Social movements: Anti-nuclear movements in Fukushima

by Jun Yasukawa

In March 11, 2011, a huge earthquake and tsunami occurred and wide range of Tohoku was damaged. Those damages were mostly due to the enormous tsunami, but there was another big problem. It is the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. It was a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima 1 Nuclear Plant, after the disaster of Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It is said that it is the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster, which happened in 1986. Because of this nuclear problem, anti-nuclear movements occurred not only in Japan, but also in all over the world. People all over the world once again recognized the danger of the nuclear plants and the risk that they have toward citizens. On March 12, 2011, about 60,000 Germans lined up on the street, forming a human chain that is about 45-km long, from Stuttgart to the Neckarwestheim power plant. Also, on March 14, 2011, about 110,000 people protested in 450 German towns. During this social movement, opinion poll was conducted and it indicated that 80% of Germans opposed the extension of nuclear power by the government. There are many other anti-nuclear social movements all over the world, such as the ones by 2,000 anti-nuclear protesters in Taiwan and Switzerland. Of course, this is only few cases of anti-nuclear movements, and there are a lot other ones also around the world.

Although the fact that this many people all over the world protest against nuclear power plants, the reality is that we need to depend on nuclear power. That is because it is able to generate big amount of power and if we are not able use nuclear power, there might be a lack in power. Right now, all the nuclear plants in Japan are stopped, but it took long time to stop it, because Tokyo Electric Power Company hesitated to stop it.

I think that almost all the people around the world oppose or have a negative image towards nuclear power plants. However, it seems like those voices are weaker than government’s and companies’ voices, despite the fact that there are way more number of people. Since government and big companies have authorities and powers, it may be a natural thing. However, it is very unfair because unclear power problem is an issue that is deeply related to our life. So I strongly think that our voices need to be heard more. And I hope that government, electric power companies, and other top authorities will compromise and work together with citizens, and we all should seek for our bright future.


The New York Times March 8 2012, “Japan’s Nuclear Energy Industry Nears Shutdown, at Least for Now”

BBC News, March 26 2011, “Germany stages anti-nuclear marches after Fukushima”

Why are social movements influential for society?

 by Mayu Uehara

Social movements have been worked to change the structure and environment of society. The famous one is the American Civil Rights Movement in1950s to 1960s and ‘ I have a dream’ speech which Martin Luther King spoke have been passed its story down from generation to generation. Social movements are occurred many times in Japan as well; such as demo for stop working nuclear power plant, problem of U.S military staying in Okinawa and so on. A little while ago, huge demo, which were occurred in China and provided economical impacts to Japan, were also huge social movement. From these social movements, I found there are two features of it and they are about activists and situation. These features make social movements having huge power to change society.

First, activists are not wealthy but socially weak. They often don’t have much power to against social structure. For example, demo in China were incredibly intense and violent and most of them were younger who work at factories with low payment. From my point of view, the reason why they exploded their emotion that much were because they haven’t had enough chances to speak out their complaint and also they have lived under stresses. As other example, the activists of the American Civil Rights Movements were mostly black people who had discriminated by society itself. We can observe that people who try to change structures of society are mostly in powerless position.

Secondly, I think that social movements seldom occur suddenly but they are occurred when people’s stress reached the top and they think they can’t stand any more. We can see this from the social movements in Fukushima. When nuclear power plants were working peacefully, there were not any complaints in Fukushima from its citizens. After they exploded and people who lived close to it were prohibited, they showed anger to government and leaders of corporate. At that point, they were not social movement there. Fukushima citizens got together for social movements when government tried to use nuclear power plant again. They claimed, ‘ We can’t stand being quiet any more. We can’t just look on government’s movement without doing anything.’ Their efforts influence political policy and now most of Japanese party state about finish depending on nuclear power plant in the future. I think this is because government truly felt their angers and also pressure from society.

Above all, for rich people, they can have choices to avoid unpleasant situation by using money, but in contrary, the weak people have to remain under the situation without any choices, therefore, they tend to live under stress and hardly with satisfaction. The more local people have stresses, the more social movements are bigger. Also, many times they are certain leads which stimulate them to explode their complaints. Social movement’s features are these two which I mentioned and that’s why they have great impacts to reshape political policy.

Social movements all around the world

by Mao Shibata

In these times of globalization, social movements become not only domestic movement but also international and world-wide movements. For instance, the Arab Spring that originally occurred in Tunisia and spreading throughout Arab world is one of the largest revolutionary waves of demonstration, protest, and war, which began on 18 December 2010 remain vivid in most people’s memory. Social movements collect particular people to appeal particular thinking or idea, and moreover, people are organized as unity using their social networks and attempt to change or promote their society and politics. To achieve their goals, framing is essential for every social movements.

Framing enable to integrate people together and determine their direction of movements. Furthermore, social movements can incorporate more groups with a broader range of goals and great influence on popularity and public policy.

When I watched the movement against nuclear power plants in Hukushima, I was so impressed and I understood the relation between framing and social movements. I know the concepts of both framing and social movement, however, I was a little bit confused how do they impact on mutually. In the movie, women in Hukushima stood up and started to take action as they want to protect all of their children who live in radiation exposure area and moreover, they feel anger with the government who did not deal with nuclear problem seriously and sincerely. These are the framing. That’s why they decided to take action as social movements. They are now organizing social movement against nuclear plants to attain their goal that abolish the nuclear plants and turn other-not only media but also all citizens- attention to them.

However, social movements sometimes compete with each other and they miss their purpose or goal. What they need is to keep less abstract and more personal and not to focus on only one frame. We usually carry around multiple frames in our head and every people grasp affairs in difference ways. Keep thinking for example, what framing being more successful? Do people convey any clear consisting frame? And carrying on effort to reframe and considering solution lead to achieve their real goal. Social movements act to change political debates, governmental institution and wider culture under their own purpose. Sometime there are some obstacles that are put in their way such as government, police, media or their opposition campaign and it is really difficult to convey their goal to entire world, though they try to promote awareness and action that extends beyond the boundaries of one movement or campaign by pressing and carrying images and words.

How to think about the disaster in Fukushima

by Azusa Iwata

When I saw the news about the explosion of Fukushima nuclear power plant, I could not feel that it happened in Japan. However, as I saw the news on TV many times, I realized that it happened in Japan, which was very difficult for me to accept such a terrible fact. However, I do not know the real situation in Fukushima after that happened because I just get the information through the newspaper and the news on TV. In other words, almost all the information about Fukushima that I have is through just the media. On the other hand, I was really impressed on the movie “Women of Fukushima”, which we saw in the class. I actually have never seen that movie and the activities that I saw in that movie even though I always watch the news on TV.  This paper will focus on  how we should think about “the disaster in Fukushima” as a Japanese citizen through the media.

First, according to “Women of Fukushima”, the ladies in that movie have been protecting the operation of the nuclear power plant. They insisted that the explosion of Fukushima caused the many fields very dangerously, which exposed local people to dangerous from the radiation. In addition, it caused the situation that children cannot play outside safely because of the explosion. I felt so terrible when I knew such a facts. At the same time, I was very surprised for me not to know such a serious situation that I saw in that movie. Surely I am the one who are influenced by the media.

In that movie, one of the ladies said, “I am really sorry that our generations made such a terrible plant in Fukushima. We have the responsibility about this situation that have happened. However, this is not only the responsibility of people in Fukushima but also Japanese government and the citizens in our age. We will try to create Japan without nuclear power plants from learn of “Fukushima”.  Please the young people keep trying to create Japan without nuclear power.” This is the one of the real voices from the people in Fukushima.

In my opinion, I think, in theses days, it is clear that the people, who are influenced by media, are trying to change the situation and affecting the lives of the citizens. That is why there exist people just like me who know not the real voices of people in Fukushima but just the facial aspects of “what happened in Fukushima”. Thus, the media that our generation will lead should convey all the voices of the nation regardless of gain or loss in terms of the agencies. In order to that, all citizens need to know how much dangerous we depend on the media in our life and how much we do not know about Japan because of the media. The disaster that happened in Fukushima is warning that the young generation should change what the media has become today and how powerful the media is. I think Japan, which is not influenced by the partial media, is what people in Fukushima have needed before and after the disaster 3.11.

Framing in Political Activities in Japan

by Yukari Deguchi

Framing is useful to organize social movement and mainly citizen usually use it. But I think its features fit into political acts, especially general election in Japan, whose official announcement will be made on Dec. 4, 2012.

Remarkable tendency can be seen on new minor parties which are called “Daisannkyoku (第三極)” such as “Stand up, Japan”, “Japan Restoration Party”, “People’s Life First”, and “Japan Tax Cut Party Aimed to Achieve Anti TTP and Abandon Nuclear Power Generation” (It’s hard for me to translate its formal name into English). These new parties were formed by former Democrats who feel antipathy to their party’s policy. They left the party and formed new parties one after another as they want to do.

Most of these parties argue similar idea of antinuclear. Therefore, to win the election, they are considering making union or coalescing parties which have similar idea about nuclear policy. I think this situation is because framing system is working well. They are lively exchanging views and accelerate political actives. This is good aspects of framing.

These parties seem to be simply antinuclear. But if you read their policies, you can find that there are differences between each party’s ways to approach to achieve their nuclear policy. Some of them claim Datsu Genpatsu (脱原発), means breaking with nuclear power plants, while others claim Sotsu Genpatsu (卒原発), means fade out the presence of nuclear power plants and lower the dependence of nuclear, and switch to alternative energy like solar power and wind power. In addition, there are parties who claim Shuku Genpatsu (縮原発), means breaking dependence on nuclear power in the medium- and long-term.

At the moment, despite of these differences, they cooperate with each other and exchange views because it is more advantageous to such new small parties to secure more seats through the election. But when the election is over, what do they do? I think they will quarrel about which approach is correct. If they do so, all of them can’t achieve antinuclear. What was worse, there is more serious problem―many of voters can’t understand the differences between Datsu Genpatsy, Sotsu Genpatsu, and Shuku Genpatsu. These are confusing for the voters. Under the rule of thumbs concept, they can work well. But without managing and coming together their ideas, it may lead to all sorts of trouble later. It is chaotic, so they can’t get voters’ cooperation and build a feeling of distance to voters. These situations are bad aspect of framing.

If they really want to achieve antinuclear, they have to manage their idea, and explain it clearly and simply to make voters understand. If they want to win the election rather than achieving antinuclear, this can be abuse of framing.