KJ: You came to Japan several times last year following 3.11. What do you see happening at the moment in Japan?
Mayumi Oda: It’s a great opportunity to stop nuclear reactors — and probably we will. It’s an amazing coincidence that the last reactor that is still operating, in Hokkaido, is called Tomari. So we’ll make Tomari into the tomari [end] of nuclear. It’s a great pun! I had a Goddess exhibition in Hokkaido about three years ago, that raised quite a lot of money, so I gave quite a bit to the Tomari hangenpatsu people because they really were struggling. I feel such a strong connection with this place. It was a very important Jomon [prehistoric Japanese] site. So I think it’s very synchronistic that Tomari is the stopping point.
What originally led you to get involved in the anti-nuclear movement?
In 1992, Jinzaburo Takagi published a small article about the plutonium shipments coming to Japan from Cherbourg, in France. It really hit me. Japan’s nuclear waste had been reprocessed and was being shipped back to Japan as MOX [a super-powerful fuel mixture of uranium and plutonium]. We ship all our spent fuel to COGEMA in France and Sellafield in Britain and they reprocess it. It’s a big business deal they made. I think Japan may have even paid to make the reprocessing plant. So they shipped it back — it was supposed to be four times a year.
So this led you to start Plutonium Free Future, out of California?
Yes. I then realized that France and Belgium had both stopped using fast-breeder reactors. England also stopped. We are the last country doing it. I got very furious, when I realized that the name [of Japan’s fast-breeder reactor] Monju came from Eiheiji Temple. Monju means Manjushri, who is a Boddhisatva of Wisdom. The fast-breeder reactor was named by the Abbott of Eiheiji — how ridiculous! It’s got nothing to do with wisdom — it’s stupidity.
Could you talk about setting up WASH to teach people about Depleted Uranium (DU) in Hawai’i?
At one point I realized that Pohakuloa, about 40 miles north of my farm, is a major place for testing of DU weapons, though they say they’ve stopped. DU was used in the Iraq War, so I realized I’m a downwinder. A high population of [local] people have diseases — liver disease, because it accumulates into the liver, spleen and so on, a lot of diabetes, cancer, breast cancer — and it’s very difficult because the American military system offers so many jobs that people don’t want to be anti-base. For a poor island like mine, that’s where a lot of money is, so it seems like there’s not much I can do at this moment.
I saw your painting of Amaterasu last year. It was very powerful, with Amaterasu hovering above the whole of Japan and the tsunami coming in.
The amazing thing is that Japanese people are SO in love with the Japanese sun goddess! Amaterasu is our Mother Goddess, that people really adored and gave so much respect to with the Ise mairi, Okage Mairi [pilgrimage]. There were three big ones: in the 17th century, the 18th century and in the 1830s. That last one was the biggest — apparently about 450,000 people, just think about this — they came from all over Japan. It usually happened around the time of a sengu — every 20 years they rebuild the shrine, so they apparently started to use the shingles of the old shrine buildings as ofuda, a kind of talisman, which they used to throw to the people.
o you see parallels between more traditional spiritual pilgrimages and the growing movement of political walks to bring awareness to present-day issues? For example, the sacred runs in America, for Native Rights, which include rights against uranium testing and nuclear facilities. I took part in the International Peace Pilgrimage in 2004. People walked for eight months. Four months in Australia from Roxby Downs uranium mine to other related sites, then four months in Japan from northern Honshu to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
It’s definitely spiritual. And it’s a practice of generosity for the people who are not walking just to give to them, to support them, because they are walking for others too. These enormous acts of love happen, and that makes people happy. So it’s a really happy thing to push it, do it, plan it. It would be wonderful if a lot more people start walking.
Read more at Mayumi Oda on Energy of Change, Feminization and New Birth of Japan