After Chernobyl, thousands of children got thyroid cancer. Some medical experts say leukemia, heart failure and other diseases that followed may be linked to radiation.
In Fukushima, at least three cases of thyroid cancer have been diagnosed among children, although there is no evidence of a link with the nuclear disaster. There are no comparative figures on thyroid cancer in other areas of Japan.
The children in the lawsuit and their families are all anonymous, and details about them are not disclosed, to protect them from possible backlash of ostracism and bullying.
“Why is Japan, our Fukushima, about to repeat the mistakes of Chernobyl?” wrote a mother of one of the children in a statement submitted to the court. “Isn’t it up to us adults to protect our children?”
The trial has attracted scant attention in the mainstream Japanese media, but it has drawn support from anti-nuclear protesters, who have periodically held massive rallies.
Among the high-profile supporters are musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, manga artist Tetsuya Chiba and American linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky.
“There is no better measure of the moral health of a society than how it treats the most vulnerable people within it, and none or more vulnerable, or more precious, than children who are the victims of unconscionable actions,” Chomsky wrote in a message.
A 12-year-old, among those who filed the lawsuit but have since left the area, said she was worried.
“Even if I am careful, I may get cancer, and the baby I have may be hurt,” she said in a hand-written statement.