“Must be Implemented Despite Opposition” A Plan that Fell on a Water Source
At the beginning of the event, Jinken and Fujiwara explained the background and issues to be discussed.
For many villagers, the first news about the construction of the industrial waste disposal facility was an article that appeared in the village newspaper in April of this year(2022). The article, which appeared in a small corner, was titled “Public Inspection of Applications for General Waste and Industrial Waste Disposal Facility Installation Permits”
Around that time, rumors about the construction began to spread in the village together with mixed information such as “The decision had already been made” and “The village had been invited to participate in the project”. Young people in the village, including migrants, joined forces to “First get the facts right instead of reacting emotionally,” and distributed materials summarizing the facts based on official documents and other information. The following is a summary.
・Hiruma Unnsou Ltd. purchased land in the village and applied to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for a permit to expand its business.
・The scale of the new facility is 20 times larger than the business’s current processing capacity: 96 tons per day. This is equivalent to processing 41 years’ of Hinohara Village’s garbage in one year.
・The project has not yet been finalized, and is currently having its application reviewed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
・The project will be reviewed by an expert panel based on a written statement of opinions submitted by the village and interested parties. A final decision will be made by the Governor of Tokyo by fall 2022 based on the expert panel’s opinion.
On November 27 of 2021, a small briefing was held for residents of the Henbori region of Hinohara Village, the location of the proposed construction site. The residents who attended the meeting were confronted with the operator’s strong defense that it would be built despite opposition. Outraged, Mr. Kouji Yoshimoto, a member of the community association in the area, and others launched a signature campaign in March. This led to subsequent online signatures, demonstrations, and other forms of opposition.
In a small village with a population of 2,000, it is quite difficult to start such a movement. Because a network of blood relatives exists, everyone knows who lives where and who is related to whom. If one was to express a different opinion from the majority, the whole village would find out for better or for worse. The fact that it took a long time for more than half of the village council members to express their opinions, and the time it took from the briefing in November to the start of the signature campaign in March, was due to the situation that “The faces of the people were too visible to each other”. Mr. Yoshikawa, a former member of the village council, explains that this “excessive visibility” of each other may have hindered the campaign.
Mr. Fujiwara, an environmental expert, pointed out the following problems with the location of the proposed industrial waste disposal facility.
・Geological and topographical experts surveyed the proposed site and determined that it was “Unsuitable for an industrial waste disposal facility due to risks of landslides and mudslides.”
・The plan for securing the water needed for operating the facility was unrealistic, and even if spring water, stream water, rainwater, groundwater, and tap water were used, it would be impossible to secure 312 tons of water per day.
・Although the facility claims to be a “Cutting-edge disposal facility,” there are frequent accidents involving leaks of toxic substances and explosions at similar facilities throughout Japan, so there are always risks.
・The level of toxic chemicals generated by incineration is measured once every two months to once a year. The level of toxic heavy metals is not measured because there are no regulations on them.
・The plan requires that a “Residential environmental impact study (mini-assessment)” be conducted, but water quality studies are not included in the scope of the plan. Chemical substances leaking from the smokestacks and facilities will dissolve into rainwater, causing water and soil pollution and will not be represented in the environmental impact study.
・In addition to water quality, the study is not required to assess the effects of landscape obstruction, electromagnetic pollution, soil contamination, and crop pollution that are associated with incineration facilities.
He also pointed out that Japanese laws are less protective than those of Western countries and are inadequate to prevent environmental pollution. In other words, even if there are other concerns, as long as a few items stipulated by the current laws are met, the project is “legal,” and construction can be permitted at the discretion of the Tokyo governor. (*Further details are given in the text below.)
“We need to frame this as a ‘problem for all of us’ and connect it to the formation of laws.” (Miyadai)
This situation reminds me of the case during the construction of nuclear power plants in the past. Environmental pollution seems likely to happen, but I am especially concerned that we see no legal developments to control it. What are your concerns, Mr. Miyadai?
Miyadai: “There are two problems. The first is a legal problem. The second is the issue of residents’ campaigns. First, the standard national park laws in Western countries require that national governments set the budget according to the number of tourists, and that a separate legal system for environmental protection be established within the national park. However, we don’t see this in Japan’s current National Parks Law.
The Ministry of the Environment shows no commitment to foster a consensus on values that support the objective of “Protecting national parks.” Nor do the people. Parks are just beautiful recreational places. Other countries have national park laws, so they cannot build waste disposal facilities in their national parks. The question is, how can such a construction, be allowed when we have a national park law?
Miyadai: “Next is the residents’ campaigns. The outcome will be determined by how united the residents act. What we need to keep in mind is that the industrial waste operator bought the private property of the villagers. How much money went into the seller’s pocket? How much money will fall to whom by attracting facilities? Those are the issues.
From this, it is possible to determine how much influence the local interest network has on the village council. By understanding this thoroughly, we can clarify the most important democratic question: Whose interests will be respected and whose will be ignored? This will serve as a reference point for other communities in the future when the residents campaign for projects.
In this case, the operator applied to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for permission for construction. Even if the Hinohara village council passes a resolution opposing the project, it is not clear whether the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will comply with it. That is why it is important to cooperate with the metropolitan government. Otherwise, even if the village council passes a resolution, the metropolitan government may permit it, or permit it before the resolution is passed.
So we need to make sure that the TMG’s Environment Bureau cannot make such a move in a way that involves the entire residents of Tokyo. Industrial waste disposal facilities are nuisance facilities that must be built somewhere. Therefore, we should not impose such facilities to eachother as has been the case for a long time.”
*TMG…Tokyo Metropolitan Government
It’s that “not in my backyard” issue.
Miyadai: “Yes. That’s why the residents’ campaigns on the nuisance facility issue must develop a network of movements outside their local community, so that the other communities do not accuse them of causing a regional issue. Otherwise, the TMG will say, “Since we are going to build it somewhere else, let’s build it in a depopulated area.”
-So, my question is, if the industrial waste disposal facility has to be built somewhere, has the operator given sufficient explanation to the residents as to why they chose Hinohara Village, a water source?
Jinken: “It hasn’t been explained. If the world could run without waste disposal facilities, of course we should aim for that. But at present, we have to build it somewhere. But there has been no explanation or evidence of discussion about an ideal community or the reasoning of building a waste disposal facility in Hinohara Village. I think that’s what the residents are angry about.”
Fujiwara: “If we must build it somewhere, we should avoid building with the same structures that caused problems in the past. To do that, they need to conduct thorough investigation on facts and results.
In this respect, there is a huge difference between Japan and Western countries in terms of the environmental efforts of governments and citizen groups. For example, in Europe and the U.S., an independent organization called Greenpeace investigates and publishes reports on problems occurring at incineration facilities, especially the various health hazards in the surrounding areas. In Japan though, we hardly see such surveys being conducted. I think this is one of the problems.”
So they are saying “it is safe” even in the absence of a proper standard.
Fujiwara: “Companies can get around these restrictions by claiming ‘the circumstances meet the legal requirements’. Japanese laws themselves are very loose compared to those in Europe and the U.S.”
Miyadai: “Western laws have been developed in response to the environmental protection movement, especially since the 1960s. In Japan too, there was a lot of pollution in the 60s, and several laws were made. But unfortunately, we have come this far without discussing the adequacy of environmental protection legislation.
The ‘inferiority of the Japanese people’ plays a major role in this. Specifically, there is no sense of value to ‘commit to the platform which the public relies on.’And ‘public’, here, is not limited to one’s own group but includes the entire group (i.e., everyone).
When the samurai ruling class, the bakuhan system, had been functioning well, it became common during the Edo period for the population to believe that they could get by on relying on their superiors to make governmental decisions. Because of this, unlike in the West, the word ‘oyake’, meaning ‘the public’, has come to refer to the government. The term ‘selfless devotion’ is symbolic of this.
If we call a group of people who are publicly aware of the ‘platform which all strangers rely on’ a ‘society’, then there is no society in Japan. However, they created a ‘seken’, also meaning ‘the public’, as a concentric extension of the local kinship community based on having similar lifestyles. In Japan, the ‘seken’ functioned much like a society.
However, on the one hand, the local kinship community has been scrapped. And on the other hand, it was no longer possible to assume a similar lifestyle between the internal and external communities, so there was no society and the seken had also disappeared, leaving people to become self-centered. As a result, the majority of people have become calculating machines that ‘fight for a seat on a sinking ship’. Thus, the ‘inferiority of Japanese people’ has been exposed as the ‘inferiority of Japan’.
In the West, when ‘new data’ or ‘new problems’ are found regarding the environment, many people have a sense of mission to pass on good things to their own children and grandchildren despite having to go against the interests of their community or group. So, in contrast to Japan, new environmental laws are enacted one after another, and people criticize those who do not hold public values. In Japan, except when faced with the danger of losing their elections, lawmakers do not spontaneously embark in such a direction, and in fact, we hardly see a development of public opinion strong enough to build such a sense of danger.
Therefore, through the campaigns of individual residents in Hinohara Village and elsewhere, we must uncover what values are lacking in Japanese people in general, and what loopholes in the law are being created by these values. As I described, this “There’s no problem as long as it conforms to the law way of thinking” should not exist in environmental administration.
In every country, various anti-pollution and nature conservation movements have emerged from the belief that it is not possible to protect the environment simply by following conventional laws, and as a result, laws have been created. That’s why it is necessary to see what’s happening in Hinohara Village as ‘a problem for all of us’, and lead it to the formation of new laws.
Nakagawa: “You said that the reason for building the plant in Hinohara Village has not been fully explained. My boyfriend works in the construction industry, and he is supposedly on the side of those who were asked by the TMG to build such industrial waste disposal facilities. When he learned about the Hinohara issue, I asked him if he wanted to build it in the city or deep in the mountains, and he said, ‘deep in the mountains’. He said that he would rather build it deep in the mountains because the opposition would be stronger in an urban area. When I heard this, I thought it was similar to the problem of U.S. military bases in Okinawa.”
Miyadai: “In that sense, from the operator’s point of view, it is sometimes easier to control democracy in underpopulated areas. When you consider the process of choosing a site for a nuclear power plant, it is only natural for companies to act that way. First, underpopulated areas are chosen because opposition is small and even if there is an accident, the problem is small.
Second, in underpopulated areas where they continue to be dragged down by the past, everything works through the connections of (1) the head of the town or village, (2) influential council members, and (3) local influential people. So once the connections are tamed, it is easy to procure agreement at the town or village council level. In other words, the two-tier representation system does not function at the town and village council level, and instead, the connections between the head of the town or village, influential council members, and influential local people have pulled everything together.
“The residents should be the ones to decide.” (Yoshikawa)
Now, I will be joined here by Mr. Handa, a legal expert, and Mr. Yoshikawa, a former village council member. First, Mr. Handa would like to talk a little about some procedural issues.”
Handa: “The plan for this industrial waste disposal facility is currently at the stage where the operator has finished submitting the application to the TMG. I would like to explain especially about the examination and permitting stages that take place after this.
To review the flow of the Waste Disposal and Public Cleansing Law, a business operator first makes plans to install a waste disposal facility, and then goes to the government offices to obtain a permit. Then, a mini-assessment is conducted to determine what kind of environmental impact the facility will have on the surrounding environment, and to predict, investigate, and evaluate that impact and how it can be reduced.”
Handa: “The important point here is that the governor of Tokyo must determine whether or not the plan meets the requirements for a permit. In other words, if the governor determines that it fails to meet the requirements, the permit will not be issued. As I mentioned earlier, two of the criteria,‘whether or not the living environment is taken into consideration’ and ‘whether or not there is a risk of unlawful acts’, are fairly broad requirements, aren’t they? Such a wide range of requirements is what we call ‘discretionary’. To explain this in legal terms a little more, a discretion is when there is a wide range in determining whether a requirement is met. And, when there is a wide range in whether or not to issue a permit, we call this the ‘discretion effect’. Although generally it is explained that there is ‘no discretion effect’ for industrial waste disposal facilities, there is ‘requirement discretion’, so please keep that in mind.”
So the ‘requirement discretion’ allows the TMG to issue or not issue a permit. What does this mean in terms of democracy?
Handa: “In keeping with the theme of democracy, I would like to focus on the area of public participation.
When I say ‘environment’, I have three areas. The first is ‘the environment that each individual has’. For example, the family environment, the work environment, and the health of each individual. The second is the ‘natural environment’, such as the global environment. For example, climate change has been the focus of much attention, but there are also weather, biodiversity, and other major environmental issues. The third, ‘local environment’, is positioned in between the two. For example, there is culture in the region. There are also traditional performing arts and rich local nature such as satochi and satoyama(both are types of mountain villages), and each of these three areas overlaps with the others.
We can determine our ‘personal environment’ by ourselves. In contrast, the natural and local environment is something that the people living in the area should have the right to decide how to use or conserve it according to their own will. However, as far as we have heard, the voices of residents have hardly been reflected in the process of this issue. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government explains that it has no choice but to issue a permit when an application for a permit is submitted, and the village explains that the governor of Tokyo has the authority to grant a permit. Considering local autonomy guaranteed by the Constitution of Japan, local governments are supposed to be there to listen to the voices of residents who have interests in the community. How, then, can local democracy, local autonomy, and public participation be realized? I think that will be a major point of discussion.”
Handa: “In the meantime, there is a procedure in the Waste Management and Public Cleansing Law that attempts to reflect public participation. That is the mini-assessment. This was added as an amendment to the law, and there was a discussion about the importance of gaining the understanding of residents when setting up a waste disposal facility. The importance of the mini-assessment procedure is not only to conduct a survey, but also to allow residents to submit a written opinion as their voice. We have held study sessions for the purpose of writing a letter of opinion and carried out many other activities.
I would like to ask you about how you galvanized the residents’ participation on the issue of the construction of an industrial waste disposal facility in Hinohara Village, and how the residents moved forward with this issue. For example, the Waste Disposal and Public Cleansing Law does not require explanations, but in fact, the village requested that explanatory meetings be held. What kind of movements took place and what kind of voices were raised among the residents until that point?”
Jinken: “As a preliminary step to the opposition movement, we wanted to remind people that there is still room for us to participate and discuss, and that we need to discuss. So, we all researched on the issue and shared it with each other. One of the volunteers created a Facebook page called ‘Hinohara Village Network for Industrial Waste Incineration Plant Issues’. Here we collected our findings, printed them out as flyers, and distributed them to about 900 households in the village. These flyers reached people in the village who were not on social media or Facebook.
At the same time, we also collaborated with the neighborhood association near the proposed industrial waste disposal facility. The residents began going around the village to collect signatures against the project shortly before we learned about it. Mr. Yoshikawa, who will be speaking later, was the first to set up Change.org, an online petition signing service, so members who were relatively familiar with the internet and social media started to cooperate in expanding the project. I think that was our first move.”
Yoshikawa: “It all started on November 27 of last year(2021), when the project sponsor held a briefing for residents of the area where the construction is planned. Most people did not know that there was a briefing on that day. Moreover, what I consider problematic is that the chief of the village administration and three other administrative staff also at the briefing, but the village council members were not informed of this gathering. If this were a normal council meeting, all the council members would be angry. Normally, the council members would have been upset, saying, ‘why didn’t you inform all the council members through the council office about this important briefing’, or ‘why did the staff members go while we didn’t?’ But that didn’t happen.
The residents’ association near the proposed industrial waste disposal facility launched a petition drive in March, saying that this whole thing was wrong. When an application is submitted and accepted, everything that needs to be cleared in the preliminary consultation has already been done. So at submission, if it complies with the Administrative Procedure Law and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government ordinance, the application will be approved. What can put the brakes on that is the opinion letter from the expert panel and residents, and how the operator will accept that.
The legal requirement for mini-assessments is only to determine how the project will affect people’s lives. So even if there is a habitat 10 meters away from the project site for rare animals and plants in Tokyo, such as goshawks and bear hawks, they do not need to conduct a survey. We know the local environment better than anyone else, but the governor has the authority to decide on surveys, and the survey is carried out in accordance with a law with many loopholes. I think this is not right. I think the true form of local autonomy is for the residents to decide.”
Handa: “From what you’ve shared, despite at first having only limited information on the issue, it seems that lots of facts were gathered up as volunteers of residents researched more information, conveyed it to other residents and nonresidents through social media, and built connections through that. But essentially, I think that the briefing sessions from the operators were the only opportunity for the operators to disclose information and have people discuss it. Was that opportunity functioning? I am very curious as to whether the operators were willing to disclose the information themselves.”
Jinken: “First of all, I think the meeting held in November corresponds to the legally required briefing, but it was limited to people in that specific area, and most villagers did not know about it. It seems that only after the villagers voiced their concerns, the village office asked the operators for an explanation. We received a notice that a briefing would be held on a set date in each community association. However, I immediately understood that they did not want to explain. The initial flyer for the briefing did not include the word ‘industrial waste’, so some villagers may have thought they didn’t have to attend because it has nothing to do with them. When I pointed this out, the flyers for later briefings were revised to include the words ‘industrial waste’.”
Jinken: “Also, it was initially written that only people from the local community associations in each area could participate. We had no idea of the technical details, so we naturally wanted an expert to participate, or an attorney to attend when we were not available that day. But they turned down such requests. It was immediately clear that they were trying to create a pretext that they had explained the project to as few people as possible.
When we looked at what was actually said at the meeting, we found that they only gave one-sided explanations and showed no sincere attitude toward the project, and that they were planning the project without knowing much about Hinohara Village. No matter how much the residents objected to the project, the only response they got was, ‘We’ll build it’. That’s how the briefings went.
“You need a role model to do what is right in a value-oriented way.” (Miyadai)
About the fact that the village council members were not informed of the initial briefing and that it was supposed to be a controversial meeting, my own research into this opposition movement indicates that the residents are raising their voices, but I don’t hear voices of the council. I also don’t understand the attitude of the village mayor. The village council, which is supposed to function as a democratic body, does not seem to be functioning properly.
Jinken: “When the signatures of the villagers were being collected, we invited Dr. Fujiwara to hold a study session hosted by four of the nine village council members who were willing to participate. At that point, it was not yet an opposition movement, but the four council members later took a clear stand against it. On the other hand, my sense is that most of the other villagers were opposed to the project, but the remaining five council members did not express their opposition until recently. It was very frustrating for me as a resident, because four people cannot decide on anything. The reason it took so long for the council members to express their opposition was that they were ‘watching each other’ to see how they would be viewed if they expressed their opposition.”
Yoshikawa: “The two-party representative system is only a formality in most local councils in Japan. Some people, including municipal leaders and governors, think that they are better off politically if they work together with the head of the local government rather than against them, and that this is equally beneficial to the residents who support them. In fact, a council is supposed to be a council system, a place where people can discuss and come up with counter-proposals to the head of the municipality, but this is not the case. This is not unique to Hinohara Village. I believe that this structure is what we must break down.”
Mr.Miyadai, do you mean it is an issue of “self-conscious democracy”?
Miyadai: “After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident, I collected the legally required number of signatures as a representative of the ‘Direct Resident Demand for the Enactment of an Ordinance for a Metropolitan Vote on Nuclear Power Plant’ and submitted the draft ordinance to the Diet. At that time, I appealed that this was not a movement for ‘nuclear power phase-out’ but a movement for ‘democracy’.
It’s the same thing as what Mr. Jinken said. First, we need to know the facts. Then, after discussing among the residents, each individual will make up his or her own mind in the end. It is very important to start with ‘knowing the facts’ in order to avoid assuming a polarized situation of ‘for and against’.
That’s why I have been asking people who are in favor of nuclear power plants to sign the petition on the street. By discussing and thinking together about what is reasonable based on the disclosed information, we can stop making assumptions, regardless of whether we are pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear. As I explained this to them, many people signed the petition even if they were pro-nuclear.
Japanese people are ‘hirahame-kyorome’, meaning people are looking up and around, and speaking up so as not to lose their positions. This tends to be even more so when their faces are too visible. The important question is whether they can talk about the rationality of their decisions to the children and grandchildren of the community. If you have that mindset, then you have an actual‘society’.
Of course, our children and grandchildren are members of the community. Community self-governance is to think together to leave behind something good. In Japan, which relies heavily on the government, this tradition is lacking. That is why only very few Japanese have the mindset that democratic governance assumes: Elections are the final opportunity to express ideas that have been formulated through communication with one’s neighbors.”
Miyadai: “Next, I will talk about what specific strategies are needed. Earlier, Mr.Jinken told us that they were not allowed to include outsiders in the briefing. This is probably the experience knowledge of the operators. As an operator, first, you want to keep the problem small enough to be easily handled.
Second, the operator wants to prevent the residents from becoming a ‘knowledge society’, in other words, to prevent them from acquiring wisdom. If outsiders come in and gain wisdom, it will be difficult to persuade them of the rationality of their actions. So, all we have to do is to turn this around and give a hard time for the operators.
Once people are introduced to outside wisdom and no longer easily rounded up by the ‘knowledge society’, it will become clear to everyone that there is no rationality in the operator’s explanations. We need to get that out there as much as possible and get the outside world involved to see that this kind of nonsense is going on. That way, in an era of SDGs(Sustainable Developmental Goals), the operators be concerned of their brand image, and we can foil their attempts.”
I see. On the other hand, the logic of the operator is that they are only interested in ‘simply carrying out their work’, and the earnest appeals of the villagers who are campaigning against the project may not resonate well with them. It must be difficult to get people in different positions to change their minds.
Miyadai: “The Western norm is that all citizens should have a public mind. Therefore, even if they have no choice but to do something for work, they can think of various strategies as they ‘pretend’ to be a company employee with a mindset that they are ‘citizens’ before they are company employees’.
For example, they may secretly inform residents of inside information and expose their own company’s weaknesses that can be exploited. Then the company will not be able to push them too hard. Such thinking is also depicted in films such as Dopesick and Crisis, which depict the opioid problem.
But the problem in Japan is that there are many ‘company slaves’. The definition of a ‘company slave’ is ‘a bum who is only interested in getting a position in the company’. The opposite is ‘a person who is interested in the value of how much he or she has contributed to the public platform’. In other words, it is about having a public mindset.
However, in the future in Japan, it will be increasingly difficult to preserve the public on a macro level. As the saying goes, ‘poverty is a curse’, and Japan is in a vertical decline in both economic and social indicators. In terms of economic indicators such as average wage, minimum wage, and GDP per capita, Japan is long gone from being a developed country.
Social indicators of family and community ties have also deteriorated overwhelmingly. If society deteriorates, it is impossible to revitalize the economy. So the possibility of Japan’s recovery is zero from a macro perspective, even in the long term. In such a situation, the attitude of ‘the whole will fall, but we will not fall’ makes communal autonomy possible. In other words, the mindset of ‘we decide for ourselves’.
This requires a commitment to righteousness. However, in relationships that are closed to the community, people tend to think that it is easier to just adapt to one’s surroundings. The view that ‘learned adaptation’ is superior to ‘value based living’ is the inferiority of the Japanese from the perspective of modern society.
In order to do the right thing in a value-oriented manner without learning to adapt to one’s surroundings, Japanese people especially need ‘role models’. It is strategically important to create role models that can be used as references, such as a successful case of how a self-governing community was established in certain areas’.
The same is true for Hinohara Village. It is important to create a role model that we can be proud of and say, ‘this is what happened in Hinohara Village as a result of our efforts’. We need to spread a role model of successful community self-governance that proves that despite Japan is going down vertically on the macro level, on the micro level, the local community was able to drag itself up.
This kind of movement is very significant in the sense that it provides a public reference point for Japan as a whole. If Hinohara Village becomes a reference point, many communities will be able to refer to it and develop their own community self-governance for their own well-being. The story of Hinohara Village will be passed on to the people of Japan.”
I would like to ask Mr.Handa. When it comes to actually stopping this construction plan, we will have to wait for the decision of the expert panel and the Governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Is there any judicial or legal way to stop the project, for example, by creating an ordinance in Hinohara Village?
Handa: “First of all, from a legal standpoint, the attitude of the project operators at the November briefing that they are going to build the project regardless of opposition, is a total disregard for local autonomy and local democracy. This will fall under ‘disqualification’ as I explained earlier.
However, the governor of Tokyo is the one who makes that decision. The TMG may say, ‘That’s just an abstract idea’, and in the end, the TMG may decide that there are no disqualifying circumstances. On the other hand, if the residents’ voices become louder, or if public opinion changes with the gathering of voices from Tokyo residents and from across the country, it is possible that the assembly and the administration will be swayed. In fact, the village council members who initially showed no opposition eventually all expressed opposition.
From this perspective, for example, it is possible to create a procedural ordinance that says although the TMG has the authority to grant permit approval, operators will be required to hold a proper briefing session before TMG approves the permit. Additionally, the operator must directly face the residents. I am not sure if this would be applicable to this case, but it would be possible to establish such procedural regulations in order to prevent the creation of a second or third case.”
Handa: “Then, we will put pressure on the TMG, which will issue the permits in the future, saying, ‘You are the one who have the responsibility to make the decision. Please make a decision based on the voices of the residents, the written opinions of the residents, and the opinions of the expert panel, and face the voices of the village’.
The judiciary will play a final role, but I believe that the main push from the judiciary will be after the permit is granted. After the permit is granted, the judiciary will play a role in lawsuits to revoke the permit or to restrain the construction.
In this case, the residents themselves gathered a variety of information, and with the help of experts, they were able to analyze the publicly available data and expose it to debate, but there are times when information is not available in the first place. In such cases, I think it is sometimes necessary to collect more information by making a public information request with the support of attorneys. In any case, we need to eliminate the disparity in information, and provide residents with more facts that were not available at all in the beginning. I believe that only by doing so can democracy function well.”
Democracy is not so easy even at the local level, and moreover, Japan lacks a public mindset to begin with. With this still lacking, we should not forget that democracy will not easily function just because the number of people in a community is reduced. Mr. Miyadai, what did you think of this discussion?
Miyadai: “Let me give you an example. My father, who recently passed away, was the person who went to the United States to establish Kirin’s pharmaceutical division. Now the pharmaceutical division has grown larger than the beverage division and is making tremendous contributions to the company. But it has been more than 30 years since he retired, and not a single person remembers my father.
In other words, no matter how hard you work as a businessperson, in an association like a company or government office, individuals are merely replaceable. No matter how much you contribute, you will not be remembered long after you leave the company. I think this is sad.
The word ‘legacy’ became popular during the Olympics in recent years. It is only in the local region, not in the company, that we can leave a legacy of our existence. Because only a local region, not an association, exists as a community.
Moreover, according to environmental ethicist Baird Callicott, people can only have dignity and legacy in relation to a ‘place’. According to Callicott, a place is a ‘living thing’. This ‘place’, a living thing that lives for a span longer than a person’s life, and if it is cut down for human convenience, it will die.
But if we can preserve this ‘place’ as a living thing, the parents an grandparents can pass on stories to their grandchildren saying, “Hinohara Village is a good village now, but there were hardships in the past, and people who overcame those hardships and made Hinohara what it is today’.
The ancestors who worked hard in the past can be passed down to the next generation as legendary founders of Hinohara Village. This is what I mean when I say that a local region is not an organized group like a company, but a community. However, in the Showa period (1926-1989), companies and government offices were pseudo-communities, so there was such story-telling in companies, but not anymore.
I said that there is no ‘public’ in Japan. That will not change in the foreseeable future. However, there is a tradition of community. I choose the path of leaving legacies in the community and becoming a legend. So, young people, why don’t you take up the challenge in your own places?”
What can people outside the village do?
“We don’t want an industrial waste incineration plant in Hinohara Village, the only village on the mainland of Tokyo and the source of water for the people of Tokyo!”
The online petition has 9,815 names as of now (August 17, 2022).
Mr. Suzuki, who runs an inn in Hinohara Village, is one of those who have been participating in the opposition activities while traveling in and out of the village. He believes he needs 100,000 signatures to gather voices and to move the governor of Tokyo in a influential way. If we can get more than 80,000 people, we will be able to influence the governor’s decision. In fact, the number of visitors to Hinohara Village is said to be 200,000 a year. In addition, there are millions of residents in the Tama River basin which the Akigawa River empties into (Akigawa River flows through the area where the industrial waste disposal facility is to be built).
It will be important to appeal to these indirect stakeholders while taking advantage of opportunities such as events held in the village to gather their voices directly.
On July 9, the “Liaison Council Against Industrial Waste Facilities in Hinohara Village” was established. According to the Tokyo Shimbun (July 13, 2022), the council will be engaged in activities to collect information on the industrial waste incineration plant, hold study sessions, and lobby the administration and the council. We may be able to support them by cooperating with their activities and disseminating information.
“Don’t build an industrial waste incineration plant in Hinohara Village.”
“Liaison Council Against Industrial Waste Facilities in Hinohara Village.”
■online signature campaign：change.org/SaveHinohara
“Don’t build an industrial waste incineration plant in Hinohara Village, the water source of the Tokyo!”
■ “Save Hinohara Village, Tokyo’s Water Source, from a Large-scale Industrial Waste Disposal Facility 〜 A Discussion on Japan’s future through a‘Self-conscious Democracy’ ～ “(2022/06/28)