Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Impossible things are going on

Those who read my blog often reply to me saying

“I was shocked! It is impossible! I thought our government and TEPCO had been taking care of things as they were supposed to.”

“It has been three years since the accident. What made you stay there still without seeking safer place to relocate?”

“You should be able to find a job if you want to.”

“What happened to the money we donated? I thought it had been distributed to affected people, no?”

“For me it was incredible that you are still lacking basic needs.”

It is natural to think this way for anyone with common sense. Yes, it has been three years since then. In reality, however, things that you cannot believe are going on like nothing special.

First of all, the entire donation fund was sent to the government (according to the information from Japan Red Cross.) The government allocated the fund to each municipality for fixing essential utilities and for decontamination, but not for affected individuals. Some affected people opened up their hearts and told me how disappointed and sad they were. “Even a little bit could have been given to us to show their heart. What I wanted to see was not money. Their heart. But our government never gave us even a cent. The amount does not matter, but their compassion does.”

Why we do not relocate to a safer place? It is because we were not provided with relocation funding. Affected people had to move seven to eight times until they settled at temporary or rent-covered housing. In those days the majority of Fukushima people were thinking that they would never live in their hometown and that the government would set a new community in a safe area where they would start their second life. They also expected that the government would compensate their lost property and home community. So they were almost ready to start their second life with their family and local community members.

The reality, however, was completely different. No property compensation was done, nor any plan for their second hometown. Families were torn, so were young couples looking for jobs. The tie between parents and children were cut off. Human rights of affected people were taken away…we lost everything. Property, basic needs (clothing, food supply, dwelling), family ties, children’s education (schools, day care), health (due to radiation), jobs, marriage, guarantees for the future, savings, inheritable possession, etc…. We did lose everything. All we got is fear for the future, fear of losing healthy life, and despair.

The government and TEPCO are urging affected people to return to their hometown where radiation is still too high to live. Their purpose is “to send back affected people,” for which they’re spending enormous money in decontamination projects.

Since what they want to do is “to decontaminate and send people back,” no housing construction project for affected people is under way. As for compensation for people who lost their houses, none of their requests have been accepted, and no relocation costs were funded either.  Not only that, those who live outside of the 20km exclusion zone and in the area where the mandatory evacuation order was lifted, the compensation for their emotional pain from TEPCO (100,000 yen=about $1,000/month) was lifted, which means that they lost their source of income. I have also heard that taxing will be resumed and free medical services will no longer be available. As for the rent for each new housing situation, up to the third move is subsidized but from the fourth one we have to pay out of our pockets, I heard. The majority of Fukushima residents used to be farmers and they hardly spent any money on provisions prior to the disaster. However, now their food supply costs them a lot of money.   

Having lost the 100,000 yen monthly compensation from TEPCO, the victims lost their life support. The income of pension recipients is in the ballpark of under 40,000 yen a month, which quickly disappears after paying their monthly expenses: such as energy, heating, gas, and phone bills. In order to survive, even senior citizens in their 70s are working as decontamination workers. That is the only way for them to make ends meet. They are evacuees from the crippled nuclear power plant. Now exposing themselves to high radiation again, they have to work as decontamination workers. I heard that they can get an additional 10,000 yen a day as compensation for dangerous working conditions. Whole body examinations are to be done once every several months. They will never know their actual data. The only thing they hear after the test is: “No need to worry, it is under the 300 [unit] safety limit.” By now the workers have gotten used to this kind of (rude and heartless) treatment and their fear is fading.

[The affected people’s despairing voice]

Here is the voice of affected people feeling unjustly treated in the government’s poor support: “Rather than investing in decontamination, the money should be spent to reinstall the affected people’s normal life. We are not seeking any extra money. We are just saying, ‘Please let us run our normal life as we used to.’ All we want to say is that we need to go back to our ordinary life. Regardless of frequent decontamination, high radiation levels persist in some parts. Basic utilities have not been reinstalled yet. We have no hospitals or stores. Houses are infested with mice and wild boar are roaming around in the town. How can we go back to our hometown in that mess?”

“Some parts in the Kodaka area of Minamisoma City have been left untouched since 3.11. Over there even temporary housings’ radiation test shows 0.3 microSv/h. Nevertheless our government declared that we should all go back there by April 2016! This is outrageous!”

“The central government sent to each of us a letter directly, not through the heads of our municipalities. According to the letter, they allowed us to sleep over our own houses from December 24th through January 6th at our own risk. Since I was too scared of radiation, I did not go back, but my friends did.”

“TEPCO is the criminal and we are victims, aren’t we? Why on earth are victims’ requests not acceptable? Why are we the ones who have to give in to their absurdity?”

Staying in temporary housing causes tremendous stress among elderly people – so much so that they now wish to die in their hometown, in their own house. Getting no plan for the future from the government, being left apart from younger family members, the sense of loneliness among them is so strong that they became eager to go home. For them no place is like home and they want to have their house decontaminated.

Affected people in Fukushima became reticent. “I don’t want to remember or think about painful memories. Nor about the nuclear power plant, even less so about the beginning of the disaster. Since we were given no hope, I prefer not to talk about our future, compensation, or that sort of nature. Just by thinking about it, my heart hurts. So please don’t mention it.”

If we refer to those subjects by accident, they become depressed and mourn. The mayor of a village says:

“They used to be more hopeful. But now they walk with their chins down. Those who used to be very energetic and hardworking became sick and hardly able to walk. They became silent.”
People from Fukushima are putting up with cold stares. They are misunderstood due to the Media who do not report their reality.

“Aren’t you getting compensation from our government and TEPCO?” “How long are you going to take advantage of the free ride?” “You guys are lazy.” “Why don’t you find a job?” (They are not aware of our reality. No jobs are available even after desperate search. ) “She is from Fukushima.” (We are treated like germs.)

Some high school students in the area say: “We won’t be able to get married.” “We won’t be able to have babies. We are Fukushimans.”

[ Give your understanding and kindness to people in Fukushima ]

Please understand us. Please hug us gently: we are dealing with sorrow, suffering, and are deeply hurt and tired. Can we cry in your arms? What we need now is your understanding and friendship. We need real friends who can give us their hands. Your kind gaze, warm words and hands; those are the things that we need. Those are the things that help us keep living.
And if possible, please help us a little. There may be some people from Fukushima, in your area, in your neighborhood. Please give them your hands.

I beg you from my heart to become their angels.

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