Saturday, March 4, 2017

6 Years Have Passed Since the Disaster


It is time again to reflect on the unforgettable fear and grief of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. People in Japan were horrified to witness the apocalyptic images that streamed across TV screens, and we all prayed for the disaster victims. We pledged to share in the anguish of the victims, and put our efforts into restoring their communities quickly. The entire Japanese nation responded with collective kindness and compassion for the victims. The world was impressed to see it, and spoke highly of us. Prime Minister Abe publicly stated that there is no recovery for Japan without the recovery of Fukushima. It has already been three years since Prime Minister Abe declared the initial recovery

steps in Fukushima.

[Sadness of the disaster victims]

           How often do we think of the victims of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima today? I suggest that we unite once again in a feeling of shared grief, and listen to the disaster victims.

There are some who say that, even now, they still cant get to sleep whenever they think of the tsunami.
          
As I was fleeing, I saw someone clinging to a tree, asking for help. I cant get that scene and his voice out of my head. I feel guilty for leaving him behind.(Okuma Town)

           I took shelter in a school gym, and slept on cardboard there. I suffered from back pain and from the cold, and I still suffer from back pain caused by that day.(Kawauchi Village)

           I wasnt informed of the nuclear explosion, and let my children play outside while the nuclear fallout was spreading. I wouldnt have let that happen if I had known about it.(Okuma Town)

           The mayor of Namie Town wasnt informed of the explosion, and he directed town residents to head in the direction of the nuclear fallout. If he had only known about it, people could have avoided the exposure.(Namie Town)

           Fukushima has been totally forgotten. The national government doesnt listen to us, and ignores us. Now I know that abandoning us was their initial intention. They are instructing the old people to move back, but the younger people refuse. Once the old people die out, the town of Futaba will be deserted, and the nuclear power plant will be forgotten. I think that this was their plan from the beginning. They want to showcase the return of the Futaba residents as a symbol of recovery in Fukushima. This was all planned out, thats why they dont listen to us and ignore us. And our problems will never be resolved. There wont be any monetary compensation after we are evicted from the temporary housing. The Fukushima recovery cant proceed this way. We Fukushima disaster victims were forced out of our homes, not evacuated.(Futaba Town)

 

           Some of the Fukushima victims have had to relocate seven or eight times in the past six years. Please imagine yourself in this situation. Over the course of six years, a first-grader grows up to become a middle schooler, and sixth-graders become college students or are old enough to get a job. In six years, a 65 year old turns 71, and a 75 year-old turns 81. Many people have passed away after spending sorrowful years longing to return to their own homes. There are also many cases of psychological stress among the evacuees. These individuals have succumbed to sickness caused by stress and been confined to bed, unable to work, and not even compensated by the government. How can we leave these people behind? I ask all of you to raise your voices in support of these evacuees. Please let more people know about Fukushima.

 

[Fukushima evacuees after six years]

<Male, late 60s, Futaba town>

           My wife got Parkinsons Disease after the disaster. Living in one of the temporary housing units, I work as the community leader and take care of my wife and all other household duties. I hired a lawyer to apply for compensation for psychological damages. I was paying out of my savings, but ran out of money last year. So, I decided to give up the lawyer and do the legal work by myself, which is a daunting task. Im facing an eviction notice now. Its been hard for the evacuees to find new places to live, because the price of real estate has gone up to three times what it used to be. Ive been looking for a house with a back yard. I was a farmer before and would like to do gardening. And my wife loves flowers. However, its so tough to find the right house for us.

 

<Female, 87 years old, Kawauchi Village>

           I have to move out of the evacuation housing by the end of March. I dont get any compensation, since my house is outside the 20km zone. My house has been destroyed. There is a well, but its unusable. I need a doctor, but there are no doctors offices or stores in my village. Just thinking of this gives me sleeping issues and loss of appetite. I throw up and have vertigo in the morning, so I stay in bed. I dont want to eat, because I vomit. I want to pack up my belongings, but cant get it done. My friends in the evacuee housing are also worrying about the future.

 

<Married couple, early 70s, Naraha Town>

           We are back in Naraha, but the entire town is covered with weeds. They say that wild boars live in the overgrown bushes. We have to clean out the weeds around our house and a few other houses. Its scary, but we have to do this. We requested that the town spray herbicide, but they hardly listen to us. We cut down some weeds ourselves this morning, but it was a lot of work. There are no stores open in Naraha Town, except for one in the shopping district. The evacuation order hasnt been lifted in Tomioka Town, but their town is clean. They will have a supermarket open in April, and they have a police station and a municipal government office too. Probably Tomioka will be the center of the region. The government should follow Tomiokas example, and clean up the other towns before lifting the evacuation order.

 

<Female in her late 60s, Namie Town>

           Im planning to go back to my home in Namie, so Ive been commuting there to bring back my stuff and clean up the house little by little. But the house is covered with weeds and rat droppings. There are also wild boars out there, and that scares me. My neighbors wont be coming back, but I hope everything will be ok once I move back. Its also rumored that there are thieves. I think I will hang some male clothes on my laundry line. Im so worried, but have no choice but to move back.

 

           Six years after the disaster, there are still many people without a permanent place to go. There are many towns and villages filled with dilapidated houses covered in weeds and bushes. The municipal government receives reconstruction support from the national government. However, there is no such compensation for the individuals. I still dont understand why they

cant give at least some money to each individual.



           Recently, Prime Minister Abe has been offering millions of dollarsworth of financial support to foreign countries. I suggest that Mr. Abe set aside the same amount of funds for Japanese disaster evacuees who currently find themselves in these life-or-death situations. The national government should provide a support system that gives aid in response to all large disasters, whether they be natural or man-made.

 

Please continue to help me support the disaster victims in Fukushima.

 

[Book recommendations]

Deadly Deceit: Low-level Radiation, High-level Cover-up, written by Dr. Jay M. Gould and Benjamin A. Goldman, translated by Shuntaro Higo and Osamu Saito, publisher: PKO Zassoku wo Hiromeru Kai

Tel: 042-251-7602

 

Radiation impact: Atoms to zygotes low level radiation in the nuclear age, written by Donnell W. Boardman, translated by Shuntaro Higo

Tel: 042-251-7602


Momoko Fukuoka

Email: f.mom.1941@ezweb.ne.jp  

Cell: 080-5547-8675   

Fax: 047-346-8675  

Please call me 11:00 am through 5:30 pm (Japan time).

Thank you.

 
Translation: Tony Sahara
Editing: Karen Rogers

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

We hope for your continued support this year…

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.


【Contact information】
Momoko Fukuoka
Mobile:  f.mom.1941@ezweb.ne.jp      080-5547-8675
Fax:  047-346-8675


(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

The Reality of Fukushima will not be Broadcast

    
 “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.    




【Announcements】


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


Mobile:  f.mom.1941@ezweb.ne.jp      
Cell phone: 080-5547-8675
Fax:  047-346-8675


(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

The National Government’s Uncaring Policies

              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?

 

“Fukushima Today” 

              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:  f.mom.1941@ezweb.ne.jp      080-5547-8675

Fax:  047-346-8675

(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