March 22, 2019
Every year since year 2011, I participated in Paris, France, to the events organized for the anniversary of Fukushima nuclear disaster. This year I decided to do it differently and to go to London, England, to participate there to the events organized by the London antinuclear community and the Japanese community.
Four events were scheduled in London this year for the 8th anniversary:
On the evening of March 11th a vigil in front of the London Japanese Embassy, then on March 16th a march from the Japanese Embassy to the British Parliament, then on March 19th a Parliamentary meeting at the House of Commons with three Fukushima mothers, then on March 20th screening of the film « Munen » (Remorse) followed by a debate with the three Fukushima mothers.
As my very tight budget would not allow me to stay in London for 10 days and 10 nights, I could not go there to attend to all those 4 events, so I decided to go for the two last events on the 19th and 20th, which meant staying in London only 2 nights, arriving from Paris in the mid-afternoon of the 19th and leaving very early morning on the 21st. With my shoestring budget I could only afford to stay at the Keystone House Youth Hostel in the Kings Cross district (cheap dormitory bunk) closed to the St Pancras railway station where I was arriving from Paris on the Eurostar train.
After checking in at the Youth hostel, I went by bus to Westminster district, to attend at 7pm to the Parlementary public meeting – with three Fukushima mothers in the House of Commons, hosted by the member of parlement Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party for Brighton.
The speakers were :
The three mothers of Fukushima : Akiko Morimatsu, Asami Yokota, Ms Sonoda, and also Dr Ian Fairlie, a well-know independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment.
I was very happy to finally be able to meet in person, Doctor Ian Fairlie, the well-known doctor in radiation biology, Lis field, from the Remember Fukushima blog, David Polden from Kick Nuclear and from CND, Shigeo Kobayashi from Jan UK (Japanese against nuclear UK) Kurumi Sugita from Nos Voisins Lointains 311 (France) who accompanied the Fukushima mothers from Grenoble in France to London, Kurumi Sugita has the excellent blog Fukushima 311 Voices, she is also my co-admin on the FB public page Fukushima 311 Voices and on our FB group Rainbow Warriors, I was also very happy to meet and get to know Robin Lawrence and his wife Camelia, as they came to attend this event, Robin is a longtime member of our FB group Rainbow Warriors.
Akiko Morimatsu at the House of Commons, London
Each Fukushima mother’s testimony was heart touching, each woman a resistant, a hero of her own :
Akiko Morimatsu, Fukushima mother who evacuated to Osaka with her two young children; leading light in the Japanese anti-nuclear movement & campaigning on behalf of the victims of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster: in March 2018 Akiko appeared in front of the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) to speak on behalf of the victims of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, key member of Osaka-based “Thanks & Dream The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake & Nuclear Evacuee Association” http://sandori2014.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-2062.html.
Asami Yokota, Fukushima mother who remained in Fukushima but evacuated her son to Hokkaido.
Ms Sonoda, Fukushima mother who evacuated with her child and husband; in June 2018 Ms Sonoda attended the 38th UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) as a panellist in the Displaced Persons session, speaking as a victim of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear disaster. Kaori Mikata-Pralat was the one interpreting from japanese to english and Vice versa.
The apex of the testimonies was certainly Akiko Morimatsu pointing out that to live in a healthy environment without radiation nor contamination should be considered a basic human right, is a basic human right.
Three brave, courageous women, who stood out to protect their children and for what is right, against all odds, despite all the social pressure exercised on them fueled by the media and the government massive campaign of disinformation. My deep respect to those three very courageous women.
After the meeting went to a nearby english pub, with Robin Lawrence and his wife Camelia, had great time in their company and getting to know better, before going back by Tube (subway) to my Kings Cross Youth Hostel.
Then on March 20th went on foot to another district of London, Bloomsbury, not to far from Kings Cross, spend the day around there near the University of London, discovered a great multiple floors bookstore, Waterstones on Malet Street, then got a free lunch plate distributed on the street at the gate of London University, lentils and potatoes.
Then later at 5pm met with Lis Fields, Kurumi Sugita, Akiko Morimatsu and her two children, Asami Yokota, and had a quick early dinner, before going at 7pm to attend the second event, at the Brunei’s Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.
The first part of that event was the screening of « Munen » (Remorse) an 47 minutes animation film made in 2016 by Hidenobu Fukumoto.
Many inspirational episodes in “Munen” film. Below are just some of them.
* Following day of the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, when the firefighters were working to rescue people, they were ordered to cease the rescue mission due to explosion in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station. Later, even though they understood the risk of nuclear accident, they felt “remorse” and cried – that if, just if, they kept rescuing, they could have helped some more people in the suffered reagion.
* Three days after the earthquake and tsunami, the second explosion happened in the nuclear station. The TV news said it was “hydrogen explosion”. People in NAMIE town were asked to evacuate but people were not given the answers to their questions:
– What is the reason of evacuation?
– Where should we evacuate?
– Until when they need to evacuate?
* “Nuclear Power – Bright Energy in the Future”. This is the slogan in the banner which has been hung in the town. And it was me who made it in my school days, and I was so proud that it was chosen as our town’s slogan, but now I know the slogan was wrong.
About Munen : Group creates film and story series based on interviews with Fukushima evacuees
Six years ago in March, a firefighter in the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture couldn’t save tsunami victims in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, because he himself had to evacuate due to the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
His anguish has been illustrated in the animated film “Munen”. The film begins with a scene in which the wife of the firefighter explains to her niece why her husband puts his hands together everyday and looks toward Namie.
“He is apologizing to lives that he could not save,” she tells her niece.
At the screening in Paris, the audience of about 100 people stared at the screen. The crowd erupted in applause when the film ended.
France depends heavily on nuclear power, which produces 75 percent of its electricity.
“I could understand clearly the seriousness (of nuclear power). I want many French people to watch this,” said a male university professor.
A citizens’ group that created the film has also produced about 40 illustrated story performances in the last five years, featuring experiences of evacuees of the nuclear disaster and a folk tale set in areas that have emptied of people. The shows have also been screened at various locations.
One story called “Mienai Kumo no Shita de” (“Under the Unseen Cloud”) depicts the life of a female evacuee from Namie.
Another called “Yuki-kun no Tegami” (“Yuki’s Letter”) features an autistic boy who struggles in an evacuation center, while a work titled “Inochi no Tsugi ni Taisetsuna Mono” (“The Precious Thing Next to Life”) is based on a story from the disaster that a manager of an inn heard from a fisherman.
“Munen” was also based on an illustrated story.
“An illustrated story show is easy and inexpensive (to produce). It tends to win the sympathy of the audience as it stimulates their imagination,” said Hidenobu Fukumoto, who heads a group called Machi Monogatari Seisaku Iinkai (Town Story Production Committee).
The 60-year-old former official of the Hiroshima Municipal Government was born in Hiroshima and graduated from Hiroshima Shudo University.
At the city office, he was involved in publishing a public relations magazine and event planning, with many opportunities to create illustrations. He retired in March.
What prompted him to create the shows was a book about the relationship of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the nuclear plant in Fukushima operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. He read the book when he was engaged in volunteer activities in Fukushima after the disaster.
The book by Hisato Nakajima, titled “Sengoshi no Nakano Fukushima Genpatsu” (“The Fukushima Nuclear Power plant in Postwar History”), includes the story of a Tepco employee who was involved in the construction of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
The man, who lost his older brother in to the atomic bombing, also helped rescue atomic bomb survivors. In around 1964, he was assigned to work in the town of Okuma in Fukushima and talked to local people who were concerned about hosting a nuclear plant.
“I saw the B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb and the mushroom cloud that soared in the sky afterward. I know the fear more than you all do, and that’s why I studied nuclear power seriously,” the man is quoted as saying. “I believe nuclear power is safe enough, as it is put under extremely thorough safety measures.”
Fukumoto was shocked to learn that the man’s atomic bombing experience was used to convince people to accept the construction of a nuclear power facility.
Meanwhile, the book also tells about a landowner in Namie — where Tohoku Electric Power Co. had planned to build a nuclear power facility — refusing to sell his land because he witnessed the devastation following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
“In the 1960s when I was in elementary school, atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima refrained from talking about the bombing over fear of being discriminated against,” Fukumoto said.
“If the horror of the atomic bombing had been conveyed better, people in Fukushima might have become suspicious about being persuaded, and nuclear power plants would not have been built,” he said, adding that if Fukushima becomes silent, the silence could be used as an excuse for maintaining nuclear power.
In order to prevent that outcome, Fukumoto is determined to convey the stories of remorse triggered by the meltdown disaster, the stories of evacuees, and the individual personalities of the victims.
Every month, Fukumoto makes a round trip of around 800 kilometers between Hiroshima and Fukushima to hold interviews to create new stories.
On Jan. 31, he visited the Namie home of 56-year-old Yoko Oka. Oka evacuated to the city of Fukushima, as her home was in a restricted zone which allowed only daytime access. The restriction was lifted at the end of March this year.
Her home was almost empty after she threw away everything but a chest, which she brought after getting married. There were many holes in the paper doors because they were devastated by masked palm civets, which also scattered feces in the home.
Oka stood in front of a pillar marked with the heights of her two daughters.
“This is the only proof that we lived here,” she said.
Fukumoto listened carefully to Oka and photographed her. Based on such interviews, he uses his computer to make illustrations for new stories and write scripts.
The production group currently has around 10 members, including a hibakusha from 72 years ago. The survivor continues to contact Fukushima evacuees, believing it is not someone else’s problem as they both were exposed to radiation.
There are also many evacuees who perform similar shows in various places.
Hisai Yashima, 51, who evacuated to the town of Kori, Fukushima, belongs to a group of around 15 storytellers.
“I could not have talked about (the nuclear disaster) if I were in my 20s … waiting to get married or expecting a baby,” she said. “Our generation can talk about it and young generations can succeed after they get older.”
After hearing the experiences of those who survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Yashima thought the prejudice echoes the discrimination suffered by the Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees.
But she is proud that the group was able to visit some 500 locations to screen shows.
“We are able to send out (our message). We will never let people become silent like in Hiroshima,” Yashima said.
The movie screening was followed by a debate between the three Fukushima mothers, and the people attending. It was less formal than the previous evening at the House of Commons, with plenty time for people to ask many questions, to which Akiko Morimatsu and Asami Yokota, were answering in details, there was a lot to learn there from them, how the Fukushima nuclear disaster had affected their lives, their family life, how it had changed their life forever. Kaori Mikata-Pralat was again the one interpreting from japanese to english and Vice versa.
Kurumi Sugita explaining what is needed to help the Fukushima people
I was not able to sleep much that second night as I had to go very early at 5 am to the nearby St Pancras station, to get thru immigration and customs to get on the 5:40am scheduled Eurostar train going back to Paris.
This 2 days quick trip, was tiring but not regrets at all. Those two days in London were awesome, I was able to meet people I had wanted to meet for a long time, and to get to know them now personally, all of them beautiful people, the kind of company who lift your spirit and give you hope and energy to continue, to not give up, to continue to stand for what is right, and help sharing awareness to others.
Thank you all my dear friends for what you are, for who you are.
See you next year March again!