Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Nuclear Power Plant is taking away Peoples’ Happiness

I assume that this summer’s scorching heat must have made it difficult for many people to lead normal lives. Whenever I meet someone, they wonder whether or not they are the only one constantly feeling tired and run down. However, the truth is that everyone has been experiencing this. And now, the temperature has dropped suddenly, making it easier for people to catch cold.  I would like for all of my friends to take good care of themselves.  Also, as it is typhoon season, please take extra care. 

[Our Lives are Still being Wasted]
It’s the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Through many TV programs I have learned the history of the war: the lives of the Japanese suicide attackers, the tragedy of the atomic bombing, and the anguish of people in Okinawa. I have come to realize that today’s Japan was built upon so many sacrifices, and I pray for the victims as well as their families.
Former prime ministers, mayors, and many others have given us their pledge that these historic atrocities will not be repeated. I have seen and heard this same scene play out year after year. But why haven’t any of these life-threatening issues been resolved yet? I haven’t seen any indication of movement toward solutions and many people’s lives are being neglected. I feel as if not only Japan, but the entire world is slowly headed on a downward spiral, as if being dragged down by evil forces. I would like us all to wake up to this reality.

The power of each individual might be insignificant, but when people join hands, they can form a large circle. What started out as “a tiny spark” turns into a big movement. I would like you to join me in making the earth a peaceful place where each life is respected and well-nourished, without suffering.

[Inspiration from a book]
My mentor recently gave me a book, titled The Dwellers of Arayashiki. It’s a photo essay by photographer/movie director Seiichi Motohashi that introduces the people living in the Maki settlement in Kotani village, deep in the mountains of the Japanese Alps of Nagano prefecture. The Maki settlement’s history goes back to the Edo period (1603-1868 CE), but it was abandoned in 1972. There are still five old thatched-roofed houses which can only be accessed by mountain trail and not by car. Mr. Shin Miyashima of “Jiyu Gakuen” has a community there, where ordinary people live side by side with the physically and mentally handicapped. Jiyu Gakuen is a school that was established by Motoko Hani, and its motto is: “Living is education”. The photo essay is filled with pictures of this community.

There was also a feature documentary film about the Maki settlement which was shown in theaters in May of 2015. At first, I felt disconnected from those people’s liveliness and the spirited sparkle in their eyes – it felt like they lived in a completely different world from me.  But after looking at the photos a while longer, I was reminded of the things that we have lost in our modern society, and my eyes were suddenly opened. The book reminded me of countless things currently lost from everyday life – having a loving heart and a noble spirit, peaceful coexistence with others, a close relationship with nature, pureness and warmth of heart, kindness, appreciation of life, respect for others, an appreciation of diversity, etc. etc.  This book, which reminded me of all these lost values, became a treasure to me and it also made me think of the people in Fukushima.

[Peaceful lives destroyed by the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant] 
Kawauchi village, Miyakoji, Katsurao, and Tsushima villages are all located at  altitudes between 670 to 800 meters (2,198 to 2,625 feet). Once snow falls in December, it is considered dangerous to descend from the villages until it melts in the spring. The inhabitants of these villages were caring and patient. They lived there in harmony with nature and families worked together to create communities committed to serving others. Since there is no public water supply, people drank natural spring water. The river water was crystal clear, and had plenty of fish in it. The villagers used to make a living by raising silkworms, making wood charcoal, growing Shiitake mushrooms and flowers, and cattle farming. One of the evacuees told me that though there weren’t many stores and hospitals nearby, he still thought it was the best place to live.

Then the nuclear accident changed everything, robbing the inhabitants of these villages of their happiness. They lost their villages and some evacuees will never  be able to step foot back into their own homes ever again. The once peaceful villages now look like a battlefield after World War II.  Some houses are in ruins, covered over with weeds. The nuclear accident separated families and friends who used to support each other, and the villagers have lost their livelihoods.

But, no one has taken responsibility for the accident. The national government set March of 2017 as a goal for the declaration allowing the evacuees to return to their homes. However, it is not actively working on compensation for the evacuees to help them cover living expenses, nor paying to move forward the radiation decontamination effort. The national government has left these issues up to local governments and TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), and the Ministry of the Environment has been left in charge of regulating the disaster-stricken areas. I heard that if local governments don’t comply with the policies set forth by the national government, they will receive reduced subsidies. The local governments thus have no choice but to follow national government decisions because of their tight financial situation. I feel sorry for the workers at local government offices. They ended up serving the Japanese government, instead of their own local citizens, struggling under a situation which gives them no opportunity to discuss local issues. Under these circumstances, who can help the evacuees in Fukushima? Who can stand up to the many obstacles that are making it difficult to truly change their situation? Isn’t it sad to think that many people may just dismiss this situation, thinking that eventually time will heal everything or that the evacuees should help themselves?

[A message from His Majesty the King of Bhutan]
Their Majesties the King and Queen of Bhutan visited Japan from November 15th to 20th, 2011.  They were the first state guests to visit Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. I am personally fond of Bhutan for its national philosophy, founded on the idea of valuing GNH (Gross National Happiness) over GNP (Gross National Product).  97% of its population of 700,000 say that they are happy. Here are a few quotes from his Majesty: “Let’s begin by taking care of each other. We must respect the fundamental values of humanity: empathy, nobility and a sense of justice.” “I want you all to study hard, but even more than that I want for you to be good human beings.” (from a speech given at Keio University in Tokyo) “A dragon called “character” lives inside each of our hearts.  Feed your dragon.  Take good care of it.” (at Sakuragaoka Elementary School, Soma city, Fukushima) His Majesty visited the Haragama region, which was devastated by the tsunami and said, addressing himself to those victims who were not physically present,  “We offer our sincere condolences. Our hearts and thoughts will always be with you.”

[Evacuees entering worst period of suffering yet]
It has been four and a half years since the huge earthquake and tsunami of 2011, and the evacuees are more psychologically distressed than ever.  They have been abandoned by the national government they once trusted, have received no support, are still separated from family members, and are still without permanent homes to live in. They have become extremely mentally and physically distressed, which has in turn negatively affected their health and wellbeing.  The king of Bhutan was quoted as saying about the evacuees, “Our hearts and thoughts will always be with you.” I hope that all of you would have a heart like the king of Bhutan and reach out to offer your continued support for them.  

[For questions]
If you have any questions about the evacuees or would like to offer help, I would be more than glad to introduce them to you. Please contact me. Thank you.
Momoko Fukuoka
Mobile:      080-5547-8675
Fax:  047-346-8675

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Life and Love are the Most Important Things

Why don’t the citizens’ tears reach the rest of the country?

On July 6th, I was extremely surprised to see Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto on television along with a public announcement that the evacuation order for Naraha will be removed on September 5th. In my blog entry from June 29th, I wrote about the anguish and reality of the situation of the residents of Naraha. The area has still not been sufficiently decontaminated, mice have taken over the houses, and mold covers the interiors of buildings that have now been empty for four-and-a-half years.

Almost all of the houses need to be either reconstructed or restored, and all of the furnishings and furniture need to be disposed of as well. However, there are not enough construction materials or carpenters at the disaster site. Because of this, the victims cannot return home.

Even though we’ve heard that recovery housing will be built for the sake of Naraha victims whose homes were washed away by the tsunami, work has not been completed. Stores, hospitals, and other buildings necessary for daily life have also not been re-established.

Temporary accommodations for the thousands of workers who have come from other parts of the country to decontaminate the area have been built. This has caused concern because of increased crime and made it so that some residents don’t feel safe in their homes. In my most recent blog post I wrote about this.

Why aren’t the victims’ tears, grieving voices, and pleas for help reaching the rest of the country?

Please listen to the word of God

Who controls our lives? Isn’t life the greatest gift that every human being is given? No one, no matter how powerful or influential, should ever impinge upon this gift that has been bestowed on each and every one of us.  Today I have decided to talk about my experience as a Catholic Nun.

Others have kindly written about me on the internet, but today, I would like to talk to you about my own personal experiences relating to “The Word of God” and what God wants from us in the world today.

I entered a Catholic convent at the age of 22, and left at age 54. I had a revelation that God wanted me to go and make a place to help heal other’s souls, so I left the Catholic order where I had spent 32 years of my life. At that time, God said to me, “I only want one thing from mankind:  that you love one another and respect life. Beyond that, nothing is of importance.” Then, just when I was passing through the gate to leave the convent, God spoke to me again. He said, “You will come to experience many things. Through those experiences, you will make true friends.” God changed my life by telling me those things. It was as if I had been reborn. God also told me, “From now on, you do not need to promote the teachings of the faith. Please just focus on making your home a place where others can find solace and healing, so that they may leave with newly acquired strength and energy.”

Once I understood that life and love were the most important things, my soul felt free. I began to sense the preciousness of life in even the smallest beings and to feel a communion with everything; not only people, but even insects, grass, stones, and the wind. I began to think of all living things as my dear brothers and sisters. Then I started experiencing something unusual.  My heart became truly able to greet everyone that I met equally, regardless of race, nationality, religion, social status, or even how well I knew them.  Also, even though I tend to be shy, I became brave enough to say the things that I felt needed to be said. This is because I understood what God meant when he said:  “The most important things are life and love, nothing else is as important.”

God, who gave each one of us life, loves us more than anyone else, and values each individual life. Therefore, he is more saddened by our pain than anyone else could ever be. So he says to us: “Why do you treat life with such disrespect? Don’t you care about the suffering of others? I am the one who gave you life. To me, every person is an irreplaceable son or daughter.” Also, “Please do not be vain. Be modest.” “Who will be judged favorably? To the weak, debased, and oppressed, my repayment will be manifold. Those who suffer in this world will triumph and become radiant. However, those who show no compassion and do not value life will be required to take responsibility for their actions” “Treat the small and weak with kindness and respect” “Do not turn a blind eye to the victims of Fukushima. They are bravely paying the price for sins caused by others, just as Christ did when he died for the sins of humanity. Please work together to help the victims of Fukushima get their lives back. Learn from their patience, strength and modesty.  Restore this world to one of “peace and happiness”, rather than one of destruction. Let the world be reborn as a place of peace, respect, kindness and love.”

The above are God’s messages for all of us. God also sent me this final message: “Every person in this world who is suffering or oppressed - victims of war, refugees, all the downtrodden - you are like Christ, because you are also paying for humanity’s sins.”

What Each and Every One of Us Can Do

It is up to each and every one of us to make a better Japan (and world). Government representatives are only human too. Humans make mistakes; they have their limits. Even wise men are sometimes naïve. But there is also greatness inside of seemingly “insignificant” people.  Even humble individuals can do great and brave things. We need to ask ourselves: “ What is happiness for humanity?” Won’t you please reevaluate and change your lives, change Japan, and change the world? Business and money are not all that is needed for happiness. Life and our time on this Earth are precious and irreplaceable things. If everyone worked towards respecting and caring for each other, a new system would naturally arise from this way of thinking -  a way of living that would make everyone radiant, and envelope each family, society, country, and finally the whole world in happiness. Don’t you agree?

In order to help the victims of the nuclear accident in Fukushima, you must acknowledge the reality of their suffering. From there, please spread your knowledge of the situation to others. You do not have to do anything too big. In my next blog post, I would like to offer you more ways to help.

It is currently very humid, which can easily cause health problems to arise. Please take care of yourselves.

[For questions about how to offer help]

Momoko Fukuoka
Mobile:      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, but I promise that your call will be returned)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

---The current situation of the disaster-stricken areas---The recovery housing, decontamination effort, and some “small” supporters

Today, I would like to talk about the requirements needed to move into recovery housing and the current status of Okuma town and Naraha town.
I will also introduce some “little” supporters.

[Requirements to move into recovery houses]
In my blog dated May 25, 2015, I talked about the procedure to move into housing. In addition to this, I will talk a little more in detail about the national government’s required conditions to move into recovery housing. As you can imagine, many evacuees want to know the room layouts and the size of windows, or would like to see the housing units in person before they move in. This would enable them to take time to plan on the furniture, curtains, and lighting, and would
encourage hope and dreams about their new lives. However, the national government doesn’t make this possible and forces the evacuees to follow their rules. The evacuees never see the actual rooms until they receive the house keys. They never even get to choose which house they move into. The evacuees are told to move in wherever the local government assigns them. Even for same-sized houses, the rent varies in ten different amounts, depending on the evacuees’ income. The lowest rent is 8,000 yen per month (US$65), and there are elevator
fees and other surcharges.

I talked to someone who started moving into one of the recovery houses in Okuma town. The recovery houses were completed in May, and those who won the lottery received a notice. The orientation meeting was held on June 9th. The rent notice was sent to each evacuee, and the
house keys were given to those who paid three-months’ rent up front. They were told to move in within twenty days. Unfortunately, some evacuees live on a pension and don't have three-months’ rent on hand. Also, though they have to move within twenty days, some old people
don’t have cars and live far away from the recovery houses, so it is both physically and financially difficult for them to transport their belongings in time. The evacuees are given just twenty days to move into their new houses, even though the houses do not come equipped
with necessary items such as lights, a gas stove, or curtains. This is an inconsiderate way of treating disaster victims.

Usually, when looking for a new house, one discusses with the realtor about rent prices. Also, the decision whether or not to move in is usually made after first touring the inside of the actual house and seeing it with one’s own eyes. But the Fukushima evacuees have to first make the decision whether or not to move in, and only then are they notified how much the rent will be, which is decided depending on their income. I have never heard of something like this before. How could the government force such an ordeal on them?  However, it seems to me that none of the evacuees are in a position where they have the option to oppose the government’s policies.

Nuclear power plants were promoted as part of Japan’s national agenda. After the nuclear accident that occurred in Fukushima in 2011, a vast expanse of land was contaminated with radiation.  Countless innocent and good-natured people were forced to evacuate from the area. Those evacuees say “We didn’t evacuate. We were driven away from our own land, leaving our perfectly good houses behind. We are not even sure where we can settle down to live our lives after four and a half years. We have moved 7 or 8 times so far, and it cost us a lot of money each time. We are separated from close friends and family members, and we are so exhausted.”

[Status of Naraha town]
In Naraha town, before the official declaration of evacuees’ return to home, evacuees were allowed a trial stay in their own homes from April 6, 2015 through July 5, 2015. However, I was told that no one went back and stayed in their homes due to their concern about the radiation level.

One of the people I talked to share the following details: “Some big company built refabricated housing for thousands of workers who worked on radiation decontamination. One site can hold 300 to 500 workers. They built some of those homes. The workers came from all over Japan. Since the neighboring town, Tomioka is too radioactive to live in, they also built the same housing units for Tomioka’s 3,000 workers who are staying in Naraha town as well. There are traffic jams every day because of those workers commuting from Tomioka to Naraha. After an incident involving a woman being chased by one of those workers, residents started a local patrol, but I don’t feel safe even in my own home. They built the pre-fab houses for the decontamination workers so quickly. But for us Naraha evacuees, the recovery houses are still in the planning stage, and construction has not yet started. There are no carpenters available to repair or rebuild the existing houses; there are no building supplies. Building contractors see
financial uncertainty for repairing the disaster victims’ houses, and they are attracted by the higher pay for construction in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games. So for the carpenters, the choice is clear. As a result, the evacuees are left without homes or any means
for building one.”

[Support from a six-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy]
I would like to share this heart-warming story that I encountered recently. I received an email message on my phone about ten days ago. It was from a young Japanese housewife who lives in England. She had learned about the situation of many people in Fukushima, and she
wanted to do something to help them. She was planning to get together with her six-year-old daughter and her four-year-old son to write messages for each evacuee on little packages of sweets. She wanted to know what type of sweets the senior evacuees could eat, and if it was
okay for her to send 10 to 20 sets weighing a total of 2 kg (4 lb). I was delighted to receive such an offer.

Thinking about this mother working with her daughter and son to write messages and draw pictures for the Fukushima evacuees moved me to tears. I couldn’t think of a more precious gift than this. I talked to the leader of our residents’ association right way. He was also very happy to hear about the offer. He knew the Fukushima evacuees would appreciate any small gift, even candy. The letter from this young girl and boy would be such an encouragement for them.

To tell the truth, continually working on this mission to support the Fukushima evacuees wears me out physically and mentally. Whenever I hear about the inhumane way the national government treats the disaster victims as well as the situation in which the evacuees have
been left behind and forgotten, I feel helpless and deeply distressed. But this message from the young mother and her children healed me, and re-energized me. I sent a thank-you message back to them saying “I’ll never give up! Little boy and girl, I will always keep moving forward
as long as I live. Stay in touch!”

I’m not asking for anything grand. Just as the example of this young mother in England shows, a caring heart and a kind act can help save people in despair and give them the power to confront their daily struggles. If you have any children or grandchildren around you, please share this story. Please consider reaching out to the Fukushima evacuees with your support.

[We need more concerned individuals who care]

There are many Fukushima evacuees who are in bad health as a result of their unstable lives. Even a small donation of simple daily

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

People in affected area continue to endure horrible living situations

[Life in temporary housing units]

Today I would like to bring your attention to housing issues in the affected areas. Not just humans, but all living creatures - including fish, birds, plants, insects, and countless others - all need a place to live and feel safe (in other words, a home to call one’s own).

Please imagine for a moment that you are living in one of the temporary housing units – that this is the place that you currently call “home.”

When you are at home, you need a certain space where you can relax, right? Can you live comfortably in a space with no windows, no sunlight, no air flow despite uncomfortable levels of humidity, no privacy to the extent that you can hear everything that your neighbors are saying and vice versa? Well, that is the life of people in temporary housing units in the affected area. You always have to pay close attention to potential noise that might bother your neighbors.  This may mean you have to refrain from listening to music, playing musical instruments, and you have to keep the TV volume and your conversational voice at the lowest possible level. Every time your kids make noise your neighbors might complain, you can never use a loud voice, and you are constantly thinking of what the neighbors might think….This describes life in a temporary housing unit.

In most cases, even if you store furniture and bedding in closets, you will still not have sufficient space for everyone to sit down and relax around the table and enjoy family time. At night, you do not have space to sleep without having to worry about being stepped on by someone. The deepest concern of all is the fact that you do not know how long you can stay there. This is a house where you are not allowed to stay indefinitely - you do not know when you might receive a notice to leave. You cannot even find an alternative house, so you just spend every day in fear. You want to leave your temporary housing unit, but then you would lose your compensation. If you find a new place (outside the affected area) by changing your residential registration (something similar to voting registration in the U.S.), you will lose your current compensation. Thus affected people cannot leave their temporary house, nor plan their futures.

What do you think about this situation? If your government asked you to live in this same state for a long period of time and you were actually placed in this situation, how would you feel? Don’t you think that everyone needs a certain quality of living environment; as well as relaxing and sufficient space to live?

Ladies and gentlemen, you may not be able to identify with this type of situation. However, the affected people of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster have been in these horrible circumstances for more than four years. Please allow me to review something I’ve written about in the past.

A living space with an area of only four and a half tatami mats (roughly 80ft²) sometimes only includes a single window.  Once you add in basic furniture and appliances, you have barely enough space to spread out futons (Japanese foldable bedding.) The floor is so close to the ground that it invites high humidity, mold, and extreme coldness, which then adds additional weight to comforters. From fall to spring, it is common to have water dripping from the ceiling in these residences due to excess humidity, which moistens the walls and floors. In these houses, wiping the floor is a necessary daily task. Some units have broken floors, as well as being drafty and cold. Residents sometimes stuff pieces of newspaper into gaps in an effort to stop the drafts and make their lives more comfortable. There is not even enough space in these homes to hang up clothes to dry.   

Residents have almost no privacy: people who walk outside can see people inside, sometimes their eyes meet unintentionally. Some residents cannot sleep well: the wall between you and your next-door neighbors is so thin that you can tell exactly what they are doing. The majority of temporary housing units and school buildings are prefabs. The material in prefabs do not have adequate insulation.

[The voice of residents at temporary housing units]

Affected people sometimes say that living in the temporary housing units makes them feel stifled and like they’re going crazy.
One said, “I usually stay out of my unit.” I asked her, “Do you go to work somewhere?” to which she replied, “No, I cannot keep up with my mental health in a four and a half-tatami mat space (80ft²). That is why I walk outside every day. Although I have been looking for a job, when I mention my age (67 years old), they do not want to hire me….”

Some residents say, “Without a fixed home address, I cannot find a job,” or “A stable address is the key to go forward. Without one, my family members are still scattered and we cannot even find a place to store the remains of my mother and my husband. We are not yet able to decide where to build our family tomb.”

Still others say, “The recovery housing units are yet to be built. Also the number of the units are limited. They will not be open to everyone. Those who lost their houses due to the tsunami and nuclear accidents get higher priority. Not only that, once those individuals get a unit, they will need to buy their own curtains, ceiling lights, stovetops, make monthly rent payments, etc….a fairly large budget is necessary.”

In Funehiki, Tamura City, there are four temporary housing apartments where people from Miyakoji mainly live, as well as some from the towns of Okuma, Namie, Futaba and Tokiwa. “I’ve just heard that they are building a recovery housing apartment in Funehiki and it is supposed to be completed sometime after next fall. More than a year ahead!” said an evacuee.

I still remember something I heard from one of them; “If only our government had said that they would buy out our properties and would find an alternative place for us to live, elsewhere in Japan.  We would have appreciated it so much. Had they taken such a measure four years ago, those new communities would have been flourishing and the residents could have been contributing to the nation’s economy by now….”

However, in reality, affected area survivors have been forced to find a place to live on their own and no government funding is provided. After losing their homes in the disasters, they have been offered no replacement homes and no jobs to generate enough income to make ends meet. “How can we survive like this?” say affected people lamenting over the prolonged suffering.

Members of the younger generations have already left their home towns, searching for a new life elsewhere. Thus temporary housing units are full of elderly people who have nowhere else to go and no family with which to live. They cannot  get in to recovery housing apartments, are separated from people belonging to younger generations, and are thus forced to live a lonely life; for them to “live independently” sounds very harsh. They are doing their best to support each other, living among others stuck in the same situation and sharing similar experiences.

It would be wonderful if you could also help them out by sending some grocery items for their daily necessities.      

[Please offer your support]

Please show your support for those who have lost their ability to live on their own and are lost in despair.  Even the smallest support would be a big help. In your package, you can send your thoughts and well-wishes to let them know that they are never forgotten, that you are thinking of their health, or you can even send some grocery items; this will truly seem like a treasure chest to the recipient. Our society has forgotten them, but you can help save them, even if it’s by sending just one care package out to save a single person. If you are interested in sending some packages, please contact me.

“Let’s make happiness together!”

Contact:  Momoko Fukuoka
           Phone: 080-5547-8675 
           FAX 047-346-8675


Monday, May 25, 2015

The current status of disaster recovery housing for the Fukushima evacuees

Japan has four distinct seasons. Various kinds of flowers bloom at different times of the year, and the arrival of spring and fall are marked by the whispers of soothing and chilly breezes, respectively. Each year, we celebrate the changing of the seasons and the joy that each season brings. However, I have been shocked by the global climate change taking place in more recent years.

Today, I would like to talk about the current situation of the disaster recovery housing units in Fukushima. Essentially, the Japanese government’s goal is to decontaminate the evacuees’ houses, so that they can eventually return home. I get the impression that as a result, the government is not taking a very active role in
establishing evacuee recovery housing units. As we are going into the fifth year after the earthquake and tsunami, I have been angered and saddened by the inconceivable and unacceptable situation in Fukushima.
I have to say that the way the government treats the evacuees is both senseless and atrocious. Below are some evacuees’ comments that I received in May of 2015.

[Voices of the evacuees]

“The Japanese government is planning to have the evacuees in all towns and cities return to their original homes by March of 2016. But then the newspaper that I read a couple of days ago said that they will
postpone this plan by a year, so that might happen instead. They change their policy every year, without having a long-term plan. When the Japanese government decides that we have to leave the temporary
housing in March 2016, they will inform the prefectural government, then each town and city will also be notified.”

“There used to be seven thousand people living in Naraha town. Now they are scattered at temporary housing in different places, including thirteen houses in Iwaki city and one in Aizuwakamatsu. The Japanese
government plans to have the evacuees eventually return to their own homes, so they have no intention of building any recovery housing units outside of the town of Naraha. They said that they would build
fifty two houses in Naraha, but that promise has yet to be realized. Those eligible to live in the recovery housing units include tsunami victims and those currently without any housing. For three months from April 6th through July 5th, people will live in the recovery housing units for a trial period. After this period, the Japanese  government will probably begin preparations for announcing the return of the evacuees.”

“Three thousand people used to live in Kawauchi village before the accident. There are three categories of compensation for the evacuees from Kawauchi:

    1. People who lived within a 30km (19mile) radius from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and   
        whose compensation for mental damages was terminated in August 2012
    2. People whose compensation for mental damages will be terminated in September 2015
    3. People who continue to receive compensation for mental damages after September 2015, and who are  
        not able to live in their homes

At Shimo Kawauchi temporary housing in Kawauchi village, there are fifty households that are categorized as compensation type 2 and 3. Twenty five recovery housing units have been completed and  will be ready for move-in beginning June 1st .  Shimo Kawauchi’s neighborhood council has been disbanded. Fifteen of the twenty five recovery housing units will be occupied by people from Shimo Kawauchi, and the rest will be taken by people from different neighborhoods. The government has no plan to build any more recovery houses there.
However, we are allowed to stay at the temporary houses until March 2016, and then we have to choose whether or not we want to move in to one of the recovery houses or go back to our own homes. You have to
pay a rent to live in the recovery houses, and you have to pay for lighting equipment, curtains, and gas stoves too. Some of the curtains come in non-standard measurements. I heard that these moving expenses could add up to around 500,000 Yen ($4,000 as of May 2015). The single-story houses come in two types (A and B) and there is also a two-story configuration.  You don’t get to pick which one you move into.”

“The Fukushima prefectural government manages the recovery housing units, so they decide who moves in to which houses. We submitted a request for them to place evacuees from the same neighborhood together, but it was rejected. The recovery houses will be shared between four different towns and villages. Each community has different customs and ways of life. Also, the amount of compensation money varies depending on the community. People will be facing various hardships, as well as living among strangers, separated from their
friends and fellow town folk.”

“There are seven people in my family. We are currently living in three separate temporary houses, since we have a big family. My family includes my father (87 years old, has emphysema), my husband (ill-health), myself (ill-health), my daughter (cerebral palsy, learning disability), my son (who gave up college and is working), my
second son (middle school), and my third son (elementary school). We have lived in the temporary houses and supported each other since the accident, but we had a family meeting and decided to move all seven of us into two of the recovery housing units. The kids say that they would be happy just to have rooms and windows. They won’t have to worry about someone complaining about the TV noise anymore. They will be able to lie around without having anyone step on their feet.   My mother died 5 years ago.  Her mortuary tablet is currently sitting on top of the bookshelf.  I would like to have enough space to be able to buy a proper Buddhist altar as soon as possible. ..... Since we couldn't all fit in just one recovery unit, we decided to rent two of them."

“I applied for a recovery housing unit which is supposed to be completed by the end of May. I will hear the lottery result by then. If I win, there will be an orientation meeting. The rent will be set depending on the occupants’ income. I will have to pay three months’ rent to move in. And finally the keys will be given to me at the local government office. Then I have to move in within twenty days.”

“It’s difficult to find a place to live these days. You need a guarantor in order to apply for the recovery house, and I was lucky to have one in my case. My recovery house is in a secluded area far from stores and hospitals. If I died alone, no one would notice. But I’m thankful for having friends living right at my doorstep. I think that
it would be very hard for old people to get one of the recovery houses. There is just so much work involved, such as going to the government office and attending information briefings. Some of the older people I know have already given up.”

“There are so many rules that come with the recovery houses. You are not allowed to use nails on the walls. You have to restore everything to the original state when you move out. Curtains are non-standard. There are light fixtures, but you have to pay your own money for the lamps and lighting.”

[We need more considerate care]

Some people lost their homes in the tsunami, some had to leave their houses behind because of the nuclear disaster. They have been harmed both mentally and physically , and have  been struggling financially for the past four and a half years. I always wonder why the Japanese government doesn’t show more concern for these people. How come they never listen to their sadness and pain?

I would like to ask those who read this blog for your support for the Fukushima evacuees, and ask you to spread the word so that more people recognize the real situation in Fukushima.

We are asking for donations to help support Fukushima evacuees. They are still in need of daily necessities such as food and financial support. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I would like to introduce you to the reality of the evacuation zones.

Thank you very much, Momoko Fukuoka,.