Who’s Who: Uehara Masayuki~ A genuine Tsushima guy protecting his island home

By Takano Satoshi (CNIC)

A man with a gentle manner and a sense of conviction in his humorous way of speaking, Uehara Masayuki is the representative of the Association for Consideration of Nuclear Waste in Tsushima (ACNWT), an organization opposed to literature reviews, the first stage to host permanent nuclear waste disposal sites. Mr. Uehara, born in 1945, has lived in Tsushima all his life except for the six years while he attended university. You could say he’s a genuine Tsushima guy. After working as a seafood wholesaler and a manufacturer of souvenirs, he has continued to develop new products and disseminate information on the appeal of Tsushima. He is well versed in the attractiveness of Tsushima’s primary industries and serves as chairperson of the Tsushima City Seafood Processing Liaison Council.

The idea of a literature review surfaced in Tsushima City, Nagasaki Prefecture, in early 2023. A move among city council members to nominate Tsushima for the review was discovered. The island, which has a population of about 28,000 and is rich in nature with abundant fishing grounds and a long history of its own, including trade with South Korea, was shaken. In Tsushima, in fact, there was a move to invite a review in 2007, but at that time the city council voted against it. “Since then, Tsushima has become an island of safety and security, to which no nuclear weapons or nuclear waste come, and that is why investment has also progressed,” says Mr. Uehara. If we accept the review the damage to the fishing and seafood processing industries will be immense. This sense of crisis led him to become actively involved in the opposition movement. One of his relatives was also a second-generation atomic bomb survivor, which made Mr. Uehara sensitive to radiation exposure. As an islander in Nagasaki, an A-bomb prefecture, he found nuclear waste unacceptable.

Mr. Uehara established ACNWT in April and became its representative. He launched a petition drive against the survey and was surprised by the response; more than 5000 signatures in two weeks. In June, he organized a rally and demonstration march in the center of the city to kick off the anti-nuclear waste movement. In the name of ACNWT and the Seafood Processing Liaison Council, a petition was filed at the city council opposing the implementation of a literature review. Unfortunately, a request by the construction industry and others to promote the literature review was approved by 10 votes to 8 at the Tsushima City Council meeting on September 12. However, when the city council was adjourned on September 27, Tsushima Mayor Hitakatsu Naoki announced that he would not accept a literature review.

Without a doubt, it was the steady anti-review movement led by Mr. Uehara that prompted Mayor Hitakatsu’s bold decision. Initially, there were only three city councilors opposed to the survey, but the number eventually increased to eight. It was widespread opposition to the investigation that moved the councilors. Mr. Uehara says that opposition is far stronger on the island as a whole. In fact, Mayor Hitakatsu said that a lack of consensus among citizens was the reason for his opposition, but it should be remembered that behind the mayor’s decision were the voices of opposition from residents that were too strong to ignore. The dispute is expected to continue into the Tsushima mayoral election on March 3, 2024. As a prominent local figure, the presence of Mr. Uehara, who has connections with councilors who are both for and against the survey, is bound to become increasingly important.

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