Conclusion

The national government, nevertheless, continued with the Eat and Support campaign, which was carried over to the LDP government and is still active today. The campaign may not be given full credence by the Japanese public but is spreading discourses that emphasize the importance of building and maintaining solidarity with the devastated areas through consuming food products, and there is little open criticism. At the end of the day, the devastated areas still need a great deal of support by all means. So, discourses continue to circulate.

In this process, however, some crucial political questions seem to be marginalized. In particular, the following three points deserve further discussion. First, the Eat and Support campaign posits food insecurity in post-3/11 Japan as a problem between consumers and food producers. Efforts of hardworking food producers striving for recovery need to be met by prudency on the part of consumers who are supposed to select and buy food products wisely while showing compassion. In this way, the issue has been somehow settled between the acts of consumers and food producers, without the involvement of the national government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). Second, the problems posed by the notion of ‘acceptable levels’ have been lost in the process.[1] If the meltdown had not happened in the Fukushima plants, there would have been no need at all for anybody to worry about contaminated food and hence there should have been no need to establish acceptable levels of radiological contamination (viz. the benchmark of a safe effective dose). Furthermore, just as the potential harm of constant low-dose internal exposure to radiological contamination is scientifically unspecified, objective standards of safety cannot be well-founded by contemporary scientific knowledge/logics. In the textbook case of risk management, a scientifically ambiguous case is dealt with by applying the ‘precautionary principle’, a method of risk management to design countermeasures by considering the worst case scenario.[2] Yet, the Japanese government’s approach to the acceptable levels discussed above cannot be described as following the precautionary principle, since the index values in the regulatory standards changed over the course of time, which stirred controversy over the provisional standards. Nevertheless, this has been little problematized, as the government implemented the Eat and Support campaign. Third, the discourses of the Eat and Support campaign draw a clear boundary between ‘us’ and ‘them’: ‘us’ being hardworking food producers and prudent consumers, and ‘them’ being those who do not join such a community of food producers and consumers and share risks and burdens. As the public polls cited above suggest, this boundary could only be rhetorical and, hence, imagined. At the same time, it seems to be sufficiently powerful to drive marginalized actors such as women towards hiding their voices from the public authorities. All in all, the Eat and Support campaign in the aftermath of the Triple Disaster functioned (1) to return the Japanese food regulatory system to a previous approach centred around the food industry, and more importantly, (2) to depoliticize food insecurity in post-3/11 Japan by displacing the responsibilities of the national government and TEPCO over the nuclear disaster while presenting an imagined solidarity of food risk in Japan.

When observing the development of food insecurity and government responses, what is remarkable is, on the one hand, the resilience shown by the Japanese people. Civic groups were organized in response to food insecurity across Japan,[3] while radiological jargon and scientific knowledge have been quickly incorporated into their everyday vocabularies. Individuals, in particular women, have equipped themselves with relevant knowledge and skills and autonomously and competently organized their food practices. In other words, the Japanese version of a food governance system that has emerged out of food regulatory reforms since the 1990s worked well in this regard.

On the other hand, the Japanese state somehow survived the process without major reforms in the policy areas of food regulation and nuclear power. The DPJ was certainly chased out of office, but this resulted in the comeback of the LDP, in other words, the political party which is responsible for the very policies that constituted an institutional setting of ‘ungovernability’ and is currently regressing nuclear policy back to the pre-Fukushima state by situating nuclear power technology at the centre of its growth strategy formulated under the banner of ‘redeeming Japan’ (Nippon wo torimodosu). Here, the state seems to be subjugated to the logics of capitalist economic development, varnished with a sense of nationalism based on the nationwide solidarity of economic growth and the avoidance of overt questions regarding food safety. Some Japanese people may be casting cynical eyes on this state, but it is still there, having done very little to improve the regulatory system to manage food and energy risks.

  • [1] Beck, Risk Society, 64—69.
  • [2] Renn, Risk Governance; Sunstein, Worst-Case Scenarios.
  • [3] Igarashi, Minna de kimeta; Oguma, Genpatsu wo tomeru hitobito.
 
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