A Tribute to Dr. Jinzaburo Takagi Nuke Info Tokyo No. 80
Jinzaburo Takagi was the co-founder and former Director of Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center. Takagi’s extensive scientific analytical work on nuclear issues has greatly contributed to the education of the Japanese and international public, media, and officials on the dangers of utilizing nuclear materials.
Jinzaburo Takagi, known by many as Jin, started his career in nuclear activism from a position as associate professor of nuclear chemistry at Tokyo Metropolitan University (TMU). He was born in 1938, graduated from Tokyo University in 1961 and spent four and a half years working for the nuclear industry followed by another four years for the nuclear institute at Tokyo University, winning the Asahi Science Encouragement Award in 1967. He gained his doctorate in 1969, and was Guest Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in 1972-73. He stepped off the ladder to top status within the nuclear elite when he left TMU in 1973 and set up the non-profit Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) in 1975. He directed CNIC until he was forced to resign the position in 1998 due to his health. However, he remain active in CNIC as a scientific advisor and as a member of the Board of Directors. Up until his very last days, he reported on the results of his analytical and public education work through CNIC publications, including CNIC Monthly in Japanese and the bimonthly Nuke Info Tokyo in English. Takagi carried out a great deal of research, and wrote many books and innumerable articles on nuclear issues, environmental protection and peace, with special emphasis on the fight against the nuclear threat, and for human rights. A number of his books have been translated into Korean, and he recently published an English book on the JCO accident together with CNIC. The results of the international research organized by Takagi on mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel have also been published in English, French, Russian, and in Japanese.
He was a key figure in organizing a number of important international symposiums such as the ‘International Conference on Plutonium’ (1991, Ohmiya, Japan) ‘Why Plutonium Now?’ (1993, Tokyo, Japan), and the ‘International Symposium on Reprocessing’ (1994, Aomori, Japan). He also organized an international research project on the use of MOX fuel in light water reactors (‘A Comprehensive Social Impact Assessment of MOX Use in Light Water Reactors’ i.e. the International MOX Assessment (IMA) research) and served as the project leader. This project involved prominent experts from Japan, Europe, Russia, and America, and ran from 1995-97. For this research and their persistent work on plutonium issues, Takagi and the project sub-leader, Mycle Schneider of WISE-Paris, received the Right Livelihood Award in 1997. (See NIT 63for more info.)
Towards his later years, he became very active in nurturing young alternative scientists who would contribute to a socially and environmentally-friendly world. Using the Right Livelihood Award money to initiate an educational program, Takagi set up the Takagi School for Alternative Scientists in 1998. Since then, the students of the Takagi School have undertaken many projects and have held many public educational seminars. Recently, some students of the Takagi School and CNIC staff jointly produced a counter-report to a Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) report favoring geological disposal of radioactive waste. This counter-report was given prominent exposure in the media and was reported on the front page of one of the major newspapers in Japan. The report has initiated a serious debate in Japan and many public forums have been held with participation from key people from each side.
In addition to the Right Livelihood Award, Takagi received many other awards. In 1992 he received the Yoko Tada Human Rights Award and in 1996 the Ihatov Award (Kenji Miyazawa Society Ihatov Center, Hanamaki City) for his contribution as a scientist working for the people. In 1997 he received the Peace Award from Nagasaki Prefecture Hibakusha Membership Association. He was also successful as a writer of children’s books and received the Sankei Children’s Book Award in 1993.
His funeral was held quietly with a small number of people. There was also a public memorial service on 10 December 2000.
In his hopes to continue participating in the anti-nuclear and other social and environmental activities, Takagi included in his will the idea of a Takagi fund. A preliminary form of this fund already exists and has been assisting the education of CNIC staff, the Takagi School and other projects. It was his hope to make this fund self-sustaining. The fund will be used to: 1) encourage and nurture researchers who are endeavoring for citizens’ science; 2) encourage and nurture non-profit organizations which are endeavoring for citizens’ science; and 3) nurture young Asian researchers. The fund is open to domestic and international donations. Again, please contact CNIC should you would like more information regarding this fund.
Finally, we are in the process of putting together a memorial collection. We have already received many messages through e-mail. For those who would like to have your message included in this collection, please send it to us by e-mail and we will be happy to include it in the collection. For those who have already sent messages by e-mail, we will only publish messages in this collection after we receive permission to do so. We are looking forward very much to receiving messages from all of you.
by Yukio Yamaguchi (Co-Director, CNIC)
At 12:55 a.m. on 8 October 2000, Dr. Jinzaburo Takagi passed away with his partner, Kuniko, present at his side in a hospital in Tokyo. The direct cause of his death was rectum cancer. Up until the previous afternoon he never lost consciousness. He was 62 years and 2 months old, still too young to go.
He began to feel sick around the spring of 1998, and was found to have cancer in July that year. It was only a few months after the Takagi School for Alternative Scientists had started. He didn’t want to stop working in order to prolong his life and instead he chose to continue working until his death while receiving treatments for his illness. He refused to have radiation treatment and chose to try anti-cancer drugs, Chinese herbs (kampo), and to have a better diet. Kuniko supported his decision fully and stood by him all along.
He didn’t hide his illness, but rather talked about it openly. Members of CNIC as well as anti-nuclear activists all through Japan and abroad sent him wishes and encouragement that he would overcome his illness. Appreciating all that encouragement, he struggled hard against his illness. Dr. Takagi’s brother, a medical doctor from Kyoto, rushed to Tokyo to see Takagi and terribly regretted that his brother’s illness had gotten that serious before being diagnosed. He predicted his brother would live only for another few months. That made Dr. Takagi really anxious and he wondered how many more books he could actually finish writing before he had to go.
He survived for two more years, however, and accomplished an incredible amount of work. He published the following books: Aiming for Citizens’ Science, Living as a Citizen Scientist, Criticality Accident at Tokai-Mura, Liberation from Nuclear Myths, and Testimony. He also wrote a report for the Geological Disposal Research Group of CNIC and Takagi School, worked for the Takagi School as a leader, gave lectures, and acted as the scientific advisor of CNIC.
In mid-September Dr. Takagi entered a quiet hospice in downtown Tokyo while he occasionally went to a hospital to be treated for immunotherapy. It was 28 September when I visited him at the hospice. He looked like he was in quite serious pain. He said,’I can’t talk so well anymore, but don’t worry about me,’ and we talked for about one hour, just the two of us. At one point he asked for some cold water and I poured some in the glass. He drank it down as if it was the best drink he had ever had. I said to him ‘when you get a little better, let’s go to a hot spring for rest.’ He paused for a while and said, ‘Hot spring? That will be nice.’ and smiled. That was the last time I saw him.
His work will be appreciated and recognized even more from now on. In my opinion, he had finished writing the last chapter of the classic, The Transuranium Elements (1958, G.Seaborg) as he aspired to do in his youth.
Dr. Takagi accomplished so much in his life. To me he was a poet, a sharp scientist, an activist, an organizer, a passionate person, and a significant individual. In addition, he was a philosopher with an exceptionally strong will. He also showed the world that a ‘citizen scientist’ can actually exist who works for the people and not for the establishment. Being one of his successors, I would like to give my sincere appreciation to all of you who had supported Dr. Takagi and worked with him for all these years. And I would like to ask you for your continued support of CNIC and the anti-nuclear movement.
The loss of Takagi-san is bitter, for his partner, for his colleagues, for Japanese society and for humanity as a whole. Jinzaburo Takagi represented that rare combination of a superb scientist and an avant-garde thinker, encyclopedic knowledge and political wisdom, integrity and highest ethical standards. Above all, he remained a very human being. And he was my friend.
Takagi-san was a gifted teacher. When one does not understand the language, one tends to observe people much closer. With my zero knowledge of Japanese language I had ample opportunity for observation during speaking tours, on-and off-the-record meetings and press conferences with Takagi-san. His audiences were fascinated by his talks. He was never acting, he just had a very intense way of speaking, often slowly and soft, sometimes affirmative and loud, but always convinced and therefore convincing.
We had met for the first time in 1986 in Vienna, at the occasion of the presentation of a major study on nuclear hazards, for which we were co-authors amongst others. In 1991 Takagi-san invited me to Japan to speak at the Omiya International Plutonium Conference. From then on, our cooperation developed into an exceptional transcontinental working relationship. And we became very close friends. The International MOX Assessment (IMA), directed by Takagi-san with my assistance, became our largest common project. It took more than two years of coordination, research, editing, internal and external review before the comprehensive evaluation of plutonium fuel was finally published in late 1997. This work has remained without rebuttal by the plutonium industry until today. Just when we had accomplished the IMA Project, we jointly received the Right Livelihood Award, often called the Alternative Nobel Prize. The jury had recognized ‘a unique partnership in the struggle to rid humanity of the threats posed by the manufacture, transport, use and disposal of plutonium.’ We considered the award an outstanding honor. I had never seen Takagi-san so nervous as he was during his acceptance speech at the Swedish Parliament’s Plenary in December 1997.
The notion of passing on knowledge and capacities had become increasingly the main focus of Takagi-san’s work over the past 10 years. The ideas to start up the ‘Takagi School’ with the Award money and, through his last will, to establish a ‘Takagi Memorial Fund’ for the support of young independent scientists, were logical consequences. While speaking and writing abundantly, we both felt that we had failed so far to develop a systematic approach to education and to pass on the specific approach to analysis we had developed: always systemic, always international, always oriented towards democratization of the decision making process. For appropriate decision making, it is necessary to develop both understanding of the whole picture and of the interaction between the pieces of the puzzle. The idea that this is possible without listening to all components of society is fallacious. Whatever their background, the conscious and responsible citizen is the only realistic guaranty for the decision maker to limit errors and their potential devastating consequences. Nothing has been more harmful to industrialized societies like France and Japan than the arrogance of the elite and bureaucratic apparatus. The plutonium lobbyists have been wrong in energy consumption forecasts, uranium price development, and many other aspects. But it simply does not matter. The same people are still there and it just goes on. And it will go on, in Rokkasho-mura or elsewhere, as long as a truly democratic decision making process does not force the lobby to public scrutiny and full accountability.
This is what Takagi-san’s approach and all his efforts of the past 25 years were all about. This is what CNIC’s role will remain. CNIC’s history that makes it the key reference on nuclear issues in Japan and on Japan outside Japan, certainly is the result of a collective effort of many but it was based on Takagi-san’s outstanding personality and reputation. In the future, CNIC has to adapt to the new situation. The safeguarding of technical and analytical credibility is one challenge, the maintenance of the international network will be another. This is the moment Japanese society – and the international community – needs you all.