Often clad in her favorite kimono even among demonstrators and shielding her fair skin under a parasol, Yui Kimura may not look like your typical rabid anti-nuclear activist.
But the 60-year-old has taken on Tokyo Electric Power Co. for more than 20 years, calling for a move away from atomic energy at its shareholders meeting every year.
In March, Kimura and other shareholders filed a lawsuit seeking 5.5 trillion yen ($69 billion) from 27 current and past TEPCO executives for failing to prevent the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and causing damage to the company.
It is TEPCO, not the 42 plaintiffs, who will gain any money won in the shareholder lawsuit. But Kimura, who works as an insurance agent, takes time off to attend court hearings and news conferences as one of the plaintiffs’ leaders.
“I am at it to clarify their responsibility,” she says.
Kimura became aware of the risks of atomic energy after the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident in 1986. A mother of a 2-year-old daughter at the time, she was alarmed by radiation detected from tea leaves she regularly purchased.
Three years later, she took out a loan, bought TEPCO shares and proposed the utility abandon atomic energy at its shareholders meeting for the first time.
When she was a child, Kimura asked her father, a former kamikaze pilot who didn't go on his final mission, why he did not oppose the war. “It was not a time when you could say such a thing,” he replied.
His words were in Kimura’s mind when she decided to confront TEPCO as a shareholder.
Japan rushed into a war with the Allied powers before ordinary citizens knew it, and Kimura felt that the same thing was happening with nuclear power generation.
It is “the responsibility for adults” to express opposition to atomic energy, she says.
In 1989, she paid 590,000 yen for 100 TEPCO shares. Today, they are worth only about 13,000 yen ($163) due to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
Kimura does not mind. “I bought the shares only as an instrument of dissent,” she says.
During her childhood, Kimura would read biographies of great figures and dream of living in an age of revolution. She studied peasant uprisings against government authorities during the Edo Period (1603-1867) for her graduation thesis.
For Kimura, weaning Japan from atomic energy could represent a revolution in the modern age.
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