Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Happy New Year! How have you been so far this new year? I pray that each day has found you safe and happy.
Recently, I received a call from a Japanese friend living in France. My friend asked me, “What’s Japan like these days?” So, I shared my personal thoughts and impressions.
“I feel that people these days are stressed. They always seem to be rushing around. I feel that in Japan there is no longer a sense of calm at home or at work.” “Few children go outside to run around and play like in the old days. Instead, many of them stay at home doing things like playing games on their cellphones.” “Crime and kidnappings have increased. It’s no longer safe for children to play alone outside. Also, many kids have to study until late at cram schools. Kids today seem very busy, and I feel sorry for them.” “Young people these days earn lower incomes and are having a difficult time.” “Unemployment has also increased.” “The government collects taxes and medical expenses and all sorts of things from us citizens, leaving less and less for living expenses. However, prices remain high and it’s a problem for everyone.” “Japan is a scarier place these days. The number of murders has increased, and it seems that some are willing to kill for trivial reasons.” “You hear people talking about traditional ‘Yamato Nadeshiko’ women and saying that Japan is the ‘country of the samurai’, however that was the Japan of long ago. Today’s women are stronger, but at the same time men seem to have become weaker.” “Japan has changed.” I won’t say whether the Japan of long ago was better or worse than now. However, I think we might benefit from standing back and comparing the two Japans – the Japan of long ago and the one we have today – and thinking about their good points.
“Aim to be Beautiful at Heart”
On the evening of January 3rd (2017), I saw a program called “Time to say whether you Like it or Hate it” on TV. The show interested me, so I began watching. Suddenly, the topic switched to “A Debate between Beautiful and Unattractive Girls”. The show started referring to the girls as “Beautiful and Ugly”. The beautiful girls would criticize the ugly ones, then the ugly girls would criticize the beautiful ones. The beautiful girls would brag about themselves and criticize the ugly girls, then the ugly girls would shout back in frustration. Sometimes the program’s announcer would laugh and egg them on.
Watching this show made me sad. Why is a round, fat face considered ugly? Is beauty defined simply as slim and skinny? When someone judges others simply based on their outward appearances, pretentiously calling themselves beautiful while coldly declaring someone else a failure as a person and looking down on them because of their appearance – can such a person really be described as a “beautiful person”? Conversely, what about those who are sad because they were born fat, feel bitter towards their parents because of this, have low self-esteem and are convinced they are doomed to unhappiness?
Do overweight people have to be unhappy? I generally sense warmth and tolerance from them and I think of them with respect.
Why don’t people focus on being “beautiful at heart” instead?
There are old sayings that go: “Your face in your 40’s reflects how you lived your 30’s” and “You make the sort of face you will have in your 50’s while you’re still in your 40’s”. Also, “Your 50’s will define the face you have in your 60’s”. In other words, you are the one who has made the face you currently have. The sort of life you live influences your expression and the type of face you have.
It’s definitely the case that warm and generous people usually have kind faces. Children find this sort of person easy to approach. Someone who is kind and always sees the good in people has a pure and beautiful face. Even if they are a wrinkled old woman, I think they are beautiful. There is a saying: “Your thoughts become your reality”. Also: “Words have power”.
Our words and your words. Our thoughts and your thoughts. Just as a single ripple on a lake gives birth to more waves that spread out over the surface of the water, washing away impurities and making it beautiful, in this same way my kind thoughts and your thoughts – and the words we say - can multiply and spread out across Japan and the whole world and make them beautiful again. Don’t you think? Let’s all try to become “beautiful at heart” together. Why don’t you join us and try to make your face a warm and happy one too?
“The current situation of those affected by the Fukushima disaster”
I will tell you about the current situation of the people from the Fukushima disaster-affected areas.
(A disaster-affected person from the Odaku neighborhood of Minami Souma)
“One third of those who were living in the temporary housing units have returned to their homes in Odaku. Those of us remain behind in the temporary housing are short on building materials. Workers have been taken up by other projects, so those from Fukushima have been put off until later and we can’t build our houses. But we can only live in the temporary housing until the end of March. They say that the government will demolish the houses after that. However, we have nowhere to go. We have no prospects. What should we do?”
(A disaster-affected person from the town of Naraha)
The people of Naraha are able to stay in their temporary housing until 2018. Only 10% of those from Naraha have returned to their homes. Even those who have already rebuilt their homes have moved back to the temporary housing. The reason for this is that there are no stores or supermarkets over there yet. However, there are plans to build a supermarket in the spring. Right now, the town of Naraha is full of workers during the day, but nobody stays there overnight, so it’s pitch black.
(A disaster-affected person from the town of Miyakoji)
“The temporary housing will be gone at the end of March, but those living outside of the 20km zone aren’t getting any money to rebuild their houses. We don’t know what to do. Our houses are still in the same condition they were when they were destroyed on March 11th. Those of us from Miyakoji received a one-time payment of 300,000 yen (about $2,600 US), but we haven’t received anything else since. A while back I filed some applications and was told that those moving out of the temporary housing would receive 50,000 yen (about $435 US). We were also told that those who aren’t returning to their homes will have to look for a new place to live on their own. Tamura City City Hall won’t do anything for us. The citizens of Miyakoji don’t have anywhere to go and they don’t know what to do. However, I felt that I had to take action, so I contacted a lawyer. The compensation case has already begun. We don’t have anyone that can be in charge of this full time, so the chairman has to take off from work (this affects his income). He is expending time and energy working together with the lawyer and preparing for the court case (he also has to pay his own travel and other expenses).
【Please help provide support】
I ask for all of you to please continue your support. Please help provide support for the disaster-affected people of the town of Miyakoji, who are not receiving government payments to rebuild their homes and have no source of funds. The cold days will continue for a bit longer so, dear readers, please take good care of yourselves and watch your health. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for all of your help.
Mobile: email@example.com 080-5547-8675
(I would like to request that calls be made between 11:00 AM – 5:30 PM
local time in Japan. Depending on my health, it may take some time for me to respond. If this happens, please try calling back again.)
Translation: Karen Carina Rogers
Friday, October 7, 2016
“A Government that refuses to look at the suffering of its own Citizens”
The world is changing at a blinding pace. As this happens, we assume that the endless stream of information constantly coming at us through newspapers, TV, the internet and other sources represents the “truth”. Haven’t we all found ourselves accepting this information without question and letting it form the basis of our own convictions? On October 2nd at 7:00pm, I watched a program on TV Asahi called “Don’t be deceived! The news that Japan doesn’t know.” It made me realize something; I had already heard people in the affected-areas of Fukushima repeatedly telling me the same thing about media coverage.
“Information about Fukushima is not being presented correctly. The radiation levels are actually different from what is being reported. It’s been written that decontamination was completed, but in reality there are still many areas with high levels of radiation. Our house was already decontaminated once. We were told “Everything’s done.” However, the contaminated soil which had been removed had simply been buried in a corner of our lot. There are other homes where the contaminated materials were placed in green-colored drums and just left on site. And the mountain villages haven’t been decontaminated at all. Whenever it rains, depending on the direction of the wind, there are times when homes and buildings start registering high levels of radiation all over again. Yet, the national government has already declared that we nuclear disaster victims should return to our homes by March of next year. In addition, they’re saying that the temporary housing used by people from the disaster-affected areas will be destroyed. During the last 5 years and 7 months, the abandoned houses have become the nesting grounds for various animals and thick grass has grown up everywhere. Insufficient infrastructure has been set up in these areas. You certainly can’t say that it feels safe to move back. These areas do not have sufficient hospitals or stores and are still surrounded by destroyed houses. (Since those outside of the 20 km radius zone do not receive reparation money, they cannot afford to make repairs.) For whatever reason, the national government is currently pretending not to notice the suffering of the people of the Fukushima affected areas. The mass media isn’t making an effort to report on it either.”
Russia’s response to the Chernobyl reactor was for the national government to put all its effort into showing that it was working to protect its citizens. Why didn’t the Japanese national government learn from this? It seems strange and makes me fear the coldness of their hearts. Governments exist “for the protection of the lives and the happiness of their people”, “we must love each citizen as if they were our own children, and put all of our efforts into promoting their happiness”… aren’t these a government’s true responsibilities? “To think of our citizens every day, to make their sadness our own, to feel the pain of struggling citizens as our own pain, to not cast out those who are unhappy to suffer alone!” I would think that thoughts like these, which show a heart that worries about its citizen’s concerns, should be the motto of every government.
In July 1978, Kaoru Hasuike, who was abducted and taken to North Korea in the past, said during a lecture: “I lost everything except for my life itself.” “If there are no results this time around, my body will give up from despair.” she said bitterly. (This occurred at a lecture that took place April 24th, 2015, in Koyama City, Tochigi Prefecture). Shigeru (83 years old) and Sakie (80), the parents of Megumi Yokota, are quite elderly now. I can’t imagine how painful it must be for those who are abducted as well as their worried parents and families. It’s now been 39 long years since Megumi’s abduction on November 15, 1977. The people of Japan were hoping for Prime Minister Abe to resolve this problem. However, reality was quite different. I don’t feel like he’s addressing the situation seriously by simply pinning a blue ribbon pin to his jacket lapel. What is the point of the blue ribbon? Also, on May 27th of this year, President Obama offered flowers and stopped for a moment of silence at the Memorial for the victims of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. Standing in front of it, he gave a speech that conveyed sorrow and urged for a “Nuclear Free World”. The majority of us Japanese were moved by this, and everyone was “united in their wish for a nuclear free world.” Or so I thought. I thought that this desire for a nuclear free world would spread from Hiroshima, to Japan to the whole rest of the world. It only seemed natural that the Prime Minister would become central to this movement and take action, I thought. However, reality turned out differently. Once again, preparations to make the nuclear reactors operational again were resumed, and it seems that aid efforts for the nuclear disaster victims were pretty much forgotten. Even news about the disaster-affected regions in Kumamoto became infrequent. The economic situation for Japanese citizens is very bleak, with earnings staying very low and all sorts of taxes being added one after another. Because of the low wages, young people are unable to own their own houses, and Japan has become a country where many people don’t even have enough to eat every day. The number of people living in poverty has increased, and citizens have stopped looking forward to the future with hopefulness.
Shouldn’t that be the issue of utmost priority to any government - to prevent its citizens’ way of life from coming under any sort of threat? Right now, the economy of Japan is only able to keep functioning because of the tax dollars its citizens have worked so dearly to pay. Things such as radical reforms and words that show empathy for the suffering of others; at first politicians running for office said these sorts of things in abundance about the nuclear disaster. But how many people have actually followed through on these words with actions for the citizens? The salaries of the National Diet members comes from the nation’s general accounting and finance revenue. This can be broken down into: tax yields, non-tax revenue (money from selling national land, etc.), money that was brought in as a result of increases to the national debt, etc. This information was made available on the internet. And the citizens said “Our hard-earned money is included in there, isn’t it? They live in mansions and don’t have any idea how the common people live. Poverty, the struggles of day-to-day life, the sorrows of the common people, and their pain. They have not experienced any of this. They have never had to spend the night in temporary housing units, so there is no way that they understand the situation that people in the disaster-affected areas have found themselves to be experiencing.”
What I’m trying to say is that these individuals who have been living in a totally different world from us common people need to come see and experience what life is like for us. Please, come face the reality of our struggles and experience them first hand for yourselves.
I have also been surprised to see Prime Minister Abe going on trips abroad and making promises of aid money to many foreign countries. That must be one of his national policies. He cancelled 700 billion yen of debt that Myanmar owed Japan, and also promised to loan a grant of 91 billion yen. In addition, 216 billion yen was promised to the Middle East and North Africa. In a U.N. speech, he promised 300 billion yen to aid for women in Syria, and 5 billion yen of additional aid to Syrian refugees. Aid was also promised to ASEAN, Laos, Mozambique as well as for planned high-speed rail in the United States, etc. When I heard of these commitments made by the Prime Minister, I was surprised. Especially since I feel that Japan’s future is still uncertain at this time. Why are we racking up this debt? I think it’s important to give aid to struggling countries. However, without providing necessary aid to its own citizens, Japan’s standard of living for its citizens continues to decline. Right now, with the economic situation in Japan getting worse, shouldn’t the government’s priority be to pour its energy into creating an environment where its citizens can live their lives with economic stability?
Right now incomes in Japan are so low that citizens are unable to afford to comfortably have children. The economic situation is insufficient to be able to raise them. The cost of medical care for the elderly and requests for nursing care are going up. Increasingly, things such as wheelchairs and medical equipment are having to be bought by the patients themselves. Shouldn’t we be investing first in aiding the welfare of our own citizens?
【An example from Kawauchi village, in the Disaster-affected Area 】
There is an 87-year-old woman living in a temporary housing unit. She can’t walk very well and also has trouble seeing. Every week, she sees an internal medicine specialist, a plastic surgeon, ear, nose and throat doctor and the ophthalmologist. She rides in a taxi to these appointments in Koriyama together with a friend. “For the elderly, hospitals are just about the most important thing there is.”, she told me. “Those from Kawauchi village will have to return home by next spring too. But there’s no hospital in Kawauchi village. If I leave here, it will be difficult to go to the hospitals in Koriyama. All my friends are worried about the same thing.” “Those of us outside of the 20kilometer zone don’t receive anything. Our homes are still broken and boarded up. I live alone, so I don’t know if my house might collapse. I’m scared and don’t want to live there. My only source of income is my monthly pension of 60,000 yen. My insurance premium for nursing care is taken out of that, plus the utility costs of keeping up my home in Kawauchi as well as temporary housing in Koriyama. I also have to pay my yearly property taxes at the Kawauchi public office. Right now I’m able to pay for my medical costs, but the fare to and from the hospitals is difficult.” If I leave my temporary housing, my medical bill exemption will go away, so how am I, a lonely old woman, supposed to get by?
I wondered to myself, “How much are food expenses now?” I remember that in the past she had said that even just 1,000 or 2,000 yen made her very happy. Right now, there are many people like this living in the Fukushima disaster-affected areas.
1.) I, Momoko Fukuoka, give individual, personal aid to help those who are struggling to get by in their daily lives. Those also wishing to make donations to individuals, please contact me. I will introduce you to someone in need.
2.) Another individual with the exact same name as myself, Momoko Fukuoka (she lives in Takehara city in Hiroshima prefecture) has been doing some PR on my behalf on Facebook. I do not use Facebook, and this person is not me.
[For questions] Momoko Fukuoka
Cell phone: 080-5547-8675
(I would like to request that calls be made between 11:00 AM – 5:30 PM local time in Japan. There may be times when I am unable to reply. If this happens, please try contacting me again later. Thank you.)
English Translation: Karen Rogers
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Climate change on our planet is advancing at such a speed that it will soon be too late to turn back. Record-setting high temperatures, typhoons, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other such weather anomalies have become increasingly commonplace. The Alaskan glaciers have started melting and methane gas is leaking from the ocean floor. These are signs that it may already be too late to stop climate change and the weird weather it has brought with it. Warnings about the human-caused destruction of Earth have been coming to us one after another for years now.
In the name of convenience, economy, and progress, the terrifyingly negative aspects and destructive potential of nuclear power plants are often kept hidden and unmentioned. It seems that people these days have forgotten to leave room in their hearts to care about protecting other people’s lives and happiness. I sometimes feel like the world has lost its heart and become like an unfeeling machine; a world full of hatred of the “other”, where survival of the fittest is law. The world has lost its heart and its vitality. Is there any way for us to recover our lost humanity?
But there are still many, many people – in Japan and all over the world– who have love and kindness in their hearts. They respect life and are trying to make the world a better place. So, why don’t we all join hands and become fellow members of the “alliance of those who value the Heart”? Even though you can’t see them with your eyes, there are others like you out there. They are doing the same sorts of things that you do. Our members try to “Do one good thing each day”. You can try too. For example, you could do something as simple as deciding not to complain. Or you could try thanking the delivery person for his or her hard work. I suspect that if people decide to dedicate themselves to valuing their own hearts and the hearts of others, this will be the true starting point for restoring the Earth. Once you start considering everyone around you as a good friend, the happiness of others naturally becomes your own happiness. Don’t you agree?
Today I would like to report again on the present situation in Fukushima. I don’t want readers to think of this as just a problem being faced by “others”, but rather to see that “tomorrow this might also happen to me” and to realize that this is the response our country has given to its citizens. And I hope that those who are able to give personal donations to help will do so. As a spokesperson for the victims, I would like to say that I am very grateful for your cooperation and help.
(Temporary housing will only last until March of 2017. Those living in the affected areas must return home to their towns and cities by that that time)
*The national government issued the following type of order to all cities, towns and villages in Fukushima:
“To all cities located near the Fukushima Daichi Reactor, including the towns of Futaba, Okuma and Tomioka, as well as areas within the TEPCO 20 km radius zone, - all affected citizens are allowed to return to their homes (excluding those areas with high radiation where cleanup has not been completed or where the national government has indicated otherwise). Because of this, temporary housing will no longer be available after March 2017, and affected citizens must leave temporary housing units and will be required to search for a home on their own. The reason for this is that the temporary housing units are on land that has been rented by the Prefectural government and has to be returned to its owners. The affected citizens must return home to their houses in the disaster affected areas or search for a new home on their own, and they will be required to deal with this individually.”
“In the case of recovery housing that is built outside of the disaster affected areas, for example, those located in Fukushima City, Iwaki and so on, the people who can move into these homes are limited to those from Okuma, Futaba, Tomioka and Namie. Those from other towns and villages will have to inquire about this with the mayors of their home towns and villages.” (The reality is that even in those places where Recovery Housing has been built, the number of houses is very limited, and there are many places where they have still not been constructed)
*I would like to obtain exact information about the recovery housing situation in each city, town and village and set up connections to send aid. However, my health is not very good lately, and I have been unable to make the necessary phone calls, so the information I have currently is very limited. Please forgive me for the inconvenience.
*As much as is possible, the national government is pushing for the return of citizens to Okuma, Futaba, Tomioka and Namie.
Here is what people from the disaster-affected areas have to say in their own words:
“The evacuation order has been lifted from Okuma Town’s Ogawagen District and part of the town office has been moved. 1,000 living quarters for those working out at the Nuclear Power Plant have been built, and we are working on preparing lunches for the workers. They say that 3,000 people will be able to return home. Right now, 10,000 people are working at the power plant. When we gave the workers a questionnaire, 8,000 of them responded that they’d like to keep working. Many people from outside of the prefecture are working at the plant. The people of Okuma are hesitant to return home.”
“I was told that, as an experiment, they’re also going to allow people from Tomioka that want to return home to go back to their homes.”
“The national government has not made any concrete statements about purchasing areas with interim storage facilities (for storing contaminated waste), and has said that it may be possible to return home after 30 years. They have made individual negotiations. Even though it would be better if they just told us we will never be able to return home, they keep giving us hope that it will one day be possible, and thus the people from the disaster-affected areas have been unable to make future plans.”
“There are 6 reactor units at the Fukushima Power Plant. Units 1, 2 and 3 suffered explosions, and unit 4 is being inspected. Units 5 and 6 have been left as they were. Units 1 through 4 are located in Okuma, while units 5 and 6 are in Futaba. Reactor Units 6 and 7 were also planned to be located in Futaba; sites were prepared for them. However, they were never constructed. (There were electrical subsidies set aside for these projects) In Namie, there was a Tohoku Electric Power Company site, but not one owned by TEPCO. (Because of this, their reparation money was comparatively smaller than that received by other towns and villages). Naraha had a TEPCO site (and because of this they received a small amount of reparation money). Minamisoma’s Kodaka District receives reparation money, however those living outside of Kodaka don’t receive any. There are many people along the coast there who were carried away or affected by the tsunami. However, as the tsunami was unrelated to the nuclear accident, they don’t receive reparation payments either. I heard talk that there was a one-time aide payment of 3,000,000 yen made for those who lost the head of the household and 2,800,000 yen for the loss of other family members. Those who do not own land, or only rent their homes did not receive any reparation money.”
-At the time of the nuclear accident, radiation leaked out to the west. Because the national government did not inform local towns, cities and villages (their leaders) of this fact, many of those affected by the disaster took shelter to the west. As a result, the towns and villages of Namie, Iitate, Tsushima and Katsurao areas where evacuation orders where given. Miyakoji, Kawauchi and Hirono also have areas with high levels of radiation. Iitate, Tsushima, Katsurao, Miyakoji and Kawauchi are all located along Highway 399 and are high up in the mountains. It’s always been inconvenient to reach these places, and they have few shops or hospitals. They areas highly dependent on agriculture and economically not that well off. It seems that many of the people there were working in construction as a second job. The people of these villages tend to have a straightforward character, are able to endure much, are not the most eloquent speakers, and are very kind to everyone. They withstand the severity of Mother Nature, adapting to and living in harmony with it. Because Miyakoji is at the very top of a mountain, I heard that the main ways to make a living were growing tobacco and raising livestock. They do farm work in the narrow valleys between the many mountains. Gathering mountain vegetables was also a way they made their living. Katsurao is also located in the middle of the mountains, so tobacco and livestock were their main sources of income – I hear that they did not have rice paddies. Hirono has 7 thermal power plants, and I hear that many plant workers live there. They are safely eating vegetables and rice there.
-The national government has already lifted the evacuation orders for most of the disaster affected areas (the 20 km zone around the reactor is currently being prepared). That’s Minamisoma (it will also be lifted in the Kodaka district soon), Hirono, Kawauchi, Miyakoji, Katsurao, and Naraha. Places that are heading towards having the evacuation lifted include Iitate, Tomioka and Namie (excluding Tsushima). In the Ogawagen District of Okuma, a meal-preparation center has been set up for the Nuclear Plant workers. I’ve been told that in the future they’d like to have the original residents of Okuma move back there as well.
- Four percent of the town of Futaba has been declared as areas where preparations for residents to return home are being made. The Prefectural government has been buying that land (it seems they were forced to purchase it) and has been building public parks as part of the recovery effort, as well as putting up 8-meter-tall breakwaters in the locations where the tsunami hit. The rest of Futaba is still considered a “problem area” for returning home.
-The national government intends to have the JR Joban Line passing through the region by 2019. They plan to lift the evacuation order on the surrounding area and have the citizens of Futaba living back in their homes by that time. That is what I was told by a person from the disaster-affected area. The Joban line has been reopened in Naraha, but citizens that live near the train line have not moved back home (this is because there were many rented houses that were not eligible for compensation money). As a result, the surrounding area is pitch-black at night and there are no buses available from the station. Because of this, the locals find it inconvenient and don’t use it.
-When I listen to the stories of the people from the disaster-affected areas, I can’t help but feel that the national government’s policies are purposely ignoring the true situation in those areas. It seems all too much like they’re taking away their “right to live”… Dear readers, what do you think should be done about this?
-The move from temporary housing to recovery housing has started. During this move, it seems that people have been told to leave behind the air conditioning units, light bulbs, and kitchen stoves that were used in the temporary housing. One person from the disaster-affected area told me: “Even though we’ve heard that once we leave the temporary housing they will just be demolishing them and throwing out everything inside, why won’t they tell us it’s okay to take the items left inside? As soon as we were entrusted with the key to the recovery unit, we were told that we had to move within 20 days. However, until we receive the keys, we don’t even know what kind of dwelling we will be moving into. They say that even the curtain sizes are different depending on the unit. Light bulbs, air conditioners, stoves, we have to buy everything on our own. Have is someone who only receives a pension of 50,000 yen a month supposed to get by?”
Dear readers, don’t you think the national government is being extremely uncaring? I ask you to please look at and think about this situation and send your continuing donations and support.
[For questions] Momoko Fukuoka
Mobile: firstname.lastname@example.org 080-5547-8675
(I would like to request that calls be made between 11:00 AM – 5:30 PM local time in Japan. Depending on my health, there may be times when I am unable to reply. If this happens, please try contacting me again later. Thank you.)
Translation: Karen Carina Rogers
Editing: Rachel Clark
Monday, August 1, 2016
[Gratitude to those who passed away]
It is August. It is time for us to pray for the spirits of family members and friends who passed away. I would like to express my deepest sympathy to all who lost their lives.
I have noticed that recently there have been so many people who have suffered in tragic accidents and murder cases. The world has become a horrific place, and it makes me wonder how the world has become like this. There must have been some cause and someday I would like to talk about what brought us into this situation.
As we know, we were brought into this world by our parents, and we didn’t raise ourselves. We were protected in our mother’s womb, and taken care of by our parents, grandparents, doctors and nurses. Our mothers put up with unbearable pain at our birth, and nurtured us, sacrificing so many things. Our parents gave us our names with a lot of hope. Let us remind ourselves to be thankful for everything that they have done for us.
I was born on November 7, 1941, which was a month before the World War Two began. I was premature by three months. My mother was not healthy enough to go through with the pregnancy; the doctor even suggested an abortion. But she was determined to give birth to me, even at the cost of her own life. There was no incubator, so she set up a small tub with warm water. Whenever my skin turned purple, she used the tub to warm up my body. It was a constant struggle. She named me “Momoko” with a wish for me to live to 100 (the Japanese character for “Momo” means 100). I thank my mother every time I write my name. I wasn’t a completely healthy child, and still suffer from complications to this day. It was normal for me as a child to live with some sickness. Medical technology wasn’t as advanced as today so at that time I never found out what the name of the illness was. But as I look back I am thankful that I had an ordinary childhood. I wasn’t preoccupied with finding out about my illness. I have managed to enjoy my life with no regrets, and got to have a job, and got married.
However, I feel like I have weakened in recent years. I experienced difficulty breathing around the end of last year. I finally found out that my disease was a collagen disease for the first time in my life. It is called Sjogren’s syndrome, which results in damaged glands, rib pain and chronic pain throughout my body. At last I understood what the sickness during childhood was. I also realized that you could never understand someone else’s suffering and sadness until you experience them. Once you have known what it is like to have severe disease, handicapped arms or legs, and the loneliness that follows, then you will truly appreciate what happiness is. In the same way, we can learn the suffering of sadness of people in Fukushima who lost their homes, families, and jobs to the great earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear incident. I am thankful for all the experiences throughout my life. It’s very difficult to live with severe disease, but now I know what other people like me are going through. I consider those people as my friends and have been paying lots of attention to helping support them.
It is“Obon”season, a time to honor the spirits of our ancestors and thank our parents, grandparents and friends for their protection over us. “Obon” could be a reminder to thank all the spirits of those who have passed away. I would also ask you to give your thoughts to the healing hearts of people in Fukushima.
< A person from Katsurao>
“On the day of the disaster, my grandson who was senior at high school went out with his friend to Namie town. (A town that was swept away by the tsunami.) On that day my grandson drove to pick up three of his friend’s relatives. Then he went back to save his friend’s grandparents and was caught by the tsunami. For two months after the disaster both of self-defense-force and police couldn’t go searching him because of the high radiation level. Eventually their bodies were found and we identified them. Later on, someone told me that my grandson’s car was locked inside. His friend and his grandfather’s bodies were intact, but they looked like mummies stuck to a wall. (I’m sorry for the wording. I wasn’t sure if I should write this, but these are their words). My grandson and his friend's grandmother haven’t been found yet.”
<A person from Okuma>
“Right after the Tsunami we couldn’t go looking for the missing people. Two months later the self-defense-force and the police started the search. We learned of the names of the people who died as they found the bodies. There are still 100 people missing from Okuma. Many more are missing from Futaba, Tomioka, Namie and along the Pacific coast in Fukushima. We set the 11th of each month as an anniversary. The police and the firefighters dig up and search the ocean floor, ordinary people can go in. But they haven’t found anything.”
Somebody told me how he didn’t want to recall the day of the disaster. When he was running from the tsunami he spotted someone who was clinging to a tree trunk, crying for help. But he couldn't do anything. He has nightmares about them every night and the sense of guilt is crushing him. He also says that it is unbearable to be left behind with these memories. He feels that many people think he can live on happily with hefty compensation, but he was never was entitled to receive such money.
<A person from Minamisoma, Odaka >
“The evacuation orders were lifted in Odaka on July 12. So I packed up my belongings in my temporary accommodation, had my house inspected by the town officials and returned home. Twelve or thirteen other households are expected to be able to return. I have a lot of work ahead of me. The land is slanted and therefore so is my house. Many people have decided to demolish their houses, but we cannot get any funding for repairs. I have some of the money TEPCO gave me left, so I’ll see what I can do with it. No one has returned to Odaka town yet. There is nothing open but one hospital, and they are open just twice a week.
Forget the radiation, I have to battle wild animals first. I started to grow vegetables but a group of wild monkeys devoured my crops three days ago. I saw wild boars too. We try not to rely too much on people’s handouts and want provide for ourselves. However, thank you so much for all the help so far!”
I recognize the importance of the independence of people in Fukushima, although at the same time, I’m compelled to stand by everyone as a friend.
I have received copies of some books written by Yuzo Akatsuka through my friends.
“Re-examining Accident at Fukushima Daiichi –from viewpoint of affected people” 1,300 yen plus tax, order from Sendai Shuppan at 022-264-0151
“Learning from great tsunami disaster” 1,900 yen plus tax, Kashima Shuppan
Please call me 11:00 am through 5:30 pm (Japan time).
Please call me 11:00 am through 5:30 pm (Japan time).
Translation: Tony Sahara
Editing: Miles Desforges
Saturday, June 4, 2016
[President Obama’s speech in Hiroshima]
On the evening of May 27, 2016, President Obama was at the Atomic Bomb Museum in Hiroshima. He had his staff bring in two Origami cranes, in white and light pink with plum and cherry blossom patterns. President Obama said that he folded them with a little help and presented them to two school children. (http://sharetube.jp/article/2733/）
This event was broadcast on the 9pm news on May 28, 2016. Many were moved to tears by President Obama’s act of giving the paper planes and what this signified in relation to world peace.
President Obama laid a wreath, paused for a moment with his eyes closed, then made his 17-minute speech at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Seventy-one years ago death fell from the sky and the world was changed. Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become. And at each juncture innocents have suffered, a countless toll, their names forgotten by time. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes; an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints. In the span of a few years, some 60 million people died – men, women, children no different than us, shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death. We are most starkly reminded of humanity's core contradiction; how the very spark that marks us as a species – our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our tool-making, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will – those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of the atom requires a moral revolution as well. That is why we come to this place. We have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.
Define our nations not by our capacity to destroy, but by what we build.
And perhaps above all, we must reimagine our connection to one another, as members of one human race. We can learn. We can choose. All men are created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious. The radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family – that is the story that we all must tell.
That is why we come to Hiroshima. So that we might think of the people we love – the first smile from our children in the morning; the gentle touch from our spouse over the kitchen table; the comforting embrace of a parent – we can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here seventy-one years ago. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life, and not eliminating it.
When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima will be done.
A future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare, but as the start of our own moral awakening. (Asahi Shimbun May 28, 2016)
After I listened to his speech, I felt like a great mentor of life came from above. I felt like it is our responsibility to manifest President Obama’s message. Our time is limited. With President Obama’s words as our common motivation, we have to work hand in hand to make our country peaceful. We must learn a lesson from the sacrifice of the Hibakushas (Atomic bomb victims) of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instead of wasting it.
A picture of President Obama warmly hugging a Hiroshima survivor, Shigeaki Mori, touched so many Japanese people. There is a saying “Children grow up to see the back of their parents”. I think that compassion, kindness, and sincerity are important human qualities in this modern world. I would like to be someone who can give warmth and peaceful energy to the other people.
[Voices of Fukushima evacuees]
– In Katsurao village –
• The evacuation advisory was lifted for most of Katsurao village on June 12, 2016.
• “The newspaper said that it is the mayor of Katsurao’s decision, but that is not true. It is the national government’s unilateral decision. There was no detailed briefing session on this. After they decided the June 12 date there was only a notifying meeting. I tried to ask some questions however, they cut me off because they said that they didn’t have enough time for Q&As.”
• “For the past three years we villagers were never able to obtain the correct information. We rely on the newspapers and the radio. We sometimes find information on the internet, but it gets deleted quickly.”
• “This place is still highly radioactive. I sometimes see measurements that are three times as high as the national report. They are deceiving us.”
• “There are some hotspots with radiation levels of 3.5 microsievert per hour. After I am exposed to this I get so tired. The fatigue persists even if I take a rest on Saturday and Sunday. I had cold-like symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, diarrhoea, and a 98.6°F fever. One time, I had nose bleed and all my body hair fell out. When I went to a public bathhouse with my co-workers they were shocked to see the body hair floating in the bathtub. Literary all of my body hair fell out. The same thing was happening to my co-workers. Some of them had white spots in their skin, too.
• “We don’t want to go back to a highly radioactive place, but the Japanese government will not listen to us.”
- In Miyakoji village –
• “On April 22, 2016, there was the second trial in case of Tokyo Electric Power Company failing to pay compensation to the evacuees. The court judge asked for the actual measured data of radiation, instead of verbal expression of “highly radioactive”. So I teamed up with my lawyers in order to measure radiation level at 200 houses, rice fields, and mountains in Iwaisawa area. The local governing body did not help us. Neither did my friends, since they have to work. I was the only one who could do it. So, I took time off and measured the radiation levels with 3 or 4 lawyers for 16 days. Only on Sundays could my friends help me.
The next trial date is set to be on July 1, 2016, followed by another one two months later. There are more people suing TEPCO in different towns. There have been 10 trials in two years, but things don’t seem to move forward. They say it might take 10 years. I never imagined how hard it would be to file a lawsuit. It costs money and I have to take days off because of it. I am tempted to end this process due to the hardship, but I must continue for the sake of the villagers and our community.”
[Regarding the great earthquake in Kumamoto]
Please don’t allow a repeat of the same suffering as the people in Fukushima felt after the great eastern Japan earthquake.
• I sincerely ask the government to increase the number of workers who visit homes and evacuation houses to create disaster victim certificates.
If private companies are capable of this kind of survey, then why can the government not do the same? I think that it is their obligation, especially when natural disasters happen.
The disaster victims are very tired and in bad health, putting up with an unthinkable level of anxiety, sadness, fear, and sacrifice. Some are very old or handicapped; some may not have money for transportation. Please don’t make these people travel long distances or keep them waiting in hard chairs or standing under the scorching sun. I would like to ask the government officials to think and act as if they were the affected people. Please make things less stressful for the victims. Provide them with the disaster victim vouchers, support materials, evacuation housing, and polling centres when there is election.
• I would like the financial aid and the compensation funds to be based on the evacuees’ needs. Whether their houses are completely damaged or half damaged, I hope they receive support to rebuild their houses where necessary.
• In Fukushima, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is in charge of compensation for the evacuees, not the national government. TEPCO simply certified the nuclear disaster victims within a 13 mile radius of the crippled nuclear power plant, but not based on the actual radiation levels. They also excluded the tsunami and earthquake as a cause of the evacuation. So, there are many people outside the 13 mile zone who lost their houses to the tsunami, or whose houses are too radioactive to live in. However they are not entitled to receive compensation money. I would like to ask the Japanese government to take the initiative and support these people financially, instead of leaving everything to TEPCO.
• I heard that the evacuation houses are made to last for two years. However, this is the 6th year since some of the evacuees moved in. Those houses were not well built in the first place. Cold air enters through the cracks, and there are humidity and mould issues. After they received the keys to the houses, they only had 10 to 20 days to move in. They even had to pay $6000 for basic amenities such as curtains, lights, air-conditioners, and gas stoves.
• The nuclear disaster evacuees in Fukushima have been instructed to return to their own homes by the end of March in 2017. Those who lost their houses to the tsunami will move in the evacuation houses. The current temporary housing for the evacuees are being dismantled gradually. The voices of the evacuees are not being heard by the government. People are naturally fearful of the radiation, however they are being forced to move back to highly radioactive areas. They will stop receiving compensation money in March of 2018. After that, they will have to pay their medical costs and taxes on their own.
• Singer songwriter, Shihei Umehara
• Author, Kosuke Hino
• Author, Yoshimi Kusaba
Please call me 11:00 am through 5:30 pm (Japan time).
Please call me 11:00 am through 5:30 pm (Japan time).
This English version was translated by “able” volunteer translation team:
Translation: Tony SaharaEditing: Miles Desforges