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