Anti-nuke who’s who 100 Hironori Shinohara: living true to himself (The Anti-Nuclear Winds of Miyagi Committee) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 100

by Hiroaki Koide*
I met Hironori Shinohara when I entered the faculty of Nuclear Engineering in Tohoku University in 1968. At the time, while exhibitions showing the horror of the atomic bomb were being held all throughout Japan, the peaceful use of nuclear energy was being promoted as a great boon for the future of humankind. Japan’s first nuclear reactor, Tokai-1, had just started operating and the light water reactors at Tsuruga and Mihama were going to be started up in 1970.
I chose my course with the intention of devoting my life to nuclear power. It was just at the beginning of the student protest movement, but I devoted myself to my studies. I also entered the mountain climbing club and enjoyed the quiet mountains of the Tohoku district1. Another member of that club from the nuclear engineering department, two years senior to me, was Hironori Shinohara. No doubt he too had come to that department full of dreams about nuclear energy.As the student protest movement gathered momentum, outside the university plans for the Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant were progressing and the local people were beginning to campaign against it. The student protest movement challenged not only the social meaning of the study, but also the way of life of the student. Neither I, nor Hironori Shinohara were able to ignore the connections between society and the field of study that we were engaged in. Why did they choose remote areas for these ‘absolutely safe’ nuclear power plants, rather than build them in the city? To find the answer to this question, Hironori Shinohara and I began to study by ourselves about the safety of nuclear power. We also debated with our teachers about the connections between society and our field of study. Through our efforts, Hironori Shinohara and I discovered the reality of this nuclear power, in which, foolishly, we had invested our dreams and we came up against the university teachers, who, when their arguments were found to be bankrupt, justified themselves by saying, “I’ve got a wife and children to feed.”

As a postgraduate student Hironori Shinohara was looked upon as a first rate researcher . He was born the oldest son of the chief priest of the Shiogama-Jinja, an old and famous Shinto Shrine. But he was too proud to sell his soul for the sake of his livelihood. Even if it made life tough for him, the path he chose was one where he didn’t have to make any excuses, where he could remain true to himself. He quit his postgraduate course and abandoned the field of nuclear energy. He became a construction worker and became deeply involved in the movement against the Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant. Over the last 30 years he has became a highly skilled steeplejack and is still at the center of the anti-nuclear movement.

To live a single-minded life may be difficult, but it is also beautiful. I feel fortunate to have met Hironori Shinohara. In the end we went our separate ways. I continued in the nuclear energy field, but ever since those days the big issue for me has been to live in such a way that I don’t have to feel ashamed before him.

1. The Tohoku district is in the north east of Honshu, the largest island in Japan.

*(Hiroaki Koide is an instructor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute and a member of the Nuclear Safety Research Group)

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