The right to evacuation: the self-determined future of post-Fukushima Japan
AbstractSince the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, rights advocacy has been gaining traction in Japanese politics. This paper argues the rationale that led to the current legal development in post-Fukushima Japan—the Nuclear Disaster Victims’ Support Act, which emphasizes the right to evacuation—and presents the grassroots struggle against public authorities. The right to evacuation is the right of citizens to avoid exposure to radioactivity by allowing victims—in this case, the victims of Fukushima—to choose their living location, whether that means permanently evacuating to a new area, returning to their original homes after evacuation, or remaining where they are (i.e., not evacuating). In any of these situations, necessary support from the government is guaranteed. I claim that while the right to evacuation represents a vision about how people in Fukushima can choose to survive and develop their own self-determined future, it requires a set of tools to achieve it. As such, this paper also argues the ways in which Japanese civil society groups play a significant role in helping bring the grassroots voices of people in Fukushima to the law-making process, as well as actual implementation. Advocacy to achieve such a fundamental human right is gradually progressing and moving away from the perception of being merely a criticism of government; rather, advocates are presenting alternatives and giving government a chance to change itself.
Keywords:Nuclear Disaster Victims’ Support Act, right to evacuation, rights advocacy, civil society, radiation exposure, post-Fukushima Japan
Akihiro Ogawa is a professor of Japanese studies at Stockholm University, Sweden. He completed a Ph.D. in anthropology in 2004 at Cornell University, followed by postdoctoral work at Harvard University’s Program on US-Japan Relations and Department of Anthropology. His major research interest is contemporary Japanese society, focusing on civil society. He is the author of the award-winning book The Failure of Civil Society?: The Third Sector and the State in Contemporary Japan (SUNY Press, 2009) and extensive writings on politics, social movements, peace, and education.