Who’s Who: Tsuchiya Kazuyuki, guest house manager fighting to save his town from a nuclear dump

By Takano Satoshi (CNIC)

Tsuchiya Kazuyuki is the owner and operator of a small guest house in the Hokkaido town of Suttsu, population 2,700. He was born in Suttsu, and after living there until he graduated high school, worked in several areas of Hokkaido as a post office employee. Taking early retirement at 58 years of age, he returned to his hometown in 2007 and started up the guest house, which became very popular due to the cuisine, based on locally available fish, and Mr. Tsuchiya’s spirit of hospitality. However, a “certain incident” brought about big changes to this peaceful and fulfilling life. On August 13, 2020, Mayor Kataoka Haruo of Suttsu Town suddenly announced that he would apply for a literature review to construct a final repository for nuclear waste in the town. This is where Mr. Tsuchiya’s struggle to protect his beloved hometown began.

Mr. Tsuchiya joined the residents’ organization, Town Association for a Nuclear-waste-free Suttsu for Our Children! (hereafter “Town Association”), opposing the literature review. Based on the town’s information disclosure regulation, Mr. Tsuchiya, together with members of the Town Association, applied for disclosure of the minutes of the town council’s plenary consultative conferences in September and November 2020, at which the application for the literature review was discussed. However, as the town office and council had decided that the minutes were non-disclosable, a lawsuit was filed. In March 2022, the Hakodate District Court recognized the plea of Mr. Tsuchiya’s group by determining that the non-disclosure decision was a violation of the regulation. The disclosed minutes show that Mayor Kataoka forced approval of the literature review application without taking a vote, thus proving that Mayor Kataoka’s decision was both arbitrary and undemocratic.

At the same time, differing from the Town Association, which had stated that it would not carry out a direct political movement, Mr. Tsuchiya implemented his own activities. These are the activities of the “Intuition-free Recall Association.” The name of the association incorporates a sense of resistance originating from Mayor Kataoka’s statement at the time of the application for the literature review that “more than half of the town residents are in favor of the literature review, according to my intuition.” Mr. Tsuchiya’s idea was, along with other town residents, to develop a recall movement against the town councilors who did nothing to oppose the literature review. However, the period allowed for the collection of signatures for the recall is a mere one month, during which it is necessary to gather the signatures of more than a third of the electorate. This is a difficult hurdle to overcome and the recall movement is not yet seriously underway. Nevertheless, the group is currently continuing activities to monitor councilors, such as by attending council meetings.

People from outside the town who are in solidarity with the opposition to the nuclear waste repository often visit Mr. Tsuchiya’s guest house, named Pension Mellow. Overseas journalists from countries such as France and South Korea, have also visited the guest house to interview Mr. Tsuchiya. For people from outside the town, the guest house is not only a place where they can enjoy local cuisine, but a valuable location from which they can gain an understanding of the residents’ opposition movement. Mr. Tsuchiya’s struggle will continue till peaceful days return again.

Here is the URL for the Pension Mellow website. Definitely plan to stay there when you visit Suttsu Town: pensionmellow.com/

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