Note for "Ashes to Honey" Post-screening Discussion

Film Screening: Ashes to Honey
Thursday, January 30
7:00 pm
Film Studies Center
Cobb Lecture Hall, Room 307
5811 South Ellis Avenue

Join us for a special screening and discussion of Ashes to Honey!
This documentary observes the demonstrators of the Japanese island of Iwaishima and their 28-year struggle against a nuclear power plant on its shores. The islanders’ endeavours are juxtaposed with the situation in Sweden, where the public’s desire for sustainable energy has produced eco-friendly lifestyle choices since 1980.
The film will be followed by a discussion with Aiko Kojima, a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology. Her research investigates food and consumerism in Japan, including the effects of the Fukushima Disaster on foodways. (Film has English subtitles)

Good  evening. It's wonderful that you came out in this cold weather to watch this documentary together with others. In this internet era, we can watch almost any movies just by one click at cozy home. But I've realized that watching movies and documentaries with other people is something more than just watching movies. It makes that moment somehow "real" -- a shared experience, that makes us help thinking, understanding, and imagining what is shown on the screen much more deeply. So thank you for Center for International Studies and Center for East Asian Studies to make this wonderful event happen. My name is Aiko Kojima. I'm a Ph. D candidate in Sociology. My research interest is food: food movements, consumer movements, politics, culture, and those things.

I have this impression that it is not well recognized by people in the U.S., but nuclear radiation is one of the most serious threat for food safety. Because it contaminates the total environment. It pollutes the land, the sea, the air, the entire environment. Thus it is impossible that foods are not affected weather by fallout from nuclear bomb testings, by use of depleted Uranium at war, by nuclear power plant accidents, or even by daily emission from a nuclear power plant that is normally operated. This documentary vividly tells us that, the nuclear is the threat to LIFE, particularly through the fights of islanders of Iwaishima.

You may be wondering about the current situation of Iwaishima. So I would like to talk about the situation there after this documentary to now, then open the floor to Q&A. 

The good news is that Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant has not been constructed yet. The sea is not reclaimed. The project is delayed and delayed, and the license for Chugoku Electric Company to reclaim the sea got expired.

But the bad news is that Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant project has not been cancelled completely. Although the license to reclaim the sea has not been allowed to renew, it is not fully withdrawn. It is now under the review. The fight against buoys installment which was featured in this film was September to October 2009. Since then severe contests of islanders have been still on-going. Two islanders and two members of Kayak protesting squadron, both were from outside the area, have been sued by Chugoku Electric Company. The court order was issued for protesters to stop obstacling the project, against which the islanders appeal back to the court for its withdrawal.

This documentary "Ashes to Honey" was completed in April 2010, and released in September 2010. Actually another documentary "Hori no Shima" by another female director Aya Hanabusa that features Iwaishima was also released in 2010, so in 2010 Iwaishima got attentions from people outside the area, and more people came to the island to support protests.

Then six months later from the release of the film. March 11th, 2011. Tohoku Great Earthquake and Tsunami, and Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accidents occurred.

Witnessing how disastrous and irreversible it gets one an accident occurred, the public opinion in Japan massively turned to anti-nuclear, and Iwaishima got a huge national attention. The governor of Yamaguchi prefecture requested Chugoku Electric company to suspend the construction project, and Chugoku Electric Company announced its suspension on March 15, 4 days later from Fukushima incident. There are 54 nuclear reactors in Japan, but since Fukushima incident, almost all of them have been shut down for "scheduled maintenance", but in reality, because of the rise of anti-nuclear movements. Actually between May 5 and July 20, 2012, and since September 15, 2013 to now, absolutely zero nuclear power plants operate in Japan. Even during the periods that were not zero-nuclear, only one or two plants were operating.

In the movie, Mr. Yamato, the father of Takashi said that islanders did not have such power to make the project cancelled. What they could do was to delay it as long as possible, expecting that social climate would be shifted toward anti-nuclear. So, indeed, they delayed it for amazing 30 years, and upon the historical tragedy, finally, their isolated, yet indomitable voice got heard.

But as I said, the fight is not still over.

In October 2010, the license for Chugoku Electric Company to reclaim the sea got expired, and they filed to renew it. In the wake of Fukushima tragedy, the governor didn't allow to renew it. However, last year, March 2013, instead of rejecting the renewal, he announced that the prefecture would keep reviewing it for another year, namely until coming next month.

It is because that in December 2012, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the conservative pro-nuclear party won the election and Shinzo Abe became the Prime Minister. LDP and Prime Minister Abe eager to restart nuclear plants, all of which are currently, at this moment, shut down. Abe declared to withdraw the Nuclear Phase-out Policy, which was issued by the previous government after Fukushima tragedy. So the governor of Yamgushi is practically waiting for Abe to formally resolve the nuclear promotion policy. And once existing plants got restarted and planned new plants receive a go-signal, he will renew the license for Chugoku Electric Company.

So it is not over. Iwaishima is still on the verge.

For the future of Iwaishima, the result of Tokyo governor election on February 9, scheduled in 10 days from today, will be consequential.  I don't go into details, but this election is understood as a confidence vote for Prime Minister Abe and LDP. If the LDP candidate win, Abe will no doubt restart nuclear plants, and Chugoku Electric Company will obtain a renewed license to reclaim the sea. I want you to pay attention to this coming election, with having it in your mind that its result will directly influence to the lives of those people in Iwaishima.