Abstract

The nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant in March 2011 gave rise to very different sentiments in this country than it did in Japan. Whereas our press, seeking cultural and historical reference points, invoked Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Godzilla, the Japanese responded to the trio of disasters—earthquake, tsunami, Fukushima—with gestures to two moments, two acts of war, two cities vaporized: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who would be forced to resign amid intense questioning of his indecisive response to the disasters, was quoted as saying that his nation's predicament was "in a way the most severe crisis in the past sixty-five years since World War II." Writing in the New Yorker, novelist Kenzaburo Oe admonished his countrymen for their desire to harness nuclear energy by calling on them to remember their first experience of it at Hiroshima.

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