For the past 34 years, Takeichi Saito has been taking daily readings of seawater temperatures close to where the Tomari nuclear power plant in Hokkaido was eventually built.
What he has learned is that water temperatures at Iwanai Port have risen perceptibly, after allowing for global warming and other factors.
For Saito, 59, this is validation of an activity that has intrigued him since he was a university student.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that Saito--along with countless others--is rejoicing over the fact that on the night of May 5, Japan for the first time in 42 years was without any form of nuclear power generation.
Japan's anti-nuclear movement has been around for decades, but the disaster last year at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant has imbued activists with a new sense of expectation.
People like Saito are coming out of the woodwork following the government's decision to shut down the No. 3 reactor of the Tomari nuclear plant. It means all 50 reactors in Japan are now idle.
"That was unexpected," said Saito, referring to the shutdown. "But now it has been stopped, I feel that I have played my part."
Saito and his friends gathered on the shore opposite the plant to raise a toast: "Goodbye, Tomari," they chanted in unison.
Saito, who runs a cram school at his home, has been taking water temperature readings at a nearby breakwater the old-fashioned way--by scooping water in a bucket--since he was 24 years old.
The Tomari plant, operated by Hokkaido Electric Power Co., is the only nuclear facility in Hokkaido. The No. 1 and 2 reactors went into commercial operation in 1989 and 1991, respectively. The No. 3 reactor went online in December 2009.
Saito got interested in the issue following an announcement that construction of the Tomari plant would go ahead. The facility is just 4 kilometers from his home.
At the time, he was attending university. He read a book on nuclear power generation that said his community would be devastated in the event of a nuclear accident. He felt compelled to monitor water temperatures close to his hometown for signs the nuclear facility was affecting the environment.
Saito dropped out of university after a year because of spinal cord disease. He returned Iwanai when he was 24.
Since that time, he has been taking daily readings. Although he is not a scientist, Saito says that even an amateur can offer meaningful research on the effects of hot waste water from a nuclear plant dumped into the sea.
Saito declared he would continue his research for 30 years.
"Everybody said it would be impossible," he recalled. "I was seen as an oddity."
Working as a nurse at a town-run childcare center, Saito became prominent in the antinuclear movement. That led to harassing phone calls at his home and office. Members of the pro-nuclear camp called for him to be sacked.
Many of his friends who had initially been against the plant were apparently intimidated by the campaign against Saito and began to embrace having a nuclear plant in their backyard.
Saito at times was gripped by a sense of utter impotence.
Nevertheless, he felt empowered by his research.
"The readings I made gave me the justification to continue. That's why I went back day after day. I felt I was being summoned to come each and every day," he said.
In 2008, after 30 years of taking readings, Saito compiled a comparative report of his findings. He said the water temperature at Iwanai Port had risen 0.3 degree since the Tomari plant began operating, after taking natural fluctuations into account.
Referring to the catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Saito said, "I had been thinking an accident could occur due to the age of the facility, but even so I was staggered by what happened."
Saito used to give around 10 lectures a year on nuclear issues. But in the past year since the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima plant, he has given 85 lectures. He often receives encouragement from strangers while walking on his own.
Saito said he firmly believes the Tomari plant will not be reactivated. And so he has set a new goal: to continue his research for five decades until he reaches the age of 75.
Kazuyuki Takemoto, 62, is a member of the anti-nuclear movement in Kariwa, Niigata Prefecture, which hosts the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.
Even with all the nation's reactors shut down, Takemoto is frustrated.
"I think it was a matter of course that all the reactors went offline," he said. "The problem is that things have not progressed further."
"If we don't become more strident in pointing out the problems with Tokyo Electric Power Co. (operator of the plant) and the government, the reactors will be reactivated. Those of us who worry about nuclear power will be left behind."
One in four households in the village where Takemoto lives is said to have family members who work at firms that do business with TEPCO.
Takemoto has spoken out against the nuclear plant for the past four decades. Despite constant threats, he served as a village council member for six terms.
At 91, Eiichi Nagano remains determined to continue making his voice heard. The resident of Makinohara, Shizuoka Prefecture, is bitterly opposed to the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Omaezaki in the same prefecture.
For more than 35 years, he has clipped any article in newspapers and magazines that contains the words nuclear power plant.
Nagano felt he had to study the issue more if he was to raise his voice against nuclear power. He distributed leaflets and held study sessions, inviting experts at his own expense.
On many occasions Nagano was down in the dumps because people ignored him.
But these days, he often hears words of encouragement.
Now that operations at the Hamaoka plant have been halted due to the Fukushima disaster, he says Japan has a duty to ensure the same mistake is never repeated.
In Genkai, Saga Prefecture, where the Genkai nuclear plant is located, Kido Nakaaki, a former chief priest at a local temple, has been speaking out against nuclear power generation since 1965.
Now 82, Nakaaki became an activist after the idea of building a nuclear plant in the town was first mooted.
"Politicians from Tokyo began lobbying the local municipality head to give the go-ahead for the plant," Nakaaki said. "Our movement was not at all popular."
Hefty government subsidies poured into the town as recompense for allowing the plant to be built. The myth about the safety of nuclear power generation had begun to spread.
Nakaaki has frequently felt gnawings of frustration.
"The Japanese people experienced the horrors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," he said. "So naturally, we are nervous about nuclear power. The myth about nuclear safety has collapsed completely. We will never allow new nuclear plants to be built."
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