Saturday, August 4, 2018

The voices of the affected people

I, Momoko Fukuoka, continue to listen to and convey to the outside world the voices of the affected people in Fukushima via Twitter. I would like to share some of my tweets about their experiences. My account name is: “the life experiences of a former Sister.” Some of my supporters have uploaded one of my video clips to YouTube with English subtitles for people overseas. Please watch it here:

June 8th:  I have recently started receiving a lot of calls from disaster-affected people in Fukushima.  Calls like these: “I returned home to Kawauchi village, but there’s nobody to talk to and I’m lonely. I just wanted to hear your voice, so I called.” “I don’t feel like doing anything lately. I’m tired and I can’t force myself to move. I watch TV every day, but even though I’m watching, none of it really registers. I just sit there in a spaced-out daze all day long.” “I had to spend three months in the hospital and I just came home two days ago. I was lonely and wanted to hear your voice. I was told that one of my neighbors found me unconscious and called an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital while still unconscious. I woke up in a hospital bed and thought that I might be dying. While I was in the hospital, I thought and dreamt about the many people who helped me out in the days of the disaster. I felt so grateful and I also felt a twinge of nostalgia.  When I think back on that time, it makes me cry. Now I’m back home and by myself. I think I would have been better off if I had just died back then. However, I’m still alive. When I hear your voice, it gives me strength to go on. I’m going to keep fighting.” “Both the national government and the town government say the matter’s already been decided. Even if it has been decided, I wish we citizens could say our piece and re-vote on the matter. They don’t listen to us!”


June 9th: The Emperor and the Empress are currently visiting the Fukushima disaster-affected areas. This focus on the disaster-affected areas in the news makes me think about and reflect on those who lost their lives in the tsunami in 2011. For several months, it was not possible to search for the bodies of victims in areas contaminated by radiation from the Fukushima Daichi disaster. The land was declared off-limits. One individual who set out to look for the bodies of a grandfather and his grandson once permission was granted, said: “I found the grandfather and grandson’s bodies stuck to a fence near their home. They were dried out like mummies and it was ghastly to see.” The tragedy of the nuclear reactors goes beyond something that can simply be dismissed as a regretful event of the past. History will bear witness to many more victims. Not just in the past, but from now on - and for hundreds of years on into future – the reactors will continue to harm many people. This isn’t something that will only affect the victims in the disaster-areas. The reactors will continue to pollute the whole country of Japan, and even the planet. It frightens me to see that even the human heart seems to be being subverted by the influence of the reactors, as some individuals choose to dance around the issue, defending it in the name of “civilization” and “progress”. 


June 10th: I received an e-mail late the other night from a disaster-affected person from Katsurao village. “Five people have passed away so far this month. I just got back from the funeral parlor just now. Since tomorrow’s tree-planting event was cancelled, I was able to go and offer funeral incense.” Many of the disaster-affected people have been losing friends and neighbors frequently.  Often, when they are away from home it means that they are attending a wake or a funeral. They don’t have many happy or joyful occasions, but instead spend all their time doing sorrowful and difficult things. But the disaster-affected people persevere even through all this. Even the healthiest person might fall sick under such circumstances. When I called several disaster-affected people recently, most of those who answered said that they had been recently been hospitalized, undergone surgery or felt as if their last hour had come. This is the current situation of the disaster-affected people. I decided to call back a person who called me the other night, thinking that the funeral they had to go to must surely be over. “I’m currently driving. I’m on the way to a wake. I have another wake to attend tomorrow. Yesterday, today, tomorrow - there’s a wake every day. There’ve been a lot of sudden deaths recently; people dying from strokes and heart attacks and the like.”


June 28th:  A person from the town of Soma said this: “My home is located on a hill. However, the tsunami still reached it. I took out all my savings and got the house repaired with the intention to keep living there. However, nobody came back to town. There are no stores and it isn’t possible to live there. Reluctantly, I chose to voluntarily relocate to Chiba Prefecture. However, as it was a voluntary relocation from Fukushima, I didn’t receive any aid or compensation money at all. On top of that, nobody was willing to buy the land where my old home is located. Finally, I had no choice but to sell the land and house to the city to be demolished. The 3,487 square foot (98 tsubo) land together with the house on it were sold for a mere 3 million yen (about $27,000 USD). This is after I took out all my life savings right after the tsunami in order to get the house repaired. It is the land and property that my ancestors have lived on for generations. It fills me with regret. Two years ago, I had my residential registration moved to Chiba and was finally able to feel like I belong among my neighbors. It’s been 6 years since the disaster. Every day of that was full of pain, sadness and loneliness.”


From a person from Okuma: “My son died two and a half years ago. However, due to the high levels of radiation in Okuma I can’t lay him to rest. According to the head of our neighborhood, it’s not possible to visit gravesites in the town, though it is possible to have remains placed in gravesites there. I can’t bear the thought of laying my son to rest all alone in an abandoned place overgrown with weeds, where nobody can visit. So, I place his urn next to my pillow whenever I sleep. From my pillow, I gaze at my poor son’s urn, and think about how sad it is that he died alone without anyone to look after him, and it makes me cry.”

Every year at O-bon (a holiday for remembering the dead), I visit Yochi-in temple on Mt. Koya and ask the high priest there to hold memorial services for the victims of the disaster. Last year I requested services for 66 souls. I intend to ask again this year. The affected people say to me: “I feel so relieved. They can finally rest in peace.”


July 2nd: I would like to introduce a poem that was contributed by Chikara Kojima, a poet from the village of Katsurao.


“One year increments"-


They raised the maximum radiation dosage from 1 millisievert per year to 20 millisieverts and herded us into the highly-contaminated regions like cattle. That is the fate of the nuclear-disaster affected people. For them to just say “Not our problem anymore” the moment they’re able to cut off reparation payments; how is that any different from throwing the disaster-affected people out on the street, completely naked? Whether they lift the evacuation order or whether they extend it for yet another year, the future beyond that cannot be seen. The loan period on temporary emergency housing, exemption from taxes and hospital charges, even the highway toll exemption passes, everything is decided in one-year increments. The disaster-affected people are always offered a future cut into short pieces. But, can you really call a life that is cut up into limited, small increments a life at all? Can you really call a life that is broken up and shut in, a human life?  Are we really even human, then? When I looked around at our situation I certainly couldn’t find any indication to support that.”  (quoted from Farm ShounoFeb. 25th, 2016. ”Poems in Protest of Lifting the Evacuation Order”, Volume 3


This is from Chikara Kojima’s 2016 New Year’s card: “Without having properly taken care of the situation, the wrongdoers – our government -  are one-sidedly trying to lift the evacuation ban and cut off the reparation money. How is a government that is trying to do this any different from the “Right to Strike” government of the Edo-Period, which allowed samurai to kill commoners without repercussions?


An introduction to Chikara Kojima : “Poetry Collection MY TEARS FLOW ENDLESSLY: Exiled from Home by the Nuclear Reactor”


Published by Nishida Books, Price: 1,400 yen + tax


My dream this morning

July 4th: I am completely exhausted in both body and spirit. I trudge on, my expression devoid of even the slightest sign of joy. My face has lost its luster and I look miserable. After journeying for a long, long time I look up and notice that I have arrived somewhere. I seem to have entered a building of some sort. It seems a bit like a large school dormitory, but also like an office building for some sort of major company. There are many happy people going about their work, each person seemingly with a task to do. They are all practically glowing with happiness. Each person I talk to is warm and kind and treats me with the utmost sincerity. I notice that the manager is missing both of his legs, and upon closer inspection, find that in fact everyone there is either missing some part of his or her body or has a physical impairment of some sort. However, nobody pays these disabilities any mind at all and they all keep working without giving it even a second thought. As each person greets me and speaks with me, I can feel the deep weariness that had settled on my heart being lifted off bit by bit. Even though I thought I had forgotten how to laugh, even though I had been suffering from pain and sadness and had lost my smile, my deep wounds are being healed one by one. “Oh! How I wish I could stay here forever! I don’t want to leave!”, I exclaim. I can’t believe that a place like this exists in this world. Next, I see before me the Way of the Cross. “Oh, this is the path that Christ walked!”, I exclaim. However, when I look closely, I notice that a woman is up at the front of the procession. Christ is walking right behind her. Both the woman and Christ bear their crosses with kind countenances that express serenity and joy. At that moment, I woke up to the sound of my alarm clock. However, this dream stayed with me and I contemplated it in my heart. I considered it a revelation from God. “Come to me and I will give you rest!” Everyone suffers from some sort of pain. You, whose face is gaunt and pale, you who bear a heavy cross on your back, Christ is right behind you, supporting you. Our burdens may be heavy, but let’s all smile and laugh along with Christ. I needed to share my epiphany from this morning with all of you. The big office building that I arrived at and where I was healed represents the world as it should be, the original way that God intended for the Earth to be. With this dream He was telling me: “Turn the world of man into a place that is overflowing with love and healing.” I understood this the instant I woke up. Dear readers, the rest is up to you.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Voice of affected persons

I, Momoko Fukuoka, continue listening to and conveying to the outside world the voices of the affected people in Fukushima via Twitter. I would like to share some of my tweets about their experiences. My account name is: “the life experiences of a former Sister.” Some of my supporters have uploaded one of my video clips on YouTube with English subtitles for people overseas. Please watch this:

May 30, 2018 (a woman who lives alone in Namie-cho)
“Once the evacuation order had been lifted, I came back home for the first time in 7 years. The situation was way beyond what I had anticipated.There are no stores for shopping. On top of that, we have no hospitals at all. When I was walking my dog the other day, I fell flat on my face and broke my glasses, resulting in major injuries to my face, which look horrible.
Although I called around to hospitals, none of them would accept me without an appointment. So, I gave up on professional medical treatments and had to deal with it by myself.

“The only way to get treatment is to call an ambulance?” I kept asking myself . When I think of the future, I am not sure if it was the right decision to have come back….

A new public apartment has been built in my neighborhood. However, I know none of the new residents. The atmosphere has changed from that of old times here in Namie. Prior to the disaster, I used to know many friendly people. We used to know, help, and support each other. Where have they all gone? I feel so lonely, what shall I do? For my loneliness my grandchild who lives far away gave me a puppy that cries so much that I cannot rest well.”  

May 31, 2018 (a 72-year-old man who lives alone in Urajiri, Minamisoma City)
When the entire Urajiri flat land was swallowed by the tsunami, he lost his wife and home. Currently he lives alone at a temporary housing unit. As the leader of this small group of residents (78 people in 34 households), he has devoted himself to supporting them. That being said, this past January there were only 3 remaining households (a mother with children, a man of the same age, and himself). By June, it will just be him. 

"Since I can keep this temporary housing unit until the end of March 2019, I decided to stay here until then. There are a lot of earthquakes these days. Unlike before, I hear a rumbling noise prior to the earthquakes. If it ever hits seismic intensity 5, I will evacuate. I can drive my car to a supermarket. I am OK living alone. I am so healthy that I have never been to a hospital."
 Although his voice sounded cheerful, I worry about  his lonely life. The tsunami took away his wife and home. His family members live far away.. Just too many sad things to list. So, I am sending him a care package with some food. I also called up a friend in Kodaka ward and asked him to keep an eye on this lonely man since he needs someone to lean on.


Translated by: Rachel Clark

Edited by: Karen Rogers

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Messages from Twitter

Momoko Fukuoka hopes to continue speaking with disaster-affected individuals as long as her health permits. She wants to convey their messages to the rest of the world, so she has been using Twitter to tweet out various thoughts and messages from disaster-affected people. Here are a few of the messages that she has shared on Twitter. Her Twitter handle is: もとシスター人生体験 (Note: her Twitter page is Japanese language only)


March 7th:


As March 11th nears, I am remined of a disaster-affected person in Fukushima who was unable to help search for bodies right after the disaster due to radioactive contamination. The true story I am about to share with you is a difficult one, but I want to share the experiences of the disaster-affected people with as wide an audience as possible in order to help others to understand their pain. “My grandchild drove out together with a friend to Ukedo in Namie, to drop off a relative there. After dropping off the relative, they went to the friend’s grandparents’ house. The grandparents were out at the moment, so they went to go look for them. While they were looking, the tsunami came in, swallowed them up and carried them away. I wanted to join in the search for bodies of lost family and friends, but I was unable, due to the fact that I had been exposed to radiation.  When I was finally able to join, I found the bodies of the friend and his grandfather. Their bodies were stuck to a fence and dried out like mummies. The bodies were intact. They still haven’t found my grandchild or the grandmother. It’s very sad.”  


March 7th:


An 82-year-old man from Okuma town: “While I was trying to get away, I could hear screams for help coming from people clinging to trees. I will never forget the sound of their voices, no matter how long I live. It makes me feel so guilty. I see them in my dreams, and I have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep. There are still over 100 people from Okuma, Futaba, Tomioka and the Hamadori coastal region whose bodies were never found. That’s despite the fact that the police go out and search for bodies every month on the 11th, which is the day of the month on which all those people died. At first, a body could be identified as soon as it was found. But, after 2 or 3 months you couldn’t really identify them. Oh, I just don’t want think about it!” 


March 7th:


There are many people in the disaster-affected areas of Fukushima who are unable to visit family graves or even inter remains of loved ones in the family burial site due to nuclear contamination. This is a source of grief for many. So, since I am acquainted with the head priest of Yochi-in Buddhist temple in Takanoyama, Wakayama Prefecture, I asked him if he could conduct Buddhist memorial services every year on O-bon for disaster-affected people who desire such a service for their lost family members. (note: O-bon is a Japanese holiday dedicated to the remembrance of deceased family members). Last year, two families participated, with 64 different souls prayed for, going back several generations. When I called the families to check on them, they said that all they had to do was notify Yochi-in temple of the name, death date, and address of the deceased, then the costs were paid to the temple either with donated money or out of pocket. Then, Yochi-in temple prepared o-fuda charms for each soul, writing the name, posthumous Buddhist name, and date of passing of each individual on the charm. These charms were then sent to the home of each disaster-affected family. “This made me feel so much better. It’s really a weight off of my chest. I’m so thankful, I’m so thankful”, said one family member. Regardless of religion, I think that funeral rites are an important matter for families, as well as for the departed.  I’m also keeping those in Takanoyama up to date on the situation of the disaster-affected people.


March 5th:

“I’m at a funeral right now”, “I went to yet another funeral today”. I hear the word “funeral” mentioned so often when I call the disaster-affected people that I sometimes find that I’m asking myself: Wait, what? Didn’t that person just say they were at a funeral yesterday? “Even the people at the funeral parlor said that there are more people dying in Fukushima right now than they’d ever seen before.”, said one person. “My friends just keep dying one after another. Even though we promised we would be there for each other to help each other out.” “He died right after they finally finished the new house.” “I don’t have any friends left anymore. I want to die too.” Please take a moment to reflect on the sadness of these people. Perhaps they have reached their physical limit after enduring these 7 long years of suffering.



March 2nd:


I would like to tell you about a 67-year-old homemaker who recently returned alone to her home in Namie.

Up until now, she had been living in a leased apartment. She was sometimes given the cold shoulder because of being from Fukushima, and found herself unable to make friends. She also had no word of the situation back home and lived a lonely life while suffering from several illnesses. She is a wonderful person, and this is what she has to say: “Everything is just so inconvenient out here. It’s difficult to do anything. Wild boar roam around in my yard. It takes 40 minutes to drive to the nearest store; there’s no shopping around here. Also, anytime I go to the hospital it has to be for an overnight stay, as there are no local hospitals. It’s really cold here too. The flowers and the aloe I got have all died. Every aspect of day-to-day life is hard to accomplish out here. However, at least I’m away from all the sarcasm and bullying. I don’t hear any of that out here. I’m finally able to get a good night’s sleep. For 7 years I was unable to sleep well, but I’m finally able to sleep again without having to rely on sleeping pills. It’s like I’m a new person. Even though everything is inconvenient and difficult, I think I should be able to overcome these difficulties if I put my mind to it. I need to learn to get by eating what I have on hand. But I’m so glad that I can sleep at night.” Since she’s only 67, I think she should be able to hold in there. However, I worry about her as she gets weaker with age. It gets harder to move around in your 70’s. I think that the disaster-affected people will return to their homes now that the evacuation order has been lifted. However, without the proper infrastructure in place to facilitate the necessities of day-to-day life, isn’t this just sentencing many elderly people to live out the rest of their lives in loneliness and ill-health, having to live in areas with no people or access to health care? It just seems so irresponsible for the government to wash their hands of this affair by sending these people back to their homes and then calling it good.


March 1st:  


A housewife in Okuma: “There is nothing in Okuma. During the war, planes would take off from there. After the war, they said that the people of the Kanto region (where Tokyo is located) wanted an electric company, so 50 years ago they built a nuclear reactor here despite the protests of the local people of Futaba county. In the 7 years since the explosion at the reactor, those of us forced to evacuate our homes have had to move constantly from place to place. Some of us have had to move 7 or 8 times. We’re still unable to settle down and we’re mentally and physically exhausted. I’ve recently been afflicted by an illness of unknown cause that has left me exhausted all the time. My friends keep dying one after another. I too have lost the will to live and found myself thinking “I wish I could just die!”. People around here have been saying “I just don’t want to go on living.” For these 7 long years, we’ve had to try to hide the fact we were from Fukushima in order to avoid cold looks and bitter comments, and we’re tired of it. TEPCO used our land, then because of that we had to live in constant fear because of the nuclear explosions. So, why, on top of that, should people then treat us coldly once they hear that we are from Fukushima? Why do we have to be separated from family and friends?  I’ve been sick and depressed lately. It made me very happy to get a phone call. It’s been such a long time.”

Sunday, October 1, 2017

My last message

Everywhere you look around the world today, mother nature is behaving strangely, peace is vanishing and kindness is fading from people's hearts. We live in a time where it seems like just about anything could happen and it wouldn’t surprise us anymore. Why have things come to this? It really is sad, isn’t it, dear readers? Do you think it will be possible for us to ever go back to living like we did in more peaceful times? Whose fault is this? The wealth gap continues to grow and people show no regard for the lives of others. People are losing their empathy and choosing to look out only for themselves. Public resources and land that were meant to be shared by all citizens are increasingly being monopolized by just a few. Love has vanished; the world has become as cold as ice. There are some people who say we have entered a time of purification, a time of battle between our good angels and our bad angels. This may be the case. If this is so, we must be very careful not to let ourselves be dragged down by the bad ones.  


Today, dear readers, I must tell you something that may surprise you. For six-and-a-half years now, I have been absorbed in activities to provide support to the disaster-affected people of Fukushima. During this time, I have received lots of assistance and cooperation from countless individuals. It breaks my heart to have to say this, but I am no longer able to continue these activities, due to my health. I have begun to sense that the end of my life is near.


Each of us only have a limited number of days to spend on this Earth. Since I have felt that my time is coming to an end soon, besides thanking all of you, I would also like to take this opportunity to ask you all to please carry on my legacy.  


I think you all probably already know this, but the people of the Fukushima disaster-affected areas have been abandoned by the government. The affected areas have still not been adequately decontaminated, and there are still areas with high levels of radiation. The disaster-affected areas that have lain untouched for six-and-a-half years have become wild and overgrown. The houses are crumbling and the weeds have grown up around them like forests. The buildings have become the dwelling-places of wild boars, raccoons and other animals. There are neither stores nor hospitals; there is nothing there. At night the neighborhoods become pitch black and are a perfect target for thieves, making it less safe to live there.


One would have thought that it would only be common sense for the government to wait until after they had created a safe, habitable environment for people to return home to before lifting the evacuation order. But instead, the government set the issuance of the declaration itself as their goal, and made it their aim to send people home after just one or two decontamination sweeps. They didn’t come up with any funding or plans to provide for town-building expenses. They haven’t cut down the bushes and wild grasses that have grown up and haven’t made any plans for taking care of animal infestations. This hasn’t been included in town budgets. The reality of the matter is that the elderly people of the disaster-affected areas (many of whom are somewhere in their 70’s to 90’s) have all just been told to “Please take care of it all yourself”. They have essentially been abandoned. And because there are no stores, it isn’t even possible to buy food out there. This is what one of the disaster-affected people said about the situation: “I can manage to grow some of my own vegetables, but I’d really like to eat some meat and fish!”.  


Dear readers, this is the reality of the areas affected by the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.


One individual from out there said the following: “It was the government’s plan to abandon us nuclear disaster victims from the very beginning. They wanted to hurry up and declare it safe to return home, have only the elderly go back to their homes and eventually die out, and thus turn Futaba County into a county of abandoned towns that would soon vanish from people’s memories. In this way people would forget about the incident and it would be as if it never happened. The government wants its citizens to forget about the nuclear accident. That was their plan from the start. They were afraid that news about our situation would get out, so they have kept us separated and isolated from each other and kept us shut off from information. We have prepared ourselves for the fact that we may never be able to go back to our homes because of the radiation.  We thought we’d be told by the government ‘move here and think of this as your second home’ and we would be able to go ahead and make a new town and community. We thought we would be able to make a new community together with the same families, town hall, schools, stores and hospitals, without having to break them up. We never imagined that so many families would be separated, nor that the evacuation would last this long, nor that we would be abandoned.”


Dear readers, isn’t this just too cruel? Whenever you gaze up at the bright electric city lights and neon signs, I would like you all to pause for a moment and remember the disaster-affected people of Fukushima who are still weeping in the shadows.


The temporary housing for Fukushima disaster-affected people ends next year, which means that the structures will be demolished. They’ve already demolished most of the temporary housing this year, but there are still many people without anywhere else to go. This is especially true of elderly people who live by themselves and don’t have any relatives.


The court cases that disaster-affected people from Fukushima have brought forward are progressing slowly and nothing is being accomplished. So, I ask you, dear readers, won’t you please lend a helping hand to these disaster-affected individuals who are receiving no compensation and continue to suffer? Won’t you please make a contribution?


I remember March 11th, 2011, very well. At the time, all the citizens of Japan, as well as people from all over the world, joined together as one to pray for the lives of those in the disaster-affected areas. The whole country and all of us did everything we could. We rose up out of concern for the well-being and happiness of those affected by the disaster. At the time, I had a bad leg and couldn’t leave my house. I thought: “What can I do for those suffering from the disaster? Well, I’ve still got a mouth, haven’t I? I can talk. I’ve still got my hands, haven’t I? And, I’ve got a telephone in my home. I’ll use my mouth and my hands to do whatever I can to contribute.”  


I started out by looking at a column in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. I decided to help out with the disaster aid, so I phoned the Fukushima Prefectural Office and asked about evacuation shelters. In this way, I was able to provide aid to disaster-affected people from the town of Okuma. I found out that disaster-affected people from Okuma had been evacuated to a hotel in Ura-bandai. I asked a friend to deliver the donated articles for me. The articles were able to be conveyed by volunteers from places as far as Hokkaido and Kyushu all the way to 5 different Okuma town evacuation centers, and this was all done by word of mouth. After that, we delivered aid donations to 19 different temporary housing locations where people from Okuma were living.


I gathered together information about the disaster-affected areas, then sent out hand-written faxes to the aid volunteers to let them know about the situation. Upon hearing that there were places in Fukushima that were not receiving aid because of fears of radiation, I reached out to the Prime Minister, each cabinet member, the leaders of every party, the management of most religious associations, and various other organizations I assumed would be involved in giving out support and aid. I wrote letters, made phone calls, sent out faxes, and used every available method of communication possible to send out the information. I went to my local supermarket and found out the names of companies that distribute and produce daily necessities such as food, underwear and such, then I wrote letters to the heads of those companies. I wrote to the chief editors of various newspapers, including: Asahi, Mainichi, Yomiuri, Nikkei, and the Tokyo Shimbun. I also wrote to the heads of various television stations, including: NHK, Nihon TV, TV Asahi, TBS TV, TV Tokyo and Fuji TV. I told them that there were many people who had not receiving any aid and were still suffering and asked for their cooperation. I either received no response, or if I did it, it was something cold like: “We have already decided who we are sending aid to. We don’t intend to send anything to Fukushima.” To which I could only wonder: “Why?”


The only positive response I received was from Hirokazu Numata, company president of a food distributor in Kobe (a supermarket with company headquarters in the Kako District of Hyogo prefecture). He donated 300-million-yen worth of food to disaster-affected people in the prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima. Thanks to Mr. Numata, I was able to help send food products to temporary housing, various facilities and schools throughout all of Futaba County and get in contact with many disaster-affected people as well as various Town Offices. That effort is continuing even now.


It’s impossible to say just how much support I received from those who provided aid and volunteered for our cause. I am truly thankful. Because of this experience we were no longer strangers; we became comrades, like members of a big family. Both volunteers and disaster-affected people were brought together by the will of God. We became a family that shared one heart with the Lord. The values that we upheld were the same ones that God wants us all to follow: to love one another, hope for the happiness of others and to protect each other’s lives.


I am so happy I had the chance to meet and work with all of you.

I can’t even begin to express my gratitude.

Thank you so much.   


My only worry is about the future of the disaster-affected people. I ask you to please continue supporting them however possible. And to those of you who have helped us, thank you so much.  


Please take care of yourselves. And please forgive me for my many deficiencies. If you wish to, please pray for me. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.   


For my remaining days, I have decided to switch to Twitter to share my experiences. My twitter account (Japanese only) can be viewed here:  Feel free to view it, it would make me very happy.


     Have a thankful heart!

     Keep giving thanks to God. To Him be the Glory!


                                                                                                                      Momoko Fukuoka



Translation: Karen Carina Rogers

Editing: Rachel Clark

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A summary of the nuclear power plants and disaster victims

   Thank you for your daily attention to the Fukushima victims. I am doing the best I physically can to write about the nuclear power plant and Fukushima victims, please have a read if you can. I appreciate your interest.

[The nuclear power plant and Fukushima]

    Tokai Power Station was Japan’s first nuclear power station. It opened on October 26th, 1963.
     The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) started construction for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant on September 29th, 1967.  The plant started operations on March 26th, 1971. The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami happened 40 years later, on March 11th, 2011. One day after, on the 12th, the unit one reactor exploded. Then, on the 14th, the unit three reactor exploded. The wind carried the radiation and spread radioactive pollution all around Fukushima, the Kanto region, and to the Pacific coast.

     The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is located in the towns of Okuma and Futaba, in Futaba County, Fukushima prefecture.
     It is said that the disaster area from the nuclear power plant was mainly in Futaba County and Minamisoma City. (the actual radioactive contamination has polluted further areas around Fukushima.) The town of Okuma in Futaba County, and the town of Futaba are where the reactor units exploded. Areas affected by the disaster include: the towns of Namie, Tomioka, Naraha, Hirono, Kawauchi village, Tokuro-cho, Katsurao village, Tsushima, Iitate village, and Minamisoma City (which includes Kashima, Haramachi, and Kodaka).

     On March 12th, at 1:36pm, the first reactor unit experienced a hydrogen explosion. But the victims were not informed about it.

    In the town of Okuma: They say residents evacuated to community centers after the earthquake. People heard the explosion. However, the residents were not informed about the hydrogen explosion. Kids were innocently playing outside and victims believe that’s when they were exposed to radiation. About 10 buses arrived and residents were told to get on the bus. Residents had to wait several hours for the bus to finally take off, but no one knew anything. Even though they had plenty of time, they didn't go back to get their valuables because they were not aware of the situation. Many regretful victims said that if they had known the buses were for evacuation they would have gone back to get valuables. Okuma town residents were evacuated to Urabandai. Later, temporary housing facilities were built in Aizuwakamatsu and Iwaki City, and they lived there.
    In the town of Futaba: Mayor Idogawa knew about the dangers of radiation, so he was against building a nuclear power plant in Futaba. Because of his opposition, Futaba received comparatively less in their regional revival grant from the government than other cities. Futaba was struggling financially as a result. When the mayor found out about the explosion, he and other Futaba residents evacuated to Kazo in Saitama prefecture.

[The government’s response to the nuclear power plant victims]

    The government did not take responsibility and did not compensate for the nuclear disaster. Instead, it put all the responsibility on TEPCO, including compensation for the victims.
    TEPCO determined those eligible for compensation to be individuals within a radius of 20km from the power plant. TEPCO and the government have declared that they are not responsible for anyone outside the 20km zone.

    For those within the 20km zone, affected people have been given 100,000 yen per person every month since March 2011, plus rent money and medical expense coverage until they are given permission to return home. I repeat though, TEPCO only offered compensation to people within the 20km range and nothing was offered to those outside of it. Radiation was blown by the wind and reached beyond 20km, so some locations outside the 20km zone have experienced even higher radiation. However, since TEPCO defined the compensation range as 20km, anyone farther than 20km has not been given any compensation or help.

    Even in the case of tsunami victims, TEPCO did not even consider them if they were outside the 20km, and they did not qualify for compensation. However, the government did offer a consolation payment of 3,000,000 yen for families that lost their main income provider and 2,800,000 yen for anyone else lost.

[Types of Fukushima victims that need help]

    Those that lost their homes and everything because it was wiped out by the tsunami. There are people who cannot get back on their feet and rebuild their life and who cannot survive off of just the national pension. (Those in Kashima of Minamisoma, Haramachi, Kodaka, Namie, Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka, Naraha, and those along the coast in Hirano)

    Those victims outside the 20km zone struggling economically due to radiation contaminating their farms, and thus affecting their income. People who live alone without family support, the elderly, the sick, and those who are struggling in general.

    The hometowns of the disaster-affected people, where they have not returned for 6 years, have become a wasteland. They are now home to wild animals, with no hospitals and shops; it’s no place for anyone to live. Despite this, the government made a declaration this March that it is safe to return back to these places. The government closed the temporary housing facilities. I believe disaster-affected people who returned to their hometowns (which are in bad condition) are in dire need of everyone’s help. Especially those who cannot fix their homes because they don’t have money, those who don’t have any family members, those who are living alone, the elderly, and the sick.

    Along National Highway No. 399, between elevation levels of 400m to 700m, are Kawauchi village, Tokuro, Katsurao village, Tsushima,and Iitate village. Because of their high elevation, it is extremely cold. These villages, towns, and cities do not have many industries and sources of income, so they were already struggling financially. Now, with the radioactive contamination, the economy is getting worse and decontamination work is becoming the main source of income for many people.

    We kindly ask for those who can help to help as much as possible. Thank you.

[Contact Information]

Momoko Fukuoka
Fax: 047-346-8675

(I would like to request that calls to 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: Erica Kohagizawa
Editing: Karen Rogers, Rachel Clark

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wars and disasters: Never Forget the Victims

Today – August 6th – is the anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima. I pray for the souls of those who lost their lives and for the families they left behind. I pray for the health and wellness of those who even today are suffering from the after-effects of the bombing and pray for their health and recovery. I plan to spend this time in prayer, opening my heart to their suffering.

 In Japan, August is a time for remembering relatives that are no longer living, and for being thankful for their watchful protection. We also pray for their happiness in the world beyond. The fact that you and I are alive and able to live in peace is a testament to the efforts and struggles of our ancestors, and so I think sometimes we need to remember the long history of those who came before us, who protected our lives and made them possible. When I think about my own existence, I remember my parent’s lives and their love. When I think about all the people that cared for me since I was little, I realize that I could never have made it on my own. Behind every individual, there are many people acting as back-up and support, almost like loving guardian angels.  Dear readers, I suspect that all of you have someone who loved, protected and supported you as well. I believe that those who protected and helped me, but are no longer with us,  are still protecting me from heaven.
 After all, what is a memorial service for the dead, if not a time to think about those who helped you, reflect on your thankfulness, and ask for their continued protection. In my opinion, that is what they are for.

【Hoping for the abolition of nuclear weapons】

 Many people lost their lives in the war. The number of victims in the war was enormous. March 23rd  is Okinawa Memorial Day. Over 180,000 lives were lost there during the war. August 6th is the anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima, and August 9th is the anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki. Even now, many people are still suffering. I firmly believe that we must not forget these victims. One year ago, former president Obama offered flowers at the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Memorial, then closed his eyes and paused for a moment of silence. Afterwards, he gave a 17-minute speech.
 “Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become… our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, 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. …  
To 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… 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… That is a future we can choose, 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.” (May 28th, 2016, The Asahi Shimbun)
 On May 27th, 2016, the day before he visited the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Memorial, former president Obama visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. There, he said “I made these, with a little help,” and presented two paper cranes (made of beautiful Japanese paper with patterns of plum blossoms and cherry blossoms). When we saw this on TV, we were deeply moved and filled with conviction, deciding to make a promise of peace and start a movement for the abolishment of nuclear weapons that would start in Hiroshima and spread out to the whole rest of the world.
 But what happened to that passion and conviction? I think the world was also expecting a strong conviction from Japan for the abolishment of nuclear weapons as well. Aren’t the aspirations of former president Obama, the expectations of the citizens of Japan, the wishes of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the suffering and sacrifices of those affected by the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster all being ignored? Japan is unique in the world – it is the only place where an atomic attack has taken place. If this movement doesn’t start in Japan, then where will it start?   

【Voices of those affected by the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster】

 <Okuma Town, a letter from a 79-year-old man>
“The evacuees are at their limit. We had been supporting each other and trying to be patient, but recently many people have reached their limit and passed away.  Over the past 6 years, my wife has lost 4 siblings and I lost my older sister. Everyone is under a lot of stress. It seems as if they have just evacuated to a different place to die. My friend had hoped to go back home to Okuma, but ended up dying without being able to go back. Lately, many people are dying. It seems like someone is dying every day. On top of that, many of the deaths are sudden – from things such as strokes and heart attacks. It’s because everyone is under so much stress. Most of my friends have died this past year. Even my closest friends have died. Just today I received news that my best friend passed away. It’s just so horrible! I’m lonely. All my friends are gone and it’s just me left. It makes me wonder if tomorrow it’ll be me next, and then I feel even lonelier. At night, sometimes I remember: even if I  keep living, there’s not a single good thing left in my life. I can’t live in Okuma because of the radiation, but once a month I go home to straighten things up at my house there. The trip to Okuma takes 4 hours roundtrip. It’s difficult for someone elderly like me, but what do I have to worry about anyway? That’s what I tell myself. When I look at my surroundings there, I remember the old times. I look forward to this and it’s why I go out there. Many wild boars, pheasants and monkeys live out there now. The thing I look forward to the most is that I can occasionally meet various people from back home.”

 <A 58-year-old housewife, from Namie>
“I haven’t visited the family graves even once since the earthquake. The reason why is that the gravestones are broken and I can’t even get into the cemetery because of the radiation. This year, we left our temporary housing unit and moved into recovery housing, but unlike in the temporary housing, we no longer have the chance to meet other people. There’s nobody to talk to and it’s lonely. You end up shut up inside. It’s lonesome. Also, my knees have become swollen since I don’t walk around as much.”

 <An 81-year-old couple, from Okuma>
“As our home is located only 6 kilometers from the nuclear reactor, it’s practically right in front of our eyes. As the radiation level is quite high, we can’t take anything out of our house. We were told it won’t be possible to move back to Okuma for 40 years! We were told to take pictures of our house for the TEPCO reparation money application, but we are unable to go take pictures since the radiation level is so high. Nowadays there are wild boars around there and it’s scary. We have a pear orchard as well as land around our house, so we would like to submit an application to TEPCO. However, neither TEPCO nor the town office have done anything to help us. It seems we have to do it all by ourselves. No matter how many times we ask, nothing happens, so we decided to give up on our reparation money application. The reason for this is that we are both elderly. My husband’s lungs are failing him, and both of us have leg and hip problems and can’t walk! We can’t do any of it on our own! They even told us to find a house on our own. Okuma doesn’t do anything for us!”   

 <60-year-old man, from Katsurao Village>
“Recently, I’ve had an ulcer in my mouth that has lasted 2 months. I haven’t been able to talk or eat. I feel that my immune system has been weaker since the disaster. I think it’s because of the radiation. At the time of the accident, some of my hair fell out, and more hair came off in the bathtub and floated on the top of the water. I’ve had a harder time recovering from colds and have suffered from nosebleeds. I have friends who have developed thyroid problems. Mrs. Fukuoka, do you think that you might have been affected by the radiation as well? Back at the time of the accident, there were radiation hotspots, and the wind blew the radiation all over Japan.”

【Don’t just follow your own selfish desires; be considerate】

 Dear readers, the people of Tohoku value their ancestors, families and friends. And so -especially during the season of O-bon, which is a celebration to honor one’s ancestors - they return to their hometowns to be with their friends and family. They gather together and invite a Buddhist priest to their home to pray with them. They visit family graves and sit around the dinner table sharing memories of family members who have passed on. They ask after each other’s health and share stories and information with each other. They have always had these traditions as a way to strengthen family bonds and wish happiness for each other. That was how O-bon used to be celebrated in the Tohoku region. However, the nuclear accident has broken some of the bonds that held these families together, physically keeping them apart from each other and separating them from that happiness. As long as nuclear reactors are allowed to exist, this same sort of misfortune will keep repeating. And perhaps next time it will happen where we live.

 Japan has many volcanoes. There are also many unexpected heavy rains, landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and waterspouts, as well as rising temperatures and other significant environmental fluctuations. Progress and convenience are important to us, but we should strive to live a simple and peaceful life. Also, we shouldn’t only think about what we want for ourselves, but should also try to live with a caring heart full of consideration for others. Why don’t we get together and think about how we should live in this world?  We should talk about this face-to-face with our friends as well as with those on social media.
  I ask you to please extend a helping hand to those suffering as a result of  destruction caused by typhoons and heavy rains, and also to those lonely individuals affected by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

[Contant information]
Momoko Fukuoka
Fax:  047-346-8675
(I would like to request that calls be made between 11:00 AM 5:00 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 Rogers
Editing: Rachel Clark