Film Review as featured in The Japan Times
Mark Schilling, an author with The Japan Times, writes a film review of the 2016 remake of Godzilla titled ‘Shin Godzilla’. He gives an overview of the plot and shares two ways in which Shin Godzilla serves as a metaphor to Japan’s interaction with the environment. This is through analysing the characteristics and actions of Godzilla itself, and the responses of the people to it. He states that this movie is not a continuation of the long line of Godzilla movies that started in 1954, but is set in modern day Japan suggesting that the ideas that are brought up are representative of our interactions with today’s environment. More than just an action movie, Godzilla has traditionally been portrayed symbolically as a destructive force of nature (Wikizilla) that serves as a ghost that haunts Japan of its past deeds.
Firstly, Schilling focuses on the meaning of Godzilla through its characteristics and actions. In the process of making landfall in Tokyo, Godzilla creates a wave of destruction as it pushes inland and leaves a radioactive trail in its wake. Schilling argues that this is a metaphor for the 3/11 triple disaster in the form of “an ambulatory tsunami, earthquake and nuclear reactor, leaving radioactive contamination in his wake” (Schilling, 2016). This metaphor closely links to Shun’ya’s point that “manmade disasters [are] linked to contemporary science and technology” (Shun’ya, 2012, p. 320) and how Japan has embarked on a path of building nuclear power plants as an “effective way to bring about “liberation” from memories of the atomic bombings” (Shun’ya, 2012, p. 325). Symbolically, Godzilla is the portrayal of how the pursuit of technological progress through the use of nuclear power backfires and in turn, causes widespread damage and more importantly a lingering radioactive environment that will render the area poisoned.
Secondly, as Schilling looks at the interactions of the people in the movie, he uncovers how there is self-sacrifice experienced by them. He notes various groups such as the government officials, Self-Defense Forces Officers, and the anti-Godzilla task force and talks about their self-sacrifice in the face of losing their lives in the immediate danger caused by Godzilla or the radioactive trail it leaves. Schilling establishes the link to the “Fukushima 50”, who had sacrificed themselves by exposing themselves to extreme levels of radiation whilst containing the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant. Walker echoes this idea of self-sacrifice through the relation of pain and the nation, and how it is experienced across Japanese history (Walker, 2010). We see how the movie sends the message on how the ones that suffer the direct consequences of the benefit are the innocent who did not have any direct involvement in the decision making process.
Schilling does well to shed light on its readers that Shin Godzilla is more than just an action movie but serves as a metaphor that encapsulates Japan’s modern interactions with nature and how it backfires in the form of Godzilla’s arrival into Tokyo.
(493 words excluding references)
- Schilling, M. (2016, August 3). ‘Shin Godzilla’: The Metaphorical Monster Returns. Retrieved October 12, 2016 from The Japan Times: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2016/08/03/films/film-reviews/shin-godzilla-metaphorical-monster-returns/#.V_4Zk5N94UE
- Shun’ya, Y. (2012, May). Radioactive Rain and the American Umbrella. The Journal of Asian Studies , 319-331.
- Walker, B. (2010). Toxic Archipelega: A History of Industrial Disease in Japan. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
- (n.d.). Godzilla Misconceptions. Retrieved October 12, 2016 from Wikizilla: http://godzilla.wikia.com/wiki/Godzilla_Misconceptions
In the light of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, radioactive waste accumulated from the disaster has not been “disposed”, nor has it found somewhere else to be stored. This article is another form of “site fight” (Aldrich, 2008) where various contestations between various stakeholders – the central government, local governments of prefectures, and local citizens of the selected and affected prefectures – over the selection of appropriate disposal sites for contaminated waste.
In this article, Japan and her environment are still portrayed as problematic and “not-as-green” due to low efficiency in solving issues regarding the nuclear fallout 2 years after the disaster. Moreover, Japan’s repercussions since the nuclear disaster are constantly in the international spotlight, with experts evaluating the effectiveness of the government and local residents’ efforts in speeding up the process of recovery of their environment, nations and their lives. In addition, notions of political ecology are exemplified in this article through the anecdotes from residents whose livelihoods and relationship with neighbours are strained.
Despite the topic of the article being on radioactive waste and its disposal sites, the thought and action of trying to find ways to dispose, or searching for possible disposal sites are ways of being “green”. It shows the government’s and people’s responsibilities to the environment, the society and their next generation with their efforts to clean up the mess and to prevent further depravation of the environment and society.
It is commendable that the voices of the local government and citizens are heard and have a part in refining the site selection. However, there is no time left for those residents who have been withholding the waste for more than 2 years. Is this “site fight” a situation of Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) syndrome that would possibly waste more time and eventually calls for a more assertive decision made by the central government?
The Asahi Shimbun, (2013), ‘No decision yet on disposal sites for contaminated waste in 5 prefectures’, The Asahi Shimbun, 3 October. Available From: <http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201310030065>. [12 October 2013]
Aldrich, D., 2008. Site Fights: Divisive Facilities and Civil Society in Japan and the West. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Author: George Nishiyama
As the title suggests, this article explains that Junichiro Koizumi, one of the most influential former prime minister in Japan, expressed his disagreement with the re-operation of the nuclear power plants in his recent conference in Nagoya. Mr. Koizumi claims that Japan “should aim to be nuclear-free” despite the fact that the current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who reinstated the nuclear power plants is one of Mr. Koizumi’s disciples. Mr. Abe’s objective here is to improve the economy of Japan and he believes that one of the means to achieve this is through the supply of cheap power, thus reusing the nuclear power plants. However, a parallel between “the thinking of those who stress that the Japanese economy can’t survive without nuclear energy” to “the refusal of the Japanese Imperial Army to give up Manchuria,” (an incident that eventually led to Japan’s lost) was painted by Mr. Koizumi in his speech. Moreover, Mr. Koizumi asserts that “we (the government and private sector) can unite toward a dream of achieving a society based on renewable energy. Now is an opportunity, not a pinch.”
Japan is portrayed as a country that is developing towards a better environmental sustainability through an influential politician, Mr. Koizumi, who feels the important need to shift to the use of renewable energy from a nuclear one in this article. He strongly believes that Japan does not need to depend on the use of nuclear power plant to resurrect its economy. Moreover, Nishiyama’s choice of including the fact that Mr. Koizumi was also an individual who promoted nuclear reactors during his period as prime minister made the article particularly convincing.
Nishiyama implies that renewable energy is better than nuclear energy in this article. Therefore, the article describes the idea of ‘green’ as renewable, sustainable and nonhazardous towards human. In addition to this, being ‘green’ is an opportunity that can be realized through the unity of both government and private entities without harming the economy in the long run.
Nishiyama, G. October 2, 2013. Fukushima Watch: Popular Ex-PM Koizumi Comes Out Against Nukes. The Wall Street Journal. [online] http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/10/02/popular-ex-pm-koizumi-comes-out-against-nuclear-power/
The Straits Times. Tuesday, 3 September, 2013.”Japan to go non‐nuclear for at least half a year”
This article talks about the present nuclear situation in Japan. After the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, there has been a huge debate on the use of nuclear power in the country. A few of Japan’s nuclear reactors which have been closed for maintenance have not been restarted largely as a result of public backlash after the Fukushima disaster. The remaining two reactors are also due for maintenance and it is likely that the whole country will go non-nuclear for at least half a year. Recent reports on the leakage of radioactive water from storage tanks at Fukushima which has even drained into the sea are likely to dampen public’s enthusiasm for nuclear energy. As such, Japan is turning back to conventional energy sources such as thermal power plants to make up for the loss.
This switch back to the use of thermal energy seems to be the ‘green’ way forward for Japan. Reports in other magazines such as Niponica also show how Japan is trying to revitalize its disaster-stricken towns through the tapping of other forms of renewable energy. Here one may need to ask the question, what is considered ‘green’? Is nuclear energy considered ‘green’ still? Or is it no longer so due to the radiation threats that it is now posing to the people in the country? It seems that there is no fixed definition for ‘green’ energy, and we probably need to rethink before we attached a ‘green’ label to an energy source in the future.
News review by Ong Shi Rong
How green is Tohoku’s ‘Green Connections’ project? by Winifred Bird
Bird reports on two projects that aim to protect coastlines by restoring forests destroyed during the Great East Japan Earthquake: the “Green Connections” project (緑の絆再生プロジェクト), started by the Forestry Agency, from Aomori Prefecture to Chiba Prefecture; and the Great Forest Wall Project by Morihiro Hosokawa and Akira Miyawaki.
The article then focuses on the disapproval of such moves from some people like ecologist Yoshihiko Hirabuki, citing that the forests will destroy the native species by taking over their land, which can have far-reaching consequences to biodiversity in Japan. The opponents of such moves also lobby for the Forest Agency to at least assess such moves.
The Forest Agency responded by agreeing to create a team of people to assess such moves (with scant details of this provided) but more interestingly, also countered that needs of people are more important than of biodiversity, citing local laws requiring them to restore the forests since they were made by locals.
It would not be surprising if readers feel that Japan has (unusually?) a lot of control over its environment with all these plans of (RE)making forests and more importantly, the idea that people do have a say over their environment. Notably, the environment and its future too can shape people’s lives.
I am also intrigued by how the different ideas of “green” can be in conflict with each other: The supporters of these plans seem to have a traditional idea of “green” as in having forests everywhere, while those who do not support these plans see “green” as lands (and therefore, animals and plants residing there) untouched by humanity.