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Japan’s New Green Political Innovators Respond to Government Attempts to Restart Nuclear Power Plants via Japan Focus

Just when it seemed Japanese politics was being pulled back into the hands of the collusive interests who brought us Fukushima, it’s thrown up another surprise. The reformists, centred in innovative capital and local government, seem to have found a new, and very promising, avenue to fight against the revanchist old guard that still dominates the central government. On June 10, Iida Tetsunari, the director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies and of Softbank CEO Son Masayoshi’s Japan Renewable Energy Federation, announced that he would be a candidate for governor in the July 27 Yamaguchi Prefectural election.

This will be a very important election, so let’s set the stage for Iida’s announcement. It was preceded by a week of dreary news for the pro-renewable community, which polls suggest is potentially a majority of Japanese voters. On Friday, June 8, DPJ Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko delivered a very public appeal to restart the two nuclear reactors in the Kansai community of Oi (Oi reactors numbers 3 and 4) because “Japanese society cannot survive if we stop all reactors or keep them halted.”

This speech followed the abrupt collapse of nationally popular Osaka city mayor Hashimoto Toru and other Kansai area leaders’ opposition to restarts. They were championing an energy transition, but lost their nerve due to intense pressure from local and national economic lobbies and their political allies. Hashimoto had retreated to a position in which he sought to limit the Oi restarts to the summer period only, a request that the central government effectively blew off. Hashimoto even retracted his commitment to fight the DPJ, centring on energy policy, as he may have got a deal on his desire for decentralization. The pro-renewables movement looked bereft of elected political representation that could put effective pressure on the centre.

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