“Anti-Nukes” Remains Fixed on Life
Declarations from the Religious World Come One after Another
Asahi Shimbun December 12, 2011
Written by Kyoko Isa 伊佐恭子
Up until now, it could not be said that the religious world had actively confronted the nuclear problem in Japan. However, now declarations aimed at nuclear society are coming one after another. There are now appeals from the standpoint of “life” that are drawing a line at the problems of energy, environment, and local economics.
On December 1st, the Japan Buddhist Federation (JBF)—an association of 104 traditional sects and denominations from all over the country—assembled its representatives and made a joint reflection on the issue. They then adopted a declaration that stated in part, “We will strive to reduce our dependence on such nuclear power that threatens life”. Rev. Yoshiharu Tomatsu, who acts as the present Secretary General, explains that, “In the end, we need to eliminate all nuclear power. We make this appeal as Buddhists.” This is the first time that JBF has raised its voice about nuclear power.
The Myoshinji sect of the Rinzai Zen denomination has also made a public declaration stating, “We must break away at once from dependence on nuclear power for the future of our children”; and “In Buddhism, there is taught the practice of ‘sufficiency’ (chisoku, samstuti/santuthi), and we must make an effort to create a sustainable symbiotic society.” The Zen Study Group of Eiheiji, the main temple of the Soto Zen denomination in Fukui prefecture, sponsored a symposium on the theme, “The Way to Live without Choosing Nuclear Power”; and so the movement is being born. Further, on November 8, the Japan Catholic Pontifical Council released a statement calling on the immediate discontinuation of all nuclear power within Japan.
Rev. Hiroaki Osada is the abbot of Hoten-ji, a Pure Land Jodo Shin Otani denomination temple in Hyogo Prefecture. Being active in the anti-nuclear movement for some time now, he guards over some complicated memories. In 1993, he was part of a group that created the Inter Faith Forum for the Review of National Nuclear Policy, which now consists of 800 members. They are religious leaders from Buddhist, Shinto, and Christian backgrounds who for many years all over Japan have made appeals concerning the nuclear issue. In the wake of the Fukushima incident, they all felt crestfallen that, “If we had just had more power, we could have stopped this incident from happening.” The Forum was created at the time of the first trials of the Monju fast breeder built in Fukui Prefecture. Since then, they have pointed out religious leaders’ responsibility in pointing out the problem of national atomic energy policy and called on for changes in the policy. However, within the religious world, this is a small faction.
Rev. Osada was born in a temple in Ishikawa Prefecture, just north of Fukui Prefecture on the Japan Sea. It is a region that had been called a “Jodo Shin Kingdom” because of the history of powerful resistance movements led by Shin priests and followers called ikko ikki. In 1989 and 1993 during the election for the mayor of Suzu City, the pros and cons of building a nuclear power plant in the region became a point of contention, and the community of believers was torn in two over whether to endorse it or not. The faction that opposed the plant (called the “Association of Jodo Shin Otani Denomination in Noto Opposed to Nuclear Power” created by Rev. Osada) made the following criticism, “There are those who say that the problems of this saha world are not Buddha dharma. Are you really fellow Shin priests?” The Otani headquarters subsequently forbade the group to use the denomination’s name for the association and made a statement that, “Religious leaders who engage in political activities are undesirable.”
Rev. Osada notes that, “After the defeat of the ikko ikki movement, the Otani denomination supported the Tokugawa Era class system, and then during the Meiji Era, it separated religious issues from real life and preached belief in the ‘Empire’.” From this basis, Rev. Osada points out that, “The perception that there was no use in opposing ‘His Highness’ (the Emperor) or that nothing that “His Highness” did could be wrong is the incredibly deep rooted background of the acceptance of nuclear power.”
In 1999 when a critical nuclear incident took place at Tokaimura in Ibaraki prefecture, the Otani denomination raised a voice to appeal for the review of the national energy policy, and Rev. Osada published a booklet which he edited called “Nuclear Power Steals Away Life.” However, this did not lead the denomination to make an anti-nuclear declaration since the Fukushima nuclear incident. During this period, Rev. Osada has been receiving successive requests from civil society groups and temples all over the country to give lectures. The members of the Inter Faith Forum for the Review of National Nuclear Policy published in 2001 a book detailing the reality of these nuclear power villages and towns called The Danger of Widespread Nuclear Contamination (Yugaku Publishing), which is being re-edited after ten years. Rev. Osada hopes that, “With the voice of JBF, if every denomination became active, it could become very powerful.”
Read Rev. Osada’s more recent article Nuclear Energy is Actually the “Establishment of Self”