The leaders of the country’s major political parties have called for renewed efforts to speed up reconstruction in disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture, as election campaigning got underway in earnest.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and main opposition Democratic Party of Japan leader Banri Kaieda both chose Fukushima — devastated by the triple-meltdown disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant — as the location for their first stump speeches on Tuesday.
Abe pledged to “accelerate reconstruction,” and defended his government’s record in the prefecture, saying that many jobs had been created since the 2011 disaster.
Kaieda, meanwhile, lashed out at the LDP-led coalition over its plan to reactivate the nation’s nuclear power reactors “as if the accident had not occurred three years ago.
“I would like nuclear power plants to disappear, but we will be in trouble without electricity,” said 26-year-old housewife Yuka Nagase, who attended Kaieda’s speech in the city of Iwaki. “I want politicians to have a thorough debate on this issue.”
Mitsui Sakamoto, 65, who evacuated to Iwaki from the town of Tomioka, about 10 km from the crippled nuclear plant, urged lawmakers to “work very hard not merely at election time but to make steady progress on reconstruction.”
Sakamoto said she is currently living with her 67-year-old husband and her sick 38-year-old son in their seventh temporary residence. And though decontamination work at her home in Tomioka began in October, it looks like “a sports field for rats,” she said.
But Sakamoto wants to return home as soon as possible.
“Our plans for the future were destroyed by the accident,” she added. “What I worry about most is my son’s future. I want to see politics that prioritizes the weak.”
Emiko Yoshida, 65, who evacuated to temporary housing in the city of Aizuwakamatsu from her hometown of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, voted for the then-opposition LDP in the previous 2012 House of Representatives election.
“I had hoped things would be a little better if the government changed,” she said.
But Yoshida still lives in a temporary home and has not yet made it back to Okuma, which houses the nuclear power plant. She says she does not feel that rehabilitation has progressed, that she sometimes feels “deserted” and that many people are uninterested in the election as their priority is to try and escape their current situation.
“Apart from choosing a party, I’d like to discover a person who is really thinking about Fukushima this time,” she said.