Reader Mail

Heart of Japan's administration

Edinburgh, Scotland

Jeff Kingston’s Feb. 6 review of my recent book, “JAPAN’S NUCLEAR CRISIS: The Routes of Responsibility,” is baffling. Kingston thinks that the title misleads and that the work is hastily cobbled together, relying on materials from prior texts. He protests that I do not put the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) at the “scene of the crime.” He supports his arguments with commentary from my book, but uses them out of context.

The book is the culmination of 20 years of investigation regarding the function of the ministries’ independent administrative institutions (IAIs), a number of which have effectively become extensions of the ministries and are at the heart of Japan’s system of government administration and many of its problems.

Some of METI’s IAIs have been intimately involved in the development of the nuclear industry since the end of the war (Chapter 7). Until the March 11 disaster, the government fully supported these organizations, the construction of nuclear reactors and NISA. Therefore, it is imperative that readers have a proper understanding of the government system of administration in the context of Japan’s nuclear crisis. The major portion of the book is new material and uses data pertinent to the nuclear crisis, which I collected while working within the system.

The work is easily accessible to a Western readership. Information from two prior texts,which are the only books in English that focus on IAIs, is included because it cannot be presumed that readers will otherwise understand why prefectures accepted nuclear plants even though the government was aware for years of the significant problems related to the reactors’ infrastructure and the risks of constructing reactors in earthquake-prone zones (Chapter 6). Chapter 3 argues that the news media were under the influence of the electric power companies for years. Its influence on public sentiment regarding past cover-ups was relatively unhelpful. Kingston’s forthcoming book on the nuclear crisis will, I assume, offer a different perspective.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

susan carpenter

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