The Children of Fukushima Return, Six Years After the Nuclear Disaster

1Children at a nursery school this month in the hamlet of Naraha in Fukushima. The government lifted the evacuation order on the town in 2015.

NARAHA, Japan — The children returned to Naraha this spring.

For more than four years, residents were barred from this hamlet in Fukushima after an earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at a nuclear power plant north of town. When the government lifted the evacuation order in 2015, those who returned were mostly the elderly, who figured coming home was worth the residual radiation risk.

But this month, six years after the disaster, 105 students turned up at Naraha Elementary and Junior High School for the beginning of the Japanese school year.

Every morning, cafeteria workers measure the radiation in fresh ingredients used in lunches. In some grades, as few as six students take their lessons in classrooms built to accommodate as many as 30. There are not enough junior high students to field a baseball team on the new field next to the school.

Yet the return of the schoolchildren, the youngest of whom were born the year of the disaster, has been a powerful sign of renewal in this town, which is in the original 12-mile exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant.

Reopening the school “is very, very meaningful,” said Sachiko Araki, the principal of the junior high school. “A town without a school is not really a town.”

The new, $18 million two-story building has shiny blond wood floors, spacious classrooms, two science labs, a library filled with new books and a large basketball gymnasium. A balcony at the back of the building overlooks the sea.

Many emotions fueled the decisions of the families who returned to Naraha. It was always a small town, with just over 8,000 people before the disaster. So far, only one in five former residents has come home.

2The library at Naraha Elementary and Junior High School. The school was being built when the disaster hit, so workers started over, removing mounds of dirt in an effort to decontaminate the site.

A bank, post office and medical clinic are now open, but a supermarket is still under construction. Because neighborhoods have stood empty for so long, wild boars sometimes roam the streets.

With thousands of bags of contaminated soil piled high in fields around town and radiation meters posted in parking lots, the memory of the nuclear disaster is never distant.

At the Naraha school, which was being constructed when the disaster hit, workers destroyed a foundation that had just been laid and started over, removing mounds of dirt in an effort to decontaminate the site.

Today, radiation is regularly monitored on the school grounds as well as along routes to the building. The central government, based on recommendations from the International Commission on Radiological Protection, set a maximum exposure of 0.23 microsieverts an hour, a level at which there is no concrete scientific evidence of increased cancer risk. (Microsieverts measure the health effects of low levels of radiation.)

Still, some teachers say they are extra careful. Aya Kitahara, a fifth-grade teacher, said she and her colleagues had decided it was not safe to allow children to collect acorns or pine cones in the neighborhood for art projects, for fear that they would pick up small doses of radiation.

Nearby, a nursery school and day care center was built mostly with money from the nuclear plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, in 2007 and reopened this month. Keiko Hayakawa, the principal, said she was surprised that the city had pushed to bring back children before all bags of contaminated soil had been cleared from town.

We had to start and keep moving to open this facility as soon as possible,” Ms. Hayakawa said on a morning when 3- and 4- year-olds romped in a large playground, climbing a jungle gym, riding scooters and digging in a sandbox. “Otherwise, there was a fear that people might never come back.”

3A class of elementary students. In some grades, as few as six students take their lessons in classrooms built to accommodate as many as 30.

Calculations of radiation exposure are imprecise at best. They may not detect contaminated soil from rain runoff that can collect in gutters or other low-lying crevices. Risk of illness depends on many variables, including age, activities and underlying health conditions.

I don’t want to accuse anyone of being consciously disingenuous,” said Kyle Cleveland, associate professor of sociology at Temple University in Tokyo, who has written about the psychological effects of the Fukushima disaster. But government officials “have every incentive to downplay the level of risk and to put a positive spin on it.”

Reviving the towns of Fukushima is also a priority for the central government. With the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to deliver on his promise that the Fukushima cleanup effort is “under control.”

It is really up to the individuals whether they would accept the current environment or not,” said Kentaro Yanai, the superintendent of the Naraha school district. “But for us, we did the best that we could have done so far in order to reduce radiation levels.”

For young families, factors other than radiation risks weighed on the calculus of whether to return. Some longed to go back to the town that had been their home for generations, while others assumed they could afford more space in Naraha.

And as national compensation payments for evacuees are set to expire next year, some residents secured jobs working for the town government or for contractors involved in the reconstruction work. Still others are employed by Tokyo Electric, which is coordinating the huge cleanup at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Ayuka Ohwada, 29, had originally thought she and her family would stay in Iwaki, a city of about 340,000 more than 20 miles south, where many Naraha residents lived during the evacuation period. But once her parents moved back to their old home, Ms. Ohwada and her children, now 8 and 6, began visiting on weekends.

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Day care workers and children in Naraha. The town now has a bank, a post office and a medical clinic, but a supermarket is still under construction.

I started thinking that maybe the countryside is a much better environment for my children,” said Ms. Ohwada, whose parents offered her a piece of land to build a new house. Ms. Ohwada, who was employed as a convenience store clerk before landing a job at town hall, said she and her husband, who works in a nearby town at a company involved in decontamination, could never afford a stand-alone house in Iwaki.

In Naraha, the school is doing as much as it can to cushion the return for young families.

The building, which was originally designed for the junior high school, now houses two elementary schools as well. Extra counselors talk students through lingering anxieties, and the fifth- and sixth-grade classes have two teachers each. All students will receive tablet computers, and lunch and school uniforms are provided free.

Yuka Kusano, 37, said her children had grown accustomed to large classes while they were evacuated in Iwaki. But after enrolling in the Naraha school this month, she said, they benefit from individualized attention rare in Japanese schools.

Her 12-year-old daughter, Miyu, is in seventh grade with just five other classmates, and her son, Ryuya, 9, is in a fourth-grade class of 13 students.

It is really luxurious,” Ms. Kusano said. Still, with so few children in Naraha, she drives Ryuya to Iwaki on weekends so he can continue to play on a softball team.

Hints emerge of the turmoil the students have endured in the six years since the disaster. During a recent presentation for parents, one girl with thick bangs and large black glasses said she had struggled with frequent moves.

I am doing O.K.,” she said. “I just want to keep stability in my life.”

Such stability is one reason many families with young children have chosen not to return.

5Uninhabited houses in Naraha. The town numbered just over 8,000 before the disaster. So far, only a fifth of the former residents have returned.

Tsutomu Sato, a nursing home manager with three daughters, 9, 5 and 2, said the family had moved seven or eight times after being evacuated from Naraha.

I just want to build a base for my family as soon as possible,” said Mr. Sato, who bought a house in the Yumoto neighborhood of Iwaki. He said his oldest daughter cried whenever he raised the possibility of moving back to Naraha, where his parents and grandmother were restoring their house and planned to move back next year.

In exile, he maintains a fierce attachment to his hometown and has formed a volunteer group, Naranoha, to stage cultural events to bring together the diaspora of former residents around the region. He said that if his parents grew too frail to take care of themselves, he would consider moving back.

With or without the disaster, we have to make life decisions based on our circumstances,” he said.

In Naraha, the mayor, Yukiei Matsumoto, said surveys showed that just under three-quarters of former residents wanted to return eventually.

In order to clear the stigma that people have,” he said, “we are back now to show the rest of the country and the rest of the world that we are doing well.” But he acknowledged that if more young people did not return, the town had a dim future.

Kazushige Watanabe, 73, said he had come back even though his the tsunami had destroyed his home and his sons lived outside Fukushima Prefecture.

He has moved into a compact bungalow built by the city in a new subdivision in the center of the town, where he has lived alone since his wife’s death in January.

He pointed out a house around the corner where a family with three children had moved in recently. “I can hear the children’s voices,” he said. “That is very nice.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/world/asia/japan-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-children.html

TEPCO Restaurant Opened to Public in Nuclear No-Go Zone

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Okuma, Fukushima Pref., April 17 (Jiji Press)–A restaurant of a Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. employee dormitory in an Fukushima Prefecture exclusion zone designated after the March 2011 nuclear accident was opened Monday to local residents who make temporary visits to their homes.


It is the first restaurant that can be used by residents of the town of Okuma, one of the host municipalities of TEPCO’s disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, since the accident at the plant forced a blanket evacuation.


The staff restaurant, Okuma Shokudo, has about 240 seats and is open to the general public from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., except on weekends and national holidays. It offers 21 menu items at the prices for TEPCO employees.

The restaurant operator, Torifuji Honten, is now based in the Fukushima city of Iwaki after evacuating from its head office in the town of Tomioka, also in the northeastern prefecture.


“We hope to contribute to disaster reconstruction if only a little bit,” said Takanobu Mori, 49-year-old manager of the TEPCO staff restaurant.

http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017041700795

Children must learn respect for Fukushima evacuees

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Many children of families who have fled Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear disaster have become targets of bullying at school.

The education ministry said on April 11 that a total of 129 cases of school bullying in which children from Fukushima were victims have been confirmed over the past fiscal year.

Only four have been formally recognized as cases linked directly to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and the consequent catastrophic accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. But the ministry said it has not tracked down all bullying cases involving Fukushima evacuees.

The confirmed cases are, of course, the tip of the iceberg.

In some past cases, the victims suffered various forms of verbal abuse.

The nuclear plant exploded because of people like you,” is one example of verbal harassment hurled at a bullying victim. “Don’t come close to me. I don’t want to get contaminated with radiation,” is another.

These harrowing stories of bullying are reminiscent of the high-profile harassment case involving a boy who moved from Fukushima to Yokohama with his family after the accident. In that case, which made headlines in the media last autumn, the boy stopped attending classes.

Behind the problem is a lack of understanding about radiation and the situations of evacuees,” said education minister Hirokazu Matsuno.

Children tend to be influenced by the words and attitudes of adults around them. The problem of rampant bullying of Fukushima evacuees reflects a lack of understanding among adults about the plight of these people.

But some Cabinet members have also made remarks that hurt the feelings of people in Fukushima Prefecture.

Masahiro Imamura, the minister in charge of rebuilding areas affected by the nuclear accident, for example, recently said so-called “voluntary evacuees,” or people who have fled areas not subject to evacuation orders, are “responsible for their lives.”

Nobuteru Ishihara, speaking about where to store contaminated soil from the crippled nuclear plant, said, “In the end, it will come down to money.”

Tamayo Marukawa, while voicing skepticism about the government’s goal for lowering radiation levels around the plant, said, “There are people who express anxiety no matter how much (radiation levels) are lowered, people who can be called the ‘anti-radiation’ crowd, if I may use an unusual term.”

Both made these remarks while serving as environment minister.

The government seems to be betting that an increase in the number of Fukushima evacuees who return home will help the reconstruction of the prefecture make progress, or at least make it look as if progress is being made.

The government’s desire and efforts to see that happen may be making Fukushima evacuees not returning home feel small.

If a lack of understanding is the cause of bullying of children from Fukushima, adults have the responsibility to give children opportunities to learn and think about the reality.

Collections of materials for ethics education compiled by the Fukushima prefectural board of education may help. Different versions designed for classes at elementary, junior and senior high schools are now available and can be obtained from the education board’s website.

The collections include materials based on real stories concerning such serious topics as the feelings of local residents who were forced to leave their homes, discrimination driven by fears of radiation and unfounded prejudice against agricultural products grown in Fukushima.

Reports and documentaries describing the lives of evacuees and the realities of Fukushima can also be used as teaching materials.

These topics and issues can also be dealt with along with those related to radiation in comprehensive learning or contemporary social studies classes.

People in Fukushima have made different decisions on such vital questions as whether they should leave their communities or stay and whether they should return home to make a fresh start or rebuild their lives where they are living now. That’s because there is no simple answer to these questions.

We hope children will have honest discussions, recognize that they may disagree on some issues and learn to get along while respecting one another,” says a Fukushima prefectural board of education member.

The problem of bullying of Fukushima evacuees should be taken as a good opportunity for educators to tackle the challenge of offering classes designed to encourage children to think on their own instead of instilling ideas and views into them.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704170027.html

 

“Fukushima, the Silent Voices”, a documentary with the Japanese culture in the background through the lens of a disaster

 

 

Lucas Rue has been working in the cinema industry for 15 years. He studied at the Ecole Supérieure de Réalisation Audiovisuelle in Paris. With multiple talents he worked on 60 films as assistant director, director, cameraman. Lucas has also been an actors coach for 10 years.

Lucas Rue and Chiho Sato met in 2010 on a shooting. Their passion for the 7th art unites them in filming and in life since they married in 2013.

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Chiho worked for an audiovisual company after studying at an art university in Tokyo and living in Japan, she came to France in 2010. She studied French in Paris and then in Nice,  then worked freelance on coordinating Japanese TV crews coming to France. She was assistant photographer, then assistant camera and has always been attracted by the cinema. Through her projects, Chiho aimed to bring another perspective on Japan, to have a more international vision. She wanted to see Japan from the outside, to look back at Japanese culture from a distance.

Lucas and Chiho speak passionately about their documentary “Fukushima, the Silent Voices“, a documentary born out of Chiho’s desire to talk about this event through the eyes of her parents, her parents very discreet on this subject. They hesitate to talk about this disaster even they are living next door.

Lucas explains that this documentary is not an anti-nuclear film. They do not try to prove this or that. Japanese culture is the backdrop of this film through the prism of this catastrophe, with the difficulties encountered in expressing personal thoughts and emotions in Japan. The team of this documentary is composed of enthusiasts around Lucas Rue and Chiho Sato.

Despite some difficulties and obstacles encountered in terms of production and filming, the reception of the public was more than warm. People have been touched and the film has achieved its objective since the public after watching their film comes out with more questions about that disaster and also thoughts about if it would happen to them.

 

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This very personal film is the 2017 Gold Winner of the International Independent Film Awards festival which recently took place in California USA, and has been currently officially selected at two Canadian festivals.

In their upcoming projects, Chiho and Lucas have two scenarios for full length films pending production. I wish them all the best for the future.

 

Six years after Fukushima – women and children still suffer most

The Japanese government is trying to get back to normality after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but the crisis is far from over for women and children, says Greenpeace. Thousands of mothers have sued the authorities.

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Six years ago, the triple disaster – earthquake, tsunami and meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant – took the lives of almost 20,000 people and displaced more than 160,000 people from their homes. More than 80,000 people are still living in temporary accommodation.

The disaster had an enormous impact on all members of the affected communities, but to this day it is women and children who “have borne the brunt of human rights violations resulting from it,” according to a report by Greenpeace.

While some injustices faced by women and children were caused by policy failures in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, other women’s and children’s rights violations are a direct result of the current government’s plans to resettle residents to “heavily contaminated ares in Fukushima,” says Greenpeace.

In an effort to get back to normality as quickly as possible, the Japanese government is set to lift evacuation orders at the end of March and allow evacuated residents to return to areas close to the Fukushima power plant.

37864007_401Employees clean an elementary school in Fukushima. It’s scheduled to re-open in April.

 

Greenpeace warned, however, that radiation levels are still dangerously high and called on the government not to “pressure” residents to return to their contaminated homes, under threat of losing financial support. A year after an area is declared safe, the government will stop paying compensation to evacuees. 

In March, Japan will also cut housing support for people who decided to move out although they were not under a government evacuation order.

“Cutting off housing support for self-evacuees threatens more than 10,000 households, potentially forcing many people back to contaminated areas against their will,” says Kendra Ulrich, Global Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Japan. Ending compensation payments “even though radiation levels far exceed the long-term targets in many areas […] amounts to economic coercion and is a deliberate violation of the law and survivors’ human rights.”

“Atomic divorce” 

The resettlement plans create a dilemma for those who refuse to go back to their former homes but are dependent on financial support, especially single mums. After the disaster, a lot of women separated from or even divorced their husbands, who chose to stay in contaminated regions because of their work, and evacuated with their children.

There are no official numbers on how many families split as a result of the disaster. But the phenomenon is common enough to have a name, “genpatsu rikon” – literally meaning “atomic divorce”.

37871613_401These mothers evacuated with their children from Fukushima prefecture.

 

Mothers are now faced with the choice between losing housing support or moving back to unsafe areas. In order to speed up the return of evacuees, the government decontaminated corridors and islands instead of entire areas, effectivley creating “an invisible, open-air prison for citizens to return to,” says Greenpeace. 

Decontaminated zones often consist of 20 meter strips along roads, around houses and agricultural fields. This poses a health threat as the returnees would be surrounded by contamination.

Mothers are worried about their health and the development of their children. Noriko Kubota, a professor of clinical psychology at Iwaki Meisei University, believes that living in “safe zones” could have a long-lasting negative impact on kids.

“If children need to stay inside and cannot run around outside freely, that would impact their psychological development, more specifically their skills of interacting with each other and controlling their emotions among others,” Kubota told DW.

Mothers sue government

Women are, however, not only silent victims in this disaster. Thousands of mothers have together filed lawsuits against the Japanese government to fight for the continuation of housing support and fair compensation. They also demand accountability for the disaster from the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the company running the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

37868371_401Ms Horie is sueing the government for fair compensation.

 

“I never imagined becoming a plaintiff myself. I’m going to court now for my children and for the next generation,” Ms Horie told Greenpeace. She moved with her children from Fukushima to Kyoto, where she filed a class action suit together with other mums. “Back then, they said on TV that the accident wouldn’t affect our health immediately, but it might affect my kids in the future. That’s why I decided to evacuate.”

Women who left contaminated areas have been “labeled as neurotic or irrational,” says Greenpeace. Their concerns were dismissed both by their partners and the government. The lawsuit is not only about financial compensation but also for moral satisfaction.

“I want to stand in court, knowing that I am right to evacuate my child,” says Ms Sonoda, who moved with her child from Fukushima to England. “We are right.”

http://www.dw.com/en/six-years-after-fukushima-women-and-children-still-suffer-most/a-37871135

As I See It: Support for ‘voluntary evacuees’ insufficient but not too late to start

Kurumi Sugita: “I do not agree with the following part of the article.

“Radiation levels in Fukushima Prefecture dropped significantly shortly after the outbreak of the disaster, and in some areas, radiation levels are not much different from those in the Kansai region, where I live. “

There exists at least three problems which are related to each other:
1) you shouldn’t base your judgement only on airborne radiation measurements. We should look at the soil radio contamination density which is more reliable.
2) the official figures of airborne radiation measurements are average figures, which annihilates the problem of hotspots.
3) the governments do not acknowledge the risk of internal radiation and its health hazards.

All in all, the so-called “voluntary” evacuees have good reasons to keep evacuated and it is their basic human right.”

 

 

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Friends help an evacuee (foreground) move in Osaka’s Suminoe Ward, ahead of the cutoff date for free housing, on March 18, 2017.

 

As I See It: Support for ‘voluntary evacuees’ insufficient but not too late to start

So-called “voluntary evacuees” who fled Fukushima Prefecture due to the ongoing nuclear crisis were cut off from free housing services at the end of March.

Since last fall, I have been reporting on the issue of termination of free housing for “voluntary evacuees” — those who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture out of radiation concerns, even though their places of residence did not come under the government’s evacuation orders — and have met many evacuees who faced termination amid straitened circumstances and with no prospects of living independently.

Six years have passed since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster, and I believe that insufficient assistance provided by the central government, the Fukushima Prefectural Government, and the municipalities to which Fukushima Prefecture residents evacuated led to the current state of affairs.

Following the onset of the nuclear crisis at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011, some Fukushima Prefecture residents who did not live in areas designated by the central government as no-go zones “voluntarily” evacuated to other areas of Fukushima Prefecture and beyond. The Fukushima Prefectural Government regarded the homes such evacuees chose to live in as “temporary housing” provided to victims of disasters, and covered their rent. Unlike evacuees from areas designated as no-go zones, most “voluntary evacuees” have not been eligible for compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, leaving payment for housing from the Fukushima Prefectural Government as the only assistance such evacuees received. In June of 2015, however, the prefectural government announced that it would be terminating such assistance at the end of March 2017, saying that “an environment for leading everyday life in Fukushima is in the process of coming together.”

Radiation levels in Fukushima Prefecture dropped significantly shortly after the outbreak of the disaster, and in some areas, radiation levels are not much different from those in the Kansai region, where I live. However, many former Fukushima prefectural residents are still concerned with radiation, and among some families, children do not want to move back to Fukushima because they’ve made friends where they live now. As of October 2016, there were approximately 10,000 households of “voluntary evacuees” from Fukushima Prefecture. This spring, many of those households were faced with the difficult question of whether to move back to their hometowns, or pay out of pocket in order to continue life where they are.

What I took from reporting on the issue is the polarization of “voluntary evacuees.” Those who have been able to adapt to life where they’ve evacuated to and rebuild their lives said they wanted to leave behind their status as “evacuees.” Some even said they’d become leaders of neighborhood community associations.

Meanwhile, others said they couldn’t sleep at night because they were unable to find affordable housing, or that they didn’t have the funds to move. Among the latter were those with family members who have disabilities, or members who are from other countries and do not speak Japanese well — in other words, families who were vulnerable even before the outbreak of the nuclear disaster. I learned of cases in which people’s lives turned for the worse after they evacuated. For example, there have been cases of divorce that resulted after mothers evacuated with their children, leaving the father behind. Meanwhile, other evacuees developed mental illness or suffered strokes. Such evacuees needed assistance that was finely tuned to their individual needs in the areas of employment, medical care and education. However, there were many instances in which I felt they were not receiving sufficient care.

A 57-year-old man who “voluntarily” evacuated from the city of Fukushima to an Osaka municipal residence, remained isolated in a corner of the massive city for 4 1/2 years after the outbreak of the disaster. The man has a visual impairment that has qualified him for level-1 physical disability certification. He is not completely blind, but to read documents, he must step out onto the veranda for natural light and use a magnifying glass. With his disability, it is nerve-racking for him to go out alone in an unfamiliar city. His South Korean-born wife, 62, who helps him with his everyday life, does not read or write Japanese well. Because of this, he rarely obtained information from documents that were delivered to him from administrative offices or support organizations.

He thus remained unable to receive assistance, and was bogged down by debt that he incurred from moving and purchasing household furnishings. He didn’t even learn about the termination of free housing until six months after the Fukushima Prefectural Government made the announcement. Subsequently, based on the advice of a supporter who visited him at his home, he transferred his residency registration to the city of Osaka, and began receiving the city’s support services. However, he still has mixed feelings toward administrative agencies. “They had to have known about my visual disability. Whether it be the Fukushima Municipal Government or the Osaka Municipal Government, if someone had made the effort to inform me, I wouldn’t have had to suffer as much as I did,” he said.

In fiscal 2016, the Fukushima Prefectural Government and the municipalities to which Fukushima prefectural residents evacuated made individual visits to “voluntary evacuees.” They should have made the visits an opportunity not only to listen to residents’ concerns about housing after they were cut off, but also to help map out plans for households under straitened circumstances to become independent. But that was not necessarily the case.

A woman in her 50s who, with her child, evacuated from the Fukushima Prefecture city of Koriyama to a Tokyo public housing complex, was emotionally beaten down after constantly being reminded by housing management that she and her child were to leave by the end of the 2016 fiscal year. The woman said that she was even told that she could be hit with a lawsuit if she did not move out of the building.

The dedication with which local governments took the effort to visit evacuees differed from municipality to municipality, and at least one municipal government did not send staff to visit evacuees until three months before the free housing service was brought to an end. To make matters worse, many municipal governments were sending staff not from their welfare departments, but from their public housing departments to make the visits. Under such circumstances, criticism against municipal governments for lacking a commitment to provide comprehensive support to evacuees is hard to refute.

Another thing that caught my attention as I covered this issue is that a large number of evacuees are apprehensive about going on public assistance. A mother and child who evacuated to the city of Osaka declined advice to apply for welfare. They said they did not want to become a burden to the state, and eked out a living on an 80,000-yen monthly income. However, public assistance exists precisely for people like this family. Municipalities that have dispatched staff to make individual visits to evacuee households, and are abreast of which households are in dire straits, should actively try to dispel misperceptions and prejudice about welfare, and help those people receive the assistance they need.

I believe that the evacuees’ original municipalities of residence and the municipalities to which they evacuated are both responsible for the fact that they were unable to receive sufficient support before free housing was shut down. The Fukushima Prefectural Government assumed that the provision of housing assistance would suffice, while municipalities to which the residents evacuated had a latent notion that the evacuees weren’t “real” residents of the municipality.

It’s not too late, though. Both parties should collaborate and commit to closely assisting those facing grave hardships achieve self-reliance.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170413/p2a/00m/0na/012000c

The Fukushima Evacuees Future

 

End of March 2017 the Japanese government pretends that the Fukushima disaster is over, ending the compensation and housing programs, forcing the evacuees to return to the contaminated towns close to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster site.

Masahiro Imamura, the reconstruction minister, while asked multiple questions about the plight of those classified as voluntary evacuees did expose the government opinion about the disaster’s victims, shocking all the journalists by his insensitivity. During that interview the reconstruction minister got angry with a reporter, ordering him to get out and to never come there again.

The government is encountered wide criticism for its handling of evacuees issue. To raise the radiation exposure limits for all people included children to that of nuclear plant workers has been condemned worldwide.

Those classified as voluntary evacuees are the people who evacuated from the regions of Fukushima that were not under official evacuation orders. Plus as more towns are now reopened, their evacuation orders lifted, those people who do not return are now becoming considered voluntary evacuees as well. The government provided housing assistance for voluntary evacuees ended in March. Asked about the government position on evacuees choosing to not return home Imamura sais that if they chose to not return to their home town they should take full responsibility for their own actions.

Japan’s government has done everything possible to remove all possible other options for evacuees, to force the evacuees to return to live in their contaminated towns. Compensation was ended for many. Housing programs have also ended, and temporary housing units are scheduled for closure, while at the same time many of the reopened towns lack sufficient services and many homes are heavily damaged, abandoned as they were since 2011.

Decontamination efforts to reduce radiation levels have not been very successful. With maybe a low radiation level only in the town center, with a radiation monitor set on concrete, but around town still many locations with unsafe levels. Many of those towns close to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant still have no evacuation plan in case of further events.

The nuclear plant site remains a considerable risk. Work to dismantle sections of the damaged reactor buildings can release radioactive dust to the wind. Risks of hydrogen explosions, radiation releases or criticalities will remain as long as the site exists in its current state or has highly radioactive materials on site. To force the people back to live in close proximity to the site just puts them at further risk.

Imamura faced with a petition calling for his resignation tried to apologized in a more nuanced tone but the government policy remains. Prime Minister Abe dismissed calls for Imamura to resign.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/nhknewsline/quotesoftheday/20170405/