Today, January 14, 2014, marks the 1000th consecutive day of anti-nuclear protest in Japan – virtually on the doorstep of Kyushu Electric Power Company’s main office. Led by 67-year-old Yukinobu Aoyagi, The anti-nuke sit-in began in April 2011, one month after the devastating Fukushima meltdowns.
Round the clock, through icy winters and searing hot summers, protesters unflinchingly demand Japan cease using nuclear energy as a source of power. Organizer Aoyagi stands firm in his belief that “Humans cannot live side by side with nuclear energy,” the Asahi Shimbun reports. “Never again should lives be threatened and livelihoods deprived… Human dignity is important to me.” Aoyagi’s reference is closely tied with to the literal (and continual) fall-out from the Fukushima Daiichi plant nearly 3 years ago. Many industries, such as fishing and farming have been devastated by the triple meltdown following the massive earthquake and tsunami. As quiet as it’s kept, reports of adults and children falling ill with various cancers and other diseases are on the rise, despite evacuation efforts from the Fukushima region.
According to Asahi, the former student of theology and social science instructor is a long time activist well known for his support of ethnic Korean and other foreign workers in Japan since the 70’s. The impetus for Yukinobu Aoyagi’s most recent rallying cry stems from an email he received from a hibakusha (survivor of the 1945 Nagasaki atomic bombing) shortly after the catastrophic events of March ‘11. The victim expressed his regret, for although he opposed nuclear weapons, he remained indifferent to the use of nuclear energy.
Reminiscent of the US Occupy Movements, protesters have shielded themselves with canopies, courtesy of supporter donations – which have been replaced 3 times in as many years. The report claims that some of the die-hard demonstrators have been on the scene since the sit-in’s inception and that several have suffered dramatic weight loss during the sweltering summer months. The use of oil stoves barely staves off the bitter chill during the winter. Their tireless efforts haven’t been in vain however. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 individuals have signed petitions in support of the anti-nuke protest including certain Kyushu shareholders, nuclear lawsuit plaintiffs and concerned citizens.
Although Kyushu Electric refused to directly comment on the sit-in, a company official has allegedly stated, “Many people have reservations about nuclear power. We take their concerns seriously and try to gain an understanding for our operations.”
Time is of the essence for Japan’s anti-nuclear movement as the Nuclear Regulation Authority is expected to complete safety screenings for Kyushu Electric’s Genkai and Sendai nuclear plants this year. The Abe administration plans to have idle reactors up and running once they are regarded as safe, Asahi reports. In response, Aoyagi declares, “We will continue to declare our intention. We do not believe nuclear reactors should be restarted.”