Sunday, January 11, 2015

Letters from the affected people – “Please learn our reality” --

The reality of Fukushima – Momoko Fukuoka’s voice                                      
Happy New Year!
I’ve already received many letters and pictures from people who had had been affected by the tsunami and the earthquake. They are in the fourth year living their “temporary life” with no future prospects, which is very sad and heart-wrenching.

This is the year’s first sunrise photographed near the temporary housing unit. It might not be clear to viewers, but this photo actually tells me a lot of things. I think of the sorrow of the families whose members had to be separated, especially during the New Year’s celebration. However, the New Year’s gorgeous sunrise seems to be telling us to hang in there. I would like to energize others just like the way this sunrise does. In order for me to do so, I would like to ask you for a helping hand. Thank you.
I would like to talk about people in Fukushima as usual. People sent me some letters and photos describing their never-changing reality. I have their permission to share them with you, so you can learn more about their lives.
 [A letter from Namie cho]
“This is the fourth New Year’s day that we spent outside our own hometown. I appreciate that you are still thinking of us even after four years. Since our normal life was taken away, we’ve been asking ourselves ‘who are we' and ‘where are we'. Then we realize that we are not able to do things that we used to take for granted.
I grew up in a fishing town called Ukedo. When I was a child, I used to love watching the ferries moving off the coast, and dream about riding one of them.  The whole seaport along with the entire community was washed away by the tsunami, leaving just seven fishing boats out of 130 intact. If the tsunami was the only disaster, we would have been able to fight back and stand on our own two feet again. But we had to face the invisible enemy, radiation. The news about the disaster-related deaths keeps on coming. We often see the recovery effort of Sanriku community in Miyagi prefecture on TV, but not in our own town. Luckily our house survived because it was built on a hill far enough from the coast. Sometimes we go home and spend a couple of hours cleaning our house. The road to our house is covered with weeds. Our land has many holes dug by boars and our house has new occupants, wild animals.  I heard the nuclear plant workers say that we cannot go back to our hometown of Namie for 30 years. However, the Japanese government wants to lift the evacuation order. I know that young people will never go back. They don’t want to live in a town with life-threatening issues. I cannot explain the whole range of our issues in a single letter. Let me stop here for now.”
“Our hometown is no longer the same. We have made an album from which I enclose some of the pictures. These may not be the kind of pictures that you want to see on a New Year’s day, but we would like you to know that this is our reality. These were actually taken two years ago and nothing has changed since. “

 “Central area in Namie cho: Huge rocks were moved by Tsunami and destroyed a car.”

 “More than 120 ships were brought onto high ground by the Tsunami. This is one of them. My house was washed away. My older brother and sister are missing, their remains are yet to be found.”

We still have piles of debirs all around. Do you see some trees on the left of this picture, that is the ocean behind them.
 [A gentleman who lost his wife in Tsunami and lives alone in a temporary housing unit]
“My house was washed away by the Tsunami. My wife died and her bones are with me here. I cannot place her bones in our family tomb because of the nuclear power plant. All I can do is to wipe her picture with a warm hand towel every morning. I am always with her remains. Even when I have meals, I always talk to her. This year we had our golden anniversary. Since my wife always wanted to go to Nikko for our anniversary, I took her picture and remains to Nikko. I saw many couples there, and it made me miss my wife very much.”
 [A lady who lives in a subsidized apartment in Iidate Village]
”People often suggest that I relocate elsewhere and stay away from radiation. But there is a reason why we cannot leave our hometown. The government does not buy out our land, or houses. Not only that, they also tell us that we have to take care of our property ourselves. We have to keep our house, rice paddies and vegetable fields in good shape, so that we can go back any time. That is why we cannot leave here. We need to stay in a commuting distance to our home. We have to maintain our property until we die.”
 [A surprising fact]
I was so surprised to learn that those who were affected by the disaster cannot leave their hometown, not only due to their homesickness but also because of the government’s policy expecting them to maintain their property themselves. Actually our government intends to have them go back to their homes despite its uninhabitable condition due to high radiation. They have been commuting to their homes where the radiation level allows them to stay only for four hours. They are doing this to maintain their rice paddies and vegetable fields. No one knows when they can go back to live permanently. It could be 30 years from now. Those people cannot contradict the government’s statements. The people are just enduring the current situation and the fear of radiation. I assume that the government’s intentions are to terminate the compensation payment for the evacuees, once they go back to their homes.
Don’t you think that the reality of Fukushima is too ugly, dirty and harsh? Don’t you think that we are not well-informed of the evacuees’ lives? We need to pay serious attention to Fukushima and learn about the people. I sincerely ask you for your heart-warming support for people in Fukushima. They are still in need of daily consumable goods such as food and clothing in addition to financial aid.
[My advice to regain the power for keep living] (No. 13)
Look for something positive in your day and when you wake up in the morning write down the things you like, or things that make you happy. You live, move, eat, and go to the bathroom regularly. You have the warmth of the sun, the wind, the rain, and the sound of crickets, etc. These are examples of some pieces of happiness. Once you write yours down, enjoy them as much as possible. You many not notice any of them at the beginning but, as you keep writing, you will see that we are surrounded by many happy things.
 [List of things that you can donate]
Blanket, hand and leg warmers, masks, adult diapers, toilet papers, detergent, water, rice, spices, dry foods, canned foods, snacks, tea, fruits, vegetables: these are very much needed. Many people are experiencing financial difficulty. I will let you know where to send those support goods.
Please contact me between 10:0017:30 (Japan time) at 011-81-80-5547-8675(mobile) or
 If the line is busy, please try again later.
Thank you,
Momoko Fukushima

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