Sachiko Ueda, 77, is called Sachi by everyone in Ohi-cho, Fukui Prefecture. She has run a small hair salon for a half century since she started it in 1960. She has seen her hometown there. The tiny shop has just three chairs and three mirrors. Her place has been a place for social interaction for local women. Sachi hears most of the rumors there. In the end of 1960s, for example, when a plan for the construction of a nuclear power plant was brought to the village, she heard these rumors: Someone was asked for selling his land for 5 million yen by an employee at the electric power company with wads of cash; Some local people seemed to think their lands would become a big theme park or something.
Later the village was divided into two by arguing the pros and cons of the construction of the nuclear power plant. The mayor of the village tried to advance the project at his own discretion in 1971, but he was de-elected. The new mayor who had been supported by the anti-nuke people, however, turned to support the plan after the election. Ohi No.1 and No.2 Nuclear Reactors started in 1978, eight years after the recall election.
In 1980s, Sachi’s salon was abuzz with rumors related to the expansion of No. 3 and 4 reactors. Someone said, “He was eliminated for a job at the village office because he had said, “I’m opposed to the nuclear power station,” at his job interview.” Sachi knew that villagers’ stories were just rumors, but thought that the village had been divided into two by the nuclear power plant and it was contaminating the people’s relationships. She said, “There were more and more people who shut their mouth about the nuclear power plant issues, saying “We can’t help it.””
When the nuclear accident occurred in Fukushima in March, 2011, regular customers muttered each other, “Where are you going to run away if the same thing happens here?” “Well…I have no idea…” All of us would die… Sachi thought that, but didn’t say that.
Sachi has a daughter Satomi, 47, who lives in the US. Satomi met her American husband 23 years ago and went to the continent against protest of her mother. Three months after the disaster, Satomi came to her mother with her two children. Sachi was very happy to see her daughter and grandchildren because she had lived by herself since her husband died. But her daughter was very serious. She had thought that all of Japan had been contaminated by the radiation in the US, where the media had reported that way. She regarded Wakasa as the same as Fukushima, and never allowed her children go outside when it was raining. “You can’t go anywhere if an accident happens here, Mom. You now, Japan is very small.”
When Sachi heard her daughter’s words, she thought as if an arrow was driven through her heart. The fear of a nuclear accident, which had been someone else’s affairs until then, loomed as a real anxiety to her. She could not laugh it away. Before Ohi No. 3 and No. 4 Reactors restarted last summer, she replied to a TV interview, “We can’t preserve our hometown to our grandchildren if this goes on.” One of her customers, who had came to Sachi’s hair salon for more than 20 years, warned her, “You shouldn’t have said that. What if no one comes to the shop?” I don’t care! Sachi thought. She is going to say to her grandchildren when they visit her next time, “I want to eliminate nuclear power stations.”
(The Chunichi June 1, 2013, translated by Moshimoshimo)