June 11, 2022
I think I might have to close down the store.
In December 2012, when asked by Guntaro Managi, 46, a lawyer visiting from Tokyo, to become a plaintiff leader, Takashi Nakajima, 66, who runs a local fish supermarket in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, could not give an immediate answer. I might have to close down the store,” he said.
Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake, supermarkets were packed with people every day in search of water and food. They cooked rice from stores they had left over, negotiated to buy fish from frozen warehouses at markets, and carried water in bleached kettles. Some people came from far away by bicycle or on foot due to lack of gasoline. 1,500 people a day formed a long line. While stores in the area were closed, they worked desperately to secure foodstuffs so as not to let the local people starve to death.
After the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the fishing industry in Fukushima was forced to suspend operations. Both the fish brokers and the retailers’ association, of which Mr. Nakajima is the president, were in dire straits because they could not get local fish. We have no choice but to hang ourselves,” he said. Such voices came in on a daily basis. With the help of a lawyer, he filed a direct claim for damages with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), but the company was slow to take action.
Sales down 30%, living on a pension with his wife without pay
It was then that he was asked to become the leader of the plaintiffs’ group in a lawsuit seeking compensation from TEPCO and the central government. His wife Kazumi, 66, told him, “Everyone is going to hang themselves. My son will teach you how to cut fish. I’ll teach my son how to cut fish, and we’ll take care of the restaurant. The fact that the lawyers had told him, “We are prepared to win even if it costs us our own money,” also crossed his mind. We can’t just run away.
Meetings of the plaintiffs’ group, lawsuits, negotiations with the government and TEPCO…. He began to leave the restaurant frequently. Due in part to the nuclear accident, sales have dropped by 30% at best, and now he and his wife live on a pension without pay.
As the head of the plaintiffs’ group, he was prepared to face criticism from those around him for continuing to complain about the damage. I was very angry when I was told by neighbors that I was a “walking rumor mill. However, his determination to have TEPCO and the national government admit responsibility for the nuclear accident and apologize, and to help victims other than the plaintiffs, was unwavering.
The government’s efforts to restart the nuclear power plants will not end with the court’s decision.
More than 11 years have passed since the accident, and more than 100 plaintiffs have died. Mr. Nakashima cannot forget Mitsuo Takagi, then 71, a ramen shop owner in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, who committed suicide in 2003. In court, he said, “I was happy when my children came to the store with their families. Now that the area has been designated as an evacuation zone, I can’t even open that store. Do you understand my frustration? There was no suicide note.
There was no suicide note,” Nakajima said. I believe that the Supreme Court’s decision will recognize the government’s responsibility. I wanted my friends who passed away to hear this. The government is now trying to restart the nuclear reactors. The ruling is not the end of the matter. The plaintiffs’ group will not disband and will continue to fight until we hand over to the next generation a society in which nuclear accidents will never happen again.
Fukushima lawsuit: “Give back our livelihood, give back our community! The lawsuit was filed on March 11, 2013 under the slogan “Give back our livelihoods, give back our community! The lawsuit was filed on March 11, 2013 under the slogan “Give back our livelihood, give back our community! The Fukushima District Court (Kanazawa Hideki, presiding judge) in the first trial held the government liable for one-half of TEPCO’s damages, but the Sendai High Court (Ueda Satoshi, presiding judge) in the second trial found the government’s liability equal to that of TEPCO and doubled the amount of damages to 1.01 billion yen. The high court decision expands the area covered by the “loss of hometown” compensation, which was only allowed in the difficult-to-return zone under the government’s “Interim Guidelines” for compensation standards. The court also approved compensation for victims in the Fukushima and Aizu regions and parts of Tochigi and Miyagi prefectures that are outside the evacuation zone.
On April 17, the Supreme Court’s Second Petty Bench will issue a unified decision on whether the government is liable for damages in four lawsuits filed by victims of the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima, Gunma, Chiba, and Ehime prefectures against TEPCO and the government. Ahead of the ruling, which could have a tremendous impact on the approximately 30 class action lawsuits filed nationwide, we asked the plaintiffs in the four lawsuits about the past 11 years and what the future holds.