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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies

A Fukushima Mother’s Story: 12 years from Evacuation to Lobbying at the UN Human Rights Council


M. Sonoda (Fukushima)

Date and Time

March 10, 2023, 6 -8 pm


University of Zurich, Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, Room RAA G 15, Rämistrasse 59, 8001 Zürich


The long-term effect of the Fukushima nuclear disaster keeps international attention. Public opinion is still split over Fukushima-related issues such as releasing radioactive water into the sea, transporting radioactive soil to distant areas, and reducing expenditures for the reconstruction of Fukushima. Nevertheless, the government steered its way toward the development of new types of nuclear reactors. This raises questions about how Fukushima victims and their supporters have protested against the government.

After the nuclear disaster occured, M. Sonoda evacuated with her family from Fukushima to several places in Japan and Europe. She became politically active to protect their own children from radiation with hundreds of other mothers. They have often been criticized by the media and society because the government attempted to stop a population outflow from Fukushima and to trivialize the harm of radiation. Meanwhile, the mothers' voices were drowned out in Japanese society. Therefore, they started to lobby at the UN Human Rights Council to appeal to international public opinion about the damage of Fukushima evacuees.

In this lecture, M. Sonoda tells us her amazing story from her evacuation to political activities at the UN. Last year, she and other activists took a new big step. Defining Fukushima evacuees as "Internally Displaced Persons" (IDPs), she and international NGOs succeeded in putting the issue on the agenda for the UN's Universal Periodic Review. At last, the UN special rapporteur who is responsible for human rights of IDPs visited Japan last year.


Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies - Japanese Studies

Japanese Studies' Student Association