Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Messages from Twitter

Momoko Fukuoka hopes to continue speaking with disaster-affected individuals as long as her health permits. She wants to convey their messages to the rest of the world, so she has been using Twitter to tweet out various thoughts and messages from disaster-affected people. Here are a few of the messages that she has shared on Twitter. Her Twitter handle is: もとシスター人生体験 (Note: her Twitter page is Japanese language only)


March 7th:


As March 11th nears, I am remined of a disaster-affected person in Fukushima who was unable to help search for bodies right after the disaster due to radioactive contamination. The true story I am about to share with you is a difficult one, but I want to share the experiences of the disaster-affected people with as wide an audience as possible in order to help others to understand their pain. “My grandchild drove out together with a friend to Ukedo in Namie, to drop off a relative there. After dropping off the relative, they went to the friend’s grandparents’ house. The grandparents were out at the moment, so they went to go look for them. While they were looking, the tsunami came in, swallowed them up and carried them away. I wanted to join in the search for bodies of lost family and friends, but I was unable, due to the fact that I had been exposed to radiation.  When I was finally able to join, I found the bodies of the friend and his grandfather. Their bodies were stuck to a fence and dried out like mummies. The bodies were intact. They still haven’t found my grandchild or the grandmother. It’s very sad.”  


March 7th:


An 82-year-old man from Okuma town: “While I was trying to get away, I could hear screams for help coming from people clinging to trees. I will never forget the sound of their voices, no matter how long I live. It makes me feel so guilty. I see them in my dreams, and I have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep. There are still over 100 people from Okuma, Futaba, Tomioka and the Hamadori coastal region whose bodies were never found. That’s despite the fact that the police go out and search for bodies every month on the 11th, which is the day of the month on which all those people died. At first, a body could be identified as soon as it was found. But, after 2 or 3 months you couldn’t really identify them. Oh, I just don’t want think about it!” 


March 7th:


There are many people in the disaster-affected areas of Fukushima who are unable to visit family graves or even inter remains of loved ones in the family burial site due to nuclear contamination. This is a source of grief for many. So, since I am acquainted with the head priest of Yochi-in Buddhist temple in Takanoyama, Wakayama Prefecture, I asked him if he could conduct Buddhist memorial services every year on O-bon for disaster-affected people who desire such a service for their lost family members. (note: O-bon is a Japanese holiday dedicated to the remembrance of deceased family members). Last year, two families participated, with 64 different souls prayed for, going back several generations. When I called the families to check on them, they said that all they had to do was notify Yochi-in temple of the name, death date, and address of the deceased, then the costs were paid to the temple either with donated money or out of pocket. Then, Yochi-in temple prepared o-fuda charms for each soul, writing the name, posthumous Buddhist name, and date of passing of each individual on the charm. These charms were then sent to the home of each disaster-affected family. “This made me feel so much better. It’s really a weight off of my chest. I’m so thankful, I’m so thankful”, said one family member. Regardless of religion, I think that funeral rites are an important matter for families, as well as for the departed.  I’m also keeping those in Takanoyama up to date on the situation of the disaster-affected people.


March 5th:

“I’m at a funeral right now”, “I went to yet another funeral today”. I hear the word “funeral” mentioned so often when I call the disaster-affected people that I sometimes find that I’m asking myself: Wait, what? Didn’t that person just say they were at a funeral yesterday? “Even the people at the funeral parlor said that there are more people dying in Fukushima right now than they’d ever seen before.”, said one person. “My friends just keep dying one after another. Even though we promised we would be there for each other to help each other out.” “He died right after they finally finished the new house.” “I don’t have any friends left anymore. I want to die too.” Please take a moment to reflect on the sadness of these people. Perhaps they have reached their physical limit after enduring these 7 long years of suffering.



March 2nd:


I would like to tell you about a 67-year-old homemaker who recently returned alone to her home in Namie.

Up until now, she had been living in a leased apartment. She was sometimes given the cold shoulder because of being from Fukushima, and found herself unable to make friends. She also had no word of the situation back home and lived a lonely life while suffering from several illnesses. She is a wonderful person, and this is what she has to say: “Everything is just so inconvenient out here. It’s difficult to do anything. Wild boar roam around in my yard. It takes 40 minutes to drive to the nearest store; there’s no shopping around here. Also, anytime I go to the hospital it has to be for an overnight stay, as there are no local hospitals. It’s really cold here too. The flowers and the aloe I got have all died. Every aspect of day-to-day life is hard to accomplish out here. However, at least I’m away from all the sarcasm and bullying. I don’t hear any of that out here. I’m finally able to get a good night’s sleep. For 7 years I was unable to sleep well, but I’m finally able to sleep again without having to rely on sleeping pills. It’s like I’m a new person. Even though everything is inconvenient and difficult, I think I should be able to overcome these difficulties if I put my mind to it. I need to learn to get by eating what I have on hand. But I’m so glad that I can sleep at night.” Since she’s only 67, I think she should be able to hold in there. However, I worry about her as she gets weaker with age. It gets harder to move around in your 70’s. I think that the disaster-affected people will return to their homes now that the evacuation order has been lifted. However, without the proper infrastructure in place to facilitate the necessities of day-to-day life, isn’t this just sentencing many elderly people to live out the rest of their lives in loneliness and ill-health, having to live in areas with no people or access to health care? It just seems so irresponsible for the government to wash their hands of this affair by sending these people back to their homes and then calling it good.


March 1st:  


A housewife in Okuma: “There is nothing in Okuma. During the war, planes would take off from there. After the war, they said that the people of the Kanto region (where Tokyo is located) wanted an electric company, so 50 years ago they built a nuclear reactor here despite the protests of the local people of Futaba county. In the 7 years since the explosion at the reactor, those of us forced to evacuate our homes have had to move constantly from place to place. Some of us have had to move 7 or 8 times. We’re still unable to settle down and we’re mentally and physically exhausted. I’ve recently been afflicted by an illness of unknown cause that has left me exhausted all the time. My friends keep dying one after another. I too have lost the will to live and found myself thinking “I wish I could just die!”. People around here have been saying “I just don’t want to go on living.” For these 7 long years, we’ve had to try to hide the fact we were from Fukushima in order to avoid cold looks and bitter comments, and we’re tired of it. TEPCO used our land, then because of that we had to live in constant fear because of the nuclear explosions. So, why, on top of that, should people then treat us coldly once they hear that we are from Fukushima? Why do we have to be separated from family and friends?  I’ve been sick and depressed lately. It made me very happy to get a phone call. It’s been such a long time.”

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