Yuichi Hamagami, 65, was scared of the dark when he was a child. His family has lived in Oshima Peninsula, Fukui Prefecture, for generations. The Hamagamis is the guardian for one of 32 sacred forests called “Niso-no-mori” in the peninsula. There is a festival for their ancestors who broke in the area in each forest every November. Yuichi has joined the festival since he was a little child to help his father. Before dawn, little Yuichi was jerked from slumber by his father and went to their forest. There was no street lamp. Yuichi’s role was holding a paper lantern in the darkness. He could not help running because he thought he was seen by something from the darkness.
It was the latter half of 1960s when villagers in Oshima Peninsula received a construction plan of a nuclear power plant. Yuichi’s father was a town councilor at that time and was the most strident supporter of the project. Some people said he was after money because he owned some parts of the planned site. But Yuichi says, “My father just wanted to enrich our hometown.”
Yuichi’s father passed away from lung cancer in 1978 just a year before Ohi Nuclear Power Plant’s No.1 reactor started. He was 56 years old. Still young. That is why some says “He was cursed by God in the forest.” Four years before he passed away a bridge called “Aoto-no-ohashi” between the peninsula and hometown was built. The construction of roads was also going on. Motorization was going to come to the remote area. Yuichi’s father cut down a part of the forest and made a car park there. According to the tradition, human intervention is forbidden to the forest. It is a taboo even to take a small twig home from the forest…
“I don’t believe rumors, but I kind of feel creepy.” After his father’s death, Yuichi built a small shrine in the forest, where there had been just a sacred stone. Besides he has held every rite. But he does not think it is the fault of the nuclear power plant if his father passed away from a curse. Yuichi became a town councilor like his father after he was retired from the town office. He said, “People’s will is in resuming!” in a conference about Ohi Nuclear Power Station’s restart last July. Of course, perfect safe control is precondition for his statement. He says, “Our wish to enrich our hometown is almost fulfilled. We can’t turn back the clock now.” The village has a handsome bridge and smooth roads. Streetlights shine at night. Yuichi is no longer afraid of the dark.
Koji Morishita, 56, is also one of the guardians for the sacred forests “Niso-no-mori”. He runs a guesthouse for workers related to the nuclear power plant. He used to reply, “Our lives are also important,” to the questions connected in the powerhouse. But he never forgets the sight in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture. He visited there to look at the actual circumstances in the devastated area. He saw children playing in an indoor recreation hall in the town. They looked happy. But he was shocked by the guide’s explanation: Children haven’t been able to play on the ground outside for fear of exposure since the nuclear power plant caused the accident. “I’d never thought of that. I was very shocked that I had never thought of that…” Now Koji hesitates to the pros and cons of nuclear power plants. He cannot answer to the question whether his village needs the facilities yet. He just thinks “God in our forests will get mad if an accident happens in the nuclear power plant.
(The Chunichi May 29, 2013, translated by Moshimoshimo)