Monday, August 1, 2016

Out of Compassion for affected people

[Gratitude to those who passed away]

   It is August. It is time for us to pray for the spirits of family members and friends who passed away. I would like to express my deepest sympathy to all who lost their lives.

 I have noticed that recently there have been so many people who have suffered in tragic accidents and murder cases. The world has become a horrific place, and it makes me wonder how the world has become like this. There must have been some cause and someday I would like to talk about what brought us into this situation.

As we know, we were brought into this world by our parents, and we didn’t raise ourselves. We were protected in our mother’s womb, and taken care of by our parents, grandparents, doctors and nurses. Our mothers put up with unbearable pain at our birth, and nurtured us, sacrificing so many things. Our parents gave us our names with a lot of hope. Let us remind ourselves to be thankful for everything that they have done for us.

I was born on November 7, 1941, which was a month before the World War Two began. I was premature by three months. My mother was not healthy enough to go through with the pregnancy; the doctor even suggested an abortion. But she was determined to give birth to me, even at the cost of her own life. There was no incubator, so she set up a small tub with warm water. Whenever my skin turned purple, she used the tub to warm up my body. It was a constant struggle. She named me “Momoko” with a wish for me to live to 100 (the Japanese character for “Momo” means 100).  I thank my mother every time I write my name. I wasn’t a completely healthy child, and still suffer from complications to this day. It was normal for me as a child to live with some sickness. Medical technology wasn’t as advanced as today so at that time I never found out what the name of the illness was. But as I look back I am thankful that I had an ordinary childhood. I wasn’t preoccupied with finding out about my illness. I have managed to enjoy my life with no regrets, and got to have a job, and got married.

However, I feel like I have weakened in recent years. I experienced difficulty breathing around the end of last year. I finally found out that my disease was a collagen disease for the first time in my life. It is called Sjogren’s syndrome, which results in damaged glands, rib pain and chronic pain throughout my body.  At last I understood what the sickness during childhood was. I also realized that you could never understand someone else’s suffering and sadness until you experience them. Once you have known what it is like to have severe disease, handicapped arms or legs, and the loneliness that follows, then you will truly appreciate what happiness is. In the same way, we can learn the suffering of sadness of people in Fukushima who lost their homes, families, and jobs to the great earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear incident. I am thankful for all the experiences throughout my life. It’s very difficult to live with severe disease, but now I know what other people like me are going through. I consider those people as my friends and have been paying lots of attention to helping support them.

It is“Obon”season, a time to honor the spirits of our ancestors and thank our parents, grandparents and friends for their protection over us. “Obon” could be a reminder to thank all the spirits of those who have passed away. I would also ask you to give your thoughts to the healing hearts of people in Fukushima.

< A person from Katsurao>
“On the day of the disaster, my grandson who was senior at high school went out with his friend to Namie town. (A town that was swept away by the tsunami.) On that day my grandson drove to pick up three of his friend’s relatives. Then he went back to save his friend’s grandparents and was caught by the tsunami. For two months after the disaster both of self-defense-force and police couldn’t go searching him because of the high radiation level. Eventually their bodies were found and we identified them. Later on, someone told me that my grandson’s car was locked inside. His friend and his grandfather’s bodies were intact, but they looked like mummies stuck to a wall. (I’m sorry for the wording. I wasn’t sure if I should write this, but these are their words). My grandson and his friend's grandmother haven’t been found yet.”

<A person from Okuma>
“Right after the Tsunami we couldn’t go looking for the missing people. Two months later the self-defense-force and the police started the search. We learned of the names of the people who died as they found the bodies. There are still 100 people missing from Okuma. Many more are missing from Futaba, Tomioka, Namie and along the Pacific coast in Fukushima. We set the 11th of each month as an anniversary. The police and the firefighters dig up and search the ocean floor, ordinary people can go in.  But they haven’t found anything.”

Somebody told me how he didn’t want to recall the day of the disaster. When he was running from the tsunami he spotted someone who was clinging to a tree trunk, crying for help. But he couldn't do anything. He has nightmares about them every night and the sense of guilt is crushing him. He also says that it is unbearable to be left behind with these memories. He feels that many people think he can live on happily with hefty compensation, but he was never was entitled to receive such money.

<A person from Minamisoma, Odaka >
“The evacuation orders were lifted in Odaka on July 12. So I packed up my belongings in my temporary accommodation, had my house inspected by the town officials and returned home. Twelve or thirteen other households are expected to be able to return. I have a lot of work ahead of me. The land is slanted and therefore so is my house. Many people have decided to demolish their houses, but we cannot get any funding for repairs. I have some of the money TEPCO gave me left, so I’ll see what I can do with it. No one has returned to Odaka town yet. There is nothing open but one hospital, and they are open just twice a week.

Forget the radiation, I have to battle wild animals first.  I started to grow vegetables but a group of wild monkeys devoured my crops three days ago. I saw wild boars too. We try not to rely too much on people’s handouts and want provide for ourselves. However, thank you so much for all the help so far!”

I recognize the importance of the independence of people in Fukushima, although at the same time, I’m compelled to stand by everyone as a friend.

[Book Recommendation]
I have received copies of some books written by Yuzo Akatsuka through my friends.

“Re-examining Accident at Fukushima Daiichi –from viewpoint of affected people”  1,300 yen plus tax, order from Sendai Shuppan at 022-264-0151

“Learning from great tsunami disaster”  1,900 yen plus tax, Kashima Shuppan

Momoko Fukuoka
Cell: 080-5547-8675   
Fax: 047-346-8675  
Please call me 11:00 am through 5:30 pm (Japan time).
Thank you.

Translation: Tony Sahara
Editing: Miles Desforges  

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