‘As a Foreigner, Japan Felt Surreal After Fukushima Accident. Through Anti-Nuke Protests, People Have Discovered What Democracy Means’

Jacinta Hin

Jacinta Hin was born in The Netherlands and has lived in Japan since 1989. She was in Tokyo on March 11, 2011. She works in human resources and coaching, and is passionate about supporting people through change and transition. She is the co-founder of Beautiful Energy, a movement born in the wake of the events of 3/11/11, standing for a nuke-free world thriving on renewable energy through the weekly lighting of candles.

This interview is part of the 7 interviews conducted by DiaNuke.org on 7 years of the accident.

DiaNuke.org: What did the news of Fukushima accident mean to you on March 11, 2011 when you were in Tokyo?

Jacinta Hin: Everything that happened that day, the earthquake, the tsunami,
the Fukushima nuclear plant explosion turned my life upside down. It was as if I woke up to one world that morning and went to bed in another one that evening. The first week after 3/11 was surreal as if we were living in a science fiction movie. To have to prepare for a nuclear cloud coming your way, as for days, in Tokyo, we thought may happen (in the end it did not), is not something anyone should ever experience. And this was just my personal experience. It made me aware of the danger of nuclear energy, and the horror the people living close the plant went through and are facing to this day.

DiaNuke.org: How did you start to join the protest and become a reluctant activist?

Jacinta Hin: I prefer the term accidental activist. That’s how I feel. I stumbled into becoming an activist. It was not a choice I planned for. But it was the only response possible. The disaster took us entirely by surprise. Like many others I believed in a safe Japan. Earthquakes were a fact of life, and we could accept this. But a nuclear plant explosion? I did not even know that we had so many nuclear plants in Japan. The government’s response was shocking. The lack of open information. We did not know what to do and what not to do. We had to find new ways to be informed. We turned to social media; citizens groups were formed. Once the demonstrations started, I felt compelled to join. Life was not just about my immediate world – family, friends, work – anymore, as it had been before 3/11.

DiaNuke.org: In what ways has life changed for you since the accident?

Jacinta Hin: There is life before and life after 3/11. Had the Fukushima plant explosion not happened, I think my life would not have been disrupted by this cut-off point. I never expected to still be active in the anti-nuclear social movement, seven years later. Naively perhaps, I believed that Japan would choose to close all nuclear plants and redirect its attention to renewable energy. Which did not happen. By now I know that we are in this for the long haul. And it is not just Japan that is changing. The anti-nuclear movement is getting stronger everywhere in the world.

DiaNuke.org: Protests in large numbers after Fukushima were an unprecedented thing for a country like Japan. Do you feel some shift in the Japanese society?

Jacinta Hin: Yes, there is a shift happening in Japan. Before 3/11, demonstrations were unheard of. There was no real social movement. People were not coming together to discuss society and democracy, let alone act on their beliefs and sense of responsibility, on the scale it is happening right now. People are finding their voice, discovering what democracy means. They are finding new ways to exert their power as citizens. It is inspiring to see this.

DiaNuke.org: The candle protests that you do in Tokyo with your group are unique, what has kept it going for full 7 years?

Jacinta Hin: Community. We are together in this. We have formed a group. Had I been lighting candles alone, I am sure that I would have given up a long time ago. In Japan, we have a home for our candle movement: the weekly Friday anti-nuclear protest in front of parliament in Tokyo. Here we connect with other people. We also have members around the world. Every Friday, Beautiful Energy members light candles in many countries. And we are clear about our end-goal: a nuclear-free world. We know we cannot achieve this overnight. We learned to keep on going, together.

DiaNuke.org: The protests have waned out over time, the numbers in front of the Friday protests in Tokyo at Prime Minister’s residence have gone down. The nuclear industry and the government are trying to revive their strength. How hopeful you are about things?

Jacinta Hin: Extremely hopeful. Change is a process, always preceded by a period of transition. People holding on to the old ways, choices once made. Other people pushing for new ways, new choices. Right now we are in the middle of this transitional space. I do believe that anything nuclear has no place on our planet. Eventually, we will find our way a more peaceful, non-aggressive, balanced way of living on this planet.

DiaNuke.org: Individually, how do you find the balance between the long battle for a free world and your personal life?

Jacinta Hin: I don’t experience any of this as a battle. If enough people do something, whatever it is, change is inevitable. I am patient. I learned not to get frustrated with reality, the way things are today. I learned to take breaks. I enjoy life. I am hopeful. I also I feel honoured, not being Japanese, to be able to participate in Japan and represent a global voice.


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