TEPCO, you have a problem: The Fukushima meltdown through an alcoholic lens

I wrote a paper a while back that never made it to a journal for publication. I don’t really think I’ll have time to get back to it while its still timely, so instead I’ll just put it up here. The paper compares the actions of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to those of an alcoholic. My hope is that it offers some insight into TEPCO’s decision making process following the nuclear reactor meltdown in Fukushima. The abstract is below followed by a link to a pdf of the paper.

AbstractThis paper frames the conduct of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)following the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant as those of an alcoholic still searching for their “bottom.” The actions and legal contortions of TEPCO are coupled with my fieldwork among Tokyo’s sobriety groups, using the definitional apparatus of alcoholism and recovery to better make sense of events at Fukushima. The notion of “hitting bottom,” that an alcoholic must loss everything before change is possible, allows for an understanding of TEPCO’s response to the Fukushima crisis as one mired in an untenable desire to control a chaotic situation. 

To view or download a pdf for the complete paper click here.


Honolulu’s “Tsukiji”

During the recent Association for Asian Studies meeting I organized a tour of the Honolulu Fish Auction. The auction is modeled on Tokyo’s Tsukiji and is the only one of its kind in the United States. Some photos of the morning are below:

Tohoku earthquake and tsunami

Like many with deep connections to Japan I have struggled with how to confront the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and ongoing nuclear fears. It is a part of Japan I have never visited, so the images are both familiar and foreign. It has also impacted, and continues to impact, the lives of those I know in Tokyo in ongoing and unfolding ways.

I find myself easily distracted by the images more than anything else. The destruction that is so haunting and vivid.

More than anything I hope for recovery and a return to normalcy (or at least whatever normal will become when the events become memory).


I’m doing a lecture on yokai, the supernatural, and the afterlife  in Japan this week. Not really sure what I’m going to say yet, its a topic I’ve never considered in a lot of detail. But some of the photos are quite intriguing…

From the Shigeru Mizuki’s Yokai Daizukai.

Host Club

Popular Culture

I am teaching a Japanese popular culture course this semester for the first time, and it is giving me a greater appreciation for the subject than I ever imagined possible. I’ve always been dismissive of popular culture as a subject of study, a position I am increasingly seeing as terribly myopic.

Unlike a lot of other Japanese speaking foreigners, I did not come to my language study out of a desire to better understand anime or manga, yet this only explains some of my resistance. Instead, I increasingly see my dismissal of pop culture as rooted in its pervasiveness and my insecurities, a stance similar to what I see among a lot of my students now. How can pop culture be a serious subject of study? Just look at what they study? And yet they study exactly the items that fill our lives with meaning and discussion. The items of our collective consumption and conversation.

This does not mean I am about to join the ranks of the otaku, yet my need to accumulate and catalog newly acquired books is certainly otaku-esque behavior, and the concept offers an interesting lens through which to view contemporary life. Maybe craft beer brewing otaku will start to show up as a good future topic of research.

World Alcohol Consumption Levels