This is my hometown: a place where the water was beautifully clear and where the children were greatly impressed watching the salmons' efforts as they risked their lives to swim back up the river. Fatsia sprouts, new bamboo shoots, chestnuts, and matsutake mushrooms taught us that each season was coming. But now, radioactive decontamination has failed, and my native place is isolated from the human world. Poison was spread to the mountains and the ocean, which had given us natural treasures and healed us. It will not disappear for hundreds of years.
I am an evacuee from Minamisoma city in Fukushima prefecture. When Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station exploded, we evacuated first to Kawamata-machi, and then to Fukushima city, where a very high radiation level was officially measured. I can't understand why we were moved there even though Fukushima city's radiation level was higher than in Minamisoma city, despite being further away from the power plant. On the 13th of March I tried to go back to Minamisoma city, but I wasn't allowed to. The boundary of the Minamisoma city area was closed with road blocks by the Kawamata-machi police.
On the night of the 13th of March 2011, 800 people were evacuated and put together in a small city hall in Iizaka-machi, an area of Fukushima city. In the hall after lights out, some people had mobile phones in their hands and with every aftershock blue earthquake warning lights shone from them. Some people rushed outside exclaiming loudly, even though it was the middle of the night. Other people entered the hall and nearly stepped on the heads of children sleeping on the floor.
The biggest radioactive fallout was on the 15th March. On that day, we had to walk outside in the falling snow to use temporary toilets. Children couldn't play outside for days and days. They got balloons from volunteers, and jumped around excitedly passing the balloons along to each other. This disturbed some adults who were lying down on the floor, so I told off my oldest daughter, telling her to stop playing immediately. She is a very patient girl and told the other children to return to their parent's allocated space. She wept silently.
In the morning, there were handprints made with faeces on the wall of temporary toilets, which felt full of pain and suffering to me [hygiene taboos in Japan are very strong]. We queued for hours outside the supermarkets, but there was hardly any food left. An old woman fainted from anaemia beside the queue. Also, influenza was spreading in the shelters near to ours. People couldn't have a bath, so they went to an area with many onsens [geothermal mineral baths] and also brought hot spring water back to make hot water bottles to keep them warm, as it was so cold.
We queued for long hours to buy petrol but we had to use much of it to get back to the shelter [petrol was rationed]. As a result many people couldn't escape further away. An elderly person was next to our space in the shelter and another was carried into the hall in the arms of their grandchild. But keeping sitting down on the cold hard floor was too uncomfortable for the elderly. The old person went back to Minamisoma city, even though relief supplies hadn't arrived there yet. We gathered around a television and saw the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear Plants explode one after the other. Many people prepared for death in the heavily tense atmosphere each day. I can't forget our life in the shelter.
On the 2nd of April 2011, I evacuated to Kyoto with my two daughters. We had help from my friends and the Kyoto Disaster Measures Headquarters. We just took some clothes and valuables in three plastic bags. Kyoto was the third place of evacuation for us. The most important thing to bring was the 'Radioactive Screening Inspection Mark'. If we hadn't carried it, we wouldn't have been allowed to go to hospital or to leave the shelter. As people who had been exposed to radiation our travel was restricted. This certification was proof of external exposure only, so we are still not sure about our internal exposure: still nobody knows. Nevertheless, from the victims of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl the resulting health damage has been made clear. The effects of exposure to radiation are passed on to the following generations. Our suffering cannot be erased to zero.
We arrived in Kyoto at night. The next morning guided by the Kyoto
Disaster Measures Headquarter officer we chose our accommodation and enrolled my daughters in a new school. We had only two days left before the opening ceremony for the new school term.
As a forty-year-old woman with two children I needed to find a job. With some difficulty I got work in an office, but the contract was only for six months and the wage was only 800 yen per hour.
My surname is Fukushima, and one of my daughters was labelled by a few of the other children: they called her "Fukushima nuclear power plant" in school. Fortunately she has a naturally cheerful character, and overcame this discrimination with the help of many nice new friends and good teachers who care about her. She hadn't had time to say goodbye to her friends when we left Minamisoma city and they became separated. When she saw her friends on the TV news playing in a temporary school building and in their shelters, it cheered her up to see them again. Our life was passing as we lived day by day.
800 such days have passed since then. Radiation is still being released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which is not under control. Nobody took responsibility or questioned why the disaster happened. The victims just have to struggle with daily life, with many facing family break down. The evacuation zone order [for Minamisoma] was removed, despite there being no effective decontamination. Our favourite local shops that had been part of our lives have disappeared and our house has already been ruined. I hear about people suffering Kodokushi[dying alone] and committing suicide more often. Children's voices have disappeared from the area. Even if we go back to Fukushima, our town will not be the same.
In this situation, there is no reason to restart the Ooi nuclear power plant in Japan. This is a pollution threat on a huge scale and a violation of human rights. It shows that Kansai Electric Power is neglecting its corporate responsibilities. Local people's concerns and the voice of fear against nuclear power stations were completely ignored [in the lead up to the first restart]. There is a shortage of applicants for Nuclear-related courses at major universities, including at postgraduate level. Can this be seen as a message from young people rejecting the nuclear world created by adults? It is serious that Kansai Electric Power may not be able to attract a good quality workforce in the future and this will also have a bad effect on Fukushima's recovery too.
Do the judiciary intend to ignore the will of Japanese people for fifty or sixty years, just as they did in the case of Minamata disease? [industrial mercury poisoning from 1958 on, which took decades to be officially acknowledged] Do you think our will on this matter is temporary? Can you fully realise how many people are suffering? Please help mothers who are struggling hard to save their children. Please give as bright a future to our children as possible. Please listen to the earnest voice of each citizen. Please grasp that the Ooi nuclear power plant restart is not necessary for Japan, so that our experience as evacuees need never happen again.
I believe that justice must be fair. I believe that the Japanese nation must be protected by the constitution.
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