R. Taggart Murphy

Japan Dispatch: What Tokyo Fears
March 24, 2011

Radiation in Tokyo has not reached anything like harmful or even worrisome levels. And, although packaged foods have largely disappeared from convenience stores and some supermarkets, fresh food continues to be widely available. Indeed, there may be too much of it. The chef at the sushi shop where I had lunch on Friday complained that he couldn’t sell all the fish he had stock-piled—people were going home early rather than stopping by for a couple of beers and a round of nigiri-zushi before heading for the station. But this crisis threatens Tokyo’s inhabitants in more subtle ways.

Tokyo Dispatch: Skyscrapers, Earthquake Science, and the Odds of Another Disaster
March 13, 2011

Tokyo, Japan—Back in 1976, I worked as an English teacher in Sendai, the large city closest to the epicenter of Friday’s horrendous earthquake. Once a week I would go to the campus of Tohoku University—the city’s pre-eminent university—for an afternoon of “English discussion” with a group of professors and grad students. Their research involved the effects of earthquakes on buildings.

With Friends Like Us
June 08, 2010

Japan has a new prime minister, Naoto Kan, but he comes from the same party—the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)—as Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned last Wednesday. He will almost surely want to continue Hatoyama's policies of strengthening Japan’s political democracy and forging an independent foreign policy that is allied with the United States, but not subordinate to it. If Kan follows that course, he will undoubtedly displease much of Japan’s establishment, which still identifies with the defeated Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that Hatoyama's party trounced in last year's election.

Before Sunrise
November 12, 2009

When President Obama arrives in Tokyo on Friday, he will confront a country that seeks to be an ally of the United States. For Japan has never been an American ally. It was first a rival, then an enemy, and finally, after it lost the war it foolishly started with the U.S., it became a protectorate, not an ally.   The distinction matters. An alliance is an institution negotiated between two sovereign governments in which each agrees to a series of reciprocal obligations that have the force of law.