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This Japanese Coastal Town Has Been Fighting the Construction of a Nuclear Power Plant for 35 Years

In 1982, Chugoku Electric Power Co. announced a plan to start the construction of a massive nuclear power plant in the small coastal town of Kaminoseki Japan. Kaminoseki boasts some of the best fishing in Japan and it’s the livelihood of the inhabitants of the town, a livelihood locals fear will be taken away from the community if the proposed power plant gets built. 
Midori Takashima grew up in Hiroshima until she was 18 and would see the inscription on the Hiroshima Peace Memorial which read “Rest In Peace, we’ll never let this happen again.” She grew up weary of the dangers of nuclear radiation.
Takashima is now a Patagonia grantee and activist founder of the Kaminoseki Nature Conservation Association and physically taking the memorial’s creed into action. 
In 2011, Midori and her crew of activists bought a boat for research, and the more they looked into it, the more rare and endangered species they found in the local ecosystem, from the finless porpoise to the Japanese murrelet. In her goal to make sure that ecosystem remains unharmed, Midori teamed with Patagonia to create the short video “Sea of Miracles.”

January 29, 2018 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Street Artist 281_Antinuke Uses Art for His Message

“I feel immense pain, and my art is how I scream.” This man uses street art to remind people that Fukushima’s nuclear disaster is far from over.


An Interview with 281_Anti Nuke

October 1, 2013

The stickers went up a few months after Japan’s triple disaster in 2011—an earthquake and tsunami that took twenty thousand lives, and an ongoing nuclear crisis that threatens more. They first appeared along the shabby backstreets of Shibuya, in downtown Tokyo, a place that offers some of the very few canvasses for graffiti in a city not given to celebrating street art. The British expat photographer and filmmaker Adrian Storey couldn’t ignore them. “Being a foreigner, there was a sort of brief period after 3/11 when there was this sense of community in Tokyo that I haven’t felt before,” Storey says. “Then it kind of went away, and people just went back to shopping. I was drawn to the stickers because I realized it was a Japanese person behind them, and they actually cared about what was happening. I started photographing every sticker I found.”

Some stickers are small, eight inches or so in height. Others are the size of a stunted adult or a large child. In fact, children are featured in many of them, especially the motif of a young girl in a raincoat above the caption “I hate rain,” with the trefoil symbol for radiation stamped between “hate” and “rain.” On other stickers, silhouettes of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are suspended in white space beside the logo for the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the government-allied conglomerate responsible for the operation and maintenance of the severely damaged Fukushima nuclear power plants. Sometimes the stark black lines and blotches resemble Rorschach tests. You look and see nothing, then look again and see Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s face, his mouth suffocated by an American flag.

The artist behind them calls himself 281_Anti Nuke, and he has become a cult phenomenon among Tokyo locals. The numerals refer to an athletic jersey he wore in high school. “It’s just nostalgia,” he says. “Memories of my happier times.” Tagged as the “Japanese Banksy,” he is an unlikely manifestation of Japan’s shredded identity: a contemporary artist of dissent in a country that rarely tolerates protest and barely supports modern art. His real name is Kenta Matsuyama, though few Japanese know that, since it appears only in the fine print on his manager’s English-language Web site. He is a fortysomething father born and raised near Fukushima, the site of Japan’s most pressing nuclear disaster. We meet in the heart of Shibuya, in a second-story café overlooking the most famous intersection in Japan—a crowded network of diagonal crosswalks that is featured in nearly every film set in Tokyo.

We are hiding in plain sight. “These people,” he says, gesturing toward the window and the masses below, “they only vote for the winner; they only think about the winner. They have no concept of real strength. They feel satisfied just knowing that the party they voted for won.” (That party, the archconservative, U.S.-friendly, and pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party, crows about a mandate after sweeping recent elections.) He is wearing a tight-fitting gray hoodie, pitch-black jeans and sunglasses, and a white surgical mask. It’s not always easy to hear him through the mask, so he tugs it down a bit when his speech quickens in anger. “Maybe it’s true that there’s no political party you can count on, but it’s more than that. It’s fear. It’s Japanese people never doubting their leaders. Looking out at Shibuya, I’m sure that nobody out there remembers the idea of radiation anymore. People abroad know more about the crisis in Fukushima than the Japanese. The Japanese are trying to forget. I want to make them remember.”

Anti Nuke is an active Twitter user, but when he first started posting his art, he received death threats so virulent that last year he temporarily took down his Twitter and Facebook accounts and started hiding all of his personal information. Even now, his Web site is often hacked. In public, when he is not cloaked by hoodie, sunglasses, and mask, he wears a full-body hazmat suit. As for his method: “Stickers are better than graffiti,” he says, “because they are faster to apply. You just stick them on and run off. And I use very simple English to be direct, without nuances. Like, ‘I hate rain.’ In Japanese, it’s ‘Watashi wa ame ga kirai.’ So in Japanese, you really need to talk about who hates rain, and why, and in what context. But in English it’s more iconic. There’s more room for the imagination, and that’s powerful.”

281_Anti Nuke’s work is about to reach more people via exhibitions in the New York and Los Angeles, and a documentary film about his art directed by Storey will début in festivals next year. “His mission is personal,” says Storey. “He wants people to think about the same things he’s thinking about, but, like he said to me many times, it’s about the future of his children. It’s the future of everybody’s children in Japan. He doesn’t want to make a name for himself.”

Perhaps. But donning hoodies, shades, and surgical masks, not to mention the occasional hazmat suit, is an odd strategy for anonymity. “It’s fine if I become famous if it helps communicate this huge problem,” Anti Nuke concedes. “There are bigger problems in Fukushima than we know now. I’m sure of that. I’ve communicated with people there. I have family there. The Japanese government will not save them, and since the survivors cannot escape, Fukushima people hate Tokyo people for the electricity they use and cannot conserve.”

He insists that he is not anti-American, just pro-truth. “I love the American people, but I want them to help save Japan. This time, it’s the Japanese people who are to blame. We’re not aware, and we are actively trying to forget. We need foreigners to save us from ourselves.”


April 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Who’s Who: Ruiko Muto, The Tohoku Ogre


by Miwa Chiwaki

Hello, everyone. My name is Miwa Chiwaki. Today, I would like to introduce to you Ms. Ruiko Muto, the Chair of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Plaintiffs and one of the Joint Representatives of Hidanren (the Liaison Committee for Organizations of Victims of the Nuclear Disaster). Born in Fukushima Prefecture in 1953, she is currently living in Miharu Town in the same prefecture. After retiring from teaching at a  school for disabled children, she opened a coffee shop called “Kirara” in a village forest in 2003. While managing this shop, she has proposed energy-saving and an environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

In 1986, the nuclear accident occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in the Ukraine. She came to realize the danger of nuclear power plants, and launched an anti-NPP campaign. Ruiko repeatedly issued warnings against accidents at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS) from the viewpoint of local citizens, and continued her innovative and tenacious efforts to demand that the plant’s operator take sufficient measures to ensure the safety of the plant.

On the day before the nuclear accident at FDNPS on March 11, 2011, she was preparing for a rally to demand the decommissioning of the plant’s Unit 1, which would reach 40 years since the start of operations during that year. This means that she had planned to put this reactor off-line before the nuclear disaster occurred…

I came to know Ruiko soon after the nuclear accident. I was living in Fukushima at that time due to my husband being transferred to the Fukushima office of his company in 2007. At that time, I was totally ignorant about nuclear plants and the anti-nuclear movement. Immediately after the nuclear disaster, I fell into despair because Japanese society did not change at all even after this severe and irreversible accident, and because I had been forcibly exposed to radioactive substances from the nuclear plant during my daily life. I gathered related information from the internet, but did nothing other than release weary sighs and cry. But one day, I concluded that nothing would change if I continued to live like this and was determined to do something about it. I searched the internet for information about the anti-nuclear movement and learned about the activities of Ruiko’s group. I then decided to join her group.

In the wake of the nuclear accident, everybody was struggling amid growing anxiety, fear and anger. Ruiko had a constant flow of visitors, telephone calls and e-mails from people wishing to talk with her in an attempt to find a ray of light amid the despair. She met each one of them, listened to them and shared their agony, pains and difficulties. I was also one of the visitors. Members of many other anti-nuclear groups also came to seek her advice.

The plaintiffs’ group has filed a lawsuit against those who are allegedly responsible for the nuclear accident, demanding that they face criminal charges. As the group leader, Ruiko is actively traveling around to talk with people all the time, despite the huge burden she has to shoulder. She has already given hundreds of lectures and speeches. The listeners say they are deeply impressed by her words, and have been encouraged to move forward to find rays of hope for the future.

At the same time, she is energetically engaged in activities to protect the human rights and health of Fukushima residents by serving as a joint representative of Hidanren.

* Miwa Chiwaki is the Secretary General of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Plaintiffs Group

**’Tohoku Ogre’ is a reference to Ruiko’s speech made at a huge rally in Tokyo in September 2011 where she claimed that the usually docile people of Tohoku were so angry about the nuclear accident that they had turned into the legendary ogres of that area.

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Yoshinaga, Sakamoto ask for nuclear-free world in Osaka


Actress Sayuri Yoshinaga recites a poem with piano accompaniment from musician Ryuichi Sakamoto at the Festival Hall in Osaka’s Kita Ward on Dec. 19.

OSAKA–Actress Sayuri Yoshinaga and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto teamed up to appeal for a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants at an event organized by The Asahi Shimbun here on Dec. 19.

Peace is something that we achieve together instead of just only wishing for,” said Yoshinaga as she delivered her message at the poetry recital event titled “Heiwa no Tameni–Shi to Ongaku to Hana to” (For peace–Poems, music and flowers).

An audience of around 2,500 listened intently as she read poems about the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by an earthquake and tsunami.

Yoshinaga was accompanied by Sakamoto on the piano during the charity concert at the Festival Hall in Osaka’s Kita Ward.

Over the past 30 years, Yoshinaga, who was born in March 1945, has carried out voluntary work giving poetry readings about the atomic bombings, motivated by her belief that it is her mission as a person with the gift of expression who was born in the year the war ended.

The peace-seeking actress read 19 poems including: “Umashimenkana” (I will let her give birth to a baby), written by Hiroshima poet Sadako Kurihara; and “Gonen” (Five years) written by Ryoichi Wago, a high school teacher from Fukushima who is also a poet.

Yoshinaga and Sakamoto, who also held a poetry recital in Canada in May, decided to stage the latest event in Osaka with the aim of spreading the activity in Japan to promote the ideal of a peaceful nuclear-free world.

Peace will never be achieved if you just keep silent,” said Sakamoto. “I want to believe that each one of our continuous small efforts will eventually move the world.”

Sakamoto performed his famed composition, the main theme of the 1983 film “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” among other pieces.


December 29, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Anti-nuclear scientist group aims to boost influence amid growing defense research fears



Japanese scientists are trying to make Pugwash Japan, the domestic arm of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs — an international organization working toward the abolition of nuclear arms and war — more active and influential amid concerns that the defense industry and scientific community are growing increasingly closer.

The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs held its first world meeting in the small fishing village of Pugwash, Canada, in 1957 during the nuclear arms race of the Cold War, and has since worked on and advocated for the elimination of nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction. Japanese physicist and 1949 Nobel Prize laureate Hideki Yukawa had actively participated in Pugwash meetings, including the first session, and Japan has hosted international Pugwash conferences, but the number of Japanese scientists involved in the movement has been dropping in recent years.

Since individual scientists join the conference based on their own qualifications, Japanese scientists who took part in past international meetings launched Pugwash Japan to spread the message. The Japan group decided in September to relaunch a better-organized Pugwash Japan with a code of conduct and membership system after an international Pugwash general conference was held in the city of Nagasaki in November last year. The group’s aim is to open the door wider to those who are interested in the group’s activities and strengthen its influence in policy making.

The newly reformed Pugwash Japan, headed by nuclear engineering professor Tatsujiro Suzuki at Nagasaki University, will hold its first general meeting in Tokyo on Nov. 27. It will have some 40 members, with Keio University professor emeritus Michiji Konuma — who worked with Yukawa — on the steering committee, and 16 advisers such as engineer Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, a special adviser to the Japan Science and Technology Agency and former chairman of the Science Council of Japan, and University of Tokyo professor emeritus Seigo Hirowatari.

Member scientists are set to discuss concerns regarding defense research in Japan and the challenges to nuclear disarmament that remain following U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima. To ensure unrestrained discussion, the meeting will be closed to the public, but results of the debate will be incorporated into the statements it releases to the public. The organization is also considering holding symposiums for the general public.

Pugwash Japan chairman Suzuki said he hopes that the group provides scientists with an opportunity for open-minded discussion based on the two pillars of the Pugwash Conference — social responsibility of scientists and dialogue across divides. He added, “We’re concerned about the current tendency for everything to lean toward national security and hope that our discussions that will lead to policy proposals.”

November 14, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Ex-PM Koizumi: ‘Why doesn’t gov’t eliminate nuclear power?’


Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi gestures as he speaks at a hotel in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on Oct. 18, 2016

MATSUMOTO, Nagano — Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Oct. 18 commented on the victory of an anti-nuclear newcomer in the Oct. 16 Niigata gubernatorial election, asking why the government isn’t giving up nuclear power when it can.

The newly elected governor, Ryuichi Yoneyama, has expressed a cautious view on the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

“He beat a candidate backed by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Komeito and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, and it was an unexpected upset. I guess that the public has come to understand that nuclear power plants are dangerous, not safe,” Koizumi said during an address in the Nagano Prefecture city of Matsumoto.

He underscored the impact of the election, saying that if the opposition parties jointly field candidates in the next House of Representatives election and make the elimination of nuclear power plants the main focal point, “There’s no telling how the LDP will end up.”

Koizumi said that while he was in power, he believed the opinions of experts and thought that nuclear power plants were necessary. But his view on nuclear power changed in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“With the Fukushima nuclear disaster, I realized that the descriptions of (atomic power) as safe, clean and low-cost were all lies.”

The former prime minister said he started efforts to eliminate all nuclear power plants in Japan after realizing the mistake and wanting to correct it and make amends. At times during his address, Koizumi raised his voice in earnest like he did when he was prime minister.

“They (the government) can eliminate nuclear power, so why don’t they?” he asked. “It’s time to turn a predicament into a chance.”

October 19, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Survey: 57% oppose rebooting nuclear reactors, 29% in favor



Fifty-seven percent of citizens nationwide are against restarting nuclear power plants, nearly double the 29 percent who want reactors brought back online, according to an Asahi Shimbun survey.

The results of the telephone survey conducted on Oct. 15 and 16 show that more than half of the public has remained opposed to the resumption of nuclear plant operations since an Asahi Shimbun survey in June 2013, when 58 percent expressed opposition.

In an Asahi survey in February this year, 54 percent of respondents disagreed with plans to fire up the reactors.

The support rate for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fell to 48 percent from 52 percent in the previous survey conducted in September. The nonsupport rate was 32 percent, up from 29 percent.

The Abe administration has been pushing for the resumption of nuclear plant operations. Currently, only two of Japan’s dozens of reactors are online under stricter safety standards set after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Around 45 percent of respondents who support Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party oppose reactor restarts, eclipsing the 42 percent of LDP supporters who agree with the nuclear policy.

Among supporters of the main opposition Democratic Party, 78 percent are against rebooting nuclear reactors, according to the survey.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents who do not support any particular party want the reactors to remain idle, compared with 24 percent in favor of bringing nuclear plants back online.

The survey showed that younger people and males were more likely to support restarts of nuclear power plants.

Sixty percent of males 18 to 29 years old were in favor, compared with 30 percent in opposition, according to the survey.

The Asahi Shimbun conducted the latest survey through the Random Digit Dialing method, in which survey takers call both fixed and mobile telephone numbers randomly selected by computer. Parts of Fukushima Prefecture were excluded from the survey.

Among the 1,870 households contacted that had at least one eligible voter, 1,000 people, or 53 percent, gave valid responses.

October 18, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan Political Pulse: A helping hand following radiation misfortune



Recently former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 74, was seen talking to 62-year-old Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Their encounter was recorded on a photo page of the Sept. 29 issue of the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun.

The scene was Aoyama Funeral Hall in Tokyo, where they had attended the Sept. 15 funeral of former Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary-General Koichi Kato and were waiting for their cars to arrive. For about 90 seconds the “master and disciple” stood side by side. Below are the details of Koizimi’s comments and the prime minister’s reaction, which didn’t appear in Shukan Bunshun.

Koizumi: “Why don’t you totally eliminate nuclear power plants?”

Abe: (Faint smile, bow)

Koizumi: “Having zero nuclear power plants is cheaper. Why don’t you understand such a simple thing? It’s all lies, what the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is saying. The things advocates of nuclear power plants are saying — they’re all lies. Don’t be fooled.”

Abe: (Wry smile, bows again, and with head kept low heads to official vehicle)

Koizumi is currently pouring his efforts into a fund to support those who say they were affected by radiation during “Operation Tomodachi,” a U.S. Armed Forces operation to support Japan in the wake of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Over 400 soldiers from the USS Ronald Regan aircraft carrier and accompanying ships complained of ill-health after helping in rescue efforts following their urgent dispatch to the seas off Fukushima Prefecture in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Some of them are said to have died from causes including leukemia.

The aircraft carrier fleet worked intermittently in a radiation plume from the stricken power plant between March 13 and 17, 2011. After returning home from Japan, a stream of soldiers developed ailments including brain tumors and thyroid cancer. The nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and the Japanese and U.S. governments acknowledged that they had been exposed to low-level radiation, but do not accept a causal relationship between exposure and their illnesses.

Koizumi learned that some soldiers had left the military at a young age, had no insurance and couldn’t pay their medical fees. It was in May this year that the former prime minister traveled to the United States and directly inquired about their circumstances.

Former soldiers earlier filed a lawsuit against parties including TEPCO, and oral arguments over whether jurisdiction of the case should lie in Japan or the United States were heard in an appeals court in California on Sept. 1. At the time, a Japanese government adviser is said to have supported an agent for TEPCO, stating that radiation exposure is the responsibility of the U.S. military.

Koizumi, who read a note on the hearing (carried in the Sept. 9 issue of the magazine Shukan Kinyobi), responded immediately.

“This is embarrassing. They were relief efforts for Japan, right? The American judge is said to have been appalled,” he was quoted as saying.

On July 5, Koizumi appeared in a news conference with figures including former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, 78, and Tsuyoshi Yoshiwara, 61, an adviser at The Johnan Shinkin Bank, to announce the start of fundraising activities to help the U.S. soldiers. Koizumi himself approached the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) but was turned away on the grounds that TEPCO is a member of the federation.

Reinforcements have nevertheless appeared on the funding front. Japanese architect Tadao Ando, 75, posed the following question: “Mr. Koizumi, will you come to Osaka and give a lecture? I’ll assemble 1,000 people. With a fee of 10,000 yen per person, that’ll bring in 10 million yen.”

When Koizumi appeared at the lecture in August, 1,300 people turned up. The same style of lecture is due to be held in Tokyo on Nov. 16, organized by the head of a group of managers of small- and medium-sized enterprises. Additionally, the president of a solar power generation company provided 10 million yen.

Through these efforts, the total has climbed to 50 million yen. Koizumi apparently hopes to amass 100 million yen by next spring.

The connection between radiation exposure and the development of illness is delicate. There’s a possibility of developing cancer, but there are doubts about whether a person would suddenly die, experts say.

On Sept. 7, Koizumi spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo’s Yurakucho district. He was asked if it was responsible to talk about damage from radiation exposure without presenting scientific evidence.

Below is the gist of his reply:

“I’m no longer a member of the government. I’m a civilian. There are people who are actually suffering. It’s common sense for me to support them.”

Fundraising and service instead of criticism; denial of the perception of saying, “Radiation exposure is the responsibility of the U.S. military” to protect nuclear power policies … I support this form of common sense from our former prime minister. (By Takao Yamada, Special Senior Writer)

October 7, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-nuclear power protest tents in Tokyo attacked by far-right group

On August 14th, members of Japan’s ultra Right targeted the anti-nuclear power protest tents that have stood for nearly five years outside the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in Kasumigaseki, the government district in central Tokyo.

The “attack”, as it was swiftly dubbed by those on the Left, happened perhaps deliberately on the day before the annual anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the Pacific War that always turns Yasukuni Shrine into something of a pantomime of militarist cosplay.


It is unclear to me if this was a co-ordinated action between several groups or individuals, but online reports claim that the racist hate group Zaitokukai was the main organiser. The perpetrators of the attack seemed to attempt to surround the tents with flags and banners. The hot summer day then quickly became more heated as supporters rallied to protect the tents, and police struggled to keep the two groups on opposing sides of the street while vehicles decorated with nationalist slogans drove into the fray. The anti-tent demonstrators included at least one man wearing a war-time military costume, just as can always be seen at Yasukuni on August 15th.

Japan’s far Right has diversified in recent years, now encompassing netizens who vent nationalist anger online (the so-called netto uyoku), hate speech groups like Zaitokukai who particularly target Korean communities, and sundry protestors who march against the recent territorial incursions by China and Japan’s other neighhours. The customary black vans of the traditional uyoku are no longer the only icons of rightist groups, nor does this emerging demographic necessarily belong to the New Right or minzoku-ha that developed out of the student movement. (In fact, elements of the New Right and other nationalists also added their voices to the anti-nuclear power movement.) The hate groups and xenophobic activists view any kind of leftist, liberal or anti-government movement as an enemy of Japan, hence they have attacked protests against nuclear power or the state security bills. Shall we call it the New New Right?

The incident comes at time of renewed tensions between the state and citizens due to the ongoing clashes at Takae in Okinawa over helipad construction, which has seen hundreds of riot police despatched from the mainland to maintain order among local and visiting protestors. While the scale of that movement is still relatively small, the situation is not dissimilar to what happened during the construction of Narita Airport in the 1960s and 1970s.

This is far from the first time the tents have attracted far-right attention, including hate activists like Shusei Sakurda. Rightists damaged and attempted to disrupt the tents as earlier as 2011, which has led the anti-nuclear protestors to develop a network of supporters that can be mobilised to guard and protect the tents. As can see from the video, this is very successful as a defence strategy. The attack on August 14th was met by a vigorous counter-protest of self-professed “anti-fascists” from the movement which has also become a prominent feature of protest culture in Japan over the past few years in response to the way the ultra-nationalists have evolved. These counter-protestors strive to outnumber and drown out the noise of right-wing or hate groups’ street actions, and do not shy away from engaging directly in physical confrontations. The activists are at times as aggressive as the hate groups and others they picket, prompting a greater police presence to keep the two sides apart.

This video was made by Rio Akiyama, a freelance photographer and film-maker who spends his days crisscrossing the country to cover counter-protests and other social movements. The work of Akiyama is mirrored by that of Rody Shimazaki, a punk-turned-photographer who has also documented the 2015 security bills protests and the hate speech counter-protests. Both Shimazaki and Akiyama have published photo-books in recent months, adding to the post-Fukushima discourse with (carefully curated) versions of the protest movements.

The protest tents were first erected on September 11th, 2011, shortly after the much-publicised hunger strike at Kasumigaseki, and around the time that the anti-nuclear power movement really began to pick up momentum. The organisers themselves use the name “Tento Hiroba” (Tent Plaza), and in English “Anti-Nuclear Occupy Tent”. It has been called the Occupy Tents, or the “tent village”. The concurrent timing is coincidental, but we might dare to christen it “Occupy Kasumigaseki”, though the contexts and aims of the tents are far removed from what went on at Wall Street in those heady anti-capitalist days of late 2011.

What is the significance of the Occupy Tents? The motley structures function as a listening post; a gathering place for demonstrators, talks, music, video screenings, and information exchange. One of the tents is now a free art museum featuring work by the likes of 281_Anti Nuke. The corner where they stand is one of the symbols of the movement, along with the art of Yoshitomo Nara that was used prolifically on placards at the major rallies.


The tents have also become a kind of protest commons: a shared place for various stakeholders in the diverse anti-nuclear power protest movement to come together and exchange views. It occupies land that is public yet also government (not mutually exclusive concepts), and forces the issue of Fukushima and nuclear power to stay in the public domain even as the the Friday night vigils in front of the Kantei (prime minister’s official residence) have dwindled. That is not to say they have stopped: they continue resiliently every week, though the numbers of participants are far lower than their remarkable peak in 2012. But Tent Plaza is certainly the most materially resonant site of the movement, since the Friday night vigils are by their nature transient and shifting in scale and exact location.

In this way, the tents form a permanent platform for discourse, a “plaza” in a very real sense — a rare thing in Japan, where public land is often tightly controlled and managed. Kasumigaseki, in particular, is not amenable to assemblies, where demonstrators are not allowed to occupy the roads and are forced to gather on the snaking pavements in the district. Tent Plaza repudiates this topographical restraint and replaces it with a micro Tokyo version of Speakers’ Corner.

In addition to the ongoing crusade against nuclear power, the tents have also served as a locus for other anti-government causes, such as the protests against the state security bills last year. In one memorable episode, Buddhist monks gathered at the tents in 2015 to pray for the so-called “war bills” to be rejected.

If the unquestionably partisan Japan Atomic Industrial Forum is to believed, “members of a shadowy coalition of primarily far-left groups have continuously occupied [the tents], displaying signs criticising national nuclear policy and proclaiming the site a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement”. “Shadowy” or not, the people associated with the tents are not simply drawn from the rank’s of Japan’s far Left. There are indeed activists with long experience in radical groups. (For example, Shinzaburō Iwamoto is one of the people involved and this seems to be the same person who was part of a faction of Chūkaku-ha forced out in 2006.) But the nature of the protest is much more genial than the dogmatic tactics of the far Left, and, as we saw, a lot of its grassroots support now comes from the younger hate speech counter-protestors as opposed to the more established radical Left.

Here is someone explaining how she got involved in helping at the tents, as recorded by the Voices of Protest Japan project.

I wanted to do something as one who lives in metropolitan area. Though I did not participate from the beginning, I participated in Fukushima women’s group and did a sit-in. Also I started to visit here two or three days when I heard that Fukushima women were coming after the hunger strike done by five young people in front of METI. Then Japan’s women group continued the movement for ten more days. I didn’t participate for the whole thing but little bit. After that, the men at the first tent built the second tent when a hundred of Fukushima women were coming to the tent. But because of lack of participants after this movement, the tent was always closed when I came. In the same year, March of 2012, I started to come when I heard that they needed member for Saturday shift. So I started to go to that shift and also began to come for Thursday. Then I came for every other week rotating with another person. And now, I come for Thursday shift.

Just as the Wall Street occupiers were hounded out of Zuccotti Park, so too does the Japanese state want these pesky Kasumigaseki squatters gone. METI has been attempting to have the tents forcibly removed since 2014, though the orders have been challenged by protestors in the courts. Amidst the anti-nuke paraphernalia, the tents are also ostensibly fenced off by railings hung with signs informing the world that this is state land. In late July, the Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling the the tents must be removed and the occupiers pay a vast sum for “using” public land (around ¥20,000 for every day the tents have been there). The tents are effectively on borrowed (and expensive) time, though the state knows that any clumsy eviction could result in violence.

On September 11th, the tents are celebrating their anniversary with a “9.11 Anger Festival”. The fury of Fukushima lives on in Kasumigaseki.


August 21, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , , | Leave a comment