“Radiation divorce.” A year ago that would have been gibberish. Now it’s all too meaningful.
You probably get the idea, even if you’ve never heard the expression. In brief, husband and wife disagree so irreconcilably over how dangerous radiation is to children that the marriage breaks up, the fearful party (usually but not always the wife) spiriting the kid(s) away to a new radiation-free domicile and starting anew.
Aera (Jan 16) chronicles some case histories. Miki, 29, fled with her three-year-old daughter after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami fatally damaged Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Her husband stayed home; he had a job he couldn’t leave. For six weeks she stayed with relatives in Tokyo and Tochigi.
Then she went home, feeling guilty about imposing and about leaving her husband on his own. But was home safe for the little girl? The government issued assurances that the radiation levels posed no danger even to children, but outside experts said otherwise. Who was right? How was a layperson to judge?
One day she and her husband ran into the husband’s boss on the street and the two men joked about people like Miki who were terrified of radiation. Miki looked at her husband with new eyes. “I’m raising a family with this man?” she thought. “His child’s life is at stake and he’s making jokes?”
Some days later, the child developed nosebleeds for no apparent reason. Did that have something to do with radiation? She recalled hearing somewhere that there might be a connection. Again her husband laughed at her. “Well, that’s it,” she thought. The next day she and the child were on a plane to Sapporo. In September, the couple filed for divorce.
To stay or to go? It’s an agonizing decision, Aera says, and it confronts families not only in the immediately stricken zone but as far away as Tokyo, where radiation is less but not nonexistent. Some families pull up roots and relocate, only to find that relatives, friends and jobs left behind are irreplaceable. Others, like Miki’s, are split down the middle.
Shigeru, 38, fled Sendai with his seven-year-old son. At first, his partner, the boy’s mother, was with them. They drove first to nearby Yamagata Prefecture, where stores were open and supplies were available. Shigeru’s partner figured her first responsibility was to stock up on food and distribute it to people back in Sendai, where it was scarce. She left the child with Shigeru, who refused to go back.
In April, Shigeru was transferred by his company to Tokyo. He took the child, whose mother remained in Sendai. There followed a period of uncertainty, with a lot of back-and-forth movement between Sendai, Tokyo and Kyoto, where the boy was in the care of his grandparents. Slowly the situation solidified, with separation written into it. Whatever his partner may think, Shigeru is convinced Sendai is too dangerous for the child. The family remains split, with few prospects of reuniting.© Japan Today