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Solitary holdout refuses to leave Fukushima nuclear zone

55 Comments
By Eric Talmadge

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55 Comments
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So why couldn´t he at least visit the neighbours farms and release the chickens and cows into the wild?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As long as he knows the consequences let him stay.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

“I drove to a relative’s house thinking I would stay there,” he said. “But she wouldn’t let me in the door, she was too afraid I was contaminated.

what kind of scummy relative does he have? poor Matsumura. I'd go to her house and pour some cesium tainted tap water on her when she opens the door.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Had I been in his situation, I might have done the same.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The chilling part of this is

“The contaminants will be there for decades, centuries, millennia,”

Once these areas are without people they will be in that state forever.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Wish I could tell him face to face that no, he and all of the others are NOT being already forgotten, at least not by his fellow residents in Japan.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Matusmura-san tried to do "the right thing" and was turned away - even by his own kin! That is sad! So, I can't blame him in a way. Will be interesting to see how the radiation affects his health in the future.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Godan : His health should be monitored. Could prove useful.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

What type of life will he have as a homeless person? Older people have died in shelters, are they really any better off?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I give the guy credit for sticking by his beliefs.

So why couldn´t he at least visit the neighbours farms and release the chickens and cows into the wild?

Maybe trying to take care of himself was more important. The government should have taken care of the animals and they failed.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Wow, that was seriously the best article I've read about the aftermath of the nuclear disaster. Bravo Eric Talmadge!

@WilliB, "visiting neighbor's farms" might be misconstrued by the police on their daily search for "burglars and violators" as the article reports. He has probably lasted so long in the no-go zone because he stays off private property.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"What type of life will he have as a homeless person?"

Yuri: What makes you think he homeless?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What a pathetic wishy-washy country this is. Put this criminal in prison and throw away the key. This kind of attitude undermines the seriousness of the Fukushima Nuclear disaster. The zone is closed period. Areas outside the zone with extremely high readings should also be closed. This kind of recklessness leads other people to develop this "Japanese are naturally immune to radiation" mentality that I keep witnessing. Wildlife should of been exterminated to stop the spread of radiation and dangerous genetic mutations. Chenobyl had one tenth the radioactive materials as Fukushima and most was released immediately. Fukushima has large amounts of Plutonium that is either not measured, or still susceptible to spreading by mismanagement or extreme weather. Internalized radiation is also a danger if this idiot leaves the zone as he will release radioactive isotopes when he sweats, excretes or coughs. Imagine people like him working in your kids lunchroom?

-23 ( +4 / -27 )

Great article. Excellent story. Almost has an I am Legend feel to it...lone survivor with his dog. Would make for a very fascinating documentary. But I agree with others, everyone has let this man down and what alternatives does he have?

This phrase is scary "an area that is officially too dangerous for human habitation". I saw a program the other night about a golf course near the plants which has completely been overgrown already and you can barley tell it was once a golf course.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Asagao: Your comment certainly indicates you are trolling for reactions and not serious enough to reply to.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Naoto take heart, you and others are not forgotten. If it is your choice to remain and take care of the animals, then so be it. Take care of yourself

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Over all a very sad,horrible situation. Tokyo electric and the Japanese government and all of their CRONIES have BLOOD on their sweaty palms! I just hope and pray that we do not get hit by any more huge earthquakes because Japan still has another what 30 plus nuclear reactors and all we need is another mess like Fukushima, so yes I feel very sorry for this old guy living with dead cows etc...but the Japanese people must stand up to this stupid government and make Tokyo Electric come clean as well as the rest of the country's other electric companies before it is TOO LATE!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

stop the spread of.....dangerous genetic mutations.

Someone reads too many comic books...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I think Yuri means "What kind of life WOULD HE HAVE HAD" (perfect conditional?)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@elbunda. Japan has 54 reactors. Apparently 78% are offline. Some have big problems, like Niigata which was seriously damaged by earthquakes

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Do not underestimate radioactivity.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The amount of radioactive cesium released into the environment since has been estimated to be equal to 168 Hiroshima

The was the figure in Aug 2011, since the reactors are still spewing radiation and will be until Jan 2012 according to tepco, that is another 5 months, 168 in 5 months, so 336 by January?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

paulinusa, the best he could hope for is temporary housing. There are still people in the shelters, given the choice I would remain in my home. Think of all of those who killed themselves. Being homeless and hopeless is much more dangerous than the radiation. TEPCO offers 56000 yen, how can they sleep at night?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There's no "safer place" in all of Fukushima? More than 500 died in the evacuation shelters. I have read about several families still living in the exclusion zone. There are tens of hot spots outside of the exclusion zone and there are many more places outside the zone which have dangerous levels of radiation. I guess in a couple of thousand years people might be allowed to return.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As much as I sympathize with his situation and understand his sentiment, I can't help but feel this guy also has a couple of screws loose.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I watched a documentary about this man last night through the Hachiko Coalition. This man is my new hero... seriously, for him to stay behind and not only defy the government, but to take care of the animals left behind, that takes some serious courage.

I wish I could give this man a hug, and a nice homecooked meal.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I think he took his decision to stay despite knowing about the consequences. It might take years to manifest cancer or other organic failures due to the radiation. You should keep in mind that short term effects require doses which are far higher than the average dose of the evacuation zone. I think his decision is very similar to the Japanese tradition of suicide as a form of protest against your superiors.

Also, keep in mind that the vicinity of the Chernobyl is teeming with wildlife despite the radiation. Or - probably because of the radiation. There are no human residents, no waste and - no long-lived predators. The contamination affects long-lived species most strongly - like humans on the land or sharks and whales in the sea. The smaller species will be able to deal with genetic defects due to radiation better because they have a higher reproduction rate and multiple offspring instead of just one child. And they do not have to last two decades before they reproduce.

Uninhabitable doesn't mean that nothing can live there. It would be insane to raise a family at such an uninhabitable place. Still, there are people with children living in the evacuation zone around Chernobyl illegally...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

He's a farmer whose life has been tied to the land around him and he's wants to live out the rest of his years there. Is that so difficult to understand?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This is a nice article, and gives a view into one way of dealing with the disaster. I think he's too young, at 53, to make this choice, as he still has a lot of life left to live, and radiation-induced cancer isn't a fun disease, but maybe if I were 70 and in his situation, I would choose as he did.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The 20 mile zone will become a wasteland like the Mad Max films.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Sad story, I wish him the best...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Good on him. Its his life and his choice and he should be free to make it.

However, the concern of contamination is serious. If he goes elsewhere without being decontaminated, it IS most certainly a problem. He is going to have radioactive isotopes on his skin, in his hair, on his clothes, etc. just like Madam and Pierre Currie. Its no joke. His relatives were right to avoid him if he had not been decontaminated.

I don't agree with Asagao completely, but he does make good points whether you like them or not. This guy needs some sort of mark on him. Not as a mark of shame or an invitation to be shunned and humiliated, but simply because he has chosen to live in an area potentially full of radioactive isotopes floating around.

I would love to chat with him AFTER he has been decontaminated, but still not in my house with my baby, no.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I would love to chat with him AFTER he has been decontaminated, but still not in my house with my baby, no

I understand that radiation on the skin surface needs to be decontaminated, but is it actually possible as Asagao said to cough out, sweat out or otherwise excrete radioactive isotopes and therefore be a danger to those around you? That wasnt my impression, my impression was that the radioactive isotopes bury themselves in body tissue and bone and are not found in saliva and other body fluids, but I am curious now as to whether it is true or not?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I get what you are saying Asagao , but in regards to the whole Fukushima situation I think there are other "criminals" that should be put in prison with a key thrown away ,way before this guy. Unfortunately most of them are way too high up the corporate / govt ladder...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Cows were left to starve to death, couldnt ehy have just been put down humanely?

“We have invested millions in developing a system to measure radiation,” he said. “But it is like the whole thing is being decided by someone behind a desk with a 500 yen compass.”

and this says reams about those handling the situation up north, and also japanese authorites in general

1 ( +1 / -0 )

cactus Jack:

" The 20 mile zone will become a wasteland like the Mad Max films. "

Only in Hollywood. In reality, If left unsettled, it will turn into a lush nature preserve, like you see around Chernobyl.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

They should pay him to do bioradioremediation. Some plants preferentially absorb elements such as Cesium and then remove the plants. Should only take a few years. Do not overestimate radioactivity- it is naturally everywhere and some places higher than the new background Fukushima radiation.

The TEPCO compensation plan is rediculous complicated package designed to pay bucreaucrats. Just pay every individual in the affect area so much to help start a new life somewhere else.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

“We have invested millions in developing a system to measure radiation,” he said. “But it is like the whole thing is being decided by someone behind a desk with a 500 yen compass.”

This really epitomises the problems with "modern" Japan, a 21st century country with all the bells and whistles that implies... run by a bureaucracy that is still fundamentally unchanged since it was first implemented in the 7th century (Nara era). I mean honestly this is completely unacceptable and the politicians in Japan need to stop resigning every time there's a problem and actually turn around and fire the bureaucrats responsible ... after that the politicians can resign if they like, but not before.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think the man made his choice. Furthermore he is getting old and got nothing to lose. Radiation is better than living with cold hearted so called inlaws, and others not blood related but too cold in their hearts to accommodate someone. He probably feels abandoned, just like everyone else. Helping someone is not always giving them money/ material things, but the warmth from ones heart creates comfort. But many people in this country are too cold to each other......

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The was the figure in Aug 2011, since the reactors are still spewing radiation and will be until Jan 2012 according to tepco, that is another 5 months, 168 in 5 months, so 336 by January?

Spewing radiation? Do you have any numbers behind this (e.g. how much per hour) or just assuming that it is a linear output since March?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What a hero!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Taking care of the left behind animals/pets!!!!!!!!!!!!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

cloa513Sep. 02, 2011 - 11:36AM JST

Do not overestimate radioactivity- it is naturally everywhere and some places higher than the new background Fukushima radiation.

Hard to believe anyone is still spewing this. Each radioactive isotope behaves differently. Many of these are not found in nature and even in areas with high backround radiation, you are not absorbing the isotopes in your body. You cannot compare Iodine 131 which collects internally in your thyroid with natural backround radiation. Same with Caesium 134 and 137 and strontium 90. You absorb those unnatural isotopes around Fukushim or Chernobyl and they do different things in your body and are simply not comparable the natural backround radiation in Cornwall.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

gyouza, the emitted radiation has decreased by a factor of a million or so in the last two or three months. It is more leaking out than acutally being pushed out like in the original explosions. Still, there is a constant emission which directly affects the vicinity and which will go on for months and years. Since there are no big explosions, the radioisotopes stay in the vicinity so that the radiation levels of faraway areas doesn't change much or decreases even.

The output is not linear, but it will go on for months. It will maybe increase again for a while, if the conditions at the plant are destabilized by a quake or a typhoon. If that happens, nobody should be surprised.

The capital difference between natural radiation and radioisotopes from an accident lies in the "dynamical equilibrium". The human body has a more or less stable inventory of natural radioisotopes because the incorporation and the removal of the isotopes is balanced. With the accident's isotopes, you start at an initial concentration in the human body which is almost zero and goes up to some level, which is dynamically balanced. Nobody wants to have such a constant additional radiation level.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

How can anyone here conclude that Mr. Matsumura or even the area he lives in is terribly contaminated?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

DEAR MR. MATSUMURA, YOU ARE A KIND AND A VERY BRAVE MAN CAN YOU PLS LOOK AFTER ALL THE LEFT ANIMALS WHICH HAVE TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES, CAN I BE OF ANY HELP MANIAM

2 ( +3 / -1 )

paulinusaSep. 02, 2011 - 01:16PM JST

How can anyone here conclude that Mr. Matsumura or even the area he lives in is terribly contaminated?

Its called "erring on the side of caution". He might not be contaminated, sure. But if he goes anywhere, that needs to be checked.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Eric Talmadge (reporter)

Matsumura is an anomaly in a country where defiance of the government is rare and social consensus counts above everything else.

Either you have not read much Japanese history or are forgetful. Please don't write such tripe in future.

I respect Mr. Matsumura intentions but wonder about his motives.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

experts agree it could be decades until the nuclear zone is safe

Decades? Try centuries even several millennia. The half lives of some of these contaminants (plutonium) are very long. We will never visit there in our life times. I am sorry I never got the chance to visit that area before this all happened. Fukushima is a very beautiful area.

Thank you Japanese government and TEPCO for your corrupt ways that have destroyed it all. Your ancestors and everyone else look at you with contempt and shame.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

In a way this must be kind of liberating. Aside from a bevy of inconveniences, if the guy likes peace and quiet there could be no better place to be in Japan, and so long as he knows the risks than I say all the power to him. He's right about the government, too. I just hope a few years down the road when he develops some pretty nasty cancers that he has no regrets. I admire the man for making a tough but firm decision and sticking to it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

excellent article! Well done Mr. Talmadge. This story reminded of an article written by Jim Smith on the aftermath of Chernobyl.

A turning point in my understanding of Chernobyl's impacts came while studying lakes in Belarus during the mid-1990s. In an evacuated area, lake fish contained tens of thousands of becquerels per kilogram. A couple in their early seventies lived near the lake, eating the fish and growing vegetables. They were living off contaminated land, but leading the life they had chosen to lead. This wouldn't by any means be the right choice for everybody, but I am convinced they had made the right decision for them: they were Chernobyl survivors, not victims.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The odds of cancer are higher staying and thus the risk of a early death are higher. However people have killed themselves being homeless and helpless. These people would still be alive if they had stayed. The elderly people were in no danger from radiation, moving them into a cold damp shelter killed them. So you have a 53 year old who wants to remain despite the risks, just how high are the risks? 2 3 4 5 times? How long does it take to get cancer? So in reality other than for kids or the young evacuating people to unsafe shelters has killed and caused them more miserly than staying. Looking at the doses I say it is fear mongering by the government.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Brave dude. Sad about his relative turning him away, she's scum for that and should be thrown into the reactor herself.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

sswaySep. 02, 2011 - 03:34PM JST

Decades? Try centuries even several millennia.

For some places, it will be decades. The plan is to clean places up. Then some places will be declared "safe". Of course some will be and some won't be.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

More than getting mad at the government, he should be mad at his ruthless relative. Im sickened to hear what his relative did to him. Shes probably the one screaming the most at the government but at the end of the day shes worse. At least the government gives a pathetic rice ball & a cardboard partioned place to sit in a gym, yet she (his own blood) wont even open the door to an old man. Disgusting!

As for him or anyone wanting to stay, I think its their right and choice but NOT at the expense of other citizens by expecting government to permit them to continue farming & spreading the radiation. They can stay but they cant farm to sell. They can farm to eat and provide for themselves but don`t send it to others.

The saddest part of this is his first reaction was to get out but he was turned away so this really isn`t his first choice of where to stay. In some ways it became his only choice and he now accepts that fate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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