Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the 11 men and women profiled in A Different Kind of Luxury have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives. Based on Andy Couturier's popular articles in The Japan Times, this lushly designed volume has a wealth of stories about real people who have created an abundance of time for contemplation, connecting with the natural world, and contributing to their communities. In their success is a lesson for us all: live a life that matters. Read an excerpt of the book here or here. Read a review of the book here, here, or here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Interview with Japanese Anti Nuclear Activist

Hi.  If this is your first visit to the blog, please check out the book excerpts and reviews first (above).  This post deals with the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan, and is an interview of a man, Koichi Honda, who is very active in fighting the electric utilities who still want to run nuclear plants in Japan, or even build new ones.  We sent this group "Sayonara Nuclear Power" $450 to help them copy posters and flyers for a series of protests at the Iikata nuclear plant in Shikoku. The money was donated by many people who attended my public book reading events this year.  Thank you. You can't imagine how much this money helps.

In A Different Kind of Luxury I did not profile Koichi Honda, but he is an associate of Atsuko Watanabe, who I do profile in Chapter 3.  She's been an anti-nuclear activist for 30 years, joining with with this man  in many protests.  I detail one of these protests in the book.  If you want to help with money, PLEASE do so by sending a postal money order to Honda care of Atsuko Watanabe.  Her address is Tokushima Ken, Kamikatsu-Cho, Fukuhara, Kami-Yoko-Mine 17, JAPAN 771

The webpage for Sayonara Nuclear Power (in Japanese), is here.

If you want to write to Honda, his email is hondak@mb.pikara.ne.jp  But please only contact him if you are able to help out, not to just ask general questions, since he's a very busy man.  If you have signatures (see below for details on this) send please in mass, not just one at a time, or emails, again in mass you can send it to his email address.  

Honda served as a city councilman in Tokushima city (where I used to live) and was a candidate for mayor.  He's now an organic rice farmer.  I wrote about him in a blog post last year.   Here's the interview:

Andy:  Has the government given up on trying to build nuclear power stations?

Koichi Honda: They will never give up trying to build new power plants.

Andy: What is the situation with the power plant in Shikoku now? (Honda lives on the island of Shikoku, the smallest of the four main islands, and where Andy lived for four years.  It’s across from Osaka.)
Koichi Honda: Anti-nuclear activist and
former city council member in Tokushima Japan

Koichi Honda: Currently of the three reactors two are idle for “routine maintenance” and safety checks, and one is operating.  By law, the prefectural governor of Ehime Prefecture must approve the restarting of a reactor after it has been idled.  The power company has to ask the local government for permission.  Right now, the Ehime governor doesn’t think the people will accept a restart.  In February of next year the third reactor (there are three reactors as part of the Iikata complex) is scheduled to shut down.  We are taking a local strategy since it’s much more difficult to get the national government to change. 

Andy: What can people in the US do to help with this?

Koichi Honda: Send us a message, that the people of the world will not accept the re-starting of reactors in Japan.  That we get support from people all over the world will be very helpful.  Signatures of many people, if you can get them, is really helpful.

Andy: And what about agricultural products from your prefecture [Tokushima]?

Koichi Honda: Sorry to say, but there is no food in Japan that is not contaminated.  None.  It’s just a question of whether there is a lot of radiation, or a little.   From our area, our own experts [that is to say scientists allied with the anti-nuclear movement]—the ones with very very good measuring machines—say say that the radiation in food products from Tokushima prefecture are very low, but nowhere in Japan is “0”.  We have nothing to do but accept this. It is better to think that it’s time for us Japanese to accept our responsibility, our duty, and eat the foods we produce here.  The very rich, the really  rich people, they can afford to get all of their food from overseas

Andy:  Why do you say “duty” and “responsibility”?

Koichi Honda: Because we Japanese failed to stop nuclear power.  Nuclear radiation never gets extinguished. [the word Honda uses here is: “kienai”  which is a term used for flame which can be put out, or not put out in this case.]

Andy: And what is happening now in Fukushima?

Koichi Honda: The government told people in certain radiuses--10 or 20 or 30 kilometers--to leave.  They became refugees.  But inside this radius, certain areas have higher and certain areas have lower levels of radiation. 

Andy:  Is the government giving them money?

Koichi Honda: Yes, but it’s very little, about $1200 a month for a family [prices are much higher in Japan of course].  And that gets too expensive for the government and the power company, so it is saying that “if you want” you can move back to certain areas.

Andy: One thing I don’t understand is that the US military ordered evacuations in a much larger area…

Koichi Honda: The US army knew the wind patterns and let their people know where was dangerous.  The Japanese government knew this as well, but it hid these facts from people.

Andy: Wow.  So effectively the Japanese government is being less responsible, and less transparent than the US military?!!  That’s hard to believe!...  So, my next question is how are ordinary people in Japan responding?  Will this change politics in Japan? 

Koichi Honda:  Ordinary people are being told by official scientists, and government ministers and by the official media, and the large corporations who own the media who have ties to the power companies, all of them are saying every single day to people that it’s going to be safe if the radiation is at “this level”.  We [in the citizen’s movement] can find out on blogs that certain children are suffering, that blood is coming out of their noses, and not stopping, but if you don’t follow these blogs, perhaps you don’t know. For example, there was an area where all the elementary schools were evacuated, and when the government said it was OK to return if you want to, 2/3 of the students returned, and 1/3 did not.   So many people are not changing their views, and the government and the ruling parties are all solidly pro-nuclear. 

Andy: So what is your group’s strategy?  What is the plan for the anti-nuclear movement?

Koichi Honda: There will be a large nationwide parliamentary election in 2 years.  The Jimin party, the Minshu party and the Komei party are all pro nuclear. [respectively, the “liberal democrats” in power for most of the post-war period—hard right; the “democratic” party, currently in power, but only marginally to the left of the liberal democrats; and a large nominally Buddhist party] Only the Shamin party and the communists are against nuclear power.   So our strategy is to work individually on each candidate to have them make their stance on nuclear power clear, and to tell them that we will not vote for them individually if they are pro-nuclear.  But they are getting huge payoffs from the electrical companies.

Andy: but why, why do Japanese people still believe these lies?

Koichi Honda: I myself don’t understand.  Why hasn’t there been a big change after such a big accident?  They hear the news on NHK [the national broadcasting service, like the BBC] and they think whatever is said there is correct.  The politicians say “we must continue our research and improve our technology and nuclear power will be safe.”  It’s really incredibly unfortunate and sad.

Andy:  Are people cutting back on electricity use?

Koichi Honda:  The government said that starting Dec 1, everyone should reduce their electricity use by 10%, it’s a national campaign, and that people should heat with kerosene and not electricity.  The large outdoor neon signs for the pachinko gambling parlors are dark.   

Andy: Only ten percent?!  Japan is the most electricity intensive country in the world that I have ever seen!

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