Anti-Nuke Who’s Who: Daisuke Yoshida – Kariwa’s young activist with a strong will Nuke Info Tokyo No. 85
Daisuke Yoshida: Kariwa’s young activist with a strong will
By Kazuyuki Takemoto
Daisuke Yoshida is 35. He is currently serving his first term as a member of the Kariwa Village Assembly. He is also second in charge at Zenshoji Temple. Located in Oaza Terao, Kariwa Village, Zenshoji is an old temple of the Shingon sect, a sect with a history going back over 1,200 years. Yoshida is married with two sons and a daughter (two in elementary school and one attending a day-care center) and also has a dog. He and his family live in the living quarters next to the main temple building.
He says his reason for standing for local council was his anger, arising from his religious philosophy, at the damage and degeneration caused by the nuclear subsidies granted to the region. Ever since the plan for nuclear facilities was first raised over 30 years ago, local elections have been conducted in an atmosphere in which securing status and prestige through bribery is considered to be completely normal.
Yoshida says that before he announced his candidacy, his father, who lives in the area, received beer and sake coupons from some of the other candidates. ‘Because we went to school together ‘ or because we know each other ‘ please vote for me.’ This was the message.
Petty bribery of this nature is mostly targeted at older people. Many of the younger people aren’t interested in politics and those who have any sense have given it up, so Yoshida decided to try to remedy the stagnation in his village through his own candidacy for local government.
Yoshida went to the then only anti-nuclear Village Assembly member to ask for some advice before announcing his candidacy one month prior to the election. ‘I want to wake up the people of this village, but how can I run an election campaign without spending money?’.
The council to which he was elected represented a generational change. The power relations changed significantly from a situation where there was only one anti-nuclear assembly member, with all the rest being pro-nuclear ‘yes men’, to a council with two people from the ‘Protect Kariwa Village Anti-Nuclear Committee’, one Communist, four people from an anti-mainstream faction and ten mainstream conservatives. In the Village Assembly, Yoshida worked alongside the conservative anti-mainstream faction.
The motion for an ordinance for a referendum came about because one mainstream and one anti-mainstream conservative resigned in order to run for Mayor, and in the subsequent by-election an anti-nuclear assembly member and a liberal were elected in their place, so the power balance became even at 9 to 9. On 29 December 2000, the motion was passed 9 to 8 but it was vetoed by the Mayor and then rejected by the Village Assembly when they reconsidered it because the second round required 2/3 of the votes to pass. After that a group was formed calling itself, ‘Let Our Voices Reach the Village Government’. Backed by 1,540 signatures, representing 37% of eligible voters, they demanded an ordinance for a referendum. On 27 May 2001, a referendum was held and over half the votes cast were against the MOX fuel program.
It’s 32 years since the nuclear development policy was announced and 16 years since the first nuclear reactor commenced operation. It was thought that in Kariwa, a company town, the pro-nuclear, MOX program supporters would be in the majority. But in the context of the exposure of the ‘Rapika’ scandal* the anger of the villagers erupted and flowed into the campaign for a referendum, finally expressing itself in the majority vote against the MOX fuel program. This campaign is the result of many people’s work, but assembly member Yoshida was always there.
Now the task is to rebuild Kariwa Village, exhausted from its involvement in the nuclear industry. There are many voices in the village expressing the hope that Yoshida will have a central role in that process.
* A public works project funded under the ‘Three Electrical Power Laws’, the purpose of which is to compensate regions for the danger and inconvenience of nuclear facilities. Rapika is the name of a lifetime study facility consisting of a library, community center, and a gym that was completed in 1999. It was largely funded by subsidies in return for hosting nuclear power plants. However, it was later revealed that the completed facility differs in many ways from the blueprint and that construction materials cost much less than what was documented. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which granted the subsidies, has launched an investigation into this matter.