Sunday, September 11, 2016

The National Government’s Uncaring Policies

              Climate change on our planet is advancing at such a speed that it will soon be too late to turn back.  Record-setting high temperatures, typhoons, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other such weather anomalies have become increasingly commonplace. The Alaskan glaciers have started melting and methane gas is leaking from the ocean floor. These are signs that it may already be too late to stop climate change and the weird weather it has brought with it.  Warnings about the human-caused destruction of Earth have been coming to us one after another for years now. 

              In the name of convenience, economy, and progress, the terrifyingly negative aspects and destructive potential of nuclear power plants are often kept hidden and unmentioned. It seems that people these days have forgotten to leave room in their hearts to care about protecting other people’s lives and happiness. I sometimes feel like the world has lost its heart and become like an unfeeling machine; a world full of hatred of the “other”, where survival of the fittest is law. The world has lost its heart and its vitality. Is there any way for us to recover our lost humanity?  

              But there are still many, many people – in Japan and all over the world– who have love and kindness in their hearts. They respect life and are trying to make the world a better place. So, why don’t we all join hands and become fellow members of the “alliance of those who value the Heart”? Even though you can’t see them with your eyes, there are others like you out there. They are doing the same sorts of things that you do. Our members try to “Do one good thing each day”. You can try too. For example, you could do something as simple as deciding not to complain. Or you could try thanking the delivery person for his or her hard work. I suspect that if people decide to dedicate themselves to valuing their own hearts and the hearts of others, this will be the true starting point for restoring the Earth. Once you start considering everyone around you as a good friend, the happiness of others naturally becomes your own happiness. Don’t you agree?


“Fukushima Today” 

              Today I would like to report again on the present situation in Fukushima. I don’t want readers to think of this as just a problem being faced by “others”, but rather to see that “tomorrow this might also happen to me” and to realize that this is the response our country has given to its citizens. And I hope that those who are able to give personal donations to help will do so. As a spokesperson for the victims, I would like to say that I am very grateful for your cooperation and help.   

(Temporary housing will only last until March of 2017. Those living in the affected areas must return home to their towns and cities by that that time)

*The national government issued the following type of order to all cities, towns and villages in Fukushima:

              “To all cities located near the Fukushima Daichi Reactor, including the towns of Futaba, Okuma and Tomioka, as well as areas within the TEPCO 20 km radius zone, - all affected citizens are allowed to return to their homes (excluding those areas with high radiation where cleanup has not been completed or where the national government has indicated otherwise). Because of this, temporary housing will no longer be available after March 2017, and affected citizens must leave temporary housing units and will be required to search for a home on their own.  The reason for this is that the temporary housing units are on land that has been rented by the Prefectural government and has to be returned to its owners.  The affected citizens must return home to their houses in the disaster affected areas or search for a new home on their own, and they will be required to deal with this individually.”

              “In the case of recovery housing that is built outside of the disaster affected areas, for example, those located in Fukushima City, Iwaki and so on, the people who can move into these homes are limited to those from Okuma, Futaba, Tomioka and Namie. Those from other towns and villages will have to inquire about this with the mayors of their home towns and villages.” (The reality is that even in those places where Recovery Housing has been built, the number of houses is very limited, and there are many places where they have still not been constructed)   

              *I would like to obtain exact information about the recovery housing situation in each city, town and village and set up connections to send aid.  However, my health is not very good lately, and I have been unable to make the necessary phone calls, so the information I have currently is very limited.  Please forgive me for the inconvenience. 

              *As much as is possible, the national government is pushing for the return of citizens to Okuma, Futaba, Tomioka and Namie. 

              Here is what people from the disaster-affected areas have to say in their own words:

              “The evacuation order has been lifted from Okuma Town’s Ogawagen District and part of the town office has been moved. 1,000 living quarters for those working out at the Nuclear Power Plant have been built, and we are working on preparing lunches for the workers.  They say that 3,000 people will be able to return home.  Right now, 10,000 people are working at the power plant. When we gave the workers a questionnaire, 8,000 of them responded that they’d like to keep working. Many people from outside of the prefecture are working at the plant. The people of Okuma are hesitant to return home.”   

              “I was told that, as an experiment, they’re also going to allow people from Tomioka that want to return home to go back to their homes.”  

              “The national government has not made any concrete statements about purchasing areas with interim storage facilities (for storing contaminated waste), and has said that it may be possible to return home after 30 years. They have made individual negotiations. Even though it would be better if they just told us we will never be able to return home, they keep giving us hope that it will one day be possible, and thus the people from the disaster-affected areas have been unable to make future plans.”  

              “There are 6 reactor units at the Fukushima Power Plant. Units 1, 2 and 3 suffered explosions, and unit 4 is being inspected. Units 5 and 6 have been left as they were.  Units 1 through 4 are located in Okuma, while units 5 and 6 are in Futaba.  Reactor Units 6 and 7 were also planned to be located in Futaba; sites were prepared for them. However, they were never constructed.  (There were electrical subsidies set aside for these projects)  In Namie, there was a Tohoku Electric Power Company site, but not one owned by TEPCO.  (Because of this, their reparation money was comparatively smaller than that received by other towns and villages).  Naraha had a TEPCO site (and because of this they received a small amount of reparation money).  Minamisoma’s Kodaka District receives reparation money, however those living outside of Kodaka don’t receive any. There are many people along the coast there who were carried away or affected by the tsunami. However, as the tsunami was unrelated to the nuclear accident, they don’t receive reparation payments either. I heard talk that there was a one-time aide payment of 3,000,000 yen made for those who lost the head of the household and 2,800,000 yen for the loss of other family members. Those who do not own land, or only rent their homes did not receive any reparation money.”

              -At the time of the nuclear accident, radiation leaked out to the west. Because the national government did not inform local towns, cities and villages (their leaders) of this fact, many of those affected by the disaster took shelter to the west.  As a result, the towns and villages of Namie, Iitate,  Tsushima and Katsurao areas where evacuation orders where given. Miyakoji, Kawauchi and Hirono also have areas with high levels of radiation.  Iitate, Tsushima, Katsurao, Miyakoji and Kawauchi are all located along Highway 399 and are high up in the mountains. It’s always been inconvenient to reach these places, and they have few shops or hospitals.  They areas highly dependent on agriculture and economically not that well off. It seems that many of the people there were working in construction as a second job. The people of these villages tend to have a straightforward character, are able to endure much, are not the most eloquent speakers, and are very kind to everyone.  They withstand the severity of Mother Nature, adapting to and living in harmony with it.  Because Miyakoji is at the very top of a mountain, I heard that the main ways to make a living were growing tobacco and raising livestock. They do farm work in the narrow valleys between the many mountains.  Gathering mountain vegetables was also a way they made their living. Katsurao is also located in the middle of the mountains, so tobacco and livestock were their main sources of income – I hear that they did not have rice paddies.  Hirono has 7 thermal power plants, and I hear that many plant workers live there. They are safely eating vegetables and rice there.

              -The national government has already lifted the evacuation orders for most of the disaster affected areas (the 20 km zone around the reactor is currently being prepared). That’s Minamisoma (it will also be lifted in the Kodaka district soon), Hirono, Kawauchi, Miyakoji, Katsurao, and Naraha. Places that are heading towards having the evacuation lifted include Iitate, Tomioka and Namie (excluding Tsushima). In the Ogawagen District of Okuma, a meal-preparation center has been set up for the Nuclear Plant workers.  I’ve been told that in the future they’d like to have the original residents of Okuma move back there as well. 

              - Four percent of the town of Futaba has been declared as areas where preparations for residents to return home are being made. The Prefectural government has been buying that land (it seems they were forced to purchase it) and has been building public parks as part of the recovery effort,  as well as putting up 8-meter-tall breakwaters in the locations where the tsunami hit.  The rest of Futaba is still considered a “problem area” for returning home.

              -The national government intends to have the JR Joban Line passing through the region by 2019. They plan to lift the evacuation order on the surrounding area and have the citizens of Futaba living back in their homes by that time.  That is what I was told by a person from the disaster-affected area. The Joban line has been reopened in Naraha, but citizens that live near the train line have not moved back home (this is because there were many rented houses that were not eligible for compensation money). As a result, the surrounding area is pitch-black at night and there are no buses available from the station. Because of this, the locals find it inconvenient and don’t use it.

              -When I listen to the stories of the people from the disaster-affected areas, I can’t help but feel that the national government’s policies are purposely ignoring the true situation in those areas. It seems all too much like they’re taking away their “right to live”… Dear readers, what do you think should be done about this?  

              -The move from temporary housing to recovery housing has started. During this move, it seems that people have been told to leave behind the air conditioning units, light bulbs, and kitchen stoves that were used in the temporary housing. One person from the disaster-affected area told me: “Even though we’ve heard that once we leave the temporary housing they will just be demolishing them and throwing out everything inside, why won’t they tell us it’s okay to take the items left inside? As soon as we were entrusted with the key to the recovery unit, we were told that we had to move within 20 days.  However, until we receive the keys, we don’t even know what kind of dwelling we will be moving into. They say that even the curtain sizes are different depending on the unit. Light bulbs, air conditioners, stoves, we have to buy everything on our own.  Have is someone who only receives a pension of 50,000 yen a month supposed to get by?”  

              Dear readers, don’t you think the national government is being extremely uncaring?  I ask you to please look at and think about this situation and send your continuing donations and support.

[For questions]     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, there may be times when I am unable to reply. If this happens, please try contacting me again later. Thank you.)


Translation: Karen Carina Rogers

Editing: Rachel Clark  



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