The Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown in March has sparked a version of the Arab Spring in Japan, argue two Japanese intellectuals.
The Japanese government’s Katrina-like inability to respond to the Fukushima crisis galvanized the Japanese public, say Hiromi Murakami and Kiyoshi Kurokawa of Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, writing in The Japan Times. “Civil society has finally started to blossom in Japan,” they wrote.
When the government failed to respond to the Fukushima crisis, individual Japanese took things into their own hands, donating money, volunteering to measure radiation levels in schools and communicating directly via Twitter.
The two call this Japan’s Third Opening. Japan has had two great ‘openings,’ the first when Commodore Matthew Perry’s Black Ships forced Japan to open its ports and led to the Meiji Restoration, the second during the Allied occupation after World War II. Both of those openings were driven by external forces. This Third Opening is internal and driven by individuals, not the government. It is as fundamentally damaging to Japan’s one-party government as any more direct rebellion, they say, writing that “Fukushima turned Japanese citizens from believers into skeptics of the government.”
In the end, this third opening will be what helps Japan deal with massive problems like its aging population, dwindling manufacturing base and gigantic government debt, the industrial world’s biggest. But only if the nascent civil society continues to flower.