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Shioya’s Struggle against Fukushima Radiation

SNA (Shioya) — One small town’s desperate fight to prevent their community becoming a dump for highly radioactive materials from Fukushima.


Narrator: These have been sacred mountains to the Japanese since the 7th century, when they first opened up to civilization. They once provided gold for the Great Buddha statue of Nara. Their history snakes into the centuries and the area maintains its pristine natural beauty. The Shinto Priest Tatsuro Waki can trace his family history back for 42 generations. They have been leaders in this local community for more than a thousand years. Mr. Waki now cares for a number of local Shinto shrines, as his ancestors have done for centuries.

Tatsuro Waki: The Japanese notion of nature and religion is that there is a god dwelling in all things in nature. Because we subsist on nature, preserving it is crucial. The philosophy that we recognize gods in nature and that we subsist on the gifts of nature is the fundamental philosophy of Shinto.

Narrator: But in this place, Shioya of Tochigi Prefecture, near where the majestic Mt. Takahara dominates the landscape. The Japanese central government has suggested making a permanent disposal site for highly radioactive materials from the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. The local people and municipal administration, who have been given no voice in the central government decision have expressed their outrage through protest signs placed all over the town.

Yukio Funayama: I have objected to the government’s proposal every day on the streets of this town for nine months now. My impression is that 90% of the town’s residents are against the government’s policy. Some people object but cannot express their opinions. So, I believe that 90% of the people are against building the permanent disposal site in Shioya.

Narrator: The local residents have turned a community center into a protest campaign headquarters, where they discuss strategies of resistance over snacks and green tea.

Makiko Kano: Firstly, it is hard to believe what the government says, that there will be no safety problems at the site. Frankly, even if there were no safety problems, I’m emotionally against having it next to Mt. Takahara, the mountain from which famous spring water flows. Residents of Shioya have deep affinity to these places. So our feelings are strongly against having this facility.

Narrator: Five years have passed since the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But the social and environmental damage of its radiation release expands even today. For the people of Shioya, they are now struggling to ensure that these clear waters, that they have inherited through the centuries, are not left poisoned by radiation in the time of their grandchildren and beyond.

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