I am sitting in the kitchen of our apartment in Tenjinyama Art Studio, Sapporo, listening to Ainu vocal ensemble Marewrew; attempting to learn about another aspect of the rich cultural and historical landscape of Hokkaido. We have only been here for a couple of days and it's been intense, insightful and extremely rewarding.
On Tuesday morning we took a five hour coach journey along the eastern coast from Sapporo to Toyotomi in rural Hokkaido, where we stayed with dairy farmer and activist Kuse Shigetsugu. There we met with members of his community opposed to the Underground Research Laboratory (URL) in nearby Horonobe, which is one site in Japan where experiments are underway to find solutions to the 'disposal' of Japan's high level nuclear waste (HLW). After spending the night we were given a tour of the Horonobe Underground Research Laboratory by a staff member of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, a stark contrast from Kuse's way of life. Kuse picked us up from the URL and we returned to his farm shop, where his daughter made us mozzarella and tomatoes on toast, the mozzarella being from the cows on the farm.
We were able to grasp during this short trip, if only momentarily, the predicament of those on the periphery whose lives are impacted by nuclear power and its legacy. In addition to working tirelessly on his farm and his activities against the Horonobe Underground Research Centre, Kuse accommodates for children affected by the Fukushima disaster: 'I felt half-dead, only half-dead, so there was still something more I could do'.*
James and I will have a research blog up soon where we will be regularly posting what we've found and how things are developing.
*paraphrased comment Kuse made in his shop.