the endeavor to find renewable energy sources – the villagers of Otama detest the idea of destroying the landscape with swaths of solar panels. The idea of “green” here hence is of eco-friendliness; in discussing the eco-friendliness of the hunt for renewable energy sources we, in essence, discuss  “green-ness”.

The Otama villagers are evidently worried about the solar panels “destroying the aesthetic landscape”, voicing their concerns about the scenery and the increase in landslides through their Deputy Mayor (Martin, n.d.). McMorran (2014, 5) mentions in his paper on the idea of fūkei, which is one of several terms meaning landscape, where this landscape can be shaped and be continuously shaped by humans, constantly being in a state of change (Schein 2010, 662). 

The shaping of landscapes likely extends to Otama, showing that while the Japanese seem like they love nature, they in reality only like certain parts of nature. As the deputy mayor mentions, “It’s our duty to protect the majestic scenery of our village for our children”. However, the picturesque scenery is likely to have been intentionally landscaped, manipulated and maintained by the residents and the village administration. Their actions could be called fūkeizukuri, which can be roughly translated as “landscape-making” (McMorran 2014, 5). This fūkeizukuri has helped the village maintain its membership of The Most Beautiful Villages of Japan, which is an organisation that recognises villages and towns with spectacular natural resources (Martin n.d.). It is not out of true desire to protect their way of life or the scenery around them for their children; rather, it is a manicured way of maintaining the dream of an idyllic village life, which in a way is controlling nature’s expression.

While more can be said, this article, once one looks deeper, clearly debunks the idea that Japan is a green nation, for the article highlights the controlling of nature, not only by the citizens, but also by the government who wants to harness nature for its own needs.

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Martin, Alex. n.d. “Balance of power: Redefining Japan’s energy needs.” Japan Times.

McMorran, Chris. 2014. “Landscape of “Undesigned Design” in Rural Japan.” Landscape Journal 33 (1): 1-15.

Schein, Richard. 2010. “The place of landscape: A conceptual framework for interpreting an American scene.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 87 (4): 660-680.