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