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,.

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