Saturday, August 4, 2018

The voices of the affected people

I, Momoko Fukuoka, continue to listen to and convey to the outside world the voices of the affected people in Fukushima via Twitter. I would like to share some of my tweets about their experiences. My account name is: “the life experiences of a former Sister.” Some of my supporters have uploaded one of my video clips to YouTube with English subtitles for people overseas. Please watch it here:

June 8th:  I have recently started receiving a lot of calls from disaster-affected people in Fukushima.  Calls like these: “I returned home to Kawauchi village, but there’s nobody to talk to and I’m lonely. I just wanted to hear your voice, so I called.” “I don’t feel like doing anything lately. I’m tired and I can’t force myself to move. I watch TV every day, but even though I’m watching, none of it really registers. I just sit there in a spaced-out daze all day long.” “I had to spend three months in the hospital and I just came home two days ago. I was lonely and wanted to hear your voice. I was told that one of my neighbors found me unconscious and called an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital while still unconscious. I woke up in a hospital bed and thought that I might be dying. While I was in the hospital, I thought and dreamt about the many people who helped me out in the days of the disaster. I felt so grateful and I also felt a twinge of nostalgia.  When I think back on that time, it makes me cry. Now I’m back home and by myself. I think I would have been better off if I had just died back then. However, I’m still alive. When I hear your voice, it gives me strength to go on. I’m going to keep fighting.” “Both the national government and the town government say the matter’s already been decided. Even if it has been decided, I wish we citizens could say our piece and re-vote on the matter. They don’t listen to us!”


June 9th: The Emperor and the Empress are currently visiting the Fukushima disaster-affected areas. This focus on the disaster-affected areas in the news makes me think about and reflect on those who lost their lives in the tsunami in 2011. For several months, it was not possible to search for the bodies of victims in areas contaminated by radiation from the Fukushima Daichi disaster. The land was declared off-limits. One individual who set out to look for the bodies of a grandfather and his grandson once permission was granted, said: “I found the grandfather and grandson’s bodies stuck to a fence near their home. They were dried out like mummies and it was ghastly to see.” The tragedy of the nuclear reactors goes beyond something that can simply be dismissed as a regretful event of the past. History will bear witness to many more victims. Not just in the past, but from now on - and for hundreds of years on into future – the reactors will continue to harm many people. This isn’t something that will only affect the victims in the disaster-areas. The reactors will continue to pollute the whole country of Japan, and even the planet. It frightens me to see that even the human heart seems to be being subverted by the influence of the reactors, as some individuals choose to dance around the issue, defending it in the name of “civilization” and “progress”. 


June 10th: I received an e-mail late the other night from a disaster-affected person from Katsurao village. “Five people have passed away so far this month. I just got back from the funeral parlor just now. Since tomorrow’s tree-planting event was cancelled, I was able to go and offer funeral incense.” Many of the disaster-affected people have been losing friends and neighbors frequently.  Often, when they are away from home it means that they are attending a wake or a funeral. They don’t have many happy or joyful occasions, but instead spend all their time doing sorrowful and difficult things. But the disaster-affected people persevere even through all this. Even the healthiest person might fall sick under such circumstances. When I called several disaster-affected people recently, most of those who answered said that they had been recently been hospitalized, undergone surgery or felt as if their last hour had come. This is the current situation of the disaster-affected people. I decided to call back a person who called me the other night, thinking that the funeral they had to go to must surely be over. “I’m currently driving. I’m on the way to a wake. I have another wake to attend tomorrow. Yesterday, today, tomorrow - there’s a wake every day. There’ve been a lot of sudden deaths recently; people dying from strokes and heart attacks and the like.”


June 28th:  A person from the town of Soma said this: “My home is located on a hill. However, the tsunami still reached it. I took out all my savings and got the house repaired with the intention to keep living there. However, nobody came back to town. There are no stores and it isn’t possible to live there. Reluctantly, I chose to voluntarily relocate to Chiba Prefecture. However, as it was a voluntary relocation from Fukushima, I didn’t receive any aid or compensation money at all. On top of that, nobody was willing to buy the land where my old home is located. Finally, I had no choice but to sell the land and house to the city to be demolished. The 3,487 square foot (98 tsubo) land together with the house on it were sold for a mere 3 million yen (about $27,000 USD). This is after I took out all my life savings right after the tsunami in order to get the house repaired. It is the land and property that my ancestors have lived on for generations. It fills me with regret. Two years ago, I had my residential registration moved to Chiba and was finally able to feel like I belong among my neighbors. It’s been 6 years since the disaster. Every day of that was full of pain, sadness and loneliness.”


From a person from Okuma: “My son died two and a half years ago. However, due to the high levels of radiation in Okuma I can’t lay him to rest. According to the head of our neighborhood, it’s not possible to visit gravesites in the town, though it is possible to have remains placed in gravesites there. I can’t bear the thought of laying my son to rest all alone in an abandoned place overgrown with weeds, where nobody can visit. So, I place his urn next to my pillow whenever I sleep. From my pillow, I gaze at my poor son’s urn, and think about how sad it is that he died alone without anyone to look after him, and it makes me cry.”

Every year at O-bon (a holiday for remembering the dead), I visit Yochi-in temple on Mt. Koya and ask the high priest there to hold memorial services for the victims of the disaster. Last year I requested services for 66 souls. I intend to ask again this year. The affected people say to me: “I feel so relieved. They can finally rest in peace.”


July 2nd: I would like to introduce a poem that was contributed by Chikara Kojima, a poet from the village of Katsurao.


“One year increments"-


They raised the maximum radiation dosage from 1 millisievert per year to 20 millisieverts and herded us into the highly-contaminated regions like cattle. That is the fate of the nuclear-disaster affected people. For them to just say “Not our problem anymore” the moment they’re able to cut off reparation payments; how is that any different from throwing the disaster-affected people out on the street, completely naked? Whether they lift the evacuation order or whether they extend it for yet another year, the future beyond that cannot be seen. The loan period on temporary emergency housing, exemption from taxes and hospital charges, even the highway toll exemption passes, everything is decided in one-year increments. The disaster-affected people are always offered a future cut into short pieces. But, can you really call a life that is cut up into limited, small increments a life at all? Can you really call a life that is broken up and shut in, a human life?  Are we really even human, then? When I looked around at our situation I certainly couldn’t find any indication to support that.”  (quoted from Farm ShounoFeb. 25th, 2016. ”Poems in Protest of Lifting the Evacuation Order”, Volume 3


This is from Chikara Kojima’s 2016 New Year’s card: “Without having properly taken care of the situation, the wrongdoers – our government -  are one-sidedly trying to lift the evacuation ban and cut off the reparation money. How is a government that is trying to do this any different from the “Right to Strike” government of the Edo-Period, which allowed samurai to kill commoners without repercussions?


An introduction to Chikara Kojima : “Poetry Collection MY TEARS FLOW ENDLESSLY: Exiled from Home by the Nuclear Reactor”


Published by Nishida Books, Price: 1,400 yen + tax


My dream this morning

July 4th: I am completely exhausted in both body and spirit. I trudge on, my expression devoid of even the slightest sign of joy. My face has lost its luster and I look miserable. After journeying for a long, long time I look up and notice that I have arrived somewhere. I seem to have entered a building of some sort. It seems a bit like a large school dormitory, but also like an office building for some sort of major company. There are many happy people going about their work, each person seemingly with a task to do. They are all practically glowing with happiness. Each person I talk to is warm and kind and treats me with the utmost sincerity. I notice that the manager is missing both of his legs, and upon closer inspection, find that in fact everyone there is either missing some part of his or her body or has a physical impairment of some sort. However, nobody pays these disabilities any mind at all and they all keep working without giving it even a second thought. As each person greets me and speaks with me, I can feel the deep weariness that had settled on my heart being lifted off bit by bit. Even though I thought I had forgotten how to laugh, even though I had been suffering from pain and sadness and had lost my smile, my deep wounds are being healed one by one. “Oh! How I wish I could stay here forever! I don’t want to leave!”, I exclaim. I can’t believe that a place like this exists in this world. Next, I see before me the Way of the Cross. “Oh, this is the path that Christ walked!”, I exclaim. However, when I look closely, I notice that a woman is up at the front of the procession. Christ is walking right behind her. Both the woman and Christ bear their crosses with kind countenances that express serenity and joy. At that moment, I woke up to the sound of my alarm clock. However, this dream stayed with me and I contemplated it in my heart. I considered it a revelation from God. “Come to me and I will give you rest!” Everyone suffers from some sort of pain. You, whose face is gaunt and pale, you who bear a heavy cross on your back, Christ is right behind you, supporting you. Our burdens may be heavy, but let’s all smile and laugh along with Christ. I needed to share my epiphany from this morning with all of you. The big office building that I arrived at and where I was healed represents the world as it should be, the original way that God intended for the Earth to be. With this dream He was telling me: “Turn the world of man into a place that is overflowing with love and healing.” I understood this the instant I woke up. Dear readers, the rest is up to you.

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