Dystopia of demonstration against nuclear power plant

Since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011, Tokyo had been through many demonstrations against the nuclear power plants. Participants claimed that all nuclear power plants to shut down immediately. Some experts pointed out that many participants were extremely emotional and involved in loud voices, resulting in opinions without proper understanding of nuclear power. Regardless whether the general public support or not, experts believed that they should have their own opinions, and this could be achieved by considering it through discussions from young age.

After a while, MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology), introduced new education system which spare more time for elementary students to learn social problem in discussion style but not Japanese traditional one-way lecture style to encourage students ponder them and cultivate their own opinions. Key factor of this education system is that MEXT does not give any instruction teachers for leading students to a designated answer as it gives an impression that the discussion is merely farce and not neutral.

Some of teachers, however, have a resolution to be against nuclear power, and believe that all nuclear power plants should be shut down as soon as possible as they are the very vice. They consider people accepting nuclear power as those brainwashed by the Japanese government and danger for all human beings. To change the power balance, the teachers planed a curriculum to induce students to end up with the idea on the nuclear power, which is totally similar to their opinions.

In 2025, another nuclear disaster happened in Shizuoka, a small town 200 km west to Tokyo. In opposition to the reaction in 2011, people are calmer and more rational about the incidents than that in 2011. On the other hand, there are extremely radical people who make a hate speech on radioactive contaminations. They are youth who learned in classed manipulated by the teacher who are strongly against nuclear disaster. The youth raised their voice with shouting how dangerous radiation is, and people should not eat any foods from around Shizuoka even though the government investigations guarantees their securities. They go to more extreme and insists that people who live near the area should be isolated as they might be contaminated from radiation. The mood starts perpetuating that supporters of nuclear power is obsolete, conservative and opposed to international standard. People in favor of nuclear power hesitate to make a comment positive or even neutral to nuclear power to avoid being considered self-interested.

Six months after the disaster in Shizuoka, the anti-nuclear power activists’ voices are getting louder and louder. They can do anything in order to close nuclear power plants. If there are not energy enough to supply for some areas, they build hydropower plants, wind power plants or something by forcing out residents or harm their health. Nobody can make any comments to doubt this movements as they are afraid of stepping out of line. Free discussions eventually end up with no discussion.

Three Interviews: Demonstrations against Nuclear Power Plants

Officer at international association of nuclear power plant

At the beginning of the interview, the officer asked the detailed objective of this interview, and made it sure that I won’t record the conversation, disclose his name or the name of his company, as his comment can be considered as representation of his company but not his personal idea, and it can be critical to his organization.

What the officer concerned the most about the demonstrations against nuclear power plants after Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 was caused by emotions and very radical like “all or nothing” without consideration of transformation from current situation to ideal future. First of all, he said, people need to anticipate ramification of closing nuclear power plants suddenly. There are people who are working for nuclear power plants. Form their viewpoint, they must feel like a solider to the battle field; being sent to fight for the country but being criticized for killing human after the war. And also, it would cause loss of 30 billion dollars. How could we compensate for the loss? Thus, people should step back and have sense of ownership like what he would do if they were “CEO of the country”, but not just criticizing the country.

The officer states that citizens need to cultivate sense of ownership about any social problem to avoid radical decision making based of emotions when incidents happen. To achieve this, there should be more opportunity to discuss, ponder and form their own opinions. The officer wish people have a sense to make a right decision on the technology as he believes that technology is neither good nor bad itself. Radiation can hurt people but cure cancer. We are the ones who turn technology into either good or bad.


Director of TV program covering demonstration against nuclear power plant

The director went to the site of the demonstrations in Tokyo and interviewed mainly people in their 20’s and 30’s. Some left Tokyo to cities further away from Fukushima with yelling that they won’t eat any food from Fukushima as they can harm their health and their children’s. The director couldn’t help feeling that they are self-centered as they considered only about themselves but not residents in Fukushima, who know that they depended on the plants in terms of job, and subsidy from the central government. Actually, the director heard from a peach farmer that she was encouraged by the demonstrations as they are enthusiastic about this matter. On the other hand, however, she was hurt to hear their voices such as “vegetables in Fukushima are contaminated”, “people can no longer live in Fukushima”.

In the demonstrations, the director met another type of people, whose motivations to join the demonstrations are very vague. Many of them are in uneasy condition in their own life for job-hunting, entrance exams to a university, recluse and so on. They got interest in the demonstrations to find what drives their motivation on something, and actually were included in the activities. The director was also moved by the heated atmosphere and believed that the nuclear plants should be shut down as soon as possible back then. After a while, however, the director feel that such a frenzy would not be able to change the society.

The director states that the reason why some people became emotional and went to extreme is because they did not have knowledge enough to analyze the situation, so that they were readily affected by loud voices. Thus, the director proposes that junior high schools and high should offer opportunities for students to have debates on this matter to motivate them to ponder by themselves. The director also insists that media companies should describe more details of the demonstrations, as coming to the on-site just to film the visual situation without detailed research, or superficial comments deriving from uncertainty of facts results in nothing.


Teacher at elementary school in Gumma, prefecture adjacent to Fukushima

The teacher taught sixth grade students a topic regarding nuclear power plants in a science class. Students were divided into small groups, and each group research on both advantage and disadvantage of one energy source assigned to them, such as nuclear power, hydropower, solar power, thermal power and so on, through several media. The most positive impression on them was solar power. The teacher thinks this derives from that fact the students are familiar with it as a third of the students’ houses have solar panel on the roofs. On the other hand, nuclear power was not popular because they see vegetables from Fukushima priced cheaper than from other areas.

The teacher said that there is no change in education on nuclear power after the disaster. It is about science but not social. Even the teacher thought that the most people who joined demonstrations are victims suffering from the disaster, with saying that the disinterest in the matter is because it seems like what happened in a place far away even from Gumma.

Creating High Awareness of Nuclear Issue

After Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011, a lot of demonstrations against restarting nuclear power plants happened especially in central Tokyo. Many of the demonstrators protested against the government’s directions of exploiting nuclear power whilst referring to the residents in Fukushima who might not be able to return to their hometowns for the rest of their lives due to the land being heavily contaminated with radiation. Although some of the people from Fukushima were encouraged with this movement, others were confused, or even wished that demonstrations would cease as soon as possible. Some of them are famers, who were afraid that those demonstrations impede rumor or negative images of contaminated foods from eroding. Some are workers from different companies and industries, for instance those affiliated with nuclear power plants such as engineers, restaurants, retailers and their families as well were worried of the consequences that would arise from the messages propagated by the demonstrators. They were essentially worried about the loss of their livelihoods as locals moved away and tourists decline, turning each town into a ghost town devoid of residents and economic vibrancy.  Actually, it turned out that there are many protestors who didn’t do much research on radiation, power ecosystem, or visit Fukushima to talk with residents there. They didn’t even practice the regular habit of saving electricity even though most electricity generated in Fukushima was for Tokyo.

Considering that Japan was the only country that has experienced the devastation of nuclear bombs and the history of the atomic bombings have been taught in schools from childhood, Japanese should have possessed the basic knowledge of this social matter. On the contrary, they have been caught up with and swayed by all the ‘noise’ from demonstrations without giving the issue any further thought. Emotions have been flying high ever since the nuclear power plant meltdown and the devastation from the earthquake and Tsunami. People have let emotions cloud their judgements and actions instead of trying to understand the key issues in a more objective manner.  Many a times, the impact to the residents of Fukushima were not being considered by demonstrators and their supporters. It was a time where a lot of radical voices backed by emotions without any rational thoughts instantaneously rose like a tsunami of noise, that swept across the nation and left just as fast as it came. It was a movement that lost momentum and was not sustained, resulting in giving more suffering to victims.

Hence, I aim to find ways that will create a society of high awareness where people have sufficient understanding and data to make decisions that benefit society at large instead of relying solely on emotions or being influenced by emotions and the crowd psychology.

Ecosystem map is here.

Karoshi, Missing Worker, and Bankruptcy after Disaster

Issue 1.   Overwork Death “Karoshi”

Japan is the one of the highest suicidal mortality rate countries in the world. According to WHO, male suicidal mortality rate in Japan is 20.5 out of 100 million population in 2016, female 10.1, compared to 10.5 on average in the world. This male high mortality rate derives from pressure in their working environment. A quarter of Japanese have to work more than 80 hours overtime, and many of them are actually unpaid for their overtime service. I have sometimes worked an extra 200 hours per month, and also worked 60 hours straight without a break. Death by being overworked is called “Karoshi” in Japanese. Even though it is recognized that supervisors are exerting power harassment, Japanese refrain from raising their voices, such complaining or reporting as this runs a great risk for them, resulting in less work opportunities. This kind of negative impression tends to be critical for their career as most Japanese work for one company for life. Many Japanese people end up trapped in negative working environment as employers tend not to tire those who quit a previous job.

Law: Law should stipulate strict regulations on overtime work by capping hours, with a predetermined maximum allowed, and giving heavy penalties for those who do not respect this law.

Norm: Companies should cultivate a culture that allow employees to feel comfortable to leave work at a set time such as ensuring that supervisors leave earlier than their subordinates

Market: The government should impose “overtime work tax” on company products or service based on their employee overtime work hours.

Code: The government should require all companies to set a system in place to calculate exact hours of each employee, including check-in and check-out times. To avoid abuse of this system, all PC hours should also be logged.


Issue 2.   Increasing “Missing Worker”

720,000 people in their 40’s and 50’s are unemployed in Japan. This number indicates unemployment; however, drastically understates the real situation, as it only accounted unemployed people actively seeking work. It is notable to also take into account the “missing worker”. “Missing worker” is those who are unemployed and not actively seeking a job. In Japan, “missing worker” at the age of 40-59 years old are estimated at 1,030,000. One of the main reasons this age group is unemployed, and not seeking employment is because they are caring for their elderly parents. The number of singles, unmarried, people in this group is increasing, and estimated to be at 6.5 million. To provide nursing homes for their elderly parents would be too costly and depend upon the paltry pension of their parents. Taking a break to care for their parents creates difficulty with getting back into the workforce as employers frown upon those who have taken a break.

Law: Law should protect people from discrimination for taking a break from work. When a hardship, such as caring for elderly parents is in the case, there should be programs to help reinstate employment.

Norm: Each community should create a support system to help neighbors with caring for the elderly and obtaining employment, at least on a part-time basis.

Market: Government should give financial support to afford nursing home for elderly people.

Code: Some companies should create systems for missing workers to work remotely or receive technical training through VR.


Issue 3.   Bankruptcy of Restored Companies after Tsunami Disaster

1,857 companies have gone to bankrupt since March in 2011 related to the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami caused by which wiped away northeast regions. To restore companies’ facilities, the government invested US$ 265 billion in the first five years. However, 90.5% of companies have gone bankrupt not because of “direct” influences such as facility destructions but “indirect” influences such as such missing supply chains for former wholesalers making contract with other supplier during restoration, order cancellation due to negative images, lack of workforce, decreasing local consumers and so on. Still more companies are expected to go bankrupt.

Law: Law should be enacted that residents in the northeast Japan converge to central cities in each region to create compact cities in order to recover from decreasing population and decrease infrastructure costs.

Norm: Companies in the region should promote their positive image, for example, by featuring cool young workers in their fishery business which is common in the region, and by processing their raw materials and producing original stories on their products to sell directly to consumers without depending on wholesalers.

Market: Government should grant financial support wholesalers which make contracts with suppliers suffering from the disaster to reconnect supply chains.

Code: Government should produce an e-commerce platform where companies in the region provide their products or services.

Universal Language

Nowadays, English has become a universal language. It goes over borderlines between countries. We, Japanese are studying English to catch up with this trend with knowing that we are behind other countries. On the other hand, not much attention is paid to the fact that we are leaving behind deaf people, one of them is my father.

My father Takashi was a reticent engineer. He was diligent and devoted to his work. At the age of 55, he broke down with exhaustion and was hospitalized. He was diagnosed as sudden hearing loss with stress, and has lost a sound for good. A while after he left the hospital, he tried to learn sigh language. Soon, however, he gave up because he is not only old but also lack of tool to learn sign language.

We have Japanese-English dictionary and English-Japanese dictionary. We also have Japanese to Japanese sign language dictionary but not Japanese sign language to Japanese dictionary. Neither does American sign language to English, even though sign language is the fourth largest language in the U.S. For instance, when we need to find a sign for the word “dog”, we can do a search with keywords like “sign language, dog,” which will give pictures or video clips providing the sign for the word. On the other hand, if we would like to know the meaning from a sign, there’s no easy way to look it up. We have to ask a sign language speaker with describing the sign; “the sign where you hold your right thumb up and touch the left ring finger…”. This kind of process gives a lot of workload to deaf people, especially my father as he is unsociable.

Meanwhile, I found a startup addressing some communication problems among deaf people and produce a TV program featuring the entrepreneur. His main business is a remote call center which translates deaf people’s sign language to spoken language and vice versa, so that they can communicate with shop staffs, city hole officials and so on. Now, it is developing a new service named SLinto, which is the world’s first crowd-sourced online dictionary for sign language. It has “sign language keyboard”, which consists of four main components for a sign; location, handshape, orientation, and movement. Marking each component results in narrowing down a few videos which can correspond, and user can find the exact one. This system helps deaf people to find a meaning from a word.

SLinto may play another big role to help deaf people communicate with others from different countries with producing one universal sign language. In general, each country has their own sign languages stemming from cultural background, with ending up with more than 100 sign languages in the world. In the U.S., the sign for cheating comes from “spy” describing a person hiding behind a wall. On the other hand, Japanese sign language uses “fox” as it is a typical animal which cheats people in Japanese old stories. Technically, anyone can create their own signs, and a sign more people use become a standard sign. Thus, crowd-sourced online dictionary scheme works to produce one universal sign language. Anyone can upload sign language video to SLinto, and users all over the world can rate the signs so that useful expressions will be listed higher in the search result converging into one universal sign language.

This crowd-sourced online dictionary contributes to inclusive society with facilitating communication between deaf people and the others including people living in different countries.