Japan Today



Life is tough for core group who refuse to leave Fukushima nuclear plant area


“The ground is contaminated with radiation – I tell my little boy not to touch it. Once I dropped my cell phone and was afraid to pick it up.” That’s life in broad swaths of Fukushima Prefecture these days, 14 1/2 months after a megaquake and tsunami generated a triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Aki, 24, works in a snack bar in Minamisoma, 20-odd km from ground zero, and struggles against the odds for normality. So do several other young people Friday magazine (June 1) talks to. They come from various walks of life but have this in common: they live in Fukushima by choice. Why?

“Our first thought,” explains Aki, speaking of her family, “was to get as far away from the nuclear plant as possible. But the government misled us. We went where they said was safe and kept ending up in the worst hot spots. So finally we decided home was safest.”

That flies in the face of the collective wisdom of 160,000 people who still cannot or dare not return home, but when nobody really knows what to do, who’s to say she’s wrong?

Her son is five years old. Aki was 19 when she gave birth and 21 when she divorced. She raises the boy with the help of her mother and older sister. When the snack bar she’d worked at before the disaster reopened last August, she was as happy to go back as snack “mama” Kazumi Motoyama was to have her.

“The staff are all younger than me,” says Motoyama. “I worry about what the radiation will do to their chromosomes. It would have been irresponsible to ask them to come back. When Aki did come back, I cried for joy.”

Yoshie Komura, 28, stands out among those Friday speaks to as the only one with no Fukushima roots. She’s from Tokyo. She’d been an office worker at a moving company, getting more fed up with each passing day with city-style work and “cold, heartless” city-style life. She yearned for the country, nature. In January 2011, she hooked up with an NPO and arranged to be sent to Fukushima to do agricultural research. She was about to leave when the quake struck. She left anyway, taking the train as far north as it could go and then hitchhiking. Her destination was Nihonmatsu, right in the thick of the radiation crisis. “I knew nothing about radiation,” she says. “All I knew was I wanted to farm.”

Rumor has stamped all food produced in Fukushima as unsafe. The least she can do, she felt, was help tamp down rumors with solid data. Her one-year contract with the NPO now over, she and her husband remain, raising, tomatoes, rice and chickens – hoping for the best.

Youngest among Friday’s interviewees is 19-year-old Koki Horikawa. “I like the place I’m from best,” he says simply.

His family home in Minamisoma was half destroyed by the quake, and the next day came orders to evacuate on account of radiation. Horikawa had just graduated from high school and was due within days to start work at a bus company. The job evaporated in the crisis. He and his family lived in shelters for a time.

TV reports of how Fukushima was becoming synonymous with radioactivity and contamination got to him, he says. He’d lived in the vicinity of Fukushima No. 1 all his life without giving it a thought; now, suddenly, it was shaping his life. It seemed to pose a challenge, and he made up his mind, against his parents’ wishes, to stay. He got a job at a fish processing plant in Iwaki. “If young people like me leave,” he says, “Fukushima has no future.”

© Japan Today

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one word - irresponsbile - esp those with children.

13 ( +12 / -0 )

who’s to say she’s wrong?

Medical personnel with experience dealing with radiation sickness.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I'll second Borscht. They are all wrong. It's just a piece of land, nothing else. One may revere it and certainly miss it, but it's still a piece of land. Life is more important. Flora and fauna always adapts, but humans do not adapt to radiation in any practical time frame. Those people do not have a happy ending. If the radiation won't get them and their children, fear of it will.

I feel for everybody who wants to farm, I really do. But people should not be forced to buy this food, not without test methodology and results clearly stated. "Innocent until proven guilty" only applies to court rooms, not to family dinner tables, and certainly not to people who are known to lie for financial gain.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

The children should certainly be removed.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"“The ground is contaminated with radiation "

"Once I dropped my cell phone and was afraid to pick it u"

WHAT? I am sorry but how do you think the radation got to the ground? it is not magic beams of energy... well it is.. but it comes from SMALL particles, rain, dust. That rain and dust fall on YOU TOO not just the ground! Your house. you car. Everything. Its not coming from the ground!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Darwin at its best. I feel for those poor kids that have parents like Aki. They just don't stand a chance.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I just don't understand these people.

The snack mama says "I worry about what the radiation will do to their chromosomes." re young people. But when a 24yr old with a 5yr old son comes back to work she "cries for joy".

Worry turns to joy!

So there is no other place in Japan at all where a 24yr old can go and exist with her son? Nowhere?

There is no more proof of modern education than the fact that a 24yr old woman can't ask around, scour the internet, just go for a walk and ponder about whether she might be able to get a job, or help an old person in exchange for board and lodging, or any other possibility rather than worry about her health and her sons.

Why not sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and write a list of all the alternatives to working in a snack bar and living in a area with a five yr old in a area she doesn't know is safe or not.

Yes, you can say she's young -but she no doubt went to school for 10 years.

This is where our modern society is just too absurd. 10,000 years ago someone who couldn't read, write or use a cell-phone would just think "This place no good - me go live somewhere else"

It's frustrating reading about people.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Sorry, no more proof of the failure of modern education...

I can't write English anymore, but if a were a single dad with a 5yr old I'd be thinking Okinawa, Hokkaido or anywhere would be a nice place to start a new life. I'd even marry a rich woman and go to another country if I had too!

They should just build a massive new city somewhere in Australia and send all the Fukushima kids for an extended holiday. Ishihara's already got about 10 million to donate.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

How stupid can some people be. They admit they are scared of radiation yet stay, they are scared of the ground and wont pick up a mobile yet they grow their food in the soil, let their animals on it. All l can say is please do not waste my time with these idiots. There are others who deserve more attention than these fools

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If it is so highly contaminated, why are they even allowed to stay there?

Surely living there with very young children is considered child abuse??? Oh yeah I forgot, this is Japan and the system (government) does not care about the welfare of children (only those who can vote or donate receive mild attention )....

6 ( +8 / -3 )

you have to love Japan: one of the hottest spots on Earth, after a huge tragedy and nuclear disaster, almost deserted, but the snack bar is still in business, and young moms work there.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I totally respect those who make the choice to stay in the adjacent area, as long as they are adults and make the decision for themselves. But I disagree with them making that choice for their little children. That is simply not right, especially because small children are so much more sensitive to radiation than adults.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

They should export those people to those new Japantowns they are thinking of building overseas. :)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The people have a right to live in a safe environment.

For me, the government's acts of (falsely) claiming the area is safe may be considered a violation of that right, a basic human right.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Everyone should GTFO of there. The government is completely irresponsible and inhumane for not forcibly evacuating them. They have shown their true colors and continue to in this crisis which will cost millions of lives over the coming decades and contamination of much of the land of Japan. So extremely sad but a lesson for the rest of the world.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, should have been the policy from the very beginning. When a goverment is entrusted with the health welfare and quality of life of the population, they should have carried out their duty in an honest and honourable way, without fear or favour. The population was failed in every respect,

3 ( +3 / -0 )

you know what the really sad part of this is? one day, when all of these people & their children are at the oncologists or in a cancer treatment ward, we'll all be supporting their medical costs through our tax payments. And the nefarious, deceitful Japanese govt & media will portray them as impoverished, unfortunate castaways who were mistreated by TEPCO and now deserve our help. But we won't be able to say no, because we non-Japanese have no say as to how our tax money is spent. we'll have to pay up & shut up - or leave.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

In a couple of years (as is the case of Chernobyl) we will bear witness to birth abnormalities and sudden deaths-it is sure to be a time of intense reflection for the whole world......

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The hate, the fear.. Hey, relax.

Radioisotopes in the ground produce a diffuse field of background radiation, with the particles traveling in random directions. The same amount of radiation in the ground is many times less harmful than ingested radioisotopes, which continue to decay in one place and the particle can hit the same cells over and over. It's really an apples to oranges comparison.

Besides, water, which is present in both our bodies and nuclear powerplants, acts as a moderator, so high-speed particles slow down, get stuck and don't always hit the vital organs.

And no need to hate people growing tomatoes. Potassium is being added to the soil to reduce uptake of Caesium by the plants. Besides, they are most likely using imported potting soil and raised beds.

There is no need for hysteria, if proper precautions are taken and the kid washes his hands and doesn't swallow phlegm that drips from his sinuses. Wear a face mask too, if you're worried. Magnesium is being sprayed on the soil in many parts of Fukushima to prevent radioactive dust from getting in the air, look it up if you don't believe me.

And for the record, i'm against the use of Nuclear power, make no mistake about it... I know what it is and the suffering it can cause. Really.

Also, in 4 years, the radiation levels will drop by half, as one of the froms of Caesium has a half-life of 2 years. The other will take decades, but growing plants will draw that out of the soil too.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Thank you TEPCO.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Fukushima will be just fine, and it will have a future, from now until the radiation dissipates in hundreds of years, and beyond.

It's human beings I worry about....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

in a cancer treatment ward, we'll all be supporting their medical costs through our tax payments

Mikemiro, don't kid yourself. When they will be diagnosed with cancer, they will not receive treatment. Instead, they will be told "shouganai!" and encouraged to die someplace else, so that their fate will never be able to be linked with Tepco's and J-gov's incompetence.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

the thing that you fearmongers are missing is that the cancer rates will not increase significantly...this low level of radiation simply isn't all that dangerous.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

The will be the fourth experiment in post catastrophe life. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then Chernobyl, now Fukushima. Chernobyl dwarfed the other three in terms of radiation quantity with monitor alarms going off as far away as Sweden. People (mostly elderly pensioners) have moved back into the quarantine area around Chernobyl and seem to be surviving and living well (rent free). At age 73, if I were in the area, it would be a consideration. The radioactive iodine has decayed, the cesium is getting washed out and extra potassium fertilizer will swamp out the remainder, and so on. So, as an option, I'd rate this as doable, especially if one likes coastal weather.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Honestly, it is an issue, while I understand and respect their own decisions, if they are there they should not be allowed to leave to non contaminated areas any more unless thoroughly examined and decontaminated. Its turning into to a joke honestly.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

What radiation will do to their chromosomes? I wonder what being uneducated will do to her life more than radiation. Considering more people committed suicide in Japan in the last ten years than have died from all manmade sources of radiation anywhere in the world for the last hundred, I think they should worry less about radiation related problems and more about just preventing suicide.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@REMzzz Interesting information but how do you know all this. Are you a nuke scientist?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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