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The Fukushima disaster ruined their lives.

  Posted on by beyondnuclearinternational

They campaigned for justice, but the nuclear accident killed them anyway

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Kenichi Hasegawa was a dairy farmer in Fukushima Prefecture at the time of the March 11, 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, living in a family of eight in Itate village with his parents, wife, children and grandchildren.

Itate is approximately 50 kilometers away from the nuclear site, but quickly became one of the most radioactively contaminated places as a result of the Fukushima disaster. Yet, residents were told little and it took more than a month for an evacuation order to be issued for Itate. Many did not leave until late June. 

Mr. Hasegawa himself stayed on in Itate for five months after the disaster, tending to his cows until all of them were put down. Meanwhile, he kept a visual record of conditions there, taking more than ten thousand photos and 180 videos (in Japanese).

Documentary film “Iitate-mura Watashi no Kiroku” Trailer

On October 22, 2021 Hasegawa died of thyroid cancer at just 68, almost certainly caused by his prolonged exposure to radioactive iodine released by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe.

Before the nuclear disaster, Hasegawa owned 50 dairy cows and farmed vegetables. He was also a political leader, serving as mayor of his local ward. But the Fukushima accident changed everything.

With a high concentration of radioactive substances now found in dairy milk, his business was ruined. Angered by the cover-up by authorities of the true extent of radioactive contamination, he became a co-representative along with Ms. Ruiko Muto, of the Nuclear Accident Victims Group Liaison Committee, established in 2015.

Kenichi Hasegawa

By then, he had already authored the 2012 book, Fukushima’s Stolen Lives: A Dairy Farmer’s Story, in which he delivered an eyewitness account of the aftermath of the nuclear disaster, “as he suffered with the knowledge that his children and grandchildren had been exposed to radiation, as he lost all of his cattle (who were considered part of the family, not simply the source of their livelihood), and as he endured the suicide of a fellow dairy farmer and friend.” 

That friend wrote his final words on a wall before he died: “If only there were no nuclear power plants.”

Hasegawa returned to Itate in 2018, once the evacuation order had been lifted, and began growing buckwheat, largely to prevent his pastures from turning into wasteland. Although radiation levels in the buckwheat registered below what is considered dangerous, Hasegawa could not sell the crop.

In a 2020 interview with his Committee colleague, Ms. Muto, a resident of Miharu town, Hasegawa said: “The nuclear plant robbed us of everything. We still can’t go into the forests. Families with children used to go into the forest to gather wild plants and teach many things. That was a common practice, taken for granted. But today we can’t do anything like that. We can no longer eat anything foraged from the forest.

In Japan, a community like ours affected by radiation is seen as an inconvenience,” Hasegawa told Muto. “They would like us to disappear and be forgotten.”

Fukushima Mieruka Project: Hasegawa Kenichi (Former Dairy Farmer)

Family life was shattered by the Fukushima accident, including Hasegawa’s. His children and grandchildren vowed not to return the village and its contaminated land. In the Maeda neighborhood, where Hasegawa served as mayor, the population is now largely comprised of the elderly. 

Worse still, Hasegawa said TEPCO’s approach was to blame the victims, rather than take responsibility for the devastation its nuclear power plant had caused. 

“TEPCO eventually said that it’s really the village’s fault that people were exposed to radiation, because they did not evacuate,” Hasegawa recalled to Muto. “But we couldn’t evacuate because we had livestock or other things holding us back. They are saying everything was our own responsibility. Of course I protested loudly. How dare they blame us!”

Hasegawa is sadly, and unsurprisingly, not the only person who has succumbed to a premature death owing to radiation exposure caused by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe. By 2021, friends and colleagues involved with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster could count numerous people who had died. 

Yet, even immediately after the still on-going nuclear disaster began, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary said repeatedly: “There is no immediate effect on the human body or health”. The phrase was all too reminiscent of the ironic and prescient warning give to us by radiation researcher, Rosalie Bertell, in her 1985 book, “No Immediate Danger”.

One of those also lost in 2021 was Ms Yayoi Hitomi. She was only 60 years old when she died of ovarian cancer on September 28. Already an anti-nuclear activist well before the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, she was living in Koriyama city, situated just 60km from the stricken plant. Although Koriyama was categorized as outside of the mandatory evacuation zone, it was full of radiation hotspots.

Yayoi Hitomi in Lyon during a speaking tour in France. She succumbed to ovarian cancer last year at just 60. (Photo: Kurumi Sugita)

Hitomi was a member of Women of Fukushima Against Nuclear Power. She worked as a journalist and web writer, and was one of the most efficient organizers of the Fukushima Nuclear Criminal Litigation Support Group. After Hitomi’s death, Muto, the head of the plaintiffs’ group, said that it was as if she had lost one of her arms.

Hitomi went to Europe in March 2016, and spoke in several countries on the situation in Fukushima. She was full of energy, and looked no older than 40. However, in the fall of 2016, a cancer was discovered and she passed away five years later. Her death tells us that even if you live outside of the mandatory exclusion zone, you aren’t always protected against potentially lethal radiation health hazards.

These coming losses had been predicted in a March 2020 interview (in Japanese), when Hasegawa and his wife had observed that people in their 50s and 60s were dying like flies.

All of this of course gives the lie to — and makes especially insensitive and abhorrent — claims made by nuclear power boosters, and even lazy journalists, that “no one died because of the Fukushima nuclear accident”.

Kurumi Sugita also contributed to this article.

Headline photo of Kenichi Hasegawa speaking in Australia, by MAPW Australia/Creative Commons

March 7, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

10 years after

September 3, 2021

10th testimony of Fonzy, 10 years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Thanks to her for continuing to give us news! The vigilance, even if it is less assiduous, is always necessary.


I have been silent for several years. I am fine, I still live in the same place, 280 km from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Since the accident of the power plant, 10 years have passed. I must confess that it is difficult to be always on the alert, or in a state of alert all the time. Little by little, I am letting go of the restrictions I had imposed on myself. There are still some things I continue to do, for example:

  • Wearing a mask

In 2011, I wore an N95 mask every time I went to Tokyo, even in summer when it was 35 C. Since the N95 mask is expensive, I have been wearing a “normal” mask since 2012, and I still continue to this day. Right now, the mask is almost mandatory even in my neighborhood because of Covid 19.

  • More mushrooms

Shiitake, button mushroom, oyster mushroom,… well all kinds of mushrooms are gone from the table. From time to time, I miss Shiitake, but it will not be fatal not to eat mushrooms. On the other hand, eating mushrooms could be…

  • Buying products from southwestern Japan

I normally buy vegetables that are produced beyond 500 km from the Daiichi plant. The same goes for fruits. In other words, I buy broccoli from Kyoto, but not lettuce from Chiba (250 km). I used to avoid products from the south of Nagano (300 km from Daiichi) or Gifu (400 km from Daiichi), but now I occasionally buy fruits produced there.

  • Eating in restaurants as little as possible

In the early years, I almost never ate in restaurants. When I was forced to attend a party with colleagues, I tried not to eat anything, as it was said that Fukushima products (which should not exceed the limit of 100 Bq/kg) were used in catering. Starting in 2015 or ’16, I began to dine once every two or three months in restaurants that I chose well and that served us products from Kyushu or Shikoku, regions that are in the southwest of Japan.

  • Avoiding the rain

I used to like to walk without an umbrella in the rain, especially with a light rain. After Fukushima, as soon as I feel a drop, I open my umbrella. I always have my umbrella when it might rain later in the day. So I always pay close attention to the weather.

Now I tell you what I don’t do anymore.

  • Mineral water
    Until March 2021, we only drink mineral water, we only use mineral water to make soup, stew, in short everything that is to be eaten at home. However, the water bottles are heavy, we have to go to the supermarket quite often to buy a box of six bottles that we consume quite quickly. It’s not free either… So we decided to stop using mineral water for cooking. We still drink the mineral water whose radioactivity is measured.

Mineral water: cesium and iodine are measured by the gamma spectrometer (Photo Fonzy). The bottle on the left costs 0.6 euros, the bottle on the right 2.15 euros.

  • Fish

For at least eight years after the accident we did not eat fish. However, my partner had colon cancer in 2019, and afterwards he preferred to eat “lightly”, so we resumed the habit of eating fish. I mostly buy fish from southwestern Japan, but occasionally I buy fish from a port near our home, because they are much fresher. I avoid fish from the shallow waters such as sole or turbot.

  • Geiger counter

I walked around with my Geiger counter a lot in 2011, and a little less in 2012, and now … I don’t know where it is anymore, maybe in a drawer, but I haven’t seen it for years. I wonder if my friends who had one still use it.

  • Anti-nuclear demonstrations

For two or three years after Fukushima, there were many anti-nuclear demonstrations organized not only in Tokyo but also throughout Japan. We shouted in front of the Tepco headquarters, in front of the Parliament, in the streets, we were very numerous at one time. There were activists who made anti-nuclear mobilizations every Friday night in front of the Parliament. This was a success for some time. I too participated often, especially in 2011 and 2012. However, they stopped their movement for good in March 2021 because there were, according to them, much less participants lately and they had no budget to continue. Now anti-nuclear demonstrations are very rare, although there are still some who mobilize from time to time. It seems to me that we Japanese are not very demonstrative. We’ll see…

  • Convincing the others

Even though I talked to my friends and relatives about the risks of contamination and the dangers of nuclear power plants, it was almost impossible to convince them to be interested in this kind of problems.

That’s it. I do what I think I can do without too much stress. Still thinking about Fukushima is possible, but now we should have more imagination, because we don’t talk about it anymore. I thank those who continue to think about Fukushima despite so much geographical distance and so many years passed. Thank you for your solidarity.


September 7, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Nagasaki citizen’s group prays for survivors of Fukushima nuclear disaster

jmmCitizen’s group members form a human chain in front of the hypocenter cenotaph during an event to pray for the restoration of Fukushima, hit by the 2011 meltdowns of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, at the Hypocenter Park in the city of Nagasaki, on March 11, 2020

March 13, 2020

NAGASAKI — A citizen’s group in this southwestern Japan city destroyed by the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing held an event to pray for no more nuclear tragedies on March 11, the day of the meltdowns at the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

A total of 15 participants, including atomic bomb survivors and high school students, gathered at the Nagasaki Hypocenter Park and offered a silent prayer at 2:46 p.m., the exact time the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, and formed a human chain in front of the hypocenter cenotaph.

The group was organized in 2013 and has interacted with people in Fukushima, which still struggles to recover from the nuclear disaster, to offer support from an area that has experienced the devastating destruction of nuclear weapons. Atomic bomb survivors and second-generation members have visited Fukushima and invited locals to visit Nagasaki for a lecture event.

Hiroko Sakaguchi, 70, a second-generation atomic bomb survivor, gave a speech at the March 11 event. “Many people still cannot return to their hometowns due to the nuclear accident. Even if buildings are rebuilt, that doesn’t mean real restoration. The disaster is still continuing there,” she said.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Pope Francis meets with victims of Japan’s 3/11 disasters

wh_pope_231220.jpgPope Francis meets with victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami on Monday in Tokyo.


November 25, 2019

Pope Francis on Monday met with victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan, a day after railing against the destructive power of nuclear weapons in the atomic bomb-hit cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

The gathering in Tokyo was set because the pope wanted to meet with those who suffered from what he calls the “triple disaster” involving the quake, tsunami and the meltdown of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

In the first papal visit to Japan in 38 years, conducted under the theme of Protect All Life, the pope had wanted to visit disaster-hit areas but could not because of his full schedule, according to people close to him.

Three victims were to recount to him their experiences — a high school student who fled to Tokyo from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture, the head of a kindergarten in Iwate Prefecture who lost a student in the tsunami, and a Buddhist priest who survived the disasters.

The event came ahead of separate meetings with Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scheduled for later in the day in the Japanese capital.

November 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Pope Francis urges fresh efforts for Fukushima victims

wh_pope_231220.jpgPope Francis attends a meeting with victims of the 2011 “triple disaster” in Tokyo, on Nov 25, 2019.

November 25, 2019
TOKYO (AFP) – Pope Francis called on Monday (Nov 25) for renewed efforts to help victims of Japan’s 2011 “triple disaster” of earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima meltdown, noting “concern” in the country over the continued use of nuclear power.
On the penultimate day of his long-cherished trip, Pope Francis had an emotional encounter with survivors of that fateful day on March 11, 2011, when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake followed by a 17m-high tsunami devastated much of north-eastern Japan and killed nearly 16,000 people.
The 82-year-old pontiff paid tribute to those who rushed to the assistance of the victims “with outpourings of prayers and material and financial aid”.
“We should not let this action be lost with the passage of time or disappear after the initial shock; rather, we should continue and sustain it,” Pope Francis said.
The wave swept away everything before it, washing away people, buildings and farms, and also damaging cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, sparking the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Nearly half a million people fled their homes in the first days after the quake, and even today, roughly 50,000 remain in temporary housing.
The pope heard harrowing testimony from survivors of that day, such as Ms Toshiko Kato, who headed a Catholic kindergarten and lost her home in the tsunami.
“I remember that when I stood in the rubble where my home had been. I was thankful for being given life, for being alive and for just being able to appreciate it,” she told the pope.
“Through this earthquake, I received much more than I lost. Many people from all over the world opened their hearts and I was able to find hope from seeing people come together to help one another.”
However, the head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics noted that some of those feel “forgotten” and face ongoing issues of contaminated land and the long-term effects of radiation.
The pope stopped short of intervening in the debate over nuclear power in Japan, merely noting that bishops in the country have called for atomic plants to be shelved.
“In turn, this involves, as my brother bishops in Japan have emphasised, concern about the continuing use of nuclear power; for this reason, they have called for the abolition of nuclear power plants.”
In 2016, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan made a statement saying: “What Japan has experienced in the five-and-a-half years since the Fukushima disaster convinces us that we must inform the world of the hazards of nuclear power generation and appeal for its abolition.”
Later Monday, the pope, who has described his feelings of “fondness and affection” for Japan, will hold a Mass in the huge Tokyo Dome stadium and hold private talks with Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
There are also rumours he may meet a death row convict and make comments criticising the death penalty, which is carried out in Japan with significant public support.
The emotional centrepiece of his four-day trip was his initial trip to Nagasaki, a city forever associated with the dropping of a nuclear bomb that eventually killed at least 74,000 people.
There, the Argentine lashed out at the concept of nuclear deterrence and prayed in the rain for the victims of those killed in the “unspeakable horror” of the bomb.
He then travelled to Hiroshima, the first city to suffer an atomic attack, where he denounced as a “crime” the use of nuclear power as a weapon.
In both cities, he met people who survived the bombings, and listened to their tales of the horror.
Pope Francis attends a meeting for peace at the memorial cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan, on Nov 24, 2019.
The final day of his trip on Tuesday takes in meetings with young students at Sophia University before he concludes his Asian tour.
The first leg of the tour was in Thailand – like Japan, a country with a small Catholic minority. There are an estimated 440,000 Japanese Catholics.


November 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Tepco toughens stance toward nuclear disaster damages settlement

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking damages compensation over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown crisis walk toward the Tokyo District Court on Aug. 2.
Aug 11, 2019
FUKUSHIMA – Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. has become significantly more reluctant since last year to accept a government body’s recommendations for a settlement of damages claims by people affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, government officials and lawyers involved said.
The company’s tougher stance in negotiating out-of-court compensation settlements could force those affected to resort to lengthy and costly legal actions.
Lawyers representing residents of Fukushima say some have given up on taking their claims to court due to legal costs, after Tepco rejected the body’s settlement proposals.
Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which was triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the government established the dispute resolution body to broker settlements between Tepco and people seeking compensation.
Three nuclear reactors at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant suffered meltdowns, which led to the contamination of wide areas of Fukushima Prefecture.
According to the government, more than 31,000 people who evacuated from their homes in Fukushima are still living outside the prefecture.
In the process, called alternative dispute resolution, the body proposes settlement terms based on government guidelines regarding the types of damages and costs eligible for compensation.
Tepco said in 2014 it would respect the body’s reconciliation proposals even though the company is under no legal obligation to do so.
In 2018, the body terminated 49 settlement proposals due to Tepco’s refusal to accept them, including nine cases brought by employees of the power company and their relatives, its officials said. The cases involved at least 19,000 residents near the plant, they said.
The number was a significant increase from 61 in the four years through 2017. All of those during the four-year period were cases in which Tepco employees or their family members sought compensation. In many of the rejected cases, Tepco refused to pay damages because the company saw the recommended compensation as unjustifiable under the government guidelines, the officials said.
The officials said the body decided to discontinue the resolution processes partly to encourage residents to consider legal action.
One of the lawyers representing Fukushima residents said, “Tepco may be concerned that uniformly compensating residents according to settlement proposals would lead to a revision of the government guidelines to its disadvantage.”

August 12, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO firmly at fault for balking at payouts to disaster victims

Tomoaki Kobayakawa, left, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., meets with Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori in June 2018.
February 9, 2019
The proposals rejected by TEPCO call for larger payments than the amounts suggested in the guidelines set by the Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation, a committee within the education and science ministry.
The dispute resolution center, established to facilitate compensation payments to people who have suffered damage from the Fukushima accident, has successfully mediated more than 18,000 settlement agreements, but the institution is now facing a brick wall.
The utility has refused to accept many ADR deals proposed by the Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center in response to collective requests from groups of residents in areas around the Fukushima No.
It has promised to pay compensation to all victims “down to the last one,” ensure “swift and considerate” payments and “respect” settlement proposals made by the dispute resolution center.
The center was established by the government in 2011 to help settle compensation disputes between TEPCO and victims of the nuclear accident.
Nearly eight years have passed since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, yet many victims seeking compensation for damages from Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled nuclear plant, face uncertainty as the talks are getting nowhere.
Read more:

February 11, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Victims File Appeal, Contesting $1,500 Compensation Court Ruling

ghkl.jpgIn this March 11, 2011 file photo, waves are seen washing over a 10-meter-high breakwater and approaching the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Plaintiffs appeal ruling in Fukushima nuclear disaster damages suit

In this March 11, 2011 file photo, waves are seen washing over a 10-meter-high breakwater and approaching the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Lawyers representing approximately 3,800 people suing the state and operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex for damages over the 2011 tsunami-triggered disaster appealed a lower court ruling Monday in hopes of securing greater compensation.
In its Oct. 10 ruling, the Fukushima District Court ordered the state and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay 500 million yen ($4.4 million) to about 2,900 of the 3,800 plaintiffs, an amount less than was sought by the disaster victims.
Also on Monday, the central government and Tepco filed an appeal to the same Sendai High Court arguing they should not be held liable for damages.
Izutaro Managi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the lower court ruling “clearly acknowledged the liability of the state” over the disaster but said that the “level and scope of compensation is insufficient.”
“We will seek compensation that better matches the actual damage” from the disaster, he said.
Managi said that the compensation awarded to the victims in the lower court ruling was far less than the maximum 200,000 yen per person sought by the plaintiffs.
The ruling did not accept claims by some of the plaintiffs, including those in western Fukushima Prefecture, the lawyer added when explaining the reason for the appeal.
The Fukushima District Court ruling was the second of its kind in a series of group lawsuits filed nationwide where the state and Tepco were found liable and ordered to pay damages over the world’s worst nuclear crises since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The court concluded that the state and Tepco failed to take steps to mitigate the risk of the tsunami damage caused by a powerful earthquake on March 11, 2011, even though they were able to foresee the possibility of such a disaster based on a quake assessment issued in 2002.

Fukushima victims appeal $1,500 compensation payouts

Hundreds of victims of Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster have appealed a court ruling hoping to secure larger compensation payouts, after being awarded roughly $1,520 each in a class action lawsuit against the Japanese government and the Fukushima plant operator.
On October 10, Fukushima District Court has ordered the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to pay about 500 million yen ($4.44 million) to some 2,900 victims of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
In its ruling on the lawsuit, filed by more than 3,800 plaintiffs, the court said that the authorities had failed to properly control TEPCO, which was found guilty of neglecting to adopt the necessary safety measures despite knowing of the risk of a massive tsunami in the region as early as 2002.
On Monday, all sides in the case – TEPCO, the government and the victims represented in the class-action lawsuit – challenged the court’s ruling.
Victims of the disaster say that the awarded liability costs do not represent the true amount of suffering reflected by the Fukushima survivors. The court failed to award 200,000 yen ($1,765) per person, which was the sum originally sought by the plaintiffs. The legal team furthermore stressed that in the initial ruling the court rejected claims by some of the victims, which mostly came from western Fukushima prefecture.
The Fukushima District Court ruling “clearly acknowledged the liability of the government” over the 2011 Fukushima disaster, but the “level and scope of compensation is insufficient,” Izutaro Managi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Monday after filing an appeal with the Sendai High Court.
“We will seek compensation that better matches the actual damage,” Managi added, as quoted by Japan Times.
Japan’s central government and TEPCO meanwhile also filed an appeal with the Sendai High Court, claiming that they are not liable to pay any damages to the victims, Japan Today reported.
In its appeal, Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency stressed that “it is impossible for the government to accept the court’s judgment as a result of an adjustment by relevant ministries and agencies.”
The October 10 court ruling was the second time a court in Japan has acknowledged the government’s liability for the Fukushima meltdown caused by the quake-triggered tsunami that hit the country in March 2011.
In March this year, Maebashi district court ordered the government and the operator to pay 38.55 million yen ($340,000) in damages to 62 plaintiffs who were evacuated to Gunma Prefecture. About 30 similar lawsuits involving 12,000 people are pending across the country.

Plaintiffs file appeal to win bigger payout over Fukushima nuclear disaster

Lawyers representing victims of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster hold up victory banners in front of the Fukushima District Court on Oct. 10.
KYODO – Lawyers representing approximately 3,800 people suing the government and Tepco for damages over the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster have appealed a lower court ruling in hopes of securing greater compensation.
Izutaro Managi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Monday after the appeal was filed in the Sendai High Court that the lower court ruling “clearly acknowledged the liability of the government” over the disaster, but the “level and scope of compensation is insufficient.”
“We will seek compensation that better matches the actual damage” from the disaster, he said.
In its Oct. 10 ruling, the Fukushima District Court ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay ¥500 million to about 2,900 of the 3,800 plaintiffs, less than sought by the disaster victims.
The central government and Tepco also filed an appeal with the Sendai High Court arguing they should not be held liable for damages.
Managi said the compensation awarded by the lower court was far less than the maximum ¥200,000 per person sought by the plaintiffs.
The ruling did not accept claims by some of the plaintiffs, including those in western Fukushima Prefecture, he added when explaining the reason for the appeal.
The Fukushima District Court ruling was the second of its kind in a series of group lawsuits filed nationwide in which the government and Tepco were found liable and ordered to pay damages over the nuclear crisis.
The court concluded that the government and Tepco failed to take steps to mitigate the tsunami risk, even though they were able to foresee the possibility of such a disaster based on a quake assessment issued in 2002.

October 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Rulings show Fukushima relief falls short of reality of victims

A recent district court ruling on a damages lawsuit over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident must have reminded many people of the serious consequences of the disaster.
The meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant shattered the happy and peaceful lives of local residents.
A huge number of people born and raised in the surrounding communities can no longer hope to continue their lives there, including working and developing their personalities through interactions with others.
In the lawsuit filed by around 3,800 plaintiffs, the Fukushima District Court on Oct. 10 held the government and the electric utility responsible for the nuclear accident and ordered them to pay compensation to about 2,900 evacuees.
It was another court ruling that represents a “legal defeat” for the government over the disaster, following a decision made in March by the Maebashi District Court in Gunma Prefecture.
For many years, the government has been promoting nuclear power generation as a national policy. Policymakers involved should revisit the lessons from the severe accident, which should be blamed on their blind faith in the “safety myth” of nuclear power.
They should also start making fresh efforts to enhance the safety of nuclear plants and provide effective relief to victims.
One key issue in the around 30 similar lawsuits that have been filed across the nation is whether it was possible to foresee the massive tsunami that triggered the meltdowns.
So far, three district courts have handed down rulings, all of which acknowledged that the tsunami was foreseeable. Their decisions were partly based on a related view announced in 2002 by a government agency.
Last month, however, the Chiba District Court denied the government’s legal responsibility for the accident, saying the disaster might not have been prevented even if presumed safety measures had been taken.
The ruling was based on a lenient judgment that showed insufficient sensitivity to the consequences of the accident.
In contrast, the Fukushima court delivered a well-reasoned, convincing ruling that describes in detail possible measures that could have been taken. It was based on a wide range of evidence, including courtroom testimonies by experts and facts and data concerning the situation when the accident unfolded.
Nuclear safety regulators and nuclear plant operators have the grave responsibility to constantly update their scientific knowledge and adopt safety measures of the highest possible level.
This is a vital imperative whose importance has become even clearer since the Fukushima accident.
Another key issue in the Fukushima disaster-related lawsuits is the way relief should be provided to victims.
All three rulings ordered compensation payments beyond government-set standards to a considerable number of plaintiffs.
The Chiba District Court ruling amply recognized the mental damages from the loss of hometowns caused by the accident. The Fukushima court granted compensation to a wide range of people, including residents in areas in Fukushima Prefecture that were not ordered to evacuate by the government, as well as in neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture, for their suffering from anxiety about radiation exposure.
The court rulings differed in their views about certain issues and damages granted.
But they all acknowledged that the government’s guidelines for compensation and TEPCO’s payments based on the guidelines do not adequately reflect the reality of the victims’ suffering.
The government’s Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation, which crafted the guidelines, should scrutinize the rulings to determine if the guidelines have any shortcomings or other problems.
The nuclear accident cannot be undone. Obviously, the government and TEPCO are obliged to provide quick and appropriate relief to victims from the viewpoint of people suffering the consequences of the disaster.

October 20, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

They want you to think the Fukushima nuclear disaster is over. But it’s still with us.

Six years ago, over 15,000 people perished and tens of thousands of people’s lives changed forever. Northeastern Japan was hit by a massive earthquake, followed by an enormous tsunami that wiped out coastal towns one after another. Then, in the days that followed came the horrifying news: the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors went into meltdown.


A satellite image shows damage at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant

The disaster is still with us.

Nuclear survivors continue to live with fear for their families’ health and with uncertainty about their future. Women are bearing the greatest brunt. They continue to grapple with unanswered questions, unable to relieve a deeply held sense of anger and injustice.

Over the past six years, starting just two weeks after the beginning of this nuclear disaster, Greenpeace conducted radiation surveys in the contaminated region. The latest survey gathered data in and around selected houses in Iitate village, located 30-50 km from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant [1]. In some homes, residents would receive a radiation dose equivalent to getting a chest x-ray every week. And that’s assuming they stay in the limited decontaminated areas, as 76% of the total area of Iitate has not been touched and remains highly contaminated


Greenpeace documentation of radioactive decontamination work in Iitate district, Japan.

Despite this, the government, headed by Shinzo Abe, intends to lift evacuation orders from the village and other areas in March and April 2017; and one year later terminate compensation for families from those areas. It will also cancel housing support for those who evacuated outside designated zones. For those dependent on this support, it could mean being forced to return.

Women and children are the hardest hit by the nuclear disaster. They are physically more vulnerable to impacts of the disaster and radiation exposure. Evacuation broke up communities and families, depriving women and children of social networks and sources of support and protection. Together with a yawning wage gap (Japan has the third highest gender income disparity in the most recent OECD ranking), female evacuees – especially single mothers with dependent children – face far higher poverty risk than men.

Despite, or because of the adversity, women are the greatest hope for transformative change. Though women are politically and economically marginalised, they have been at the forefront of demanding change from the government and the nuclear industry.

Mothers from Fukushima and elsewhere are standing up against the paternalistic government policies and decisions, to protect their children and to secure a nuclear-free future for the next generations. They are leading anti-nuclear movements by organising sit-ins in front of the government offices, spearheading legal challenges and testifying in court, and joining together to fight for  their rights.


A mother of three, Akiyo Suzuki and her family evacuated to Hokkaido for a month following the 11 March disaster. The family lives in Watari, a district in Fukushima City. When the nuclear disaster occurred she found it hard to find clear information about the dangers from the accident, and discovered great differences on the internet compared with newspapers and television.

Let’s stand up with women at the forefront of anti-nuclear struggle. Let’s fight for their rights and future together.

Yuko Yoneda is the Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan

[1] Amounting to a lifetime exposure of between 39 mSv and 183 mSv over 70 years starting from March 2017. This number excludes the very high doses the people of Iitate received in the immediate aftermath of the disaster as a result of an extremely delayed evacuation. Though Greenpeace had called for evacuation of Iitate on 27 March 2011 due to the very high levels our team found there, the evacuation did not begin until 22 April 2011 and extended into June.

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Can 3.11 Radiation Victims Speak?



Can 3.11 Radiation Victims Speak? Translators’ Notes: The article below began circulating in Japanese just a few days after we found out that Chikanobu Michiba (道場親信), a well known sociologist who wrote on Japanese social movements, had passed away. He was the partner of Mari Matsumoto, who has been a long-time inspiration for us through her work on the radiological effects of 3.11. We felt it was important to translate the article into English because it articulated a dimension of the disaster that has been difficult to put into words, and that is critical to intervening in the “myth of safety” (安全神話) – a widespread discourse that attempts to mitigate the consequences of the 3.11 nuclear disaster.

The Japanese state and nuclear industry’s implementation of the “myth of safety,” which has been supported by international regulatory agencies such as the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and World Health Organization (WHO), has been very successful, both domestically and internationally. In part, this may be due to the previous success of similar discourses in the wake of extensive nuclear weapons testing, [1] nuclear war, [2] and other nuclear disasters such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. [3] In the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in New Mexico, a short panel on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster reads:

There were no deaths caused by the immediate exposure to radiation, while approximately 18,500 people died due to the earthquake and tsunami. Future cancer deaths from accumulated radiation exposures in the population living near Fukushima are predicted to be extremely low to none. In 2013 (two years after the incident), the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that the residents of the area, who were evacuated, were exposed to so little radiation that radiation induced health impacts are likely to be below detectable levels. Plant workers and emergency responders received radiation doses which increased their risk of developing cancer in the future.”

While we believe that avoiding radiation exposure should be a focus for anti-nuclear struggles, we recognize that it is at the moment perhaps one of the most difficult aspects to fight for, especially for low-income and working class people. Invisible, odorless, and tasteless radioactive isotopes attack the human body at the cellular level, manifesting as innumerable illnesses across different time spans. Few people, including Matsumoto and Matsudaira, who is fighting late-stage cancer, have publicly spoken out about health damage (健康被害) as everyday people living the consequences of the 3.11 disaster. It may be useful for readers of this article to familiarize themselves with a number of state policy and state-supported public discourses that emerged in post-3.11 Japanese society:

Support by Eating program

A state-led campaign which enlists food businesses to purchase produce from the Tohoku area (the northeastern region of Japan, including Fukushima). This is a tactic to shift responsibility for the consequences of nuclear disaster onto consumer relations: i.e. the only way to support farmers and others making their livelihoods in affected regions is to consume their products.

Lack of financial assistance for evacuation

Tens of thousands of people who lived outside the state-mandated evacuation zone fled without much financial assistance, and continue to live away from home to this day. A mother of two shared that she decided to move from Fukushima because she witnessed her son suffering heavy nosebleeds on multiple occasions. He asked in tears if he would be okay living in Fukushima. [4] In March 2017, the government of Japan will be ending subsidies to support housing costs for those they call “voluntary evacuees” (自主避難者). These evacuees will ultimately be given two options: bear the financial burden of living in their new homes (many of these evacuees already face poverty and have been forced to live on welfare programs), or be forced to return to their hometowns in Fukushima where radioactive contamination still remains. Naturally, because of the lack of governmental assistance, most of the population in Eastern Japan, including Tokyo, never even moved out of the area.

Recovery programs & businesses

This includes implementation of festive events on a national scale (i.e. the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo) to actively orchestrate the population to turn their attention toward the positive activities and away from the gloomy state of affairs that has dominated the country since March of 2011. This was also the case internationally. In 2012, the Japanese National Tourist Organization began hosting an annual “Japan Week” in New York City on the anniversary of 3.11. Their 2016 exhibit was themed around the revival of Tohoku to “commemorate” the disaster. Global nuclear capitalists have begun attacking the population through rezoning and development, which also corners poor people into further marginalized positions.

It is also important to note that even liberal NGOs and civic groups have participated in government-led recovery programs and uncritically endorsed standards and information on radiation disseminated by the government and TEPCO.

In this context, Matsumoto and Matsudaira’s statements about the policing of discussions about radiation, and the difficulty of deciding whether they have experienced tangible effects/losses/damages from radiation exposure, are especially critical. Accounts that emphasize the health consequences of the disaster tend to focus on identifiable syndromes or illnesses that can be directly linked to the triple meltdown. Who should decide whether these are “real” injuries or not? Should that even be up for debate? Members of the 3.11 Health Victims Group are speaking out to us.

We’d like to thank the authors Matsudaira Kōichi, Matsumoto Mari, and the magazine Jyōkyō for letting us translate the article.

Support the activities of 3.11 Radiation Health Victims! We are running a fundraiser to support Matsudaira Kōichi’s medical expenses. You can send him food items and more through his amazon wishlist (in Japanese) or donate through our paypal (credit cards accepted):

Can 3.11 Radiation Victims Speak?

by Matsudaira Kōichi

Original text: 3.11被曝被害者は語ることができるか

English translation by Sloths Against Nuclear State & Friends

What, and who, are the “radiation [5] victims of 3.11?” I want to raise this question. The Fukushima nuclear accident [6] caused untold damage to Fukushima prefecture’s local residents and the workers at Fukushima nuclear power plant, yet we still do not understand the true extent of the disaster. The term “disaster victims” [7] of the Fukushima nuclear accident refers mainly to residents of the government’s mandatory evacuation zone in Fukushima prefecture. And when speaking of the “health victims” of the accident, the focus today is on laborers at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and on young patients with thyroid cancer in Fukushima prefecture. However, I would like to broaden the denotation of “3.11 radiation victims” here. All beings residing in the prefectures neighboring Fukushima, or eastern Japan including even the Kantō area, [8] could potentially be “3.11 radiation victims.” And many people living in eastern Japan who have fallen ill could, in fact, be potential “health victims.” However, in order to argue that specific patients residing in eastern Japan could be “radiation victims” or “health victims,” epidemiological and scientific examination becomes necessary. If this is carelessly argued, one runs the chance of being denounced and criticized as having “radiation brain.” [9]

Radioactive contamination was observed in many areas of eastern Japan after the nuclear accident. According to the ICRP’s 2007 recommendation, [10] the annual radiation exposure limit was set at one millisievert (mSv) or less. However, there is a terrifying number of people who were exposed to radiation beyond this limit in eastern Japan.

If we rethink what damage from radiation exposure should really mean, we can say that people who received even a tiny amount of radioactive contamination from the nuclear accident, excepting natural radiation, should all be defined as “3.11 radiation victims.” In this sense, I can say that I, Matsudaira Kōichi, born and raised a Tokyo-ite these 38 years, am surely a 3.11 radiation victim.

And now the name Matsudaira has been added to the list of people with an illness that is unremarkable these days. And there is a possibility that Matusdaira is also the name of a health victim of the Fukushima nuclear accident. In other words I, we, the afflicted residing in eastern Japan, can identify ourselves as “3.11 radiation victims.” But at the same time, as for whether we can say we are “health victims of the Fukushima nuclear accident,” a brute courage is sometimes necessary. In this cultural criticism column [11] I hope to use the imaginative potential of language to shift from the position of “3.11 radiation victims” to the position of “health victims from the nuclear accident,” and to thereby reexamine the historical role that health victims should take.

Interview with Matsumoto Mari

Thinking About Radiation Damage Five Years After the Accident from a Feminist Perspective”

(This piece was formed by editing the comments that Matsumoto Mari delivered at the May 5, 2016 assembly of Health Victims of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident (below, Health Victims Group), Kantō Area Radiation Damage Vol. 2: Expanding Damage, Connections, the Hope of Evacuation. They were edited into the format of an interview with Matsumoto Mari.) [12]

The Health Victims Group was a gathering started by people who met each other through the anti-nuclear movement after 3.11, or during demonstrations in front of the Diet. [13] Originally, we were protesting to reveal the state and TEPCO’s responsibility for the nuclear accident, and to push for support for Fukushima children who had suffered health damages and for struggling evacuees. However, five years have passed since the accident, and it was in the fifth year after the 1986 Chernobyl accident when various types of damage to people’s health began to increase explosively. In this context, we began discussing whether we noticed various health damages appearing around us. We then realized anew that we had many friends suffering from illnesses like colon cancer, heart problems, thyroid abnormalities, the aggravation of skin diseases and allergies, exacerbated inflammation of the esophagus, and the aggravation of multiple-chemical sensitivity syndrome. We are also aware of exactly how hard it is to talk about health damage from Fukushima, or about wanting to evacuate. To change these conditions, those of us suffering health damages in Kantō, young and old, have to raise our voices. We hope to create a climate where people can openly say that anyone can suffer health damages from radiation exposure, and that the state and TEPCO must fulfill their responsibilities for this.

Today, we would like to speak with Matsumoto Mari from the Health Victims Group. Matsumoto-san was originally publishing feminist research and articles in the field of contemporary philosophy. Since the nuclear accident, she has been writing articles precisely on this problem of radiation exposure. What is necessary for us, as people who suffer from health damage and those who are concerned?


In the past I was wrote on feminism and various issues related to women. After 3.11, at first I wrote a few pieces about the nuclear disaster. However, after that, I became sick. I had argued in my writings that [protection from] radiation exposure should be our main objective, but the response from those around me was so cold and indifferent—when I reflect on why I became sick, it was because of this indifference about radiation that was normalized around me. [14]

There were a lot of simplistic criticisms that portrayed mothers trying to protect their children from radiation exposure as “maternalistic.” I felt it was horrible that even the left and feminists were heavily criticizing them. Looking back, given that health damages are manifesting today, these criticisms actually benefited the discourse of the “reassurance wing” [15] which basically ended up benefiting from insulting mothers as being “overprotective”.

This is a somewhat personal story, but in 1985 I was in Kiev for a short while, just one year before Chernobyl. Afterwards I kept in touch with some of the people who were studying Japanese there, but we slowly fell out of touch. There were issues with the postal system, but I remember being shocked, even though I was still young, when one time a young person said that she had developed cataracts. I had no idea that young people could get them. Of course now I know better. But I think I remembered it so clearly because I felt like that society, a society that had experienced a nuclear accident, was slowly beginning to crumble.

Because of this, the first thing I thought about after the nuclear meltdown on 3.11 was radiation exposure. But in the metropolis in particular—and let me say first that I don’t want to criticize this outright, and that I am certainly against restarting [the nuclear power plants]—most people at that point were still mainly talking about opposition to restarting the nuclear power plants. There were lots of protests and gatherings organized around this issue. But I felt like something was getting left behind in the midst of this, that there was something that we needed to say that was getting bottled up while people were getting involved in movements and political activities, that we were going forward while ignoring the thing that we should actually be seriously focusing on. I couldn’t talk about that thing directly, and even if I say something I can’t reject [people’s need] to say things like, “It’s fine,” or, “I just want to think positively.” I can’t deny that people want to think that it will be ok as long as they are careful.

But because I was suppressing this unease somewhere deep down in my heart, I started to be harsh to people sometimes. For five years, people around me didn’t understand what was wrong, and I also put up walls of my own.

During all of this, I kept in touch with mothers who had evacuated. There are also lots of people, probably across the entire country, who evacuated voluntarily and are now doing their best to make themselves heard, or who have started their own autonomous activities in their new homes. I do feel more connected with people who are doing work based on their experience of this diaspora. It’s like I can’t talk to those close to me, but can with those far away, which makes me feel like I’m experiencing this strange kind of recalibration of distance that’s been produced by the nuclear accident. You can’t see it, and you can’t reduce it to something economic or physical, but this breakdown of relationality is, to some degree, another injury caused by the nuclear accident, and is part of the current situation.

In the meantime, in January of this year my partner was suddenly diagnosed with an intractable form of cancer at the age of 48. There were no signs whatsoever beforehand, and it’s a difficult type to detect in the first place. He’s in treatment now, but it was already in stage four when it was discovered. This is hard to understand unless you experience it yourself, but I knew from the beginning, at least on an intellectual level, that thyroid cancer would be more common because there was a nuclear disaster. But now we’re fighting a completely different battle than something as simple as having the statistical knowledge that the number of cancer patients will increase. As someone who now provides care and nursing, I’ve realized what it means for an individual human to get cancer, and I’m in the process of learning. While I can accept that indeed statistically the number of health problems will increase, I also feel resistance to thinking about things only from a statistical perspective. I feel like I’m still not quite able to express this feeling.

Our bodies are all individual, and our illnesses and symptoms are individual. With cancer, a child’s thyroid cancer is different from a 48-year-old’s, which is different from an elderly person’s. It’s different for men and women. Each person’s treatment and the problems that they face and must overcome are all radically different. So even though it is not wrong to say things like, “The number of cancer cases increases after a nuclear accident,” or, “More people get sick,” I feel that today we need different language, a different approach, words that can help people who are sick connect with each other. We need an environment in which people who are sick, people who care for them, and people who are offering support can speak more easily.

For myself, when I speak about my partner’s cancer, it’s not that he is thinking, “This is an effect of radiation exposure.” In other words he hasn’t concluded that radiation exposure was the only influence, and there are no materials [to prove] that either. But, he and I think it is probably one cause among many; we don’t “deny” it. That is our position.

And in January 2016, when we were informed [of the cancer diagnosis] and were running around pell-mell, the 3.11 Thyroid Cancer Families’ Society was established in Fukushima. When I saw an interview with them—and let me say young children getting cancer is different from getting it one’s 40s—but I thought, on the verge of tears, “This kind of [message] is really needed.” Apparently there were extremely few cases of children’s thyroid cancer until then. Rare cases.

Now there are self-help groups and organizations for patients at hospitals and other places. That is something that’s really great. But there have been few cases of rare cancers, rare cases until now, so it is difficult [for people] to connect. I was impressed by people’s efforts to get on their feet by at least connecting at first, to do necessary mutual aid kinds of things, in such circumstances.

At the same time, reading articles on blogs like “Health Victims’ Group,” I was also moved by passages like, “Instead of the rallies, now our own bodies and hospitals are becoming the site of struggle.” It made me realize that this is a crucial awareness to have in a society in which a nuclear accident, with its irreversible impact, has occurred.

This is what I wanted to say right after the accident. Until now radioactive material has been falling on the metropolis, which is both a political issue and simultaneously a problem that individuals must face. At the same time, voluntary evacuation and relocation are problems that are being “individualized.” While these issues must be fought on the individual level, we should also hold on to their political and social aspects. And although damage to health is something that affects people of all genders, it’s also true that care and nursing generally end up being women’s issues.

Right after the nuclear accident, I wrote about mothers’ care for their children from the perspective of “reproductive labor” and “care work” within the context of capitalism. The issue is who has to bear the liability for massive environmental disasters. This is also a sphere that can’t be converted into currency. Some feminists said that this was “simple maternalism” or that it would “strengthen familism,” but they are missing the point. These days such people have stopped saying anything at all, maybe because their initial stance is inconvenient for them now. They offer no helping hand regarding the outbreak of pediatric thyroid cancer in Fukushima, and offer no support for the single-mother households of voluntary evacuees. At some point they need to seriously consider their criticism of people tied to the accident, and the incorrect assessments of the situation they made initially.

Thinking back on it now, right after the accident there was a massive surge of both accurate and inaccurate information about the damage to health caused by radiation exposure. Honestly it was a difficult mix of good and bad, a kind of informational anarchy.

Even so, people wisely chose from among the available information, and eventually formed and attained a certain kind of literacy and understanding of the situation. And yet slowly there developed a very clear sense of “moment” or “instance” that silenced this kind of understanding, and which functioned more strongly than the visible forms of systemic censorship. It’s impossible to determinedly say that this sense was manufactured by the media or the government or the Ministry of the Environment. It was an unintended outcome, but it did create a climate in which people hesitate to talk about damage to health.

For instance, you might have heard of the “Oishimbo nosebleed incident.” [16] What I find problematic about this whole fuss—although some might find this sort of expression itself problematic—is that a town in Fukushima went and made a complaint against the comic series, which led to an additional complaint from Fukushima prefecture, which finally led to the Ministry of Environment officially making a conclusive statement that “there is no such thing” as increased nosebleeds in Fukushima.

Since I have grown quite familiar with feminism, I know that historically the repressive authority of dominant discourses has prohibited us from speaking about our own bodies. For example, menstruation has been regarded as an unclean or private matter in different historical periods. Even so, there have been efforts by women to speak up about topics that are difficult to talk about and to gain social recognition on such topics. One such effort was the fight for menstrual sick days, or to gain recognition that symptoms can be unique for different individuals.

As for health concerns and everyday concerns after 3.11, even in political spaces we’ve been coerced to be silent about these concerns and made to accept that even speaking about them is taboo. It isn’t that there is visible censorship or regulations, but there is censorship that arises from people’s own minds; we are all are expected to perform self-censorship. People around you say “That is a very complicated thing to talk about,” or, “Are you still afraid of radiation?” This kind of thing can even make you feel like your worth as a human is being judged.

It is precisely because we are obstructed from each other in this society that we need to speak up about radiation issues. To people who react to me by saying, “Still talking about it?” or, “Still worrying about it?” I’d like to respond immediately and ask, “Have we ever seen any policy or system developed or improved regarding measures against radiation exposure? For compensation for evacuees? There hasn’t been anything, has there?”

Philosopher Paul Virilio has called Chernobyl a “time accident”, meaning that it is one that will last for generations. In this climate too in Japan, we need to carefully watch and observe our society as it is being destroyed over a long time span.

Ryo Omatsu, a scholar of Russia, has studied the Chernobyl [nuclear disaster] and has published work introducing social movements ignited by residents and nuclear cleanup workers at the Chernobyl site. Similarly, we are familiar with a number of movements led by people with illnesses and people who became ill due to different types of industrial contamination.

There have been many lawsuits against nuclear power plants in the past 70 plus years since the end of WWII, and there are still many today. With these facts in mind, we need to carefully create environments and discursive spaces where people who feel that they have been affected are comfortable speaking up and where they can connect. When we refer to post-Chernobyl support systems, we are immediately met with the argument that we can’t replicate them because we have a different social system in Japan. However, I believe that Chernobyl must be studied as a historical reference regarding social support systems for nuclear disasters.

Those who are pro-nuclear can use as their strength the uncertain nature of how radioactive exposure manifests as illness. It is tricky that experiencing a nuclear accident and becoming ill are not in a direct one-to-one relationship. Nevertheless I think people need to not only keep the nuclear accident in their minds but also make some kind of record of their experiences.

The fact that those who suffered damages need to prove the damage is absurd in itself. Nevertheless, you can create records of what you were doing before and after 3.11; where you were; if you are in the Kantō region, then what the radiation levels are in the soil around your home. For instance I participated in a project where I wore a film badge dosimeter [17] to study my radioactive doses for a week (although the dosimeter is only capable of measuring doses on the external surface of your body, not total contamination levels). We could start something like this even now. An accumulation [of this data] could be our strength in the future.

I want to remind everyone that people with cancer and other intractable illnesses have always organized themselves to share their experiences, offer mutual aid, and share information. It is very necessary for people to have this kind of space today. While we hear “radiation exposure is scary” and “radiation exposure is terrible” these phrases are often used as vague images without the concreteness of illness [as it manifests in our bodies].

It has been five years since the accident; we are past the point of arguing about what is right and what is wrong. It is not a question of that. Instead we need to share concrete knowledge about how to protect our bodies, and how to act if we become sick. We need to communicate with, not isolate, each other as much as possible. It should be something like a self-support group. While being a self-support group, it should not settle itself as a closed group—its members should take political stances and open themselves to the wider society. That’s the kind of organization we need.


Regarding the Oishimbo incident and other issues, I feel that there is an implicit network of physicists and scientists of all sorts who suppress any statements by those who oppose nuclear energy. What do you think about this?


Here we’re talking about where the discourse known as “radiation exposure crushing” (hibaku tsubushi) [18] emerges from. We can consider three possibilities: whether this discourse originates in economic concerns, is linked to power relations, or if it is solely an internal issue. There are many uncertainties on these points, but I think if we look into it deeply enough, we will find some definite conclusions. What I’m concerned about, though, is the the third possibility I raised, that hibaku tsubushi discourse is coming from self-censorship. There are many people who are self-censoring and actively adopting the myth of radiation safety. I am terrified of the power that these acts have on people.

In thinking about who is producing this discourse in an organized way, it’s possible to build a solid argument by finding where exactly the money is coming from. We have seen this in the work of Ryu Honma who investigates public relations in the nuclear industry. Somewhat differently, Takashi Soeda has demonstrated the falsity of the phrase “this accident was unforeseeable” (sōteigai), which is often used by nuclear apologists when describing the nature of the 2011 disaster. There have been many investigative journalists making enormous efforts to bust those myths. Kosuke Hino’s work has also been an indispensable contribution.

We must use these exceptional reports as a guide to fully investigate discourses that have underemphasized radiation exposure post-3.11. Another troubling aspect of this discourse lies within our everyday life; what ruptures our human relations is self-censorship and willing acceptance [of safety myths]. I’d like to suggest that we constantly take note of why we actively participate in reinforcing the discourse of the ruling class.

It’s difficult for nuclear victims to connect and act in solidarity due to the fact that damage can manifest in a wide range of forms both spatially and temporally, which is one characteristic of nuclear disasters. This is especially true in today’s society where, thanks to neoliberalism, we are expected to act at our own risk and work out our own salvation.

This accident was also the first since the development of social networking. In the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC/Euratom), the ways in which social networking performs during a nuclear disaster has already become a research theme and subject of analysis.

In the first two or three years after the accident, I saw my friends and acquaintances start to actively believe in the myth of radiation safety and wondered to myself, “Why are they turning against themselves like that.” But thinking these kinds of thoughts too much just tires me out, and now I catch myself observing them as subjects who are mobilized in the creation of public consensus, when clearly the discourse of hibaku tsubushi actively minimizes the damage of the incident. I observe them to try and understand why people decide to actively conform to such discourse. This is a different case, but I’m sure similar things probably happened with Minamata disease [19] or the atomic bomb. I believe it is necessary to look at these cases and compare them to what is happening today.

It is the sixth year since the accident now. Forces that divide people, along with both tangible and intangible damage—including actualized health damages—will continue to become stronger. In March 2017, the government will terminate financial assistance for voluntary evacuees. More recently, the government began speaking about ending restrictions to the entire “difficult-to-return” [20] zone in 2021. The government of Japan is desperately fabricating the final end of the nuclear disaster, with the help of events like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. People say that it is wrong to diminish memories because they are personal, while the social phenomenon of “structural diminishment” is getting stronger and stronger. This phenomenon obscures responsibility for the accident and for the management of its aftermath.

In this context, there is an urgent need to create concrete spaces of mutual aid and rebuild relationality, which includes modifying our own language and thought.

Testimony: Matsudaira Kōichi’s colon cancer—radiation damage and cancer patients

Matsumoto went to Kiev right after the Chernobyl accident, and she became concerned about the issue of radiation damage in the Kantō area very early on. I think she has spoken candidly about her very incisive hesitations regarding those who were indifferent about radiation damage from the Fukushima nuclear accident. Matsumoto says that it is important to document, and the Health Victims Group has argued since its founding that it is important to leave “testimonies as victims.” Members of the Health Victims Group and I tentatively created the following questionnaire to collect testimonies:

1.    Name, age, gender

2.    Where did you live until 3.11? (Please include your prefecture and municipality.)

3.    If your residence changed after 3.11, please tell us the new place and when you moved.

4.    What symptoms do you have, or what is the condition of your health now?

5.    Did you have any symptoms of illnesses listed above before 3.11? If so, were there any differences before and after 3.11?

6.    Please describe your everyday habits.

7.    Were you getting regular health check-ups?

8.    Do you think [your condition] is related to the nuclear accident?

9.    What do you find most difficult since you became ill?

10. What are your current hopes?

In the Health Victims Group, we are seeking people who would like to share their experiences of health damage with each other.”

I responded to these items in the following way. This is my simple self-introduction concerning my condition as a radiation victim, and it is also the health record of one patient. Below is my testimony (taken May 8, 2016) as a member of the Health Victims Group.

How is the condition of your health now?

My name is Matsudaira Kōichi and I’m a cancer patient. I am 38 years old. I was diagnosed with colon cancer in November of last year (2015). It has been almost half a year since I learned that I have cancer. When they found it, it was already stage four and had spread to my liver. I was told that my five-year survival rate is 18%. The cancer has spread widely throughout my body, and surgical resection was not possible. I am receiving chemotherapy, but there has not been much change since the diagnosis. Chemotherapy apparently helps to prolong one’s life, but I understand that it eventually stops working. Right now, because of the side effects, I always feel unwell, and I often end up sleeping the entire day. I keep going back to the hospital for stomach pain and constipation. My colon is not functioning, so I have a stoma (colostomy). I feel miserable since my problems are related to fecal matter.

How was your health until your illness was discovered?

In November, I was attacked by horrible stomach pain and went to the hospital, where I learned that I had cancer. Until it was discovered, for about a year, there were many times I felt unwell, like having diarrhea. I would have diarrhea 6 or 7 times a day. I thought it was psychological. I felt anxious leaving for work every day. In October and November, I became unable to stand in front of the toilet. It was so painful I stayed curled up on the floor, wondering if I should call an ambulance.

Please describe your everyday habits.

In terms of my habits, I ate at Yoshinoya very frequently. [21] There were some days I would go to Yoshinoya twice in one day. I also went to Saizeriya [22] often. I ate out often from ages 20 to 37.

Where do you live? Where do you work?

I have mostly lived in Fuchū city in Tokyo since I was born. Around the time the nuclear accident occurred, I would stand in the street in Ginza (Chūō ward) every day for work. I worked there from March 2011 to February 2012. From April to June 2012, I worked in Tameikesannō (Chiyoda ward); from November 2012 to October 2015 in Ariake in Kōtō ward. Although I didn’t want to drink the water around there, I drank the tap water. I also tended to drink a good amount of alcohol. When my cancer symptoms became worse, there was one time I felt so sick the day after I went out drinking that I couldn’t get up for the entire day.

Were you getting health checkups?

I got a health check-up once a year. Besides having a low pulse, I didn’t have any abnormalities. In 2015 alone, I had a routine check-up through my job in the summer. Then in October I worked for a clinical trial of new drug and was briefly hospitalized. During the checkup for the drug trial, they did not find any abnormalities. I assume that there must have been a pretty significant cancerous tumor in my body around that time. In May and September, I had two instances of pain below my right chest area, which I had assumed was caused by falling off my bike and bumping my chest. I felt sick for about 25 days [in May ’15], and about 14 days [in September ’15]. I saw an orthopedist for this pain but they didn’t find anything wrong. Had I received a thorough examination at that time, I think they would have found the cancer. I think my internal organs were probably inflamed from the cancer.

Do you think [your illness] is related to radiation from the nuclear accident?

In my case, I think the causes of cancer were too much intake of beef and food additives, a lifestyle lacking in vegetables, and everyday stress. But, it is also rare to get cancer at my age, and I think it may be related to the nuclear accident. Yoshinoya and Saizeriya are both “support by eating” [23] companies, so it is possible that radiation from the accident increased my chances of cancer. Right after 3.11 happened, I thought that I would become sick if I did not evacuate, but I didn’t dare evacuate. I think it makes sense that I would get a major life-threatening illness living in Tokyo, where it is possible to be affected by exposure to radiation.

What is the hardest thing about being sick?

I used to like cross-dressing as a woman. I am sad that I can’t anymore because having a stoma and being constantly ill prevents me from doing what I want to do. My hair has fallen out and become thin. I was also interested in marriage and raising children, but sadly I realize that it is probably no longer possible. Lately, I have started watching the anime Assassination Classroom—I cry thinking about the relationality of fate between the students who have to kill their teacher, and the teacher who has been mentoring the students yet becomes their target of assassination.

What are your current hopes?

To destroy TEPCO and Japan. I’ve been hearing a lot about the Minamata disease these days as it’s approaching the 60th year since the disease was officially recognized by the state as an illness caused by industrial pollution. I think the movement led by Minamata disease victims was a really long struggle. But if it is going to take over 10,000 years before radioactive waste is no longer toxic, then for health victims of nuclear power plants, it may take us a “hundred thousand years of war.” We are being shot from somewhere by an invisible gun called radiation, and those who have been hit are dying one by one. We must resist this. We should carry on the ambition of past anti-nuclear movements and of the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and have a “hundred thousand year war” with Japan and with “worldwide nuclear empire.” [24] I will participate in this war, and my hope is that even if I am defeated, I can entrust the spirit of struggle to the future generation.

That is the extent of my testimony. However, I have an unresolved question I must continue to investigate: whether I am a “true” “health victim” “of the Fukushima nuclear accident.” To begin with, historically, the number of cancer patients in Japan has been increasing since before the nuclear accident.

In July 2016, the National Cancer Center of Japan reported its estimates of the number of new cancer diagnoses and the number of people who will die from cancer. The number of diagnoses was 1,010,200 and the number of deaths was 374,000. A tremendous number of Japanese have cancer and are dying. And there certainly isn’t one uniform cause for developing cancer.

Furthermore, although I’ll leave out the full explanation of the evidence here, even if we use a very conservative estimate employing the ICRP model, we can estimate the impact on humans of the radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear disaster will likely lead to thousands of additional deaths from cancer in the Tokyo metropolitan area alone. We should recognize this.

One thing I want to stress in this discussion is that even if “over a million cancer cases emerge” and “thousands end up dying of cancer in Tokyo,” you are talking only in terms of a statistical figure. But each and every cancer patient in that figure struggles in their own different way in their sickbed.

By the way, I did not know this because I hate television and do not watch it, but while I was penning this article, I heard about a person named Shuntaro Torigoe who ran in the Tokyo gubernatorial election. Like me, he had colon cancer which had spread to his liver. I received encouragement from people who would say that mine “hadn’t spread yet,” and, “Torigoe had cancer even in his lungs but he’s better now and running in the gubernatorial election, so you should keep at it too.” I understand that these people acted with good intentions to help me stay optimistic. But, just because someone else recovered from late-stage colon cancer does not mean that I will too.

After being a cancer patient for a while, I feel that at times there is a kind of “cancer harassment” that happens. It doesn’t matter if someone “has the same colon cancer” or “there are other people with stage four cancer who have survived.” The fate that awaits each person is never bound to be the same.

This is completely irrelevant, but Torigoe was involved in a sex scandal, alleged to have seduced a university student, and I think that he is innocent of this. Anyhow, I got a hernia when I recently had sex for the first time in a while. A slight amount of pressure on my abdomen will cause my intestine to protrude out of the colostomy site on my abdomen. By now, stoma prolapsing is normal, and whenever I raise my body, or have some kind of emotional stress, or after I eat, my intestines spill out like a samurai who has committed harakiri. It will keep spilling out unless I hold it in with my hand. Apparently this is because my intestines are loose inside of my body. My doctor tells me that it may be the side effect of the cancer medicine working, or it could be that my cancer is becoming worse.

In this condition, it scares me to be alone with a woman. My mind goes completely blank whenever I imagine it being like this until I die. I remembered feeling frustrated at my parents who, a few days earlier, told me they “would like to see [their] grandchild’s face.” The symptoms of the hernia get better if I stay laying down, but in that case, I will have to live sideways forever. The struggle against an illness varies from person to person, even among people with colon cancer like me.

Someone compared nuclear power plants to cancer. A malignant tumor pretends that it is a companion to a human and avoids being attacked by immune cells. Malignant tumors then send their own cancerous cells to healthy organs, infect them, spread all over the body, and continue to grow more tumors. One by one, these tumors destroy major organs in the body until the body dies. For the earth, nuclear power plants are a cancer. Pro-nuclear people use flowery words to convince others of the necessity of nuclear power plants and dupe people into the idea of “energy for our bright future.” They rooted the power plants deeply into Japanese society.

The disease of pro-nuclear forces in the world is a serious problem.

I don’t know if I am a “victim of a nuclear accident,” but as a “3.11 radiation victim” there is one thing I want to say: nuclear power can never be forgiven, because it continues to increase the number of people that must die terrible deaths due to cancer.

Cancer irreversibly damages organs one by one in people, causing painful death. Cancer patients who die each have their own life, full of poetry. We cannot allow even one more person to die of cancer because of nuclear policies propelling this old and futureless technology. Enough is enough.

1, See Barker and Johnston 2008, The Rongelap Report: Consequential Damages of Nuclear War for a thorough review of research on the effects of American nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands and the systematic censorship of evidence pointing to American culpability for health damages suffered by the Marshallese.

2. See Lindee 1994, Suffering Made Real: American Science and the Survivors at Hiroshima.

3. See Stephens 2002, “Bounding Uncertainty: The Post-Chernobyl Culture of Radiation Protection Experts,” in Catastrophe and Culture: the Anthropology of Disaster; Petryna 2006, Life Exposed: Biological Citizens After Chernobyl.

4. See discussions of the “Oishimbo incident” for more information on these politics and the success of the myth of safety, such as Ochiai 2013, “The Manga ‘Oishinbo’ Controversy: Radiation and Nose Bleeding in the Wake of 3.11”.

5. “Radiation exposure” (hibaku) is expressed as one word in Japanese, with the characters for “suffer/receive” () and either “bomb” () when referring to exposure from nuclear weapons, or “expose” () when referring to exposure from other sources. Here, the term used is hibaku higaisha (被曝被害者).

6. The official Japanese term uses the word “accident” (事故) rather than “disaster” (災害).

7. The term used here, hisaisha (被災者), can be translated as “victim,” but refers primarily to victims of natural disasters, as opposed to higaisha (被害者), which refers mainly to the victims of accidents. Except for this first instance, higaisha is used throughout this article. In the context of the Chernobyl disaster, the Ukrainian state introduced the legal category of “sufferer” in 1991 to recognize those affected. We have chosen to translate the term higaisha as “victim” to convey the sense in Japanese that harm has been wrongfully caused. For more on Chernobyl “sufferers,” see Petryna 2013 [2002], Life Exposed: Biological Citizens After Chernobyl and Alexievich 2006, Voices From Chernobyl: the Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster.

8. The Kantō region comprises the Greater Tokyo Area and the prefectures of Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa.

9. This is a reference to the way that concerns about the effects of radiation, or discussion of actual injuries from radiation exposure, have been stigmatized as a psychological or emotional hypersensitivity to (fear of, or anxieties about) radiation. This is conveyed through a play on the word for radiation, hōshanō (放射能), where the last character has been replaced with the character for “brain” or “mind” (), which is also read “nō”. C.f. Kimura 2016, Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists: the Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima. There have also been many cases where those who discuss concerns about “low-level” radiation exposure have been described as “hysterical,” “irrational,” divisive, and unpatriotic. This is similar to attributions of “radiophobia” directed at victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. C.f. Petryna 2013 [2002].

10. See ICRP, The 2007 Recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

11. The author writes a cultural criticism column for the magazine, Jōkyō (情況).

12. This text is based on the transcription of a speech by Matsumoto Mari. A recording of the event can be found here:

13. The National Diet is Japan’s legislature.

14. Translation adapted to reflect past conversations with the author.

15. Those who endorse the safety of radiation exposure, mostly standardized by the state and nuclear industry interests.

16. The popular comic series Oishimbo ran episodes about Fukushima in which the author portrayed residents in Fukushima claiming that they experienced frequent nosebleeds due to radiation exposure. The series immediately came under fire upon publication, criticized by media and government offices.

17. Referred to as a “glass badge” in Japanese (garasu bajji; ガラスバッジ).

18. Discourses that suppress or “crush” (tsubusu; 潰す) any talk about radiation exposure and its effects, effectively censoring dissident voices post-3.11. Such voices are usually labeled as overly radiophobic, or afraid of radiation.

19. Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by mercury poisoning. It received national attention in Japan when the wastewater of a chemical factory in a small fishing village in southern Japan became contaminated with mercury. The disease began to appear first in 1953, and although the government officially recognized it in 1956, it took the factory owner years to acknowledge its liability. The victims’ families have fought for decades, and still continue to fight for recognition and compensation.

20. The official designation of the most contaminated zone around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, with an annual exposure dose exceeding 50 mSv/year. This zone includes areas from seven municipalities declared “difficult to return to” by the Japanese government.

21. Yoshinoya is a Japanese fast food chain serving gyūdon (beef over rice). In 2013 the company established joint venture, Yoshinoya Farm Fukushima Co. in Shirakawa City, 40 miles west of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, to grow rice and vegetables for their restaurants.

22. Another chain, referred to as “family restaurants” in Japanese. Comparable to Applebee’s in the U.S.

23. State-led campaign which enlists food businesses to purchase produce from the Tohoku area (around Fukushima). This is a tactic to shift responsibility for the consequences of nuclear disaster onto consumer relations: i.e. the only way to support farmers and others making their livelihoods in affected regions is to consume their products.

24. In Japanese, quotation marks are often used to distinguish a concept. Here, Matsudaira advocates fighting against both actual countries with nuclear power, and with an imperialist system of nation-states/the system that produces them.

Support Matsudaira Kōichi’s medical expenses:

February 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | 4 Comments

Japan mulls having new utilities help pay Fukushima victims

“Japan is considering having new electricity suppliers shoulder some of the cost of compensating those affected by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi meltdown — a first since the market was opened up to companies besides the big regional utilities.”

oct 28 2016.jpg

The cost of scrapping Fukushima Daiichi will remain squarely on Tepco’s shoulders.

TOKYO — Japan is considering having new electricity suppliers shoulder some of the cost of compensating those affected by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi meltdown — a first since the market was opened up to companies besides the big regional utilities.

The expense has been covered by interest-free government loans to Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings, which operated the disaster-stricken nuclear plant. This debt is being repaid not only by Tepco, but also other major power companies such as Kansai Electric Power and Chubu Electric Power. Some 6 trillion yen ($57 billion) has already been paid out, more than the 5.4 trillion yen estimated in fiscal 2013, and the total is expected to rise by trillions of yen.

With consumers gradually switching from regional utilities to independent power providers, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to ask these new players to pay a share of the compensation. Details such as how to split the burden between established and new power providers will be worked out going forward. New suppliers’ customers will be asked to contribute as well, on the grounds that they used nuclear power before the market opened up, though this could meet with a backlash from some of the companies affected.

But the cost of scrapping Fukushima Daiichi will remain squarely on Tepco’s shoulders, and the ministry will not approve rate hikes to recoup these expenses. Annual outlays are expected to soar to hundreds of billions of yen, from 80 billion yen now, once Tepco starts extracting melted fuel from the reactors in the 2020s.

The ministry plans to set up a fund to cover decommissioning costs, with the money to come from Tepco’s yearly profits. The utility will be permitted to draw from the fund to cover approved decommissioning plans. Funding gaps will be covered by government loans to be repaid by Tepco.

The company will be exempted for the time being from a requirement to cut electricity transmission charges levied on electricity retailers if profits from power transmission and distribution rise too high. The aim is to avoid placing a further burden on taxpayers while ensuring that decommissioning goes smoothly.


October 29, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Children Fund

Some people ask me how they can help the Fukushima  victims, and especially the children not evacuated and condemned to live in highly contaminated environment.

You may help with a donation the Fukushima Children’s Fund.

Fukushima Children’s Fund has promoted the movement of collecting donations and of donating food radiation measuring instruments and whole-body radiation detectors (whole-body counters).





F.C.F. has also undertaken a recuperation project for the children living in radioactive contamination areas. We hope this recuperation in a radiation-free place will help the children to decrease their internal radiation exposure and strengthen their immune system.



Any amount will be greatly appreciated.

About Fukushima Children’s Fund

F.C.F. was established in June in 2011 about three months after the outset of the Fukushima nuclear incident.

For the Fukushima nuclear incident victims, F.C.F. as a sister group of the Chernobyl Children’s Fund, Japan is now trying to make the most of its twenty years of experience with the Chernobyl nuclear incident victims.

Chief Secretary Shin’ichi Kurobe (a pediatrician / a medical adviser of the C.C.F.J.)
Organizers Yukiko Mukai (an organizer of the C.C.F.J.) and others


The Profile of Shin’ichi Kurobe

Mr. Kurobe, born in Tokyo in 1941, graduated with a degree in medicine from Keio University. He worked as a pediatrician at Saitama National Hospital, at Fukiage Kyoritsu Clinic, and at Horinouchi Clinic. Since 2012 he has worked as the director of the Suzushiro Clinic.

He started the movement of reducing medical radiation exposure and achieved one of his goals, the abolition of chest x-ray exams at elementary and junior-high schools in Japan. It was because he saw many people who unnecessary exposed to radiation as a result of careless x-ray exams. Hearing about his achievement, C.C.F.J. asked him to be its adviser.

After the March 2011 nuclear incident, he became the head of Fukushima Children’s Fund in order to support the Japanese children.

Recovery Project in Southern Japan, in Kumi-no-sato, Kumejima Island, Okinawa

Voices from mothers”

We have become healthy both physically and mentally, and I have realized the splendor of Kumi-no-sato. I felt as if I gradually got out of my shell which I had shut myself up in since the Fukushima nuclear incident. Kumi-no-sato is a sacred place of healing. I now realize that we are so lucky to receive loving kindness from everyone.



In Fukushima prefecture, people under the age of 18 started receiving medical care for free, the development of hospitals and inpatient facilities is underway after the nuclear power incident. Even more important than that, I am convinced in order to protect the children from diseases, facilities such as Kumi-no-Sato are necessary.

Since the nuclear power incident, I live in constant fear and I feel that I cannot overcome such fear. Last year my children often fell ill as well; my eldest son has recently complained about chest pain. I am concerned about the influence of long-term low-dose exposure on the children’s health. We took part in this activity because I wanted to allow my children to maintain their health, away from contaminated areas.



Warm climate, blue sky, the beautiful sea — my heart was uplifted from the moment of our arrival at Kumejima Airport. I was impressed so much by the welcoming faces of volunteer workers. Great people got together for us and we were treated very well.
During our days in Kumi-no-Sato, mothers from the area prepared our meals with love and care, helping us to feel that we were getting better. The children happily played outside, taking walks, picking up stones and leaves, and they ran barefoot in the grass; we mothers were happy to hang laundry outside. I felt more than ever the gratitude of having clean air, earth and water. What bliss to watch the children play with joy! It was a happy time.



At Kumi-no-sato Mr. Hirokawa, a photo journalist/the founder of this initiative, talked to us about episodes based on his experiences. His story eerily rang exactly true in my mind. I was moved by his strength of dedication, trying to “protect children”. I felt that sharing the truth and accepting the truth is important.

At the thyroid screening during our stay, I was at first told for my own part that my thyroid was perfect. Then my 3-year-old and 6-year-old sons were diagnosed with many cysts.” I unwillingly acknowledged it as true, being painfully aware of the harshness of reality.

One day I was asked by my second son “Am I going to die soon?”
It is not just a matter of thyroid problem; there are various concerns and health hazards.

I want to leave Fukushima if possible, but my husband has no intention of ending his business that he inherited from his grandfather. If it comes to evacuation, it will be only the children and me. I cannot decide to leave because it would tear my family apart. I have often asked myself if it is really safe for us to keep living in Fukushima Pref. though.

Already I feel as if Kumi-no-sato is a second home for us. I would like to thank the people of Kumejima for their generosity and hospitality. We hope a lot of children from Fukushima can visit Kumi-no-Sato and become healthy in those lovely surroundings. We would like to ideally visit once every six months to maintain our health.
We need the continued support of everyone and even more people in the future. I hope you will cooperate with us and support us. I am thinking of starting a fundraising campaign of my own. Without having to sacrifice our children’s bright futures, I want to be creative in the process of doing this. Thank you very much.
Abe Emi (Iwaki City, Fukushima Pref.)

We’d at least like to take our kids to recuperate regularly
I can’t thank you enough for your hospitality. I was able to take my children who have been having health problems such as asthma since last year to recuperate, and I would like to thank those who supported us.



In an environment where we didn’t have to worry about playing, touching, and eating, we never imagined being so happy in our ordinary lives.

It’s been more than a month since we came back from Kumi-no-sato. Now in Fukushima Pref., I go out with a Geiger counter (dosimeter) in my hand and check where the food comes from. I was getting used to it, but then remembered that it’s not normal to live this way.

In Iwaki City where I live, there are the mountains and the sea. We used to go on a picnic in spring, swimming in the sea and the river and catching insects in summer, gathering acorns/chestnuts and harvesting potatoes in fall…, but because of the nuclear incident, we can’t do that anymore. Every spring, we used to look forward to harvesting strawberries and bamboo shoots in our garden. However, nowadays we should limit the time with a portable Geiger counter in hand even when playing in the park.



In Kumejima, we spent time outdoors, without checking the clock from morning until evening, swimming in the sea, lying in the grass, and touching all manner of living things. The children were all so happy throughout our stay there, and I felt so satisfied to raise my kids in nature.

I am glad to have met and talked to the volunteer workers of Kumi-no-sato, as well as the mothers from Fukushima, whom I still keep in touch with. In particular, the meeting with Mr. Hirokawa was very important to learn the facts. Hardly ever has the truth been revealed neither on TV nor in the newspapers, and I wasn’t sure how much to believe on the internet. But after talking to Mr. Hirokawa, I felt more at ease with myself.

I often think of seeking refuge somewhere. If we were to evacuate, it would be for 15 years until our kids turn 20. Families who are split and living in two different places may have difficult lives. Then, with my husband, starting a new life in a new place may involve some big risks. Most probably we both would have to work to make ends meet. In an area with no relatives close by, we are not sure if we can both keep working. For many different reasons, there are many families who can’t leave Fukushima. For those reasons, we would at least like to take our kids to recuperate regularly.



I am worried that the nuclear incident in Fukushima will be forgotten. But I get encouraged from people all over Japan who support and think of Fukushima’s children. I strongly wish more and more people will look at this problem.
K. H. (Iwaki City, Fukushima Pref.)

» You Can Help
Will you join us as a fellow member?
< Annual membership fee >
10,000 yen for special members
3,000 yen for regular members
2,000 yen for student members
* Donations are included in the membership fees.
Remittance from overseas
US dollar bank account
< The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ >
Fukushima Children’s Fund
c/o Mukai residence Tate 2-3-4 409 Shiki City Saitama Pref. 353-0006, JAPAN
052 - 0064011
The regulation of Fukushima Children’s Fund
  • Official name: Fukushima Children’s Fund(Mirai-no Fukushima Kodomo Kikin)
  • Purpose: Publicity and fund-raising for Fukushima nuclear victims
  • Membership fees: 10,000 yen for special members, 3,000 yen for regular members, 2,000 yen for student members *
  • Executives: F.C.F. has a chief secretary and several organizers. An accountant and an auditor are chosen amongst organizers.
  • Each member is to promote their activities independently and creatively.
  • Our activities are announced through publicity such as printing, emails, internet.
  • The general meeting is held once a year to report about our activity and give the annual financial report.
    • Office:
    • c/o Mukai residence  Tate 2-3-4-409 Shiki City, Saitama Pref. 353-0006, Japan
    • How to make inquiry:
    • E-Mail fromcherno0311@
  • History: F.C.F. was established on June 1st, 2011. (the fiscal year starts on June 1st and ends on May 31st.)
* A part of the membership fee is included in donations.
* The annual management expenditure is to be within 10 percent of the total amount of donations.

September 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

“We need to recognize this hopeless sight…. To recognize that this horrible crime is what our country is doing to us”: Interview with Mutō Ruiko

Mutō Ruiko interviewed by Katsuya Hirano

Translation by Ryoko Nishijima

Transcription by Akiko Anson

Mutō Ruiko is a long-time antinuclear activist based in Fukushima. She represents 1,324 Fukushima residents who filed a criminal complaint in June 2012 pressing charges against TEPCO executives and government officials. In July 2015, an inquest committee decided that three former executives of TEPCO merited indictment, clearing the way for a criminal trial. This marked an unprecedented development in the history of criminal justice in Japan since indictment against the nuclear industry had never been granted in the country. On August 26, 2015, I visited Mutō in Miharumachi, Fukushima to hear about her activism, understanding of the Fukushima situations, and view of ecological issues on a global scale. Norma Field, a close friend of Mutō and a scholar who has been working on Fukushima issues since 2011, contributes an accompanying essay that puts this interview into a critical perspective. For details about the content of the criminal complaint and Mutō’s background, see Yamaguchi Tomomi and Mutō Ruiko, “Muto Ruiko and the Movement of Fukushima Residents to Pursue Criminal Charges against Tepco Executives and Government Officials” in the Asia-Pacific Journal (Link). (K.H.)


 Mutō Ruiko

How the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Came into Being

Hirano: Thank you very much for agreeing to an interview today. Ms. Mutō, you represent the organization, The Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, which has sought criminal indictment of those deemed responsible for the disaster. A few days ago, an inquest committee decided that three former executives of TEPCO should be indictment, clearing the way for a criminal trial.2 First, could you explain how the Complainants group was formed?

Mutō: Concerning The Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster… I actually knew nothing about nuclear power plants until the Chernobyl accident. After that, I realized how dangerous nuclear power could be, and became deeply involved in the anti-nuclear movement. Before, there was a small group in Fukushima called “Fukushima Network for the Abolition of Nuclear Power,” which continued its activities on a smaller scale. After the accident in Fukushima, I had the opportunity to reunite with some members of this group.

We held two workshops to discuss things we could do as a group experienced in anti-nuclear activism. Many young people with children had evacuated outside the prefecture after the accident. It was at this moment when the link between those who evacuated and those who remained was getting weaker that I felt the urgent necessity to somehow find a way to reconnect.

We had planned a major event on March 26th and 27th, 2011, but the accident occurred two weeks before the date we had originally set. Everyone had evacuated and left. On March 26th, Saeko Uno-san from Kyoto – maybe she was in Kyushu at the time – suggested we hold a simultaneous press conference from each of the places we had evacuated.3 “Let’s tell the world about our difficult circumstances from wherever we are,” she said. Through this event we gradually came to realize how the evacuees were living their lives. Eventually, after several events and study camps, in January 2012, we came up with two goals: to pursue accountability, and to set up some form of official record like the hibakusha techō, a booklet that certifies one’s radiation exposure. You know about the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law. That took 12 years to become effective after the bomb was dropped, but we wanted to act more swiftly to establish such legal protection, and we wanted to follow the example of the Chernobyl laws.4 We weren’t actually able to accomplish much since we were only a small group with 20 members or so, but at least we identified two goals for the future.

In January 2012, we consulted with Mr. Kawai, the lawyer with whom we work now. At first, Kawai-san seemed to find our aims rather unrealistic. Soon, a writer named Hirose Takashi and Akashi Shōjiro, along with lawyer Yasuda Yukuo, filed a criminal complaint and wrote a book about it.5 We invited those three to our study group to discuss whether we could also attempt to file for criminal prosecution. Around 100 people gathered and there was great momentum to take this action. In March 2012, the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution was officially inaugurated.

Hirano: The Fukushima nuclear power plant (NPP) had various problems even before the accident in 2011. In 1989, for example, there was a massive accident at Plant 2 Reactor Unit 3, where the circulation pump for sending coolant water into the reactor was broken, and the reactor was off line for almost two years. Mutō-san, you had already organized the Fukushima Network for the Abolition of Nuclear Power in 1988, and for over 20 years demanded that TEPCO investigate the cause of the problem in order to prevent future accidents. How did TEPCO respond to you back in those days?

Mutō: The damage at Reactor 3 occurred at the end of the year in 1989. The alarm went off and sounded continuously for about a week through the New Year holidays. At first I had no idea what was going on, but it turned out to be a serious problem. The recirculation pump was fractured – it is called the guillotine break – and, had it gone wrong, would have led to a terrible disaster. After this incident, many people in Tokyo who participated as consumers in the anti-nuclear movement came to support us, like Higashii Rei who is in Shizuoka right now, and Oga Ayaka who ended up moving to Fukushima – I think she had just graduated from high school back then. Many people from various backgrounds came and our movement gained a lot of momentum.

TEPCO had covered up the fact that the sirens had been going off for a week. This incident already reveals their tendency to hide the truth. When they were going to resume operation, we held a referendum about whether local residents were for or against restarting the reactor. We visited residents individually and handed out flyers discussing the dangers. We went on an all-female hunger strike, and there were others who set up a tent and started something like an Occupy action. We tried many different things, but we weren’t able to stop them.

Around that time, we began negotiation meetings with TEPCO. Each month, we would go to places like the service halls in Fukushima Plants 1 or 2; the publicity people from the plants would come over and answer our questions, and we would hand them documents listing our demands. We continued this monthly negotiation for 20 years until the accident occurred. Resuming this activity after two years of hiatus following the accident, I noticed that TEPCO’s corporate culture essentially remains the same (laughter). Even now, once a month, we hold negotiations with TEPCO for about three hours and end up almost feeling sick.

Hirano: What sort of attitude do they display during those three hours?

Mutō: Well, you might say they’re obsequious, or—they act as if they’re truly sorry, but when we start pressing for details, they fly into a rage.

Hirano: They get mad at you? (laughter) Wow.

Mutō: Yes, they get angry. Basically, they have no awareness that they’re the perpetrators. They think that they’re the victims.

Hirano: Why the victims?

Mutō: Of course they realize that TEPCO is the one that caused the accident. But from their perspective, they probably feel that it was the tsunami that brought about this unfortunate situation and they were frantically doing their best, so why should they be getting such complaints?

The predisposition of the organization might be something like “We’re not doing anything wrong, we’re the ones with the highest technology and proper understanding of the situation, which ordinary citizens can’t grasp.” Of course they won’t say this directly to our face, but this is what it feels like.

Hirano: They brush you off with condescension. The gap between citizens and experts is unavoidable because ordinary people are ignorant and uneducated.

Mutō: I always sense that. Sometimes we just can’t take it anymore and feel like bursting out, “This is too much!” “We are the victims! You brought this on us, don’t you understand!?” Maybe this is too grandiose, but I think we have an opportunity to rethink what “development” means. They believe that certain sacrifices are inevitable. Using nuclear power to generate electricity requires sacrifice on a fundamental level, right? But is it really okay for us to keep thinking that certain sacrifices are necessary for the sake of development and economic outcomes? We need to revisit this question. This is a human rights issue.

Developmentalism and Sacrifice, Education and Victimhood

Hirano: So from your perspective, at the core of the nuclear power plant issue, as you just mentioned, is the idea of developmentalism (hattenshugi/発展主義). The nuclear power plant is the ultimate outcome, in the most disfigured form, of an idea that prioritizes development, that a society will and should continue to maximize wealth at the expense of certain peoples or communities. Is this how you feel?

Mutō: Yes, that is the very symbol of a nuclear power plant. Especially, the idea of “necessary sacrifice” is embedded in a structure of discrimination against those who are sacrificed. The nuclear accident revealed the structural problem in which those subjected to discrimination have been exposed to a stupendous amount of danger for the benefit of big corporations or those who live in the city. However, this danger has been concealed with the power of money and the safety myth, and even after the accident, when people have become victims, they are hindered from recognizing themselves as such. Being a victim means that you must make a conscious effort to become aware of your victimhood. Otherwise, you become numb, or are made to become numb, to the fact that you have been subjected to something very unreasonable. I think that is one of the main issues.

I often feel like shouting out, is it really okay if we end up just crying ourselves to sleep? I know everybody’s concerned about life and livelihood, and that a lot of energy is taken up there, and that there’re important things we want to protect. But the way in which people are constantly being discriminated against, exploited, and faced with outrageous situations in this social structure—if we don’t gain self-awareness of these things, it’s going to be difficult to change them from our end. So I think it’s extremely important to be conscious of our victimhood. Then, as we gain consciousness of our victimhood, I think we start seeing our own participation in victimization, which also needs to be examined.

Hirano: I could not agree more. In your book From Fukushima to You you wrote, “We have been molded into citizens who do not speak out – citizens who have had to lock up their anger.” You also mentioned this point during the “Goodbye Nuclear Power: Gathering of 50,000.” As someone who has long been part of the field of education, do you think this difficulty in recognizing one’s victimhood is somehow related to Japan’s educational system?

Mutō: Previously, I had been teaching at a school for people with disabilities. My connection with them has had a big influence on me. It is obvious that they have been socially oppressed for their disabilities. Yet, those who are mentally challenged, for example, are in a very difficult position to point this out and try to change the situation with their own hands, though of course, there are many who have bravely fought for it.

Also, facing these disabled students as a teacher, you find yourself in a position of power in the school – inside the classroom, you are the authority figure (laughter). Of course, it was fun spending time with the children, and there was a lot I learned from them. There were many things I couldn’t handle on my own. But to be a teacher in a school is to be in an awfully powerful position, and you look down from on high. I’ve always felt uneasy being in that position. I’m not very smart so I can’t express this feeling with the right words, but I’ve always wondered, what is this structure? There are certain wonderful aspects of education, but when you think about how schools came into being, you have to think one of its purposes is to produce people conveniently suited for the needs of the nation, to mold citizens convenient for society.

Hirano: Especially compulsory education.

Fear and Deception, Despair and Accuracy

Hirano: In your speech at the Gathering of 50,000, you said, “After half a year has passed [since the accident], it has gradually become clear that the truth is concealed. The State does not protect its citizens. The accident has not ended. Fukushima residents will be turned into the subjects of nuclear experimentation. A stupendous amount of nuclear waste will be left. There exists a force bent on promoting nuclear power despite the sacrifice already made. We have been abandoned.”6 Unfortunately, it seems like these words accurately foretold what would soon become reality. It has been four years since the accident, but the situation has not changed.

Mutō: No it hasn’t. I feel a sense of shock over how reality has become exactly as I depicted. Why did I write this at the time? But it is true I already had this feeling then. Sometimes I wonder if I should have written this sort of thing. But you are right. What I said has become true. It might actually be worse.

Radioactive contamination and exposure is a frightening, serious issue. That is a fact, so I don’t want people to look away, but at the same time, I don’t want this to be a movement purely motivated by fear. I want us to choose a different route, to bring imagination to the movement.

Hirano: You have repeatedly made the point that you do not wish it to be a movement motivated by fear. Can you elaborate?

Mutō: Well, radiation is indeed terrifying, but I think emotions like fear and anger are something we don’t really want to see in ourselves. “Legitimate anger” is a necessary part of our emotion. Yet, you suffer greatly when beset by emotions like anger and fear, right? It is hard to watch others feeling angry. I am the type of person who can’t really deal with those who are livid or speak aggressively. I myself am not very hot-tempered. I am not good at giving in to my feelings and letting my anger explode, even if harsh words come to mind. There are good and bad sides to this, but I can’t endure the pain of experiencing such anger. That’s why I want so much to be calm.

In my speech, I described the people in Fukushima as “the ogres of the Northeast quietly burning their anger.” I put a lot of thought into the word choice of “quietly.” Of course, anger is very important, and you have to be angry, but I want that anger to be calm. Now, people tell me that we can’t be so “quiet” with our anger, and I think to myself, that’s not exactly what I mean (laughter). But everyone can interpret it differently, I think (laughter). So, yes, I want to stay calm and look intently at reality. Even despair. I want to take on despair, too, and despair properly. It’s by looking at it squarely that I want to go about finding the next step.

Hirano: You want to calmly accept despair as despair. Otherwise, you cannot find the next step or discover new hope. Is this what you mean?

Muto: I think humans can’t go on living without hope. But we need to acknowledge this hopeless sight before us. This is what our nation is doing. Our anger and sadness will deepen and mature. That can give birth to the prospect of a future. Everybody’s different, I know, but for me, I am a person who wants to know (laughter). I just want to know the truth.

Hirano: I see. You want to have a clear idea of the situation, even if it is an absolutely hopeless one.

Mutō: Yes. Of course, I do feel angry and sad. But I really hate the feeling that there are things I don’t know (laughter). That is a strong desire in me.

But there is no way I can have a full understanding of the truth about everything, and frankly, I can’t hold too many things in my mind anymore. There is just too much information, so it’s a somewhat painful task. But there’s a lot of information that I don’t need to know, so maybe it’s a question of the ability to sift through information. I want to know before I act.

Hirano: As an activist in the position of leading a movement, has your experience led you to think that it’s extremely important to stay calm, and to speak and act based on a firm grasp of the facts?

Mutō: I do understand that in some cases it is also important to let your emotions show. But if you only pick up and transmit the incorrect, most sensational parts, there are lots of people who will gladly seize on them [for their sensational effects]. But if in fact, what you’re saying is a bit inaccurate, or includes many problematic issues, you’re likely to get tripped up. But at the same time, because so much is concealed, some details, what looks like fake information, might turn out to be true. It’s crucial to be able to make those distinctions. I guess I hate the feeling of being manipulated.

So if possible, I prefer to speak only after I’ve looked into an issue carefully. I have a lot of concerns regarding health threats, and certain things are showing up that make me wonder, but I feel it’s still early to talk about them yet.

Hirano: Are there examples from here in Miharu-machi (三春町)?

Mutō: Yes. For a long time I’ve maintained the position that while I do have concerns about health issues, I can’t speak to them. Starting around this year, however, many people around me in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s have died. Just this year, eight or nine people whom I know died. Half of those were sudden deaths, like heart attack. According to surveys, Fukushima is now ranked at the top in all of Japan for heart disease. It was fifth in the nation until 2011 so there was quite a lot of cardiac disease to begin with. But to be at the top in the whole country after 2011. I can’t help thinking there might be some connection.

Hirano: What do you think about the responsibility of those scholars receiving government patronage who came to Fukushima right after the accident and defended the safety myth? In your first Complaint, they (Yamashita Shunichi, Kamiya Kenji, Komura Noboru) were included, right?7 

Muto: Yes.

Hirano: So they came here and claimed that it was safe even after the accident. They spread the safety myth: “100 mSv is fine. Under 10 mSv/hour, it’s safe to play outside.” When some people raised concerns about health, they would respond with irresponsible and irrational arguments like “If you worry too much, you really will get exposed.” How do you think their presence affected the residents of Fukushima?

Mutō: Oh it was massive. It certainly played a huge role in providing a strong sense of security. It was March of 2011 when these people came. They had already done a seminar in Iwaki city at the end of March. After that, they went around the cities with high radiation levels like Iitate village, Fukushima city, and Date city. On May 3rd, I went to a talk by Yamashita Shunichi (then at Nagasaki University) in Nihonmatsu city (二本松市). There were already some people who weren’t feeling just right. So there was a suggestion passed around various mailing lists that we wear something yellow if we weren’t feeling well. So I went with a yellow bandana.

During that talk on May 3rd, Sasaki Michinori – he is from the local temple in Nihonmatsu, the husband of Sasaki Ruri, who appears in Hitomi Kamanaka’s documentary film “Little voices of Fukushima” – asked a question of Yamashita-san. “Would you bring your own grandchildren here and let them play in the sand box at a daycare center in Nihonmatsu?” Then he answered, “Of course I would. I’ll bring them.” I thought, wow. I hoped he wouldn’t actually bring his grandchildren there (laughter). After that, one after another, people wearing some yellow item asked him questions. In the end, he was sent off to applause from the whole room. An acquaintance who was a schoolteacher happened to be sitting next to me. She said, “That was a great talk.” But I still remember the last words he said. When many people criticized him, he lost it. He said “I am Japanese. I follow what my country has decided.” That was his final remark. Many people thought this comment was wonderful. In March, while I was still away, having evacuated, people would call and tell me about this professor who was giving lectures in Fukushima, appearing on radio and TV many times, and that the local paper wrote up a Q&A article using his words. “Apparently this scholar is a second-generation hibakusha (被爆者—those exposed to radiation) from Nagasaki, and a doctor who went to Chernobyl.” This is how he gained trust.

I think more people have come to realize the truth now, but I think everyone trusted him a lot.

Hirano: I see. Because they are all worried, they tend to be drawn to those who say the words they want to hear.

Mutō: Yes. So I personally find it very hard to forgive them, especially these three people. Extremely unforgivable, and that is why we included them in the complaint. However, as expected, it is extremely difficult to prove the correlation between radiation and health issues.

That’s why I thought that it was necessary to collect a lot of data in order to be able to pursue their crime effectively, but I was also afraid the statute of limitations might run out in the meanwhile. It’s hard to balance these factors. I am not sure what I should do.

Hirano: So if you had the data to prove the correlation between health and radiation, you would want to pursue the responsibility of these scholars once again.8

Mutō: Yes, yes I do, of course. I really want to. However, this has become an impossible task for just us. I hope more complainant groups will form, especially involving those in the medical profession, so these three can be indicted.

Hirano: So professionals are reluctant to participate in the movement?

Mutō: I wonder. Within Fukushima, it seems it would be very difficult to defy the Prefectural Medical University. The Fukushima Medical Association might be developing a sense of crisis about radiation exposure. But, I don’t really know how things are in the medical world.

Hirano: I feel that the most prominent example of official irresponsibility can be seen in the return home policy. What do you think?

Mutō: The return policy started at the end of 2011, and the elimination of the relocation zones was among the many things that occurred under this policy. For example, Route 6 opened last September. At its closest point, this national road is only 1.5 km away from the power plant. Anyone can pass by there, even children. Some data show that the radiation level measures 4-7 mSv even inside the car.


The red colored part of Route 6 was opened to the public. It is only 1.5 km away from the power plant, and cut through the areas designated in beige as uninhabitable for now. (picture provided by Mutō Ruiko)

Hirano: Inside the car.

Mutō: Yes, inside. The levels get higher if you get out of the car.

Hirano: You shouldn’t get out of the car, shouldn’t even open a window.

Mutō: Right. There are barricades all along the expressway, and police are standing guard in some places. These policemen are all being exposed to radiation.

This March, the Jōban Expressway was declared complete and opened to traffic. They didn’t have this section completed before the accident. They hadn’t been making progress. It was only after the accident that they proceeded with the construction. There’s an electronic bulletin board that says “Today’s Radiation Level: 5.5 mSv.” It was about 4.9 the other day. I haven’t passed by there yet. I don’t even want to go on Route 6. Here’s a poster that a friend brought back from the service area. “Connecting thoughts, connecting smiles,” the tagline says, with children smiling with their faces outside the car window. It is horrific, like wartime promotion of using your hands to catch mere bombs.9


Hirano: Wow. Once it reaches this level of dishonesty and manipulation, it is nothing but propaganda.

Mutō: It is indeed propaganda. These things are actually happening in Fukushima and other affected regions.

The poster that declares the road is complete and opened to traffic. It says “connecting thoughts, connecting smiles.” In some areas of Route 6 that are close to the Fukushima Daiichi, people are advised not to open the windows while driving. The poster promotes the completely opposite view. When I drove on Route 6 this summer (2016), most cars I encountered were trucks, vans, and cars used for decontamination and reconstruction works. (photo provided by Mutō Ruiko)


Area where some police officers and construction workers remain active on Route 6. The radiation level is 5.5 mSv. (2015). When I drove through the Tomioka-machi area near the Fukushima Daiichi this summer (2016), a bulletin board indicated 4.8 mSy. (photo provided by Mutō Ruiko)

Gender and Activism

Hirano: Let me switch to a slightly different topic. In your involvement with activism, you have always placed emphasis on the power of women, pursuing a shape of activism that makes use of feminine sensibilities. Could you elaborate on this point?

Muto: Yes. This sentiment is rather intuitive. When we filed the complaint the first time, we originally named 33 people, only one of whom was a woman, someone from the Ministry of Education. I think that it’s mostly men who are responsible for shaping this nuclear society. For a long time, men were in the position of nation-building. In a way, those who were on the frontline of the postwar economic boom were all male. They were forced into such competitive positions.

Those deeply embedded in that kind of world have difficulties shifting their perspectives when social values must change. I think these men are “worn out,” so to speak.

It’s true that women took part in creating that society as well, but I think women may still have some energy left. In that sense, I think they might have a set of values different from those of the society we’ve had. It sounds simple when put into words. During my involvement with the earlier anti-nuclear movement in Fukushima, or the one at Rokkasho village, there were many moments where I found myself working with other women and feeling at ease.10

Hirano: Is it because you were able to empathize with each other and share many things in common?

Mutō: Yes. It was like, “Hey, what do you think of this, do you think we should do it?” “Oh that sounds good.” Teamwork felt so easy in such an atmosphere. Certainly, there was a lot of painstaking work to be done, like writing texts. We would do that, but generally, we didn’t have to discuss much. I really liked how we could proceed under empathic consensus.

Hirano: What kind of values and sentiments were you able to share the most? For example, was it something like “The nuclear issue is immediately relevant to our lives and livelihood,” or “What concerns our children must be our highest priority,” or “It is dangerous to live with only economic development in mind?”

Mutō: Well…I can only say how “comfy” (rakuchin/楽チン) it was. The basic line is that, first of all, what’s important are those things that immediately affect our everyday lives.

Hirano: Ah, the feelings and sensibility of the everyday. Not some grand theories about the state or unions, but the sensibility of a living being, rooted in the mundane.

Mutō: Yes, well those things might actually become more directly tied to things like life, the earth, and the universe. So instead of being caught up in petty discussions, we could rely on our instinctive senses about what we feel is important. I appreciated that kind of atmosphere.

Hirano: I see. On the contrary, when you work with, or negotiate with, other men, do you face moments where things don’t work well? Are there things you cannot seem to communicate well or feel uneasy about?

Mutō: Well, not all men are like that, and I try to work with them (laughter). But there are moments where it feels more difficult to communicate. Demonstrating power relations for example. I feel a little sad about that. If they cannot agree on something, they are not satisfied until they defeat the other side. In a situation where you could just say, no that’s it, they have to keep pressing the point. Also they always argue about who does what (laughter). To me, it feels like a waste of energy to argue about such power dynamics and different stances.

Hirano: Related to your earlier comment, perhaps men felt as if they had discovered the meaning of life when working hard as a “soldier” for corporations or government bureaucracies, especially after the post-war economic boom. Such an ethic continues to burden them, even when they are working for organizations like anti-establishment unions. As a result, it has become difficult to liberate their imaginations and social relationships. They’re unable to hold more flexible, multidimensional values or ideas that lead away from common sense.

Mutō: Right. In a way, I feel sorry for them. For us, our student years (1970s) coincided with the Women’s Liberation era. Feminism is a more recent term, but that kind of sentiment already existed. We breathed that air, although we didn’t quite know what exactly it was about. On the most basic level, a sense of equality and the idea that women are fun and strong and smart, have always been present inside me.

Hirano: Is that something you strongly felt when you were young, perhaps during your college years?

Mutō: Perhaps. During college, I shared an apartment with a girl with whom I got along. At that time, many girls came to visit us. Everyday, our place was filled with a sense of sisterhood. I had a boyfriend too, but I found it more interesting spending time with those girls. It was fun.

So everyone in general – and this remains the same today – women can do household chores, right? Some men are good at it too nowadays; my current partner can do household tasks much better than myself. It’s so easy to work with someone who has those skills. For example, even when organizing a simple get together, everyone ends up doing just the right task without having to meticulously decide each person’s role. “She did the cooking, so I’ll do the cleaning.” Things operate so naturally.

When we did an all-female camp at Rokkasho village, the men got upset about limiting the participants to women (laughter). When we told the old guys in the village that it was a women’s camp, he asked me when were we holding the “real” camp. No, this was the real one (laughter).

Hirano: (laughter). Things may have changed now, but it was such a division of labor between male and female that constructed the post-war society. Men were the breadwinners who fought outside and brought back money. Women did the mundane household tasks like laundry. Men have come a long way without having to deal with “everyday survival” so to speak, merely living as someone belonging to a company or organization, they have lost the experience and knowledge of living a life as a single individual. For this reason, their values and actions are also bound to the so-called “common sense” of the larger society and organization.

So when they burst into your activist group, things get more complicated (laughter).

Mutō: It just makes for extra work. We have to spell it all out—ok you do this, you do that (laughter). It’s like, I don’t have time for educating you (laughter). You know, these issues should already be behind us after all these years of anti-nuclear movements, from decades before the accident. Yet, there are still a lot of small things that strike us. For example, even when planning for this one meeting, they make comments like, “The MC should be a woman.” Huh? “Better have the statement read by a woman, too. Oh, but the opening remarks should come from a guy” (laughter). These are probably problems that they’re totally unaware of, that we’ve been aware of all along.

You might think that because teachers enjoy equal pay, sexism is not a very big issue, but this is not necessarily true. Take the division of labor, for example. Schoolteachers must take on administrative tasks, which are divided into different sections, such as research, administration, school lunch and health. The sections that women chair are always health and lunch. Always. All the schools were like that. Also, accounting. Even when there are two teachers in the same classroom, it is always the female one that does the accounting. I wondered why it was like that. I really thought, wow the education world isn’t any better.

Hirano: So this kind of discriminatory structure that has supported a systemic division of labor has reached the unconscious level. The most troublesome case is when a man who claims to be “progressive” ends up embodying that kind of view (laughter).

Mutō: Yes, yes, yes that is true (laughter).

Hirano: So including all those points, you can work with women more casually and communicate easily with a shared female sensibility.

Mutō: Yes. But that can also be said about the younger generation. They may be feeling something about our generation’s unconscious structure of discrimination. It is really important for people with different sensibilities to try something new in a different form. It doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of criticism. We can all learn new ways to think and act.

Tricks and Traps of Words

Hirano: Allow me to switch topics here. Terms like “Reconstruction”(fukkō/復興) “Reputational damage” (fūhyō higai/風評被害) “Hang in there” (gambare/頑張れ) and “Friendship” (kizuna/) – these words were everywhere, especially after the quake, and we still see them today all over the place. What do you think about the influence of these words and the meanings they have come to represent in society?

Mutō: Right. “Friendship” “Hang in there” “Reconstruction” “Reputational damage.” For example, there is one episode about reputational damage. I went to Minamata last month and learned that middle school students from Minamata came to Fukushima.11 Apparently, the students learned about radiation and found out that the food in Fukushima was safe. However, they discovered, that consumers were not buying the products at all because of the damaged reputation. “So, let’s send them to Minamata, and let’s have our school lunch at Minamata using made-in-Fukushima products,” the middle schooler proposed. Such a shocking thing could happen. I could not believe what I heard. “What?!” I said.

I met a mother who wanted to address this issue at the PTA. She told me that some adults in Minamata supported the idea, saying, “What a wonderful idea by a middle school student. Let’s all do it!” She asked me how she could argue against them. I said, yes this is a problem.

Of course, there are some Fukushima products that are safe, but there is no need to send them all the way to Minamata where they already have safe food. Nor would there be a guarantee that only safe things would be sent. “Reputational damage” is meant to refer to damage caused by false rumors stirred up about something without any basis whatsoever, but in the case of Fukushima, it’s not just some fabricated rumor. Some products actually show high levels of radiation contamination. I was so shocked about how this kind of thing could possibly happen.

I heard that this school lunch project is undergoing some difficulties right now due to the extra costs required for air shipment. I really hope the project will fall through. In other news, my friend at Minamata sent me a newspaper article about middle school students who baked a dessert using Fukushima products and won a patisserie contest. “In hopes for helping out the reconstruction of Fukushima,” they claimed.

Well, words like “Friendship” have cleverly taken advantage of people’s pure, or not-so-pure, feelings of sympathy. Their willingness to help has been exploited.

For me, the term “reconstruction” entails an environment where everyone can truly feel safe, their livelihood fully recovered. This is what reconstruction means in a true sense, not simply bouncing back to old habits like a shape-memory alloy. Reconstruction is a word that has been constantly redefined. The rhetoric of helping others was also used in the sense that, “It’s unfair to let Fukushima deal all by itself with contaminated rubble, so other places should share the burden.” With regard to the disparity between regions accepting contaminated rubble, the word “Friendship” was deliberately misused. I think it is disgusting. These words can move people’s hearts so easily, but they don’t accurately reflect the reality. These words carry a considerable burden of guilt. These things can be divisive. Many traps lie in Fukushima, so I try not to get caught in them.

Hirano: One of those traps which you mentioned is a misplaced morality and sense of righteousness: “As a true Japanese, we should do certain things in order to root for Fukushima.” You could call this the contemporary ideology of national morality. What other kinds of “traps” are there that provoke division among the people?

Mutō: Hmm, perhaps things like geographic division. They created areas called the Specific Areas Recommended for Evacuation. This produced disparities such as one side of the road being so designated while the other side wasn’t.

The issue of compensation is very big as well. Just yesterday, my friend who works at the agricultural coop visited me. She is this perfectly moral citizen. She says that people in the Restricted Areas are receiving tons of money, which they use to play pachinko and eat good food. Isn’t that a bit unfair since they are the ones who benefited from the nuclear power plant in the first place? They lost their houses too, but still. These financial matters gradually divide people from each other. For example, those of us living around this area were able to receive 80,000 yen (laughter). But people in Aizu Wakamatsu (会津若松) only received 40,000 yen. Dividing the areas incrementally based on the amount of compensation or differentiating places qualifying for compensation also becomes one of the traps that give rise to antagonism. But complaints about unfairness shouldn’t be made toward the individuals, they should be directed toward the government or TEPCO. If you have also suffered damage, you could take legal action. It’s easy to be mistaken about where to direct our accusations.

Hirano: So people feel envious towards those who receive more money. You can no longer converse with those whom you used to know as a friend or neighbor, just because they drew a line between you two.

Mutō: Yes, right right. That also happens. Another factor concerning radiation—this is partly a problem of those on the receiving end—is the safety myth, the safety propaganda that keeps flowing in. I think everyone more or less feels anxious. Those who have children especially worry about the future of their own children and damage to the health of the future generation. If they are told that it is safe, then of course they want to believe it, right? They don’t want to dwell upon this issue any longer because it is troublesome, tiring, and heartbreaking. For them, people who continue to worry become a nuisance – these irritating people who continue to say blasphemous things they would rather not hear.

Those in the primary sector, who are working hard to get their sales back to normal, feel that people who still worry about radiation are obstructing the path of reconstruction. This is another way the local population continues to be divided. If there were a legitimate form of compensation, like providing them with land to allow them to restart farming elsewhere, maybe they wouldn’t have to fall into that trap.

On the one hand, there are intentionally created divisions. On the other hand, distances deepen because of the weakness and insecurity fundamental to human nature, such as feelings of envy towards people who are doing better than you (laughter). These two are easily tied together. The government spreads the “safety myth” by exploiting this tendency. I believe that such strategically well-planned operations might have been inspired by how Chernobyl was handled.

Hirano: This is rule by division.

Mutō: Yes. I think they are good at this method.

I have a friend in Rwanda. I was teaching her Japanese when she was in Japan a bit before the civil war. She went back to Rwanda, but she evacuated to Japan again when the war broke out. When I asked her about the civil war, she told me that even though it is often understood as an ethnic war, that was not really the case. It was the status system created under Belgian rule.

Those who were originally of a single ethnicity were divided into three tribes, with those having a certain number of cows designated as one group, those with fewer another group, and those living in the forests yet a third. Only the highest group was hired under colonial rule, so when Belgium left, a dispute broke out. Hearing this story I realized how instituting divisions is tightly linked to governance. I thought, perhaps the same thing happens everywhere in the world.

Hirano: Those who benefit from the current administration are afraid of people turning against them in solidarity.

Mutō: Yes.

Hirano: Inevitably, money gets in the way.

Mutō: Yes, it is human nature to succumb to money (laughter). Alas, they get caught up in it.

Hirano: Do you feel that kind of pressure during your involvement with the anti-nuclear movement and effort to have criminal charges brought against TEPCO and government officials. As the trial unfolds, you may face realities which you don’t want to be reminded of. You may end up shedding light on truths which not only the government or TEPCO, but also the residents of Fukushima, don’t want to know. Would emotions erupt concerning why they need to face these difficult realities after all these years? Facts will come out that are disagreeable not only to the government and Tepco, but to Fukushima residents, too. Is it possible that emotions will be stirred up, about why people need to confront such painful truths at this point?

Mutō: Hmm, that might be true. For one, I want those who suffered damage to participate. Since the victims are limited, I am currently talking with the surviving families of the Futaba hospital. Fifty elderly patients died during and after evacuation. The doctors and nurses of the Hospital could not find evacuation sites equipped with appropriate facilities during the evacuation. The elderly patients died of dehydration, stress, and the lack of intravenous drip after over 14 hours of road trip. In many cases however, they tell me they would like to be left alone. “We’ve been compensated, there has been a settlement, and we don’t want to be involved any further.” For one thing, I’ve wanted the victim-participation model to be adopted. Since who counts as a victim has been delimited, we’re now in discussion with such parties as the bereaved families from Futaba Hospital. Please leave us alone, some of them say. The compensation issue is over, we’ve settled, and we don’t want to be involved any more.

There’s that, but also the fact that after the decision to indict, opening the path for a trial, the first attacks came from the mass media. They focused on the fact that of the nine cases where a Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution decided in favor of indictment, only two led to a guilty verdict. That’s the message they wanted to spread. Even articles written in the spirit of welcoming the indictment and the truths that might come out were apt to end up with such pessimistic observation. Other articles were skeptical from start to finish.

Hirano: One of the big goals of the trial is, as you mentioned, putting an end to the system of irresponsibility that is prevalent throughout this nation.

Mutō: That hope is definitely present. I don’t know if we can put an end to it completely, but it is important to call attention to this system of irresponsibility. I do believe that our action can be meaningful in leading us closer to the truth, and we sincerely think that the same tragedy should never be repeated again. In order to achieve that, the victims have our own responsibility. My political involvement with this issue is driven by a sense of obligation.

Since I don’t think that our activities can resolve every problem, we must incorporate different approaches and different movements – we need a variety of complaints and lawsuits. I would be much happier if we received messages of support, “We will take action as well, let’s fight together.”

Hirano: The first goal is to shed light on the irresponsibility of nuclear policy over time.

Mutō: Yes. Despite the numerous warnings or suggestions they had received concerning problems inherent in the Fukushima NPP, they failed to take necessary actions. They could have, but they didn’t. That caused the current situation. Even after the accident occurred, as we have seen, the irresponsibility continues, right? I doubt that anyone would take responsibility if anything happens at Sendai NPP.12

Hirano: Yes. For example, if a company causes environmental pollution, there will be a compulsory investigation in which the corporation’s legal responsibility will be investigated. Yet for some reason, it seems as if the nuclear industry functions mysteriously outside legal obligations.

Mutō: Right. That may be the power of “national policy,” but we can’t let them get away with it, can we? (laughter)

Hirano: As long as you claim to be a society under the rule of law, one who commits a crime must be tried. You are demanding what’s only commonsense, that they adhere to the law. But, both the nuclear power accident and the state of war expose the aporia wherein the law that is created by the state, can also be suspended in circumstances deemed exceptional by that state. “National policy” is a magic word that can normalize such an exceptional state. The perpetrators do not get tried and the victims are abandoned.

Mutō: Yes, that’s right. The law looks like it’s meant to apply to all people, but I’ve come to feel from my experience that it’s deliberately manipulated. But if you’re going to say that this is a country governed by the rule of law, and that this is a democratic society, then if, at the very least, people aren’t held responsible for what they’ve done, there’s no way to protect human rights. I think it’s important to hang on to the consciousness that states of exception shouldn’t be allowed.

I also think that it is not enough to merely pursue the legal responsibility of TEPCO or the government. I think each one of us was responsible. As discussed earlier, we have conveniently enjoyed our civilized society. We didn’t try to imagine what was behind the electric outlet. We are guilty of lack of imagination.

Hirano: You have insisted upon the impossibility of reconstruction in a true sense. If this is the case, then what kind of compensation do you believe to be appropriate for Fukushima residents? For example, do you think the government should have secured new land and homes for people who live in Fukushima (or other people who live in places with high radiation areas like Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Miyagi)? Should TEPCO have distributed resources in order to support people’s new lives?

Mutō: I think new land and housing should have been provided. Financial assistance for relocation should also have been provided.

The arbitrary return policy, legislated only to put an easy end to the accident while keeping the compensation price cheap, imposed a false sense of safety on people and unnecessarily exposed them to radiation. In other words, the government is telling them to give up and put up with the situation. The future is unpredictable due to their inconsistent attitude.

Hirano: The other day, when the committee for the inquest of prosecution called for indictment, you had a press conference under the banner of “citizens’ justice.”


Mutō holds the banner of “citizens’ justice.”

Mutō: (laughter) In fact, I don’t really care for the word “justice.” (laughter) Mostly, it’s not used in a good sense, is it? It sounds like self-legitimation. Of course, it was meant to be a wonderful word. I wasn’t crazy about it, but everybody else was saying this was the way to go, so I just said, all right.

Hirano: But the way it came through on the screen, it felt good. They’re using the word “justice” in the way it should be used …. Good for them for talking about the issue in this way, I thought. The state just speaks using its own logic, right? The logic of the state and the logic of citizens, the way they look at things or the way things look to them—they’re totally different, I think. And you were talking about that clearly as a matter of justice. That’s what made me feel good, watching the press conference.

Mutō: Is that right? (laughter) I felt it was embarrassing. (laughter) But, if you think how citizens decided that indictment was appropriate where the prosecutors had not, you begin to see the difference, the gap between them. You referred to the difference between how the state sees things and how citizens see them, and I think that’s exactly right. What’s commonsensical for me isn’t so for the state, and the opposite might be true, too. I have to think that it’s not good to have this much discrepancy between the two.

Hirano: The government’s reasoning comes through clearly from the major media outlets, but citizens do not have the chance to retort, “No, we don’t see it that way,” or, “Your logic to me seems like a form of violence.” I believe there should be more space where these clashing views can be aired in public, on equal footing, so to speak.

Mutō: Yes. With regard to Fukushima, there have been dozens of negotiations with the government in many places. Yet, we really can’t hold an actual conversation with them, perhaps because government spokespeople are especially cautious on such occasions. We just end up talking past each other. In response to our questions, they say something that is completely irrelevant.

Do you know what they started doing recently? They send officials who are from Fukushima.

And then, before the negotiation begins, they say things like, “My family grave is also in Nihonmatsu,” “It has only been three months since I joined the Ministry of Environment, I’m from Fukushima.” They let some 23-year-old do this kind of job. They do disgusting things like that.

Hirano: Well, that is also a form of division. They can’t say no to their boss either since they started working there just recently.

Mutō: Yes. But I think that they must also feel a great deal of sadness facing other people from Fukushima. I think it is kind of disgusting.

Practicing Non-violence: Guerrilla Theater, Greenham Common, Rokkasho Village

Hirano: Could you talk a little about non-violence? Why do you place non-violence at the core of your activism?

Mutō: Let’s see. I first learned about the concept of “non-violent direct action” when a person called Agi Yukio, who wrote a book – what was the title – something about non-violence and direct action (note: Hiboryoku tore-ningu: Shakai wo jibun wo hiraku tameni, 1984) – held a workshop about non-violence training. This was about 30 years ago, right when we were doing the movement opposing Fukushima plants 2 and 3 in 1988. In Yokohama, there was a group called the “hi-boryokudan,” the non-violence gang. These people from the non-violence gang were the instructors for our non-violence training session.

I was wondering what it was all about when I went. First, we did an icebreaker to get to know each other. Then they taught us about “guerilla theater.” In guerilla theater, we produce a short skit, act it out in the middle of the street, and leave the scene right away.

There is a place called the “Bakugenjin village” which is like a hippie commune in Kawauchi village – my friends are there – and we put this guerilla theater into practice when we did a workshop retreat there. The village is close to Tomioka-machi, where they have Fukushiima 2-3. There was a service center for TEPCO, sort of like a building to promote nuclear power plants. It is shaped like a beautiful castle, and children would go and learn about the control rod inside a nuclear reactor or a whole-body counter – they even had things like that back then, a device that measures your internal radioactive level. We decided to storm into that facility singing anti-nuclear songs, perform a short skit, and run out. That was the plan.

Hirano: Oh I see, guerilla. In recent years they call it flash mob (laughter)

Mutō: So we actually went and did the skit. And then we came back. That was so fun (laughter). Afterwards, when I participated in the Rokkasho village movement, a lady named Kondo Kazuko showed a documentary film about a peace camp at a US military base called Greenham Common in the UK, where women camped for 19 years. Eventually the Greenham Common base closed down.13 It was a film called Carry Greenham Home. It was so interesting, how all women surrounded the base.

The women made their case through non-violent action. I was curious how they actually made it work. There’s a gate at the base that locks protesters out. When the women protest, the military shuts the gate. The activists thought, if they’re going to close the doors, why not try locking it? So they padlocked the gate from outside while the guards were not looking. In the morning, the guards were dumbfounded to find out the gate wouldn’t open, and try to cut the padlock open but to no avail. So eventually, they end up breaking down the gate. In an ironic turn of events, they themselves end up destroying the very gates that had prevented the protestors from coming in.

It was fascinating to watch. I found it intriguing to learn that non-violence does not simply indicate the absence of violent methods. Instead, it uses your ideas, body, and a sense of humor.

I’m not very good at public speaking, really, and I’m actually quite bad at writing as well. I don’t want to write or speak if I don’t need to. With “non-violent direct action,” you can become part of the action just by quietly being there. Your presence itself becomes a form of resistance. I thought that was great.

When we did the women’s camp at Rokkasho village, we decided to take non-violent direction action. We were going to lie on the ground and stop the trucks carrying radioactive materials. During the planning, I realized that non-violent action is not just one act, but includes a lot of elements like building relations with your friends and rethinking your lifestyle. At the camp, we made time to listen to each other’s personal histories and share our sufferings. Together we made a song for signaling to each other and we went to the beach to practice it. Everyday, we would cook food, eat, and clean up as a group while dividing the labor. This was really fun. It was the right kind of activity for me.

Also, because we chose direct action, there were limits to what we could do. We were only able to stop the trucks for 50 minutes. But then again, we did stop them for 50 minutes, and that gave us a sense of accomplishment. It was meaningful to realize that we were not completely powerless, and that we could take action in order to change the situation, however slightly.

Of course, this is not enough. Nothing can be solved just by doing this kind of thing. You have non-violent direct action, you have legal battles, you have protests and negotiations with the government, which might then lead to policy recommendations or elections resulting in representatives who’ll speak up. You need a variety of such activities. I think it’s good if we each participate in whatever we’re good at.

Hirano: I see. Listening to your story, I feel like you know how to enjoy life and cherish its moments. I mean, it must be hard standing at the frontlines and fighting like this. Very difficult. As you said earlier, you’ll be crushed if anger is your main driving source, and fear would not sustain you for very long. Even in that condition, you manage to enjoy life to the fullest and carefully build human relationship, always with a sense of humor. You are perhaps a kind of person who can do that naturally and flexibly.

Mutō: (laughter)

Hirano: Do you think that kind of attitude is important?

Mutō: Ah, yes, I do.

Hirano: For activism too.

Mutō: Yes, it’s too hard otherwise. It’s a lot of work (laughter). I think that maybe humans, no matter what the situation, can still appreciate a moment of beauty, fun, and delicious food. In whatever hardship you may be facing, you’ll probably still get hungry, too. I want to create something fun and beautiful like that.

Right after the nuclear accident, I was completely devastated. I like music, I can’t play any instrument but I really love it. Especially, I like the sound of the guitar. It has always been my morning routine to choose one CD and listen to it while drinking coffee. But after the accident, I wasn’t able to do that at all. I didn’t feel like listening to music. I just couldn’t.

Hirano: How long did that condition continue?

Mutō: About a year and a half to two years.

Hirano: That long.

Mutō: Yes, it was very hard. I couldn’t open up my heart, perhaps. But slowly I was able to listen again. There was a time when Lee Jeongmi, a zainichi Korean singer, came to Fukushima and sang a song for all the women in Fukushima. I think that might have been the turning point. Gradually, I felt like listening to music once more.

I think that things like art and sensibility are very important to political activism. This includes, for example, singing together with everyone, thinking about what clothes to wear, or what colorful protest signs to make for the demonstration.

Back when I was in Rokkasho village, there was a ship that showed up with high-level radioactive waste. There was a long fence by the port, and we tied colorful ribbons there. Also, right outside the nuclear fuel cycle at the reprocessing plant in Rokkasho village, there is a triple-layered wall. There is a fence on the outside, then a lot of cement sticks in the middle, then another fence inside. In that space in the middle, we threw in balls of dirt with flower seeds in them. When we went there the following year, flowers were blooming. Don’t you think that is kind of nice?

Hirano: That’s very nice.

Mutō: I don’t know if I can call it “art,” but I think these kinds of things are quite important.

Hirano: Yes. It sends out a message. It’s quite impressive that you could let flowers bloom at a place like that. You speak directly to people’s hearts and point out the issue from its very core.

Mutō: Yes. For the record, it wasn’t me who came up with this idea. Someone else had the idea and we all decided to do it. I thought it was quite wonderful.

But after the nuclear accident actually occurred, we were no longer able to take direct action at the actual site of Fukushima NPP. Sometimes we would do it at Koriyama or Fukushima, but we still wear masks. We all risk our own health to protest. We’re always wondering if we should be going that far.

In the fall of 2011 when 100 women surrounded the police station in Tokyo, we later found out that the radiation level was in fact quite high around there as well. But we all knitted a rope with colorful yarns and surrounded the area. I went around the premise, dancing. I want to continue engaging in those activities.

Hirano: You are saying that in Fukushima, it is difficult to carry out those fun activities where you speak to people’s emotions and express your thoughts?

Mutō: Yes. It’s hard to do it inside Fukushima. The other day, as we saw in the pictures earlier, we did a Hidanren (Gempatsu Jiko Higaisha Dantai Renrakukai, or the Liaison Council of Victims of the Nuclear Disaster) protest. Most of the participants were elderly people, demonstrating in sweltering weather, 38.6 degrees Celsius. I was so afraid they were going to collapse. The demonstration lasted about 40 minutes, but I thought to myself, wow, we are really putting our lives on the line (laughter).


Hidanren march. (photo provided by Mutō Ruiko)

Why Kirara?

Hirano: (laughter). I also want to ask about Kirara, your home that was also a café until 3.11. Why and how did this begin?

Kirara in winter (photo provided by Mutō Ruiko)

Mutō: I used to work at a school, but before I started up Kirara, I had many opportunities to reflect upon my own life in the course of the anti-nuke movement. As I questioned my lifestyle, I wanted to start cultivating mountainside land.

I went to a university called Wako University, in the age of the hippie movement. There was a countercultural trend to resist the society of convenience. I was only an observer at that time, but after I joined the anti-nuclear movement, I met people who were trying to conserve energy, using as little electricity as possible, and build their own house. It really made me want to live like that.

There was a mountain I inherited when my father passed away. It was just a wild mountain with nothing, but my partner and I decided to cultivate it. We started out with one mattock and slowly opened up a small plot of land. We built a lodge there. I wanted to live there without bringing many unnecessary things from outside, so we only had a lamp and a wood stove. We didn’t have electricity.

We lived like that for a few years, and it was just incredibly interesting to me. Soon, I didn’t want to continue teaching at school. Well, other things happened, and I eventually decided to quit my job. I had to think about what I was going to do after that, so I started looking for work I could do at home. Perhaps a café or a shop, I thought. So I used the land cultivated at the bottom of the mountain and built the structure for Kirara using my retirement money. That’s how it happened.

I wanted to use that space to hold study events about the energy problem, or set up an information corner about the nuclear power plant. I also wanted to plan live music events that would include discussions about modern technology and civilization. I made Kirara in order to create a space to transmit that kind of information.

Hirano: I see. Could you talk a little about your view of modern civilization?

Mutō: (laughter) I can’t really talk about modern civilization, but when I first learned about the existence of a TV, it was – how old was I – about when I was in elementary school, or sometime before that. My point is, when I was little, I didn’t have a TV or a refrigerator or a washing machine.

I’m 62 years old right now, but my lifestyle changed drastically within the past 60 years. It has really become convenient. But I wonder about the heat in summer, whether summer used to be this hot in the past. Of course we did feel hot since we didn’t have an air conditioner, but summer wasn’t as uncomfortably hot as right now.

In the meantime, many things were invented like a drier to dry your hair, or a pot that constantly provides hot water. Consumption of electricity thus greatly increased. People kept buying those devices, thinking they were convenient, but I started wondering if we were buying things that we really wanted. Such consumerism is related to things like how the “trending color” of a decade from now has already been decided, or the “10 principles of consumption” made by Dentsu (電通). I think the bullet train is convenient, but I wonder if we really need the “linear” (magnetic-levitation) cars. We used to be able to have a good time traveling without the bullet train, as long as we could take the time. But once you start using it, there is no going back. You use the extra time you saved on something else. People become busier and busier.

There is a picture book called “The Little House” (by Virginia Lee Burton).14 It was the first picture book we had in my house – someone had given it to my older sister as a gift. It is a story about a little house in the countryside that suffers the constant transformation of its surroundings. In the end, the little house is taken away to the countryside once again and lives happily ever after. But when you think about it, that story leaves behind the issues of the city. The little house went back, but the city just keeps on growing like that? After I grew up, I realized that that part hasn’t been solved in that story.

Hirano: I see, that’s true. I used to read that book all the time to my daughter when she was younger. The little house gets to move back to the countryside and regain its happiness, but I never thought about how it leaves behind the issue of the city. That’s a new perspective to reading that book. It becomes all the more real when you bring in the issue of the nuclear power plant into the picture, doesn’t it?

Mutō: Yes, yes.

Hirano: In order to support the material prosperity of the booming city, you need to build the nuclear power plant next to the little house that should have been happy in the countryside.

Mutō: Yes. I really identified with the story as my own. In the countryside I tried to build an ideal life, using natural energy like solar power, eating food from the mountains, farming on our own. The life I had was supposed to be as far away as possible from nuclear energy, while in reality, it was only 45km away. It destroyed everything about the way of life I had built. You can clearly see that story from the framework of the picture book.

Hirano: I see. You could get a little cynical and say that there is no longer a place where the little house can take refuge. No matter where you evacuate, there is no place on earth that is completely free of contamination. Modernity gave birth to that kind of civilization.

Mutō: Right. This really isn’t a problem of Fukushima. It is an issue for each living person on the face of the earth. I want people to know about the actuality of damage in Fukushima. I believe there is much to be learned from it, whether about the environment, the structure of discrimination prevailing in society, or what happens in people’s minds.

Since there are so many issues embedded in this problem, we as a species must learn many things from it. Especially with this nuclear accident, Chernobyl as well, we involved the lives of so many non-human species. I think that is a crime, or rather, a massive catastrophe.

Hirano: Yes. One of the reasons I visited Iitate village two years ago was to talk to farmers who could not sacrifice their horses or cows because they were part of the family.15 Animals can’t express themselves. All they can do is get sick from radiation and die. If they survive, the government will order them slaughtered. The dairy farmers were suffering. They also said that weird things were happening with wild animals they encountered.

Mutō: Yes. From their point of view, I’m sure it was a disaster out of nowhere. The wild boars must have thought, what in the world is this? (laughter)

Hirano: Right, just for human desire for more profit and convenience of life.

Mutō: I think they would wonder why their species had to suffer like this (laughter). They might not, but this is something we humans must think, us the perpetrators.

Hirano: Thank you very much for your time.

I would like to thank Ms. Mutō Ruiko for agreeing to do this interview. My sincere thanks extend to Norma Field who kindly reviewed and edited the interview and wrote the excellent introductory essay. Akiko Anson and Ryoko Nishijima made possible the publication of the interview by transcribing or translating it. I am grateful to both of them.

Related articles

Oguma Eiji, A New Wave Against the Rock: New social movements in Japan since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown
•Yagasaki Katsuma, Internal Exposure Concealed: The True State of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident
•Robert Stolz, Nuclear Disasters: A Much Greater Event Has Already Taken Place
•Katsuya Hirano and Hirotaka Kasai, “The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster is a Serious Crime”: Interview with Koide Hiroaki
Arkadiusz Podniesiński, Fukushima: The View From Ground Zero
•David McNeill and Androniki Christodoulou, Inside Fukushima’s Potemkin Village: Naraha
•Noriko Manabe, Noriko Manabe, Music in Japanese Antinuclear Demonstrations: The Evolution of a Contentious Performance Model,” The Asia-Pacific Journal 11, no. 42.3 (October 2013)



The title was taken from my email correspondence with Mutō of August 27th, 2015. She goes on to say, “it deepens our anger and sadness, and then allows them to mature; only after that will the perspective for a future be born, I believe.” She repeats this point in the interview.


For more updated information about the legal case, see Norma Field, “To Despair Properly.”


Uno moved to Fukushima in 1999. She began to participate in the Fukushima network for the abolition of nuclear power plants in 2010. She became the chairperson of the association for the abolition of nuclear power plants, which was founded to demand the termination of nuclear reactors that were in operation for 40 years in Fukushima. Immediately after 3.11, she and her family evacuated from Fukushima, first moving to Kyushu and then settling in Kyoto. She continues to be active in various anti-nuclear and 3.11 related movements, working together with Mutō. She authored Mewo Korashimasho, Mienai Hōshanō ni (Let’s look closely, the invisible radiation). She and Nakasatomi Satomi, her spouse and a constitutional scholar, organizes a monthly study group at a café in Shintanabe, Kyoto, with locals and evacuees from Fukushima to share experiences and knowledge.


The Chernobyl NPP accident of 1986 led to the formation of the environmental rights movement and development of citizens’ rights to environmental information, which eventually resulted in laws of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia in the 1990s. Based on these laws, some legal scholars argue for the development of national and international law that will further ensure environmental human rights and processes of rehabilitation of ecological systems. In the case of Fukushima Daiichi, under the existing Abe government, debates leading to the installation of such laws protecting human and environmental rights have been absent.


In July 2011, Hirose Takashi, a writer, and Akagi Shōjirō filed a criminal complaint against Tepco executives who underestimated the seriousness of the nuclear disaster and mislead the public, and the scientists who denied any correlation between the nuclear disaster and illnesses such as thyroid cancer and heart attack by spreading the myth about the nonexistence of the danger of radioactive exposure. Hirose and Akagi also insisted that the disaster caused many deaths based on the fact that there were some farmers who took their lives out of despair and a number of elderly patients who lost their lives during the evacuation from hospitals. They expressed their concerns about the detrimental effects of radioactive exposure on Fukushima children who had been misled by Tepco and nuclear scientists working for the company and the government to remain for several months in areas heavily affected by radiation from Fukushima Daiichi after March 11.


For Mutō’s whole speech, see speech and the youtube video.


As a radiation risk management adviser appointed by Fukushima prefecture after March 11, Yamashita lectured numerous times on radiation mainly in the prefecture. He claimed that radiation exposure of 100 mSv/yr was safe by arguing that when people were exposed to radiation does of 100mSV or more, the possibility of getting cancer increased only to one in ten-thousand people. He also reiterated that the radiation dose was equivalent to that of receiving 10 times the dose of one CT scan. Since CT scans are used for medical diagnosis on a regular basis, he argued, there is no danger involved in the Fukushima case. He made himself infamous and a focus of public criticism by stating that radiation affects only those who are concerned about its effects, but “not those who live with smiles”; adding that those who like to drink are rarely affected by radiation. He continues to serve as the advisor at Fukushima Medical University to this day.


Concerned scientists such as Koide Hiroaki have been advocating the necessity of carrying out thorough epidemiological studies. But the existing government under the Abe administration and TEPCO have shown no interest in conducting or sponsoring such research.


In 1941, Nippon Polydor released a song called “bakudan kurai wa tede ukeyo” (use your hands to catch mere bombs), state propaganda contributed by Eguchi Yoshi (music) and Fujita Masato (lyrics).


10 Rokkasho (六ヶ所村) is a village in Kamikita District of northeastern Aomori Prefecture in the Tōhoku region of northern Japan. As of September 2015, the village had an estimated population of 10,726. Since the 1970s villagers of Rokkasho and environmentalists opposed plans to operate Japan’s first large commercial plutonium plant in the village by focusing on the threat of a large-scale release of radioactivity. The facility in full operation is designed to separate as much as 8 tons of plutonium each year from spent reactor fuel from Japan’s domestic nuclear reactors. As of 2006 Japan owned approximately 45 tons of separated plutonium. Construction and testing of the facility were completed in 2013, and the site was intended to begin operating in October 2013; however this was delayed by new safety regulations. In December 2013 JNFL announced the plant would be ready for operation in October 2014. In 2015, the start of the reprocessing plant was postponed again, this time to as late as September 2018. Since 1993 US$ 20 billion has been invested in the project, nearly triple the original estimate. A 2011 estimate put the cost at US$27.5 billion. Consumers Union of Japan together with 596 organizations and groups participated in a parade on 27 January 2008 in central Tokyo opposing the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. Over 810,000 signatures were collected and handed in to the government on 28 January 2008. Representatives of the protesters, which include fishery associations, consumer cooperatives and surfer groups, handed the petition to the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.


Minamata disease was first discovered in Minamata city in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan, in 1956. It was caused by the release of methylmercury in the industrial wastewater from the Chisso Corporation‘s chemical factory, which continued from 1932 to 1968. This highly toxic chemical bioaccumulated in shellfish and fish in Minamata Bay and the Shiranui Sea, which, when eaten by the local populace, resulted in mercury poisoning. While cat, dog, pig, and human deaths continued for 36 years, the government and company did little to prevent the pollution. The animal effects were severe enough in cats that they came to be named as having “dancing cat fever”. As of March 2001, 2,265 victims had been officially recognized as having Minamata disease (1,784 of whom had died) and over 10,000 had received financial compensation from Chisso. By 2004, Chisso Corporation had paid $86 million in compensation, and in the same year was ordered to clean up its contamination. On March 29, 2010, a settlement was reached to compensate as-yet uncertified victims


The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant is located in the city of Satsumasendai in Kagoshima Prefecture. The Kyūshū Electric Power Company owns and operates it. The plant, like all other nuclear power plants in Japan, suspended operation since the nationwide shutdown in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. However, despite nation-wide protests, it was the first plant to be restarted on August 11, 2015.


Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp was a peace camp established to protest siting of nuclear weapons at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, England. The camp began in September 1981 after a Welsh group, Women for Life on Earth, arrived at Greenham to protest against the decision of the British government to allow cruise missiles to be based there. The first blockade of the base occurred in May 1982 with 250 women protesting, during which 34 arrests were made. The camp was active for 19 years and disbanded in 2000.


The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton, is a story about a Little House that originally lived in the country, but as the years go by the countryside transforms into an urban city. What was once green grass and natural surroundings turned into large skyscrapers and loud train stations. The Little House grew shabbier and shabbier with each passing day. Soon enough, the Little House disliked living in a developing city, and “returned home” to the countryside.


Iitate is located outside the nominal 30 kilometres (19 miles) radiation exclusion zone of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Japanese government initially announced that it was safe for the residents to remain in the village after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on 30 March 2011. Many people in the nearby towns and villages in the radiation exclusion zone evacuated to Iitata, being misled to believe in the area’s safety. However, as a result of wind patterns following the disaster, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, its operational criteria for evacuation were exceeded in Iitate. On 22 April 2011, a more than a month later, the entire population (over 6,000 people) of the village was ordered to evacuate by the government. In early June about 1,500 residents still remained, but by August only about 120 residents, mostly elderly, continued to live there. In 2012, according to an official survey, some 1,743 former residents began experiencing growing frustration and instability due to the nuclear crisis and an inability to return to the lives they had lived before the disaster. The Iitate case represents many tragic cases in which Fukushima residents were not only forced to move several times but also exposed to radiation for a substantial period of time as a result of the Japanese government’s utter lack of evacuation planning and Tepco’s cover-up of vital information about the scale of the crisis. Many children and their parents who are the victims of radioactive exposure continue to live with anxiety and fear. Kamanaka Hitomi’s documentary “Little Voices from Fukushima” (2015) follows their stories.

Source :













September 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

From Fukushima: To Despair Properly, To Find the Next Step

By Norma Field

We are ogres of the North 

Those of you from Fukushima, please stand. Hello, everyone! I came here from Fukushima. I came today with many busloads of companions from Fukushima Prefecture and from the places where we’ve evacuated.”1


Meiji Park (Tokyo), September 19, 2011. Many participants from Fukushima dressed in matching yellow T-shirts bearing such words as “Let’s protect our children from radiation” and “We don’t need nuclear power.”


These unassuming words begin the speech that electrified the 60,000-some gathered under an intense autumn sun for an anti-nuke rally in Meiji Park on September 19, 2011. Six months had passed since the triple disaster. The rally was dramatic evidence for a world that had forgotten the first postwar decades that Japanese people could, and indeed do, protest. Mutō’s speech spread over the internet, over the archipelago and into the world. Six months later, she would be heading The Complainants for Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, whose activities represent the most sustained, and to date, only successful effort to seek criminal prosecution of individuals responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

What are the features of that speech that have given it a distinctive place in the annals of postwar Japanese movements? What does it tell us about the kind of leader Mutō has become and the movement she represents?

First of all, it is beautiful. Whether in Japanese or English translation, its lyrical precision invites reproduction in the form of poetry. Take the lines invoking the choices pressed upon people in the early aftermath of the disaster:

To flee, or not to flee.

To eat, or not to eat.


To hang out the wash, or not.

To make children wear masks, or not.


To plough our fields, or not.

To protest to someone, or remain silent.


How deftly they capture the relentless tension of those days, both for those who lived it and for those learning about it. Care of selection makes the activities convincingly representative, as social roles with particular textures of exposure threat. The beauty makes their rehearsal bearable, and the ability to hold these painful experiences in mind creates an opening to action, invoked in some of the most memorable lines of the speech that respond to the warning, “’Do not take us for fools/Do not rob us of life’”:

We are ogres of the North

quietly burning

the fuel of our anger.

Division,” or bundan, continues to be a recurrent word designating one of the thorniest problems afflicting Fukushima. It might be said that TEPCO and the state expend what ingenuity they have in exercising the principle of “divide and conquer.” This speech acknowledges the pain of division, explicitly and implicitly: people have responded in opposing ways to the series of choices, so-called, enumerated above. Because of the pervasive, invasive anxiety produced by the prospect of exposure, neighbors are readily threatened by neighbors’ decisions about mundane and definitive life choices. Mutō draws them together as “ogres of the North” (Tohoku), reminding them of their centuries-old union as dominated peoples capable of mounting resistance against centralized power.

Which brings us back to the modest opening, the insistence that the speaker is one of a large group of suffering, determined people, some of whom have left, others staying behind. As Tomomi Yamaguchi explicates in a thorough discussion of the formation of the Complainants group, Mutō, through her predilection for women’s nonviolent direct action in her antinuclear activism extending back to Chernobyl (1986), is a believer in shared organizational leadership, the principle of the “level field.”2 Katsuya Hirano’s interview reveals how the elements manifested in the September 2011 speech translate into the kind of leadership she has developed in a movement involving men and women in the arena of the law, a nonviolent stage, to be sure, but one of abstraction, impersonality, and temporal delay.

Legal struggles

At present, there are approximately 30 Fukushima-nuclear-disaster-related cases making their way through the courts. They take the form of “group litigation” (shūdan soshō, not to be confused with American-style “class action suits”),3 involving more than ten thousand plaintiffs.4 Among environmental lawsuits, the Okinawa Kadena Air Base Noise Pollution suit (3rd round, 2011), with 22,000 plaintiffs, is said to be the largest, but the Fukushima lawsuits already exceed the 8,000 involved over the years in the Minamata mercury poisoning case, the largest of the “Big Four” pollution cases.5

As an outgrowth of work with the Complainants, Mutō Ruiko helped organize a national group, Hidanren (Gempatsu Jiko Higaisha Dantai Renrakukai, or the Liaison Council of Victims of the Nuclear Disaster). Established in May of 2015, it continues to seek affiliates for mutual support, including pooling the knowledge gathered along the arduous path of legally challenging the state and the nuclear industry. Although many of the names of membership organizations, including “observers,” take the form of “xx [place, often an evacuation location] Nuclear Power Plaintiffs,” others give a more vivid sense of plaintiff identity: The Association for the Trial Seeking to Protect Children from Radiation Exposure; The Association to Protect Evacuee Life; Plaintiffs in the If Only Nuclear Power Had Not Existed Trial; “Give Us Back Our Livelihood, Give Us Back Our Land”: Fukushima Nuclear Power Plaintiffs; Denouncing Nuclear Power Damage: Fukushima Petitioners of Iitate Village. The last-named group is engaged in an ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) procedure outside the courtroom. Individuals and groups, including prefectural governments, have had recourse to ADR in the hopes of swift settlement, Many have been disappointed, however, by TEPCO’s refusal to accept the sums suggested by a national dispute resolution center and ended up going to court.6

Two major categories of claims have emerged from these struggles: compensation for loss, psychological as well as material, and support for continued evacuation. It goes without saying that the government and TEPCO wish to minimize such forms of expenditure, and that that wish is inextricable from the desire to minimize, preferably to deny altogether, the impact of the nuclear disaster, thus safeguarding the role of nuclear power in the Japanese energy mix as well as overseas sales. The migration of the “safety myth” from nuclear power itself to radiation exposure can be traced in the breathtakingly cynical redefinition of safety as measured in air dose rate from the government’s original decontamination goal of 1 mSv per year to up to 20 mSv per year. The threshold of 20 mSv per year, averaged over five years, is the ICRP (International Commission for Radiological Protection) standard for industry workers, not the general public.7 Combining the announcement of compensation cutoffs (for mental anguish and damage to business) with lifting evacuation orders from “preparing-to-lift-evacuation-order zones” and “residency-restricted zones”(most recently, on July 12 of 2016) effectively reinforces the new safety campaign,8 which, moreover, must have completed its work in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It was in September of 2013 that Prime Minister Abe, bidding for the Olympics in London, declared Fukushima to be “under control.” Now Mr. Abe is even suggesting reopening parts of the “difficult-to-return zones.”9 In the meanwhile, compensation payments, like the initial designation of concentric zones of risk/safety, with their inevitable semblance of arbitrariness, have yielded the by-product of suspicion and resentment, in other words, division.10

An especially urgent target of struggle is the cut-off of housing aid, announced for March 2017, to so-called “voluntary” evacuees. Because they left without government orders, they have been eligible only for housing assistance under a general disaster relief law. Their very status as “voluntary” evacuees is the result, of course, of the excruciatingly parsimonious designation of zones warranting departure. The anxiety understandably provoked by general awareness of the sensitivity of children to radioactivity—even or especially among those who have thought themselves unable to leave—has made this a distinctly fraught issue. “Don’t you love Fukushima? Why do you want to hurt it?” is the sort of question leveled at parents who have stayed away.11 The imminent cut-off of housing aid for evacuee families, most of whom have had to maintain two households, means that “parents must now choose between submitting their children to poverty or to radiation exposure.”12

The mission of the Fukushima Complainants

The organization Mutō Ruiko heads, The Complainants for Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, shares the concerns of the civil suits referred to above. What distinguishes it, then? Citizens can file a criminal complaint with the police or prosecutors when they believe that a crime has been committed but has not been pursued by the police or prosecutors. To do so is to insist that responsible parties be identified by public authorities and not just by private citizens who feel they have sustained injuries. In the case of Fukushima, it is a refusal to accept the nuclear disaster, let alone its aftermath, as an act of nature. Unlike the civil suits, compensation is not the object. In the words of the Complainants:

We are people who have had to leave behind our hometowns.

We are people who continue to live, exposed to radiation, in our transformed hometowns.

We are people who suffer, feeling the suffering of our neighbors as our own.

And we are people who seek to put an end to the repetition of the tragic history of this country in which sacrifices are imposed on human beings in the name of the economy, corporations, and the state.


What caused this accident?

Why were actions taken that have augmented the damage?

We must elucidate the truth and halt the damage caused by the continuing disaster.

Those who should be held responsible should take responsibility and make amends for their errors.

We must make use of the resources provided by a democratic society.

In the act of filing our complaint,

from the depths of our anger and sorrow,


As Mutō observes to Hirano, recognition of oneself as a victim demands effort, especially when social conditioning suggests that life and livelihood are more secure if one is numb to exploitation. Without establishing the truth about responsibility, both the prevention of future repetition and mitigation of ongoing harm are hamstrung; without acknowledging victimization, the harm itself remains obscure. These elements are interdependent in the logic of this complaint.

This simple yet profound logic was fleshed out into legal documents bearing the names of 1324 Complainants, ages 7 to 87, all residing in Fukushima at the time of the explosions, and of 33 accused parties, filed in the Fukushima District Public Prosecutors Office. The 33 included officials of TEPCO, heads of relevant government agencies, and medical experts.14 Of these, only 3 remain as defendants in the forthcoming criminal trial. In the Hirano interview, Mutō especially regrets the difficulty of pursuing the responsibility of medical authorities: they have played a leading role in “augmenting the damage” by minimizing health risk, with consequential policy decisions. Filing in Fukushima rather than Tokyo reflected the hope that local government officials might be mindful of their own vulnerable humanity, shared with other residents of the prefecture. In the event, the complaint was moved to Tokyo, lumped with two others, and summarily dismissed on September 9, 2013, the day after Prime Minister Abe secured the 2020 Olympics. 

The Complainants then had recourse to a relatively novel institution, the committee for inquest of prosecution (kensatsu shinsakai), consisting of 11 randomly selected citizens with an attorney serving in an advisory capacity. (Readers may envisage something comparable to the US grand jury, but without prosecutorial involvement.) The requisite majority of 8 found three of the accused “appropriate for indictment,” whereupon the case was sent back to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors, who once again elected not to indict. The last resort of the Complainants was a new committee for inquest of prosecution. In July of 2015, this committee, too, decided in favor of the indictment of three TEPCO executives. This, then, triggered a mandatory indictment, with five attorneys—an unprecedented number—appointed by the Tokyo District Court to serve as a prosecution team.


“We are victims who fight back!” Launch of the Support Group for the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Criminal Proceedings Mutō Ruiko is second from left. (Tokyo, January 30, 2016).

When will the trial actually begin? That is unclear; the prosecution has filed its materials, but the pretrial conference procedure may be protracted. Still, given the demonstrated unwillingness of the public prosecutors to indict under a political regime committed to nuclear restarts, it is a near-miracle that a criminal trial is slated to take place. With the Minamata mercury poisoning case, it was 1976, a quarter of a century after the first signs of disease when the Kumamoto Public Prosecutors indicted the former head of Chisso Corporation and the factory supervisor. It is also the case that preceding civil lawsuits yielded a Kumamoto District Court decision in 1973 that may prove especially relevant to the Fukushima case: in response to Chisso Corporation’s argument that because the appearance of Minamata Disease in Kumamoto was unprecedented, it could not have anticipated the health impact of its procedures, the court held that a chemical factory had a special “duty of care” with respect to the impact of effluents on the lives and health of surrounding residents.15

The Minamata precedent, legally, politically, and socially, is, however, mostly sobering for Fukushima. Even a welcome, newly awakened sense of empathy among victims of environmental disaster has its distracting, potentially harmful aspects: as Mutō makes emphatically clear in her conversation with Hirano, mercury poisoning and radioactive contamination must not be conflated. Whatever the good will underlying proposals to show support by adopting Fukushima produce in Minamata area school lunches, not only is there no guarantee that only uncontaminated items will be shipped, but such gestures feed into the safety myth by accepting the rhetoric of “eat and support” (tabete ouen) and “reputational damage.” More generally, there are worries that the divisions and protracted pain of Minamata are being repeated in Fukushima.16 The trial will certainly result in the disclosure of valuable information for the public record. Given that the tsunami has buttressed TEPCO’s insistence that what happened was an unforeseeable natural disaster, internal evidence indicating willful dismissal of recommendations for taking protective measures for the sake of economizing will be key.17

Underscoring, by unfortunate contrast, the Complainants’ unusual victory in securing criminal prosecution is the recent (June 23, 2016), swift decision by a committee for inquest of prosecution on a separate complaint launched by the Fukushima Complainants to the Fukushima prefectural police in 2013, arguing that the continued release of extraordinary volumes of contaminated water into the Pacific constituted a pollution crime. The police refused to charge TEPCO executives, and the judicial inquest committee concurred. For the time being, it seems unlikely that unfettered contamination of the ocean by a range of radionuclides, presumably a matter of international concern, will be examined in the courtroom.


To find the next step: despair and truth

(1) Not a day goes by when I am not tormented by shame and guilt that “my continuing to teach here is the cause for children to be exposed to radiation.”

(2) The words of well-meaning outsiders—“It’s dangerous,” “Why don’t you try to escape?” bring only more pain to those who have stayed behind. Someone even said to me, “You’re the one who’s murdering the kids.”

(3) I can no longer meet with the friends and acquaintances I’ve made…. Some of them I’ve lost. Because I evacuated, a psychological gulf, a division, has set in between me and friends and acquaintances who didn’t or couldn’t.18

Especially in the process of soliciting the first round of Complainants—anyone, regardless of age or nationality, residing in Fukushima in March 2011—Mutō and her partners took pains to support self-examination. One record of that “conscious effort to become aware of [one’s] victimhood” is a selection of fifty statements by Complainants from that first round, collected and published in 2013 The presentation is a novel one, by age of writer at the time of the triple disaster, ranging from 7 to 87. Beginning with its evident respect for losses suffered by children, this arrangement of expressions of grief, anger, and anxiety becomes a richly concrete composite of life stages gone badly awry thanks to the nuclear disaster itself and its handling in the continuing aftermath.

Fukushima Radiation: Will You Still Say No Crime Was Committed? Statements by 50 Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (ebook, 2015)

If courageous effort is required to name oneself a victim willing to accuse others of a crime, then additional effort becomes necessary in order to reveal the grounds for that decision in a publication. Of the fifty statements in this booklet, the writers of 26 are presented anonymously, through initials, place of residence or evacuation, occupation, or no identifying information whatsoever except for gender. Interestingly, 33 of the writers are female, 17, male. Of the former, 24 are anonymous in contrast to 2 of the latter. Was there a striking preponderance of female Complainants, or did they tend to write more vividly, tying the harm they had suffered to their life experiences? And having permitted publication, why were they proportionately more inclined to seek anonymity?

To flee, or not to flee” was the first example Mutō gave in her 2011 speech of pressing decisions forced on Fukushima residents. The heavy consequences of choices made are exemplified in the excerpts from three statements quoted above. Examples (1) and (2) show the risk incurred in choosing to stay and, especially, continuing to work with children. The first is by Yamauchi Naoko, a special needs teacher; the second, by Sasaki Michinori, a Buddhist priest and head of a kindergarten associated with his temple, himself the father of young children. (Mutō recounts Sasaki’s asking Dr. Yamashita Shun’ichi, the prefectural medical adviser summoned from Nagasaki—

he of laugh-and-ye-shall-not-be-touched-by-radiation fame—whether he would bring his own grandchildren to play in the sandboxes of Nihonmatsu; Sasaki and especially his wife Ruri play key roles in Kamanaka Hitomi’s documentary, Little Voices from Fukushima.19) Example (3) comes from a statement by an anonymous woman who has evacuated to Hiroshima with her child, leaving her husband to work in Fukushima. Their appearance together in these pages is precious because even though they have given opposite answers to that first, critical question, they have not turned against each other: all three are Complainants, willing to attest to the harm inflicted on them and in the case of the first two, continuing anxiety about staying on.


Little Voices from Fukushima by Kamanaka Hitomi (2015)

Five years after the beginning of the catastrophe, and one year after Hirano’s interview of Mutō, the tension between those who left and those who stayed behind has only grown. For those who stay on, and especially for those with children, any suggestion of health risks is ever more unwelcome. (There is yet another group, those who give up and return, who may become the most ardent believers in Fukushima safety.20) “Reconstruction” seems undeniably real, embodied in the dump trucks hurtling along with their loads of soil carved out of mountainsides to replace what had been removed in decontamination21 and construction materials for the convenience stores and community centers to anchor the replacement habitats. Should we pause over the young women who direct traffic along the dusty routes, without the protection of even the most casual of masks? No doubt this is a precious form of employment in the region. Why should such forward-looking efforts be hampered by the possibility of ill health for who knows how many years hence? What if the road now traversed mainly by dump trucks were to become part of the Olympic torch route?22

Fukushima health anxiety intertwines two potent strands of dread: (1) fear of illness and (2) fear of discrimination, tracing its way back to the hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Together, they sustain a regime of mutual surveillance and self-censorship as pervasive and penetrating as anything the state could wish for. Of course, we should note the role of radioactivity’s inaccessibility to our senses and the delayed appearance of health effects in shaping the ways in which anxiety is expressed—or not expressed. Kawai Hiroyuki, a lead attorney for the Fukushima Complainants, points to the peculiar lacuna—“like the missing center piece of a jigsaw puzzle”—at the heart of all Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) cases and the lawsuits involving more than 10,000 plaintiffs: they all concern compensation for property or mental anguish, but the reason why the plaintiffs seek compensation for their property and mental anguish, that is, fear of illness, goes unaddressed, stymied by the insistence on the part of medical experts that “it is difficult to think” (kangae nikui) that there is a causal relationship between manifest evidence of illness, especially childhood thyroid cancer, with the nuclear accident.


Nuclear Japan by Kawai Hiroyuki (2014) Kawai standing to the left of collaborating attorney Kaito Yūichi


Kawai made this observation at a remarkable event, the press conference announcing the launch of the 311 Thyroid Cancer Family Association on March 12, 2016.23 Three advisers of the group—a former local politician and a physician, along with Kawai—made this an exceptionally informative public event.24 But it was above all the format of the occasion that made it unforgettable. Billed as a “coming out” (kamingu auto), appropriately enough, since patients and their families had not appeared in public, the press conference had journalists gathered in a room in Tokyo, and two fathers appearing via Skype from Fukushima—but with only their torsos showing and their voices altered. To facilitate Q&A, one was dressed mostly in white, hence, referred to as “the person in white,” and the other became “the person in black.” The fathers recounted with careful, almost painful, restraint their and their children’s experiences through diagnosis and surgery, what they were told and not told. They wanted to know, if the nuclear disaster wasn’t the cause, what was responsible for their children’s disease?


Press conference announcing launch of the 311 Fukushima Thyroid Cancer Family Association. March 12, 2016. Tokyo and Fukushima. (Source)


This was meant to be, and in context, indeed was, a hopeful beginning: the beginning of the end to an isolation compounding the devastation of one’s child’s serious illness following a catastrophe. And we must imagine the courageous determination required of these fathers to speak to the press.

And yet. Why could it happen only in this guise? What historical experiences (the atomic bombings, of course, but also Hansen’s Disease, tuberculosis, etc.) and social structures have made it apparently necessary for victims to present themselves as if they were the wrongdoers? No one should be forced into disclosing a stigmatizing condition, but how can the condition be addressed and the stigma challenged, if enjoining secrecy is the kindest solution society is prepared to offer?25

In 2012, Hiroshima hibakusha Matsumoto Akiko wondered, “Like most children, I did as I was told and didn’t let anyone know I was a hibakusha. What if all of us hibakusha hadn’t tried to keep our identities secret? Would Fukushima have happened?”26


There is a remarkable moment in Hirano’s interview of Mutō Ruiko when she embarks on an elaboration of why she doesn’t want a movement motivated by fear, even if “radiation is … terrifying.” She goes on to say, “I want to take on despair, too, and despair properly.” She deflects Hirano’s invitation to describe this as a process leading to hope. Rather, she insists on the importance of knowing: “I’m the kind of person who wants to know. I want to know the truth.”

What might it mean to embrace despair, despair over “what our country is doing to us”—denying, in effect, that something irreversible had happened, thereby obstructing the possibility of genuine remediation, a remediation that would put life first. As time passes, this denial drives more and more weary people to collude in the denial of their victimization and to continue to place themselves and their children at risk. Mutō observes, but does not criticize such people. In those exhausting but suddenly hopeful days when the trauma was still fresh, when 60,000 people turned out to say good-bye to nuclear power, she had urged, “However cruel our path, let us not avert our gaze, let us support each other.”

Born on August 15, she was given the name Ruiko (類子) by parents who associated that day with “humanity.”


My warm thanks go to Kats Hirano for letting me participate in this project and to Mark Selden for his inordinate editorial patience. I thank Mutō Ruiko for living as she does. I also want to thank people living in Fukushima or northern Kantō and Osaka (as evacuees) who have shared their stories. Whenever I think about them and others I will never meet, I want to say, “I’m sorry for how I speak and write about you, even as I know that I can’t ever fully know what you are experiencing.”



For the full text of the speech, see here; translation by Emma Parker, modified.


Mutō Ruiko and the Movement of Fukushima Residents to Pursue Criminal Charges against TEPCO Executives and Government Officials, APJ-Japan Focus (July 1, 2012).


In Japanese civil procedure, there is no provision for class action, which, in the U.S., makes it possible for one party to represent an entire class of similarly injured parties, identified and not identified; in “group litigation,” each plaintiff is separately identified and damages, if awarded, are limited to the injuries specific to each plaintiff. My thanks to Lawrence Repeta for clarification.


“ ‘Genkokudan zenkoku renrakukaigi’ kessei 9700nin sanka,” Mainichi shimbun (February 13, 2016).


Kakudaisuru Fukushima gempatsu soshō, kuni to Tōden no baishōgaku fueru kanōsei mo,” Reuters (August 17, 2015). On the “Big Four” cases, see Frank Upham, Law and Social Change in Postwar Japan (Harvard UP, 1987).


For example, TEPCO rejected sums proposed by the center six times over two years and nine months after 20,000 residents of Namie Township filed for compensation for mental anguishTEPCO. “[Shinsai kara 5nen] ‘Songai baishō’ ADR shinri ga chōkika Tōden wakaian o kyohi ‘Shikumi no keigaika’ shiteki mo,” Fukushima minpō (August 2, 2016).


See the ICRP Guidance for Occupational Exposure. Recall the tearful resignation of Tokyo University professor Kosako Toshiso, a government nuclear adviser, when the government announced 20 mSv as a safe level of exposure for school children in April 2011. There is also a “Minami Sōma Demand to Retract the 20 mSv Standard” lawsuit. See the support group website for vivid accounts of dealings between municipal representatives and officials of the Environment Ministry, in which the bureaucrats of the central government explain to the locals that they are presenting “explanations” and not engaging in a “consultative” meeting.


Kakudaisuru Fukushima gempatsu soshō; see also David McNeill and Androniki Christodoulou, “Inside Fukushima’s Potemkin Village: Naraha,” APJ-Japan Focus (October 19, 2015).


Kikan konnan kuiki, natsu made ni minaoshian Ichibu kaijo mo Shushō hyōmei,” Asahi shimbun (March 10, 2016).


Gempatsu jiko 5nen, baishō meguri jūmin bundan, onaji machi de kotonaru kyūsai,” Nihon keizai shimbun (March 2, 2016). This is a separate topic for investigation, but it is worth noting how, on the one hand, the state and TEPCO have promoted differential, even discriminatory treatment in paying out compensation, while, on the other, pushed debris incineration throughout the country and more recently proposed “recycling” radioactive soil accumulated through decontamination in road construction projects throughout the country: in other words, reward differentially (on grounds that appear purely arbitrary) but burden equally, in the name of national solidarity or cost-savings (the recycling proposal).


Stated by Morimatsu Akiko, whose husband has stayed in Koriyama while she lives in Osaka with their two children, from the floor of the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the Hokkaido Religious Association for Peace (Hokkaido Shūkyōsha Heiwa Kyōgikai, Sapporo, November 7, 2015). Morimatsu has become co-chair of the Genkokudan Zenkoku Renrakukai (National Liaison Council of Plaintiffs), with 9700 members.


Nakate Seiichi, head, “Plaintiffs for Nuclear Disaster Compensation, Hokkaido” in his presentation at the Hokkaido Religious Association for Peace anniversary meeting.



From the website of the Complainants. This is part of the “statement” at the time of the second-round filing, with 13,262 Complainants from all around Japan. (There were 1324 first-round Complainants, those resident in Fukushima at the time of the triple disaster.) Translated by N. Field.


For a partial list in English, see here; full list, Complainants’ website.


See Japan Institute of Constitutional Law discussion here. For an informative survey of how the state has been unconcerned with maintaining even the appearance of prioritizing citizen life over corporate protection, see Yoshinaga Fusako and Gavan McCormack, “Minamata: The Irresponsibility of the Japanese State,” APJ-Japan Focus (December 10, 2004).


Minamatabyō, kōshiki kakunin kara 60nen Naze Fukushima de mo, onaji koto ga kurikaesareru no ka,” Huffington Post (May 20, 2016).


See source and supplementary materials for Soeda Takafumi, Gempatsu to ōtsunami: Keikoku o hōmutta hitobito (Iwanami Shinsho, 2014).


Statements #32, 14, and 10 from Fukushima Radiation: Will You Still Say No Crime Was Committed? Statements by 50 Complainants for Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. Translated by Norma Field and Matthew Mizenko (2015). This is an electronic version in English of the print booklet from Kinyobi Publishers, Kore demo tsumi o toenai no desuka! Fukushima Gempatsu Kokusodan 50nin no chinjutsusho (2013). The English text updates the original with a “sequel” to the afterword by Mutō Ruiko in response to the various decisions of public prosecutors and committees of inquest for prosecution.


Shuttling between Fukushima and Belarus, Kamanaka’s documentary provides a rare glimpse of a lived contrast between post-Chernobyl and post-Fukushima policies. Incidentally, Mutō did the Japanese voiceover for Dr. Valentina Smolnikova, pediatrician and founder of “Children of Chernobyl.”


Fukushima fukkōron Taidan: boshi hinan to kikan o sasaeru,” Mainichi shimbun (February 4, 2016).


It is commonplace now to observe that the neologism josen (“decontamination”), “removal of radioactively contaminated materials” should have been isen, “transfer of radioactively contaminated materials.” In any case, the materials are stored in “flexible container bags”—glorified garbage bags—and stacked five deep and covered over with tarp for rain protection. While they await an intermediate storage site, they have begun to split and sprout and sport gas-venting pipes.


Seika rirē ‘Kokudō 6gō’ de Shushō ni Futaba, Futaba Shōyō Kōsei ga yōbō,” Fukushima minyū (April 5, 2016).



The press conference (in Japanese) may be watched on youtube. A transcript of Kawai’s introductory remarks may be found here. The website of the Family Association is here. In addition to all of his nuclear-related legal activities, Kawai has recently made an acclaimed documentary, Nuclear Japan, in part as an effort to educate judges along with the general public. A young woman who has had thyroid cancer surgery speaks on camera, though without disclosing her name, to Ian Thomas Ash; she hopes to encourage other young people to be examined. Toward the end, she reveals that her boyfriend’s parents urged them to break up after her illness was discovered. Marriage discrimination is alive and well.


Chiba Chikako’s words are transcribed here, and Dr. Ushiyama Motomi’s words here. Dr. Ushiyama states that the commonly held view that thyroid cancer develops slowly and is easily treated through surgery is not applicable to children, and she also counters the “screening effect” and “overdiagnosis” interpretations of the cases confirmed through the Fukushima Prefectural Health Survey: of the 116 patients (18 and under at the time of 3.11) who have undergone surgery, over 90% had tumors that exceeded the minimal size recommended for surgery or, even if the tumors were small, they had moved on to the lymph nodes or metastasized to the lungs. For a thoroughgoing analysis of the childhood thyroid cancer controversy, see Piers Williamson, “Demystifying the Official Discourse on Childhood Thyroid Cancer in Fukushima,”APJ-Japan Focus (December 5, 2014); for a study taking into account various ills as reported by hospitals post 3.11, see Eiichiro Ochiai, “The Human Consequences of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant Accidents,” APJ-Japan Focus (November 21, 2015); for the long view on impediments thrown up in the study of radiation and health effects, hearkening back to the redoubtable (and beleaguered) Alice Stewart, see Gayle Greene, “Science with a Skew: The Nuclear Industry after Chernobyl and Fukushima,” APJ-Japan Focus (December 25, 2011); finally, on a factor that is stunningly under-remarked even though it appears in the 2006 National Academy of Sciences BEIR (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) VII report—the disproportionately greater risk faced by women and girls exposed to radioactivity—see Mary Olson, “Atomic Radiation Is More Harmful to Women,” Nuclear Information and Resource Service (2011).


Of course, “kindness” is not the only quality in play. The police have insisted on preserving the anonymity of the names of the 19 victims killed (along with 26 injured) on July 26, 2016, at a home for people with mental disabilities on the grounds of an “elevated need” to preserve family privacy, together with alleged communication of wishes for “consideration” from the families. Quite apart from the fact that any family suffering a traumatic crime might want privacy, the police policy of maintaining anonymity for victims with disabilities surely warrants debate. See the thoughtful editorial in the Mainichi shimbun, “Sagamihara jiken Tokumei ga toikakeru mono” (August 6, 2016).


In Skype call to an undergraduate class at the University of Chicago; reconfirmed in June 2016; with thanks to Arthur Binnard for connecting us.

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September 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment