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VOX POPULI: Lake Biwako as a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.

November 28, 2012

Using a calculator, I found that Lake Biwako occupies less of Shiga Prefecture than I thought. On a map, its blue expanse appears to cover a third of the prefecture. But in fact the lake occupies slightly less than 17 percent. Its significance as a water supply for 15 million residents along the Yodogawa river makes the lake look larger than it is.

Yukiko Kada, 62, is the governor of Shiga—and the guardian of Lake Biwako. She has announced the formation of a party, Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party), with the banner of “moving on from nuclear power.” Kada, also an environmental sociologist, has retained a strong attachment to the lake since her student days at Kyoto University. Her motivation in forming the new party is a sense of crisis: that if a major accident occurs at one of the nuclear reactors on Wakasa Bay in neighboring Fukui Prefecture, Lake Biwako would be contaminated with radioactive materials—and so would the water it supplies.

Until recently, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto of the Japan Restoration Party was the most vocal party leader calling for the phasing out of nuclear power generation. But when his party appointed former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara as its new leader, Hashimoto muted his anti-nuclear call. It seems that Kada’s sense of having lost a comrade pushed her into forming the party.

In response, politicians such as Ichiro Ozawa, Shizuka Kamei and Takashi Kawamura, all of whom apparently have a political ax to grind, have appeared to jump on the bandwagon. I don’t know who is behind this move. It smells suspicious. With only a week to go before the official launch of the Lower House election campaign, all parties are in battle mode, focusing more on tactics to win seats than on policies.

Small parties, which sprang up like mushrooms hoping to become the third political force following the Democratic Party of Japan and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, have roughly split into two camps: One is the Japan Restoration Party, which advocates a strong Japan; the other is the anti-nuclear group centered on Kada.

As she points out, it seems wrong that the future of nuclear power is not thoroughly debated in the first national election to be held since last year’s disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

A significant segment of the public is believed to want to phase out reliance on nuclear power generation. However, if their votes remain scattered, this wish will not be reflected in politics.

The Kansai region has generated new initiatives. It is a good thing that voters are getting more choices, ones unaffected by the dynamics of Tokyo’s Nagatacho, the district where the National Diet Building is located. An alliance—with Lake Biwako at its core—is one of them.

–The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 28

November 28, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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