by Ueno Yosuke, member
Hanamaki Church, Iwate Prefecture
On Sept. 11, 2011, following the East Japan Earthquake (in March), two tents opposing nuclear energy were put up in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry in Tokyo. People from all over Japan, as well as people from around the world, have visited this site, where information about nuclear energy and radioactivity is displayed and discussed. While the national government has charged the group with unlawful occupation of the space, there is another group of people who fervently support them. This group consists of mothers, grandmothers, and other women from Fukushima. As a group, they are quietly continuing their appeal, “We do not need atomic energy.”
As one who knew nothing about atomic energy and radioactivity at the time, my anxiety grew stronger daily following the disaster. For the first time I realized that ignorance could prevent me from protecting myself. From that point on, I spent every day checking the Internet, reading books, even going as far as Fukushima to attend lectures to gain a basic knowledge of nuclear energy and radioactivity. While being told that there was no danger, the more I learned about the effects of radioactivity, the more concern I felt. Wondering if others simply did not understand, or whether I myself was confused, I felt a strong need to share what I was learning and feeling. The SCF answered that need. SCF members listened to the information that I had obtained and provided opportunities for me to see other material and discuss my concerns. However, in the midst of the varied understanding and opinions, I began to feel frustration, trying to develop my own view regarding nuclear energy and radioactivity. One day a friend told me about the tent village, so in January 2012 I made my first visit, together with some SCF members.
Among the participants, there was one from Fukushima who had a friend working at the nuclear power station as well as ones who were abroad at the time of the disaster. Thus, since we had such different experiences with nuclear power, most of us had not really come to a firm position on the subject.
Regarding the tent village itself, it took considerable courage for me to visit the first time because I had imagined a tense atmosphere and confrontation. However, after visiting a second and third time, we became attracted to the people we met there. We were greeted by different women on each visit, but each of them had a gentle spirit and would engage us in discussion without pressure. When asked direct questions, such as “Is Tokyo safe?” or “What’s wrong with nuclear energy?” they would simply say, “Please investigate and study the issue. Then things will become clear for you.” Their calm response made a deep impression on me.
In April 2014, about ten of us visited the tent village. It was my fourth visit. This time I met a woman who had moved to Tokyo from Fukushima so that she could participate in the sit-in. When speaking of the conditions of the sit-in and her state of mind, there was no doubt of her strong opposition to atomic energy. On the other hand, she herself wonders how long the sit-in will continue and said that she would like to quit if she could. After all, she is ready to return to the normal lifestyle she knew before the earthquake. Seeing this woman, who has given up her comfort to engage in this sit-in, caused me to feel embarrassment and shame.
Reflectively, she also said, “Because I am here, I have been able to meet many people. When I realize that the nuclear plants would probably be back in operation if it were not for this anti-nuclear movement, I feel that though slight, there has been some change.” Although the end is not in sight and the heartbreaking sit-in continues, I feel that I am hearing hope. I sincerely believe that the tent village will continue to encourage us to confront the nuclear disaster, and as long as there is nuclear energy, it will remain an essential site.
This spring I returned to my home in Iwate Prefecture. While remaining open to the thoughts of others, from now on I want to follow the example of those women who have so strongly influenced me and find ways to express my thoughts and concerns in concrete ways. Even if those concerns are not expressed through direct action, I believe they will be connected with the thoughts of those women.
Further comments by SCF Director Noda Taku
Following the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, day and night brought many anxious young people to SCF, which adjoins the parsonage in which I live. One of those young people was Ueno Yosuke. With him as a leader, we began a seminar that was held twice a month at SCF. The decision to visit the tent village was the result of the prayers of this group. The richness of SCF is not simply in the smiles shared together but also in sharing anxiety and pain in rich church fellowship. Recently, the tent that these women and elderly people had occupied was destroyed by a right-wing group, but their protest against nuclear power continues. (Tr. JS)
— From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), July 2014 issue
Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko
脱原発テン トひろば訪問。SCFの活動より 上野洋介
２０１４年4月に、10人ほどでテ ントひろばを訪問しました。4度目の訪問 です。今回お会いしたのは、