At first glance, 53-year-old Chikako Fujii appears to be unassuming housewife. She lives in Kunitachi, a suburb of Tokyo, and works as a textile dying artist. Yet, despite this apparent normalcy, Chikako is actually leading the fight against nuclear power and advocating for sustainable energy usage.
While the world knows her as Chikako Fujii, the electric companies fear her as ‘solar girl.’
The birth of her solar girl persona occurred after the March 11th nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.
In 2011, Japan faced one of the worst natural disasters in its history; a 9.0-9.1 earthquake followed by a tsunami devastated the coast of Fukushima prefecture causing a crisis at the nuclear facility located there. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company responsible for maintenance of the facility, was unable to contain the meltdown, and so the nation’s worst natural disaster in living record also became the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
In the immediate aftermath, Japan shut down all of its nuclear reactors.
Fujii was deeply shaken by this event. “After the earthquake and the nuclear accident, I felt compelled to do whatever I could to stop supporting nuclear power,” said Fujii, according to the Japanese language publication Greenz.
Since 2012, she experimented with various options, most notably solar panels, figuring out how far she could take her protest. To her delight and surprise, Fujii managed to get her electric usage down to around 800 watts a day after only a few months. Compared to that, the average New Yorker uses 2,000 watts a day.
It was time to take the fight to TEPCO.
Her opening volley was to stop paying her electric bill. This, in turn, caused a TEPCO representative to visit her apartment.
According to the Japan Times, the representative was arrogant, threatening to turn off her service and cut her contract if Fujii did not pay her bill by the end date. Perhaps this strategy worked before, but it was no match for solar girl.
“Sure, go ahead,” Fujii replied, according to the Japan Times.
Stunned, the TEPCO representative attempted to appear apologetic, turning to reason instead of threats to try and sway her, but nothing worked. Fujii was officially off the grid.
There was no turning back.
Fujii had the difficult task of finding ways to scale back even the meager 800 watts of energy she used a month, and the transition caused some growing pains.
For instance, she was not able to keep a refrigerator, which meant her diet had to change; perishable foods like meat, or fish were strictly luxuries now. Also, no reliable electricity supply has meant that running major appliances like her dishwasher a challenge.
In the beginning, the unreliability of her solar panels alone would cause the washing machine to cut out at night, leaving her clothes to soak for hours.
Undeterred, solar girl found a way. Her diet became largely vegetarian since vegetables would not spoil. She even created a way to cook using a solar powered cooking device.
Most extraordinarily, however, she also built a bicycle designed to generate electricity, which has since solved the majority of her supply problems.
Despite what many would see as inconveniences, Fujii remains positive.
“Some people have told me incredulously that I made a very bold decision,” Fujii said according to the Japan Times. “But seriously, I don’t find any of what I’m doing that inconvenient. I’m truly enjoying my life now.”
Through perseverance, ingenuity, and hard work, Fujii has maintained zero usage from the formal electrical grid for over a year.
You can follow Fujii on her blog.