Sunday, April 10, 2016

Testimony of the lead plaintiffs suing for compensation

     What I saw while watching TV on April 4th was so devastating that I froze in place; it was a boat full of packed refugees who had barely escaped with their lives just arriving in Greece from Turkey, only to be turned away and sent back. I could not help but feel sadness and I cried, “Oh God, what a world we are in!” I clasped my hands and raised them up, asking God, “My Lord, you must be observing with sorrow what is going on now. Your thoughtfulness, does it really touch the hearts of others?”

     Try to put yourself in those refugees’ shoes. How do you feel?  Their hometowns were destroyed by war and they have nowhere to go. This world has many issues to resolve and solving them will be no easy task. This planet requires not one unilateral approach by a single nation, but rather multilateral global solutions that hold human life in high esteem and pay attention to, and learn from, various nations’ differing systems. I strongly believe that this is what we should do as modern citizens of the world. Of course it is important to secure your own nation’s rights and to increase its economic gain. That being said, I must question anyone who dares to do this at the expense of the lives of other people, regardless of whether they are people inside or outside of their own country. In the case of Japan, I really want people to realize that our government is not working seriously to protect the lives of our citizens.


[Miyakoji Class Action Suit: The lead plaintiff’s oral argument]

     I would like to share with you [a translated version of] the original text that the lead plaintiff read to the court. His group is called the “Society to Protect Disaster-Affected People” and is suing the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for unpaid compensation to the affected people in Fukushima. It took place at the Civil Affairs Division of the Koriyama Branch of the Fukushima District Court.

     The first session was held on the 22nd of February and the next one will be on April 22nd.

     Here is the layout of how people were sitting at the court: five TEPCO representatives on the right and 30 plaintiffs from Miyakoji on the left. There were five judges. First the chief judge said, “Court is now in session. Please refrain from using cameras or from video recording.” Then the attorneys presented their cases, after which the lead plaintiff read his prepared document. That was it. There was no time allowed for the other affected people to express their opinions. The chief judge simply announced, “The next session will be on April 22nd..Court is now adjourned for the day.”  The whole thing was done in a mere 30 minutes. The lead plaintiff was left hoping to receive some reply on April 22nd….


     The following is the document read to the court by Mr. Nobuyuki Imaizumi, the lead plaintiff representing “The Society to Protect Disaster-Affected People.” (I received approval from Mr. Imaizumi for using his full name on my blog.)




Statement of Opinion by Mr. Nobuyuki Imaizumi, lead plaintiff of the Miyakoji Class Action Suit, first oral argument


1. Life before the accident


      I have lived in Miyakoji since I was born. At the time of the accident, I was living with my mother, wife, eldest son and his wife, and two grand-children, as a household of seven all together.

     Located in the Hamadori region of Fukushima, Miyakoji used to be a village until about 10 years ago when it merged into a single township together with Tokiwa, Ohgoshi, Takine, and Funabiki. Close to the beach and surrounded by big mountains and rivers, the abundance of nature used to provide us with mountain vegetables and mushrooms, and we could fish in the rivers for cherry salmon and mountain trout.

     With our pristine water and air, Miyakoji’s fresh fruits and vegetables used to be regarded as high-quality produce, and buyers came from places as distant as Tokyo to purchase items from our village’s two produce stands..

     Although we were not professional farmers, we used to grow  scallions, cabbages, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, and rice at home; we were almost completely self-sufficient, only needing to purchase meat and seafood and growing all the rest.  We would commonly exchange our home-grown produce and rice among our neighbors and families.

     Miyakoji people are very cheerful. We enjoyed many local events: cherry blossom parties in April and May, a lantern festival in August, cultural and athletic festivals in October, and the fall harvest festival in November. Each area had its own children’s society, and these would plan sleep-over trips and such.

    My hometown Miyakoji used to be a cheerful town, full of the happy laughing voices, both young and old.


2. Our Life After the Accident


     Everyone insisted that the nuclear power plant was absolutely safe. So we had believed that and lived near the plant for several decades, until one day there was an explosion there and we received an evacuation order.

     During the night of March 12, 2011, we the residents of Miyakoji evacuated the village together, assaulted by both the severe cold and a pervasive feeling of fear.  Suddenly finding ourselves caught up in this catastrophic and irreversible situation, we were struck by a strong feeling of despair. After the evacuation, we lived in an emergency evacuation shelter for about 4 months. My aged mother, however, was not able to cope with the severe life at the temporary shelter and had to join an intensive-care old people's home called “Tokiwa-so.” after 2 months.

     For me, more than the horrible life at the shelter, the growing sense of despair and insecurity was unbearable. I think everyone at the shelter at the time felt the same. A man in his 60’s, who was deeply respected by the people of Miyakoji, ended his own life less than a month after the evacuation.

     In July, 2011, my wife and I relocated to a temporary housing unit which, on top of being very small, has almost no privacy; one can easily hear next-door neighbors’ voices, and this has made interactions with our neighbors somewhat awkward. Soon after this relocation, my wife started to avoid seeing people and began visiting doctors for her anxiety.

   At the end of August, 2011, while we were living in this state of never-ending anxiety, the evacuation order for towns within a 30 kilometer radius was lifted. Without knowing the level of invisible radiation that remained, many returned to Miyakoji after this announcement. This ultimately tore apart the local community; we became split into those from within the 20 kilometer radius and  30 kilometer radius, those who returned and those who remained, those afraid of radiation and those not, those young and those old. In this way, the close sense of unity residents of Miyakoji once felt was totally destroyed.

    In September 2012,  compensation for  residents within the 30 kilometer radius was ended. This decisively split the community in  two between those who lost all government support and those within the 20 kilometer radius zone whose compensation was still in effect.  We were one of the households within the 30 kilometers radius, and we became troubled by financial difficulties. Shortly after that, on October 29th, my wife committed suicide. In order to make  ends meet, I had had to leave her home alone and go out to work. As a result I was unable to be there when she needed my help. I still feel a strong sense of guilt, but nothing can change what happened.  Currently my family consists of my 99-years-old mother, my son, his wife, and two grand-children, but we are all split up and living in different places.

     Since first evacuating our home, we have been unable to go back to our self-sufficient lifestyle. The radiation level in the mountains and rivers remains high, which prevents us from harvesting mountain vegetables or mushrooms. No one fishes the cherry salmon or mountain trout anymore.

     All of our local events and festivals have been canceled. In August, 2014, the lantern festival finally resumed, but nothing else.


3. What we want to appeal to the court


On March 11 2011, we experienced an earthquake of unprecedented scale and a disaster which affected a wide area. However, if the disaster had been only the earthquake, if no nuclear accident had happened, Miyakoji would have recovered much sooner and I believe our lives would be back to normal by now.

   In the reality, however, the ocean, the rivers, and the mountains, which once supported our daily life, are still contaminated with radiation. The national government has been insisting that they would put everything back to normal. However, the difficulties we have had to face have only gotten worse. Those who returned to Miyakoji are mostly the elderly. Young families with children are too afraid to come back; Surrounded by mountains, Miyakoji tends to accumulate high radiation even after the radiation level is temporarily reduced by decontamination work. I do not think households with children will ever return to Miyakoji. In several decades our town will be full of only the elderly, and will eventually disappear completely.

     Ever since compensation for the emotional pain of those who are within the 30 kilometer radius was lifted, the relationships between residents in the 20 kilometer radius zone and those within the 30 kilometer radius zone have been completely destroyed. This stems from the fact that, despite the radiation level remaining about the same in both areas, one area keep receiving compensation but the other one does not, even though both areas are in the same village. Unequal treatment for residents of the same community does not make any sense at all.

     I want you to understand what he have one through as the very first residents in the prefecture whose evacuation order was lifted  under the national government’s recovery project. Please listen to our distressed voices and help us receive compensation for the emotional suffering and pain that we have endured.


Thank you


[Tomorrow It Could Be Me]


     Ladies and gentlemen, were it not for the radiation from the nuclear accident, the people in Fukushima could have already returned back to living normal lives these past five years. They would be able to support themselves, and living together again as families and as communities, thriving and developing goals together. However, the nuclear accident has destroyed everything: towns, people, industries, and everything else. Also, nothing will be able to erase their worries about the future as a result of their exposure to radiation.  It is time for us to think about the fact that their situation could be ours in the near future. We must think carefully about the issues of reopening reactors and about nuclear power in general. The first and the most important issue that Japan has to resolve is to help the affected people rebuild their lives. It angers and embarrasses me that the Japanese government has had TEPCO and local administrations undertake this task. I feel that the national government itself should be accountable for this undertaking. Our government is planning to have all residents return to their home towns by the end of March 2017, except for a very limited area. Within a year, they plan to tear down all temporary housing units. Please lend your voice and help us! Please help us advocate for the affected people in Fukushima!




On January 20th I received a call from CNN’s Tokyo bureau saying, “CNN TV’s news programs have been broadcasted in the U.S. and in 200 nations globally. We’ve read your blog both in Japanese and the English translated version. We thought that you seemed like the one whom we should contact with the following request. Would you please introduce us to someone in Fukushima? We would like to report on the reality of the affected areas in Fukushima.” Thus the following reports were made:


Web Report and photos (on people who live in Futabacho and their comments)


[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

(Please contact me only between 11:00a.m. ~ 5:30 p.m., Japan time. Sometimes I cannot reply right away but please do not get discouraged.  Please try again later.)


This English version was translated by “able” volunteer translation team:

Translation: Rachel Clark

Editing: Karen Carina Rogers

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