A little cryptic title for my long-overdue first post in 2013, but I’ll quickly explain. Having a wisdom tooth removed is not an experience I would wish on many people, yet is something I had to go through this past week. A couple of weeks ago I got a pain at the back of my [...]
Okinawa Going Nuclear: A Few Updates
What a difference a week makes. Just 9 days ago I published an article based around a story from fukushima-diary.com about how two places in Okinawa (Onna Village and Nago City) had said they would accept radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster; a story that not too many were aware of at the time. Today, I am writing this on the way to a meeting in Naha which RBC (local television) will be attending and the problem will be discussed. Indeed, this has gathered pace so much that yesterday an email was sent out to military members Okinawa-wide, stresing that the Ministry for the Environment has stated that no radioactive waste will be stored beyond the Fukushima area. More about that later.
Soon after I posted my original article up, people started sharing it and talking about it. A guy called James Pankiewicz, owner of the Dojo Bar in Naha, decided to take this matter to heart, and created a Facebook group about it, called “A clear and loud “No Way” to radioactive debris on Okinawa“. Yup, no chance of misinterpreting the point of this group! And from then things have spiralled. The group formed their own logo (pictured right), are making online and paper petitions and gathering signatures, in both English and Japanese. The English petition is here; if you haven’t clicked and added your support then please do. Who knows if it will have any effect, but it can do no harm whatsoever.
James has taken this much further than I ever would, and I applaud him and everyone else who have become involved for caring. I’m happy to report these kind of things and the only times I overstate things, I make it very tongue-in-cheek that I’m doing so. But my aim was just to bring people’s attention to it.
And attention certainly has come. 700 signatures to this online petition, people handing out flyers in English and Japanese; RBC and NHK news companies talked to and consulted, and even the US Military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, running an article. And here is where the plot thickens even more. Yesterday morning, Kadena Air Force Base’s Public Affairs office sent this out Okinawa-wide to all military members (or Air Force members, not 100% sure):
There are rumors circulating via social media and email concerning the possibility of radioactive material being shipped to Okinawa from the Fukushima area. Here is the latest information from the American Consulate in Okinawa.
According to the Japan Ministry of the Environment, none of the radioactive debris will be shipped. All radioactive debris will remain in the Fukushima area. The only tsunami debris considered being sent elsewhere is the NON-radioactive tsunami debris from Iwate and Miyagi prefectures. No decision has been made by the Government of Japan where that non-radioactive debris will be shipped to. Any and all debris will be inspected before being shipped, and it will not be shipped if it is contaminated.
BOTTOM LINE: No radioactive debris is being shipped to Okinawa.
18th Wing Public Affairs
Now, while I would like to believe this is the case, this does seem very strange. Firstly, because the final statement goes against what Nago City, Onna Village, Yomitan Village and Naha City are saying. In addition, Okianwan newspaper the Ryukyu Shimpo published stories in Japanese about this a week before I started mentioning it. And finally, it would seem that the Ministry for the Environment is going against with Prime Minister Noda has stated, about all of Japan working together, and local cities helping with the burden of dealing with the radioactive waste. The Japanese government is not renowned for being completely honest and open, especially when it comes to both public safety and Okinawa. So the question is: who do you trust? The governments who are trying to quash any rumours and stop any public unrest about the situation, or the media outlets and personal bloggers? While newspapers and TV companies might have a financial interest in the story (more controversial stories get more readers buying their newspapers or watching their shows), but if this was the case then more would be being made of the story. As it is, it was just a couple of relatively small reports informing people of what is happening and no follow-ups.
And people do seem to be waking up in Japan to the fact that the government isn’t always as open as they should be with them. Okinawans have had this skepticism for a long time, but it appears to be spreading. Both Japanese bloggers and foreigners here in Japan have talked about it to me recently. Now I’m definitely not saying everyone should take to the streets and start rioting (I’d quite like a chance to have my visa renewed and not be labelled a conspirator!), but the past 12 months have changed a lot of things regarding people’s perceptions of the government in Japan. Especially in the past 6 months, people have started asking questions that 3 or 4 years ago I couldn’t imagine people accepting and would assume they would just accept. It will be an interesting thing to watch over the next 12 months and beyond to see if the Japanese people push to get their own voices heard against the government. I’m not talking about Japan being the next Egypt or Libya, but just how people and society will evolve here.
Well, I’m going to make my way down to Naha in a little while for this press conference. If you have the chance, please take a look at the petition. I’m not asking you to sign it, but just to think about it and try to find an answer for yourself. Question what you read and hear, even on here. Discussion and questioning is what helps us progress and evolve. It’s when we just blindly accept & follow that we lose our way.