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» Fukushima evacuees little meaning for Tokyo gubernatorial race for anti-nuclear movement

Japan’s nuclear power policy has come under the spotlight following former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa’s announcement of his candidacy in next month’s gubernatorial race, but for many Fukushima Prefecture residents who have evacuated to Tokyo the race bears little meaning for them.

As of December last year 8,048 people who evacuated in the aftermath of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and ensuing nuclear disaster were living in Tokyo. Around 1,100 of them reside in Shinonome Jutaku, a residential complex for civil servants in the capital’s Koto Ward. Most of these residents are from Fukushima Prefecture.

On Jan. 14, the day Hosokawa announced his intention to run in the gubernatorial election, around 20 elderly residents had a get-together. One of them intently read a Fukushima newspaper, but no one brought up the Tokyo race.

“I’m anxious because I don’t know how long I’ll have before I’m told to leave. If I had some reassurance that I could stay here a long time I could plan out my life, but as it is I can’t even buy furniture,” said evacuee Kozo Misawa, 71. His home is in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and within an area still under government evacuation orders.

Since the nuclear disaster, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been offering metropolitan government-managed housing and housing for civil servants free to disaster evacuees. In September last year it extended the original three-year accommodation period by another year. Shinonome Jutaku is considered “temporary housing” and could be subject to additional extensions, but for now residents are only assured they can stay through March next year.

What Misawa wants is stability in his life. He feels that Hosokawa’s anti-nuclear stance is just a ploy to get votes.

“I wish he’d first focus on the many other issues (like how to support evacuees),” says Misawa.

A 38-year-old woman who evacuated with her husband and child is similarly worried about how long she can stay in the complex.

“After my child starts going to school, it won’t be easy to switch to another one. Honestly, I’d prefer the candidates in the gubernatorial race to talk about what they’ll do for evacuees, rather than about nuclear power plants,” she said.

Many evacuees, keeping the option of returning to Fukushima on the table, have not changed their registered addresses to Tokyo and so cannot vote in the election.

Hisako Sanpei, 59, who evacuated from Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, to the city of Machida, is one such evacuee.

“Until now, Tokyo used as much electricity from the Fukushima power plant as it liked. This (gubernatorial race, in which nuclear power is an issue) will provide a good chance for people in Tokyo to think about their responsibility for having used that power and the dangers of nuclear plants,” she says. On her inability to vote, she says, “It’s frustrating because we’re here living in Tokyo. Even if it’s small, my one vote could bring change.
<Media Report>
Fukushima evacuees show tepid response to Tokyo gubernatorial candidates’ nuclear policies (Mainichi Newspaper)

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