Friday, June 9, 2017

The suffering of the disaster victims

               I would like to express my gratitude to my readers from my heart. My apology for skipping this series for May due to my health reason with an intractable disease. As long as I live, I will continue this blog, "the Reality of Fukushima." So please be patient and stay tuned even when my health condition hinders with my blog writing once in a while. When that happens, please forgive me.


The significance and the ramifications of reputational risk


             My recent experience was quite shocking. Since I relocated, I knocked on the doors of my new neighbors and greeted them. They were quite friendly and one even said that she was looking forward to getting connected with me. However, a shocking thing happened when I revisited the friendly neighbor in order to run some errands.


             At the beginning, she was quite pleased with my revisit, and we did chit chat at her entrance.  After talking for a while, she asked me, "where are you from?" to which I replied, "I was born in Aizu, Fukushima."  As soon as I said this, her attitude changed completely. I felt that she was trying to imply that she did not want to deal with me anymore. Sensing her strong rejection and pressure, I immediately told her, "I've been in Tokyo for 50 years," in order to protect myself. However, it was obvious that she was not listening to my explanation. All I felt from her attitude was the message that she did not want to deal with me, and wanted me to leave her house as soon as possible. Having felt a grave shock as I was leaving, I realized the suffering and much deeper sorrow of the affected and relocated people from Fukushima.  I also became ashamed of what I said in order to protect myself.


             Why do people feel such a strong repulsion by hearing the word "Fukushima,"? I really wanted to know. At the same time, I felt the strong empathy with Fukushiman people's suffering and sorrow more than ever. The nuclear power plant's accidents have ruined their dignity, and labeled them, as much as inducing among non-Fukushiman people such strong disapproval. How horrible! I often hear the words "reputational risk" to which we really need to pay more attention to and understand the reality which left deep scars on the people affected by the disaster.

[Although they said "without Fukushima's recovery, Japan cannot revive"...]


             I would like to reiterate that the affected people in Fukushima does not consume TEPCO's electricity. It is people in "Kanto," the Metropolitan Tokyo area, who are the real beneficiary. In Fukushima, they have only been leasing their land to TEPCO, which resulted in their becoming victims of the nuclear disaster. Originally, when TEPCO proposed to build a nuclear power plant, local residents opposed to the construction due to strong fear. However, despite their strong opposition, TEPCO started to operate the number 1 reactor on March 26, 1971. Residents in Futaba were very much worried, so I heard. 40 years later, on March 12, 2011, the number 1 reactor exploded followed by the number 3 reactor's explosion on the 14th. Radio-active particles were then brought by wind to Fukushima, Kanto, and all the way off the Pacific coast of Japan, thus wide range radiation pollution took place.


              Please hear me out, ladies and gentlemen. The recovery of Fukushima has not progressed at all. Due to unsolved compensation issues, insufficient life lines such as gas, electricity, and water; affected people's home towns still look like ghost towns, inhabited by wild animals but not humans. Despite broken homes, lack of grocery stores, or having no doctors, the government declared that they could and should go back to their hometowns, by closing most temporary housing units on March 31st. Thus, those who had no means to sustain themselves had to go back to their hometowns and are now enduring difficult lives. Many of them are elderly with physical difficulty, who complain, "we have no hospitals, friends, or food in our hometown. How can we live like this? We can grow vegetables but have no meat nor seafood!"(87 years old, has bad hips and weak eyesight) This is the truth I heard from the other side of my telephone line. (so now I always buy and send some groceries to them.)


              Did the prime Minister, who declared that Japan could not revive without Fukushima's recovery, already forget about Fukushima? Or does he want to pretend nothing has happened? What happened with his promise that he wanted to save affected people by doing whatever the nation could do? My readers, please spread the reality of Fukushima as widely as you can, including the fact that people in Fukushima are not using the electricity from TEPCO, that they have just been leasing their land to TEPCO, that they were victimized without any improvement even now. Please understand that if the operation of the reactors are resumed, you may also find yourself in the same situation as the people of Fukushima.


              My dear readers, Japan has 20 nuclear power plants. According to the information I found through the internet, Japan ranks 3rd in the world for the number of power plants. Including the ones in Fukushima Daiichi, there are 54 reactors all together. Since the ones in Fukushima Daiichi are under decommissioning, I am not sure of the exact number of reactors. Some are still closed, some have been reopened, and some new ones are under way. Once reactors explode, radio-active particles will be spread not only over Japan but also all over the world.


[Voice of Victims]


60 years old, living alone in Namie


              "I see no one around my house. At night, it gets pitch dark outside. I do weeding alone since I'm all alone and weeds are growing like a jungle. I have to drive to a neighboring town for grocery shopping since there are no stores in my town. Ever since the disaster, I have not had a deep sleep, not even once. Sleeping pills did not work. Before returning to my hometown, I used to wake up almost every other hour during my sleep. Here I can sleep well at night. I am more comfortable at my own house. Although I am all alone, I will pull myself together and do my best. As I am talking with you on the phone, I feel like you are very close to me, which makes me relieved."


58 years old, single mother in Namie

              We were able to move into a recovery apartment. Our house is in a difficult-to-return zone. I haven’t visited or fixed our family tomb ever since it has been destroyed in the earthquake and tsunami. Recently, many TEPCO employees in their 50s have passed away. There are many thyroid cancer cases among children. One of my kid's grammar school mates has bone marrow carcinosis. Their school runs annual thyroid cancer screening. The town municipality operates annual health checks."


87 years old, living alone, weak hips and legs, weak eyesight, not able to identify faces, in Kawauchi


It has been 6 years since I was home last time. What I am doing now is like clearing wild nature since my house is covered by weeds. I can barely walk. Although I came back, my hometown Kawauchi is now a difficult place to live; no place to shop, nothing to eat! No milk, no fish, no meat is available! I was able to survive with some food donated by my neighbors. Those who have their own cars can drive to the store which is 4.5km (about 3miles) away. With no taxi service, my bad legs hinder me from going grocery shopping. I used to have friends but they all go off to day-time nursing home service. According to what I heard from the municipality, the service is only for those who are over 90 years old and frail, or those who have had leg operations. Since I can walk with a cane, I am not eligible for the service. I feel so lonely and sad.... I am going to grow vegetables in my backyard!"


72 years old, single dweller, in Kawauchi


              "Despite the return order by the national government, those who need dialysis are in big trouble since there are no hospitals anymore. Everyone's heart is completely worn out. They returned to their hometowns anyway, but they cannot think of what they should do next. They are too stressed out to think properly. There is only one ambulance in the village. If one person uses the ambulance service, the rest cannot use it. There are too many vacant houses in Kawauchi Village. In Futaba County, Kawauchi's evacuation order was the first one to be lifted. My house is outside the 20km radius from Fukushima Daiichi, which means that we are not eligible for the compensation. However, since rainwater leaks through broken roofs, we negotiated with TEPCO for compensation or reimbursement for the fixing cost. TEPCO's answer was that we should pay out of our own pocket. Our pension benefit is shrinking year by year. Even in the same village, those who are within 20km radius, can build a new house with the compensation, whereas those who are outside are in trouble, not being able to fix their broken home. We are experiencing new type of troubles we did not experience before the disaster, such as who gets financial benefits and who receives the decontamination works. We used to be friendly, however the disaster has divided us.


             My dear readers, the measures taken by the national government is horrible and cold, don't you think so? Please help raise awareness of what is going on to the affected people in Fukushima.


[Contact Information]

Momoko Fukuoka


Tel: 080-5547-8675

Fax: 047-346-8675


(I would like to request that calls to be made between 11:00 AM - 5:30 PM local time in Japan. Depending on my health, it may take some time for me to respond. If this happens, please try calling back again.)


Translation: Rachel Clark

Editing: Erica Kohagizawa


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