|

Antinuclear rallies an eye-opener for university students

Chunichi Shimbun

Some 300 people joined an Oct. 27 antinuclear rally staged by a citizens’ group at Hisaya Odori Park in Nagoya. Observing them were 10 students from Chukyo University.

The students are taking part in a research project under the supervision of Mitsuru Matsutani, an associate professor of contemporary sociology, that includes holding interviews and gathering video footage from such demonstrations, which have been held since June in numerous locations, including in front of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s office in Tokai, Aichi Prefecture, as well as such cities as Osaka and Fukui.

Since the Fukushima nuclear crisis started in March 2011, antinuclear rallies have spread nationwide and the Chubu region is no exception. They have increasingly attracted the interest of young people, including the Chukyo University students. It has been many decades since young Japanese have shown significant interest in political demonstrations.

The research turned out to be an eye-opener for some of the students.

“I was surprised to see how polite the participants were, and they seemed to be having fun. It completely changed my original image of them as scary or self-absorbed,” said third-year student Sachi Matsuda, recalling her experience of interviewing protesters in front of Kepco’s Tokai branch in June.

At the time, the central government had just approved the restart of reactors 3 and 4 at Kepco’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Matsuda went to the demonstration expecting to see a fanatical mob, but instead saw the organizers courteously thanking police for ensuring security.

The majority of protesters, meanwhile, were mothers with children and senior citizens, and the general mood was amiable.

Asked why she decided to attend the protest, one mother replied that she is “worried for her children’s health,” and that she pays “close attention to the radiation dosage in food,” while an elderly woman said, “I don’t want to leave any danger for the future generation.”

Another third-year student, Tomohide Kido, was equally impressed. “People in Nagoya are paying close attention to the nuclear issue even though there is no atomic plant in the city,” Kido said.

However, doubts remain as to the effectiveness of these rallies. Kepco staff ignore them and passersby often stare at the protesters in a disapproving manner.

“I’ve never expected the demonstrations to have an immediate effect. But the reactivation of the Oi nuclear plant was delayed because of the protests, so I think continuing these rallies is important,” said Kosuke Hayashi, 27, a company employee who urged people to join future rallies.

The number of people from the students’ generation participating in the events is still limited, however.

Even Matsuda is unwilling to take part, despite her opposition to nuclear power.

“I don’t have the courage to join. Maybe I’m not the enthusiastic type,” she said.

However, she added that her outlook has changed to some extent, leading her to research the history of nuclear plant construction and past protest rallies on her own initiative.

Such rallies are “a way for people to release thoughts they may not be able to voice on their own,” she said. “At the same time, these activities have the power to persuade other nonparticipants (to believe in their cause).”

The students will continue documenting antinuclear demonstrations through next spring and plan to compile the results in a book that they will distribute to interested parties.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Oct. 28.