When the Allied occupation ended with the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, "gyaku kosu" (literally, "reverse course") became a well-used expression in Japan. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, the country gradually began to rearm itself and there was a surge of revisionism. "Gyaku kosu" was said to imply a U-turn to the prewar days.
Even though the circumstances today are quite different from back then, I was reminded of this old expression by the government's decision on June 16 to restart nuclear reactors at the Oi power station. The motions the government went through before finalizing its decision were as thoroughly scripted as a Kabuki play.
A U-turn to the old myth of the safety of nuclear power is precisely what the government has executed. The government is stressing "safety" by pretending there is nothing to be afraid of, having cherry-picked data that justify its position.
Unlike certain business leaders, bureaucrats and academics, who are used to prevarication and obfuscation, the public will not forget the government's betrayal.
I have said this before in this column, but many people are truly contrite for their past ignorance and apathy concerning nuclear power generation. That is why they are against any further reliance on nuclear energy. I vehemently disagree with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's comment that these people are not being realistic. It is a way of looking at things that is easy for politicians and government officials to adopt.
It is said that a quarrel cannot last long if only one party is in the wrong. All the present back-and-forth over nuclear power generation is not a quarrel as such. However, as with any policy issue of a divisive nature, both sides have legitimate points.
In this particular case, however, everyone is more or less in agreement that the nation has to move toward abandoning nuclear power generation somewhere down the road. The government is treating the people shoddily by deciding to restart the Oi reactors before it has even presented an interim scenario.
It is unconscionable to undermine the will of the people in this manner. It is actually the government that is not being realistic by simply insisting on the safety of nuclear power generation. This sort of bullishness will eventually turn into excessive self-confidence, which will make the nation do an unwanted U-turn.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 17
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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