SAGA (majirox news) — Outspoken actor Taro Yamamoto was in the front lines July 11 as anti-nuclear campaigners clashed with Saga Prefectural Government employees blocking them from meeting the governor to argue for the decommissioning of the Genkai nuclear power plant.
The popular 36-year-old actor took a break from working in Tokushima prefecture to join the group of about 150 demonstrators who marched on the government offices, shouting anti-nuclear slogans and seeking to give Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa a written demand that the Genkai reactor not be re-started.
Demonstrators clashed with officials and security guards who blocked their entrance into the offices as Yamamoto insisted his colleagues refrain from acting violently.
Genkai, located in Saga prefecture, is currently halted as it undergoes a stress test to determine whether it could withstand disasters of the scale that struck northern Japan on March 11. Its re-opening is seen as a litmus test for resumption of Japan’s nuclear power generation. Genkai has also attracted news at the center of a scandal involving the Kyushu Electric Power Co. (Kyuden) e-mailing workers to actively campaign for its resumption of operations.
Despite officials refusing to accept the written demand addressed to Furukawa, the actor was pleased with the demonstration that he had learned about through Twitter.
“I came to Saga and learned just how hard-pressed everybody is. I’m glad I came,” he said. “If we can continue negotiations, I’m sure it’ll open the door (to decommissioning the Genkai plant.)”
Yamamoto went on to dismiss the current stress testing of nuclear plants nationwide, calling it “nothing more than an act so they can all be restarted again soon.”
He added that he was also disappointed by the Kyuden e-mail scandal.
Yamamoto has had a turbulent few months since late May when he left Shisu Management Agency, saying he had already lost a job because of his anti-nuclear stance and did not want to cause the agency any further trouble. A drama that Yamamoto was to star in starting on July 8 was cancelled apparently due to his anti-nuclear remarks.
Since then, Yamamoto has been appearing on TV screens plugging energy-efficient curtains on behalf of catalog company Catalog House Ltd., which denies employing him because of his anti-nuclear credentials.
“We didn’t think about it at all,” a Catalog House spokesman said. “He’s young and has a fresh image and that’s why we used him.”
Yamamoto has continued to take part in demonstrations against nuclear energy and joined author Keiko Ochiai in a June 25 march demanding a national referendum on atomic power. He also keeps fighting to protect children against radiation exposure in the cities of Fukushima and Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture.
On the other hand, critics have been quick to jump on Yamamoto in recent weeks. ZakZak, a Web site run by the conservative Sankei newspaper, cited rumors that members of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) are interested in getting Yamamoto to run for office.
“They’re looking for someone cool to raise the anti-nuclear flag,” the site said, attributing the quote only to someone from “the DPJ side.”
ZakZak is not the only party casting doubts over Yamamoto’s forthrightness. Shisu Management Agency, Yamamoto’s former handlers, responded to the actor’s departure by saying they had been unaware of any booking for his services for the job he said he lost.
Whispers of a blacklisting, fueled by Yamamoto’s stated reason for leaving his talent agency, are dismissed by others in the showbiz world.
“Why would he be blacklisted?” ZakZak quotes the rhetorical question posed by another source attributed only as the news editor of a private TV network. “Ever since the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, it’s been the norm to be anti-nuclear.”
Criticism appears lost on Yamamoto, however, who steadfastly maintains his stance against nuclear power.
“Fukushima has made it clear that we can’t control nuclear power,” he said during the Saga demonstration on Monday. “If our safety can’t be guaranteed, we shouldn’t be restarting nuclear reactors.”