Social Movement in Japanese Society after March 11

After March 11 crippled nuclear power plant accidents in Fukushima, there have been many social movements against nuclear power plants. On September 19, about 50000 people gathered in Tokyo for antinuclear demonstration. It was the largest demonstration since the 1960’s when the students’ activities against Anpo (Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan) occurred. Not only this demonstration, there are many movements of farmers who had big damage on their products, and mothers who live around crippled nuclear power plant who are afraid of the effect of radiation on their children. However, it seems that these demonstrations attract little attention, and have little effect on government’s policies so far. Why have these demonstration not been successful enough to change the Japanese society which heavily relies on nuclear energy and is facing a crucial moment to think about our energy policy in the future?

Some people argue that Japanese society has less characteristic which try to change society with demonstration. Basically people leave their decision to upper class people such as politicians and obey them. There is little initiative that trying to change the society compared to other country such as U.S and European countries. Is it true? Yes, actually Japanese people tend to rely on decision of politicians and obey it. But, after the massive earthquake and tsunami which caused serious nuclear accident, and under the situation which we are facing fears of radiation from nuclear power and government unable to progress policies on compensations for victims and new energy policy, lots of Japanese people feel the neediness of some kinds of big change in our society.

I think the first reason why these social movements have not been successful in Japanese society is these movements fail to involve people who live far away from crippled nuclear power plant. Around the nuclear power plant such as Fukushima, Ibaraki, antinuclear power plant is growing because they live with some fear of radiation every day. However, we cannot see such movements in Osaka, Kyoto, and Kagoshima where is more than 1000 kilometers away from Fukushima. Since we do not have nuclear power plants close to our town, we do not care about radiation so much. Maybe most Japanese people who live away from Fukushima think like that. Furthermore there is some ironical fact. Although farmers around Fukushima nuclear power plant had big damage on their products, farmers far away from Fukushima such as Kyushu area had some advantage, because they had more demand for their products after the nuclear power plants accidents in Fukushima. Therefore, even people around Fukushima make demonstration for stopping nuclear power plants, they will attract little attention from people who do not have to care about radiation so seriously now. Of course, even if people who do not live around Fukushima, this accident is very crucial for them. We do have lots of nuclear power plants all over the Japan, and also there is possibility that we have big earthquake which can cause serious accident like Fukushima nuclear power plant. Nuclear power plant does matter for all of Japanese people. So, people who are taking part in antinuclear demonstrations have to take some actions not only in Tokyo but also in Osaka, Kagoshima where people less fear about radiation. For instance, they can hold some lectures on how nuclear accident had changed their life and what we need to in our society. It will be necessary that social movement makes all people concerned and aware that this accident is very crucial for all of us and have to take some actions.

In addition to the lack of involvement of people, I also think the goal of these demonstrations is vague. Though lots of people are taking part in demonstrations for expressing their anger caused from nuclear accidents, their goal is diversified so far. Farmers are demonstrating against Tepco for compensating its damage from radiation. Residents who had lived around nuclear power plant are demonstrating against government for guaranteeing their shelter. Currently many people are holding demonstration in a different ways based on their interests. However, to make demonstration successful, they have to corporate with each other and they have to make clear one goal of the demonstration. If people make one big demonstration which people who have different interests gather together and have a clear goal for them, it is more probable that antinuclear demonstration will be successful.

The key thing to make the social movement successful is to involve all people concerned and make clear one goal for them. If we can achieve it, antinuclear movement will be successful and be able to change our society.

by Shunsuke Ochi

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