AP Interview: Japan Lawyer Wants No-Nukes After Fukushima

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 8:26 AM

He's a Noh dancer, a tenor and, of late, a filmmaker. His ride is a Harley. Some of it's just for fun, but much of the flamboyance is meant to draw attention to his cause: shutting down all nuclear plants in Japan.

Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai stands out in Japan, a nation dominated by somber shadowy suits: When not in a courtroom, he frequently wears colorful shirts and crystal-covered animal pins. He's a Noh dancer, a tenor and, of late, a filmmaker. His ride is a Harley.

Some of it's just for fun, but much of the flamboyance is meant to draw attention to his cause: shutting down all nuclear plants in Japan. His more than two-decade-long valid battle is gaining momentum after the multiple meltdowns in Fukushima five years ago led to all plants being idled for safety checks.

In March, Kawai helped set up an organization maintain Fukushima residents whose children have developed thyroid cancer since the two thousand eleven disaster — one hundred sixty-six among 380.000 people eighteen years and below who were tested, including suspected cases. That'south up to fifty times higher than on average, according to Toshihide Tsuda, a Prof at Okayama University.

The Japanese government denies any link, saying the expand reflects more rigorous screening. Thyroid cancer, scarce among children at two or three in a million, soared after the one thousand nine hundred eighty-six Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Also latest month, Kawai'south won a Ct injunction to stop two nuclear reactors in western Japan that'd recently restarted. The district Ct cited concerns about safety, emergency planning and environmental contamination. One of the reactors was close down shortly after its restart because of glitches. Both had met stricter standards upgraded after the two thousand eleven disaster.

Kawai'south team is pursuing damage compensation for those evacuated from Fukushima, and criminal charges against former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima plant. His ultimate goal is to banish nuclear power.

"If another nuclear accident ever happens in Japan, everything will be destroyed — turning upside down our politics, our economy, our education, our culture, our love, our law," Kawai told The Associated Press, sitting at a desk overflowing with files and papers in his Tokyo office.

Born in one thousand nine hundred forty-fourth in Manchuria, northeastern China, Kawaii has built a reputation as a winner of humanitarian causes, helping out Japanese abandoned as children in China after World War II, and Filipinos of Japanese descent in the Philippines. His compassion is driven partly by his own experience: A baby brother died of starvation during his family'south dangerous journey back to Japan.

After graduating from prestigious Tokyo University, Kawai represented major corporations as a lawyer during the "bubble era" of the one thousand nine hundred eighty. In the mid-1990s he began taking on lawsuits against nuclear power.

Until two thousand eleven, he was fighting a losing battle.

To win over regular people after the Fukushima accident Kawai started making movies, which are sometimes entered as proof for his Ct cases. In "Nuclear Japan," he points out how precariously quake- and tsunami-prone Japan is, and how densely populated. He interviews scientists, former Fukushima residents, a fire fighter who couldn't go back to rescue lives because of radiation.

"Imagine remembering this film in an evacuation middle after the following nuclear disaster," Kawai narrates in the movie.

Since Japan imports nearly all its energy, many in government and business view nuclear power as the cheapest option, and the best way to curb pollution and counter global warming.

Kawai'south stance angers many in the powerful business community. Hiroshi Sato, a senior adviser at Kobe Steel, lambasted Kawai'south position as "emotional" and "unscientific."

"What I'm really worried about is the idea of similar lawsuits being filed one after another. That'd lead to uncertainty about a stable electricity supply," he told reporters recently.

Even those who insist nuclear power is safe — including top government regulator Shunichi Tanaka and Gerry Thomas, a Prof at the Imperial College of London who advises Japan — declare the choice of whether to hold or abandon nuclear energy should be left to the Japanese people.

Kawai believes policy shifts, love the turn against nuclear in Germany, start in the courtroom.

"For fifty years, Japan had a campaign that we necessity nuclear power, and how it's dependable and safe, and ninety-nine % of Japanese believed this," he said.

"But we thought we could finally win, and about three hundred lawyers came together to start a new fight against nuclear power," he said with a zeal making him show up younger than his seventy-one years.

Financially independent thanks to his corporate law days, Kawai invested thirty-five million yen ($350.000) in his first movie, which turned a profit from screenings and DVD sales. He's presently working on his third film.

"I think he's fantastic," said Yurika Ayukawa, a Prof of policy at Chiba Univ of Commerce. She attended at a recent screening where Kawai spoke and surprised the crowd by breaking into a song on Iitate, one of rural Fukushima'south most radiated areas.

Radiation is a sensitive issue in Japan, the only country to suffer atomic bomb attacks, and the Fukushima thyroid cancer patients and their families mostly have kept silent, fearing a social backlash. They face pressure from the hospital treating their children not to speak to media or to question the official view that the illnesses are unrelated to radiation.

Two of the patients' families appeared recently with Kawai before reporters, although in a video-call with their faces not shown. They said they felt doubtful, afraid and isolated. Kawai believes they're entitled to compensation, though they've not yet filed a lawsuit.

George Fujita, an attorney who specializes in environmental issues, says Kawai is Japan'south top lawyer on nuclear lawsuits.

"It'south different for judges to look a whole film entered as evidence. It'south because the people are putting pressure on the courts," he said.

Kawai admits that at times he been tempted to give up.

"I should never walk away. I should fight it out," he said.

His business card is three times the normal size to comprise his artistic activities and his motto: "If you really imply it, you obtain most anything done. If you really imply it, everything becomes fun. If you really imply it, someone will arrive and help."

He swears it sums up his life.

———

Online site for Kawai'south movie: http://www. nihontogenpatsu. com/english

Chase Mari Yamaguchi at https://www. twitter. com/mariyamaguchi

Her work can be found at http://bigstory. ap. org/content/mari-yamaguchi

Chase Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at: https://twitter. com/yurikageyama

Her work can be found at http://bigstory. ap. org/content/yuri-kageyama

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