AAJA member Yuri Kageyama recaps the exclusive talk.
Japanese lawmaker Taro Kono, long vocal against nuclear power even before last year’s tsunami disaster, was the guest speaker for several members in Tokyo of Asian American Journalists Association’s Asia chapter on Thursday, July 5, in a meeting room at The Associated Press.
About half a dozen of us huddled around the unpretentious and friendly Kono, asking one question after the other, trying to make more sense of the nuclear disaster in the nation that we cover: What do you think of the reactors getting restarted? Would you consider aligning with Ozawa, who is breaking away from the ruling party? Has your view changed on Japan’s problematic nuclear-fuel reprocessing since the disaster?
We wanted frank talk, to cut through bureaucratic-speak, and find out if Japan was about to change, or it was going to stumble along in its old ways, despite the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Kono expressed his exasperation with the government approach, at one point, exclaiming, “I don’t know what the heck is going on.”
He was outspoken, stressing that anti-terrorism measures were needed before any reactors could be restarted, and the government had not even mentioned considering such measures. All a terrorist would need to do is approach a reactor from the sea and throw dynamite into a spent fuel pool, he said. A chilling thought.
Kono was patient with his explanations. It helped he is a fluent English speaker. It was also timely that a parliamentary group had just issued a report on the nuclear disaster earlier in the day, and some of the questions centered around that.
This morning, Kono was on a nationally televised Japanese news program, being asked some of the very same questions we had asked. We were privileged to have had him to ourselves last night.
The main person in organizing the Kono event was veteran AAJA member Yuriko Nagano. She took the initiative to reach out to Kono’s office.
We decided to make the Kono event for-members-only and not attempt a huge turnout, but instead encourage people to become members. That worked. Several people renewed their memberships or joined. Yuriko’s email invitations to a members-only event certainly worked as a reminder that it’s worth it to be an AAJA member.
Tokyo members are already talking about getting other guest speakers who may offer insight, help us with our coverage and perk interest in the AAJA.
We also plan to hold informal social events to network, exchange ideas and spread journalistic love. The next one is a brunch Saturday July 7 with Yuka Hayashi of the Wall Street Journal.
Tokyo members who can’t attend UNITY in Las Vegas this year are also eager to have a report from those who were lucky enough to attend, over drinks or cookies, or both.
Follow us on Twitter @AAJAAsia for updates on future Q&As.