Excerpts from Asahi Journalist AOKI Miki’s “Streets Erased from the Map: Post-3.11, the Prohibited Truth”

 

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November 18, 2018
AOKI Miki (青木美希) is a journalist at the Asahi newspaper, one of Japan’s major news companies. Kodansha published her book, Streets Erased from the Map: Post-3.11, the Prohibited Truth(『地図から消される街ー3.11後の「言ってはいけない真実」』), in March 2018. It is the culmination of 7 years of continuous reporting on the 2011 TEPCO nuclear disaster. I have roughly translated and/or summarized some of the stories she documented in this book. (Where she refers to herself in the text, I have translated it as “I”; clarifying annotations/notes are mine).
CHAPTER 1: Local TEPCO Employees Who Can’t Raise Their Voices
Pages 28-39 (summarized):
Before the nuclear disaster, becoming a TEPCO employee was something many people aspired to. People used to say, “For a man to work at TEPCO means lifelong security; women should try to marry a TEPCO employee.” But after the disaster, they were resented. In the evacuation shelters, parents watched as their sons went back to work at Ichi-efu (1F = Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant). Before they left, they would write letters conveying their final farewells. I talked to a father who could not tell anyone at the shelter that his child worked at TEPCO.
I spoke to a young TEPCO worker. He was a local hire with a high school degree. He often went to TEPCO’s public relations museum as a kid, hoping he could one day become part of the future it displayed. When the earthquake happened, he wasn’t worried. The Meteorological Agency estimated that the tsunami height would be 3 meters, so he figured it would be about 1 meter, if it came at all. But as he was working in the reactor building, the power went out. Sea water started gushing in in the darkness. He ran up to the central control room, filled with monitors that would normally display live footage from various sectors of the power plant. But since there was no electricity, there was no information. He couldn’t get any of the pumps to move, since there was nothing to power them. So there was nothing to do but wait. That is where he was when the first hydrogen explosion happened. There were no windows in the control room, so he only heard it—an awful noise. The phones were still working, and he learned from a coworker that reactor 1 had exploded, and was thick with smoke.
About 2-3 hours after the explosion, an older employee said at least all the guys in their 20s and 30s should go to the quake-proof building, which is built with thick steel-enforced concrete [i.e., younger workers should evacuate there because the radiation levels are lower]. By then, more people had come in to work, and there were quite a few present who were in their 40s and 50s. So it was decided that all the younger men would evacuate—about 20 to 30 people total. They put on full face masks, light protective gear, and gloves to protect themselves from radioactive contamination, then ran together to the building, 350 meters away. The area was covered in debris, so they couldn’t use any of the cars onsite. They ended up running about 1 km to avoid getting too close to reactors 1 and 2.
Once they got there, he heard that two coworkers who had been sent to reactor 4 were missing. The building they had evacuated to still had power, so they could use the computers. But they still couldn’t do anything. All they could do was wait. They were still there during the explosion at reactor 3 on March 14th. Then the fuel rods in reactor 2 were damaged. The young TEPCO workers evacuated to a gym at the Daini nuclear power plant. They stayed there until the evening of March 16th, and then were told to go home.
After a week, the young worker was told to come back. His father didn’t say anything, but his mother told him not to go. But he told himself, “Who is there but us? This is happening in the town I grew up in. I need to keep the damage to a minimum.”
He did work like helping other workers out of their protective gear and handling the power switches for various machines at the entrance of a reactor building.
When he had been waiting in the quake-proof building, he had learned that two of his coworkers were missing. Someone started a rumor online that they were just enjoying themselves in Koriyama, drinking and joking about having pretended to be victims of the tsunami. Their bodies were found on March 30th, in one of the lower levels. The cause of death was shock from external bleeding from various injuries. Like him, they had been working in reactor 4 as ordered by their superior when the tsunami hit.
Things started to calm down in fall 2011, and he started to worry about the impact of the working conditions from that earlier period. His radiation exposure levels had not been recorded. He had been working without an APD (active personal dosimeter).
Note: It is industry standard for all workers to carry a personal dosimeter with them to record their external radiation exposure levels. According to a study summarized by the Radiation Work Network (Hibaku Rodo Network), the amount recorded can vary significantly even depending on where the dosimeter is kept on the body. It should also be noted that there are frequent reports of various workarounds to manipulate radiation exposure measurements. Though journalistic reports of the Japanese nuclear industry have suggested that conditions improved when records started being digitally displayed instead of being transcribed by hand, personal dosimeter measurements remain one of the things that are made flexible in a work-related pinch. Some workers who go to areas with high radiation levels are not issued APDs; sometimes a veteran worker might take both his and a subordinate’s APD with him to make that worker’s exposure levels seem lower or higher; etc. (In some cases, workers want their exposure levels to seem lower than they actually are to stay under the exposure limit so they can keep working).
At first, this was because nearly all the APDs were lost in the tsunami. Of the 5000 or so APDs that were onsite, only the 320 or so stored in the earthquake-proof building remained. At first, TEPCO said there would be enough to go around if only one representative from each work team used an APD. But even after huge amount of APDs were sent to 1F from other nuclear power plants, TEPCO kept up with this policy. So about 3000 people continued working without APDs.
Radiation levels varied significantly by location (0.03-0.04 millisieverts/hr in the central control room, versus 1 millisievert/hr+ close to the exhaust stacks where the hydrogen explosions had occurred). But the radiation levels for all members of a team were recorded as the same as that of the team leader.
Note: This account actually understates the extreme degree to which radiation levels can vary onsite. There are small hotspots with extremely high radiation levels, whose locations might change with conditions in the plant. One worker remembered being told to stay away from a particular corner. The radiation levels there were 600-some millisieverts/hour. He was shocked, and said, “600 millisieverts, not microsieverts?” To which he received the dry reply, “That’s right, millisieverts. In microsieverts, it would be 600,000 per hour.” The area was not cordoned or marked off in any way. This was a few years after the meltdown. (For reference, average radiation levels in Fukushima prior to the meltdown were 0.05~0.07 microsieverts/hr; the international standard for the general population’s annual exposure limit is 1 millisievert/year).
On March 31st, TEPCO was issued a warning by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, and subsequently recommenced issuing one APD per person. After that, workers were told that the company would correct its records of their radiation exposure levels. They were asked for details about where they had worked during the first week. But they probably couldn’t do much to correct the numbers, since no one had measurements of the radiation levels in different areas of the site at that time.
The first time they were able to measure their internal radiation levels was in early summer. A bus drove a simplified whole body counter (WBC) to Iwaki city, and measurements were taken. But the data was not shared with the workers. They were told it could not be share with them because it was “personal information.”
After repeatedly asking for it, the young worker finally got his data. He found his internal exposure level had been recorded at 50 millisieverts (mSv). Combined with his external exposure of 30 mSv, he had been exposed to a total of 80 mSv. When he thought about the standards for occupational illness recognition, he became afraid. It’s 5 mSv for leukemia; 25 mSv for a malignant lymph tumor; 50 mSv for multiple myeloma; 100 mSv for stomach cancer or esophageal cancer… He wanted to get married down the road and have kids… What if he got cancer 20 years later?
Note: Radioactive particles cycle through the body at different speeds according to their chemical properties. For example, Cesium-137 and Cesium-134 generally remain in the body for about one month. Additionally, much of the radiation emitted during the early stages of a nuclear meltdown comes from radioactive isotopes with short half-lives. A WBC is unable to measure the amount of radiation that was emitted by particles that already cycled out of someone’s body, nor can it measure the amount of radiation that had been emitted by particles that have already ceased to emit radiation. Consequently, even the figure of 50 mSv is an underestimation of his total internal dose from the nuclear meltdown.
<<Rough translations start here>>
He asked to be transferred, but his superior refused, telling him, “You haven’t gotten to 100 mSv yet. I’ll let out people with high exposure levels first.”
He thought about quitting. His mother encouraged him as well. But, he thought to himself, the reality is that about half of the hires at TEPCO are local people. If we don’t go, who will? Not to mention, all of my neighbors, relatives, and classmates know that I work at TEPCO. If I quit, maybe they will reproach me, asking “Why did you quit?”
It wasn’t just this young worker who thought that way. Many people kept their mouths shut, tortured with worry. Running away was scary; continuing to work was scary.
Every time he left for work, he felt like there was no place for him to run. Some people became depressed a few weeks after the disaster. At first, people were working thinking, “What can you do,” but now that it was fall, he felt like he was becoming depressed…
The young TEPCO worker wondered to himself, as one member of a worksite that tasked itself with providing “the safe energy of the future,” why had things turned out like this for him?
The company created something this dangerous in their pursuit of profit. They ignored the opinions of experts. Why didn’t they implement measures so that even if a tsunami came, they could continue to cool the reactors using the emergency power generators?
There had been times when the president of TEPCO and senior directors came to the site.
“Thank you.”—That’s what they would say. Even though he heard them, he could not feel that he was being thanked for his labor. They were not saying, “I’m sorry that we caused you this hardship,” or “Hang in there.” They said it as though it was entirely someone else’s affair, and he felt the insurmountable distance between conditions on the ground and company headquarters in Tokyo.
Residents of Fukushima often said, “Move your headquarters to Naraha town (where the nuclear power plant is), don’t leave it in the top-class district of Shimbashi [in Tokyo].” Even as a TEPCO local hire, he could understand their feelings.
He feels that people view the circumstances of those like him who are at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant like, “This is where we are; what else is there to do?” But he wants others to know that it’s not that everyone is resting on their laurels. At the very least, he did all he could in the midst of that terror.
His dad said, “It’s the people on the ground that lose.” That’s exactly how it is.
The young TEPCO worker’s request to be transferred was granted after more than a year had passed. But, he was told it was for a “limited time,” and after a few years he was issued another appointment, and returned to Fukushima.
Pages 40-43:
The Reality That 26% of Men in Their 50s Are Without Work
People chose many paths in the life they lived with TEPCO. There were people who stayed at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and there were people who left, seeking a different path. But there are also people who can’t go forward, who can’t help being fixed to one spot. Men in their 50s, who have trouble finding new employment.
A man in in his 50s who had done electricity-related work at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was speaking at an evacuation center in Iwaki city, his face red: “I’m never going back to 1F (Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant).” There was an open one-cup sake can next to him. A man I spoke to in Saitama was also saying, “I didn’t know it was so dangerous.” He was also about 50 years old. But, if they left their jobs, there was no way they were going to find work.
Though not limited to TEPCO-related workers, Fukushima University conducted a survey of the residents of the municipalities of Futaba County, which surround the nuclear power plant, in February to March 2017. There were 10,081 respondents. 31%, the largest percentage, responded that they had “little hope” for their future work or lives. 19% responded that they had “absolutely no hope.” 26% of those in their 50s reported being without work.
Note: She says “TEPCO-related” because the nuclear industry is composed of multiple layers of subcontractors. Power companies contract work out to monolith “zenekon,” or general contractors, like Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Toshiba, and so on. These companies then parcel out jobs to a vast array of subcontractors, who then further distribute the work through their own networks. There have been reports of at most 7 or even 12 layers of subcontractors, though a local expert noted that it would probably be impossible for the lowest-level subcontracting company to break even if the reports of 7+ layers were true.
Many people who worked at the nuclear power plant lived in Naraha town, on the southern side of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
A man who was 48 years old at the time of the disaster, who ran a subcontracting company in Naraha town and worked as a site foreman, went to work in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant right after the accident in March 2011.
The site was wrecked. It completely overturned his sense that nuclear power plants are safe.
He was called to Fukushima Daiichi again in April of that year, but after that he thought, “I don’t want to see that wrecked nuclear power plant anymore,” and went to Saitama prefecture, where his wife and children had evacuated.
In September 2015, Naraha town’s evacuation orders were lifted. Shortly thereafter, he returned to his hometown. He renovated his house, and, wanting his family to return, he left a cumulative dosimeter in the house to measure its radiation levels. After one year, it read 0.1 mSv. He explained to his wife, “The radiation levels aren’t that high. I know because I’ve worked at the nuclear power plant.”
“I don’t want to be close to the nuclear power plant.”
That was his wife’s reply.
While displaced, the man developed diabetes, and in May 2016, he was diagnosed with depression. Since, he has been seeing a psychotherapist.
When I heard his story in April 2017, he was 54 years old. With white hair and a tired face, he looked far older than his fifty years.
His eldest son and eldest daughter are both in their 20s and working. His wife and children already bought a house in Saitama. Before, he would drive two hours and forty minutes one way to be with his family in Saitama. But before he realized it, his visits became rare, and he said he could not remember the last time he went.
Their life over there must be better now…
He wanted to be with his family. He is lonely and sad. He started to drink. Whenever he has time, he drinks. When he drinks, he feels a little better. When he gets sober, he starts to feel sad again. So he drinks again. If he drinks, he gets sleepy. It’s more of a “win” to fall asleep drinking.
But even so, he has fitful sleep, and at the very least he wakes up twice during the night. It’s a cruel cycle.
About 2 months after the national government lifted Naraha town’s evacuation orders, the returnee rate was at the 4% mark. Even later, it did not rise much, and the town stopped publishing statistics with the 11.1% it recorded in March 2017. Instead, it now publishes “town resident percentages,” which include new residents such as new nuclear power plant workers and recovery construction workers.
In the last available statistics on returnees, published in March 2017, 65% were in their 60s or older, and 5% were minors.
In the former site foreman’s neighborhood, only elderly people in their 60s to 80s have returned. He is the youngest in his block. He said to me, “I don’t know what is going to happen at the nuclear power plant so I think I’m going to quit. I want to work a normal job and die normally. It’s not like I can find new work now – what should I do? Right now, we get 160,000 yen per month as compensation, but TEPCO is saying it will stop paying. Are they telling us to die?”
His son was a nuclear worker, too. Their pride in their work, their life with their families, and their health was broken… They don’t have the energy to get back on their feet anymore.
https://jfissures.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/excerpts-from-asahi-journalist-aoki-mikis-streets-erased-from-the-map-post-3-11-the-prohibited-truth/

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Japan’s new reconstruction minister trumpets ‘safety’ of Tohoku region and pushes plans for 2020 Tokyo Games

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Hiromichi Watanabe
 
Oct 18, 2018
New Reconstruction Minister Hiromichi Watanabe wants the world to know that, seven years after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Fukushima Prefecture and other disaster-struck areas of the Tohoku region are now safe.
“I know that outside Japan (radiation) stigma still lingers and I believe it’s our mission to destroy,” that notion, Watanabe said in an interview with The Japan Times and other media organizations Wednesday.
In the wake of the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant many countries around the world imposed import restrictions on vegetables, fruits and other food products from Fukushima and neighboring Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Gunma prefectures.
But in recent months the European Union, Brazil and several other countries have eased import restrictions and China reportedly intends to relax the ban. Taiwan is set to hold a referendum next month on whether to keep the restrictions in place.
“First, I want people to learn about the situation in Fukushima, I want them to taste farm and marine produce and last but not least, I want people to visit Fukushima” to see for themselves how it has rebounded, Watanabe said, responding to a question about lingering concerns over safety and slow progress in recovery.
Watanabe believes the 2020 Tokyo Games will be “a golden opportunity” to showcase the disaster-hit region’s advancement.
He referred to a large-scale project in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, where construction work has already started for what will be one of the world’s largest hydrogen plants.
The plant will use solar power and other energy sources to extract up to 900 tons of hydrogen each year from water for storage and supply.
The hydrogen generated at the plant will be used for fuel-cell vehicles and other purposes during the Olympics and Paralympics.
“Using Fukushima-generated hydrogen in Tokyo would be a great display” of the region’s progress, he said.
“Given that the Olympic torch relay will start in Fukushima, I wish we could use hydrogen to light up the torch as well,” he added, noting that such ideas are being considered.
When the Reconstruction Agency was established in 2012, the government set a 10-year period of intensive efforts to rebuild the devastated areas.
Watanabe said that recovery of housing and public infrastructure is nearing completion, except for in zones with restricted access closest to the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
Watanabe admitted that progress is slower in some areas and he wants to speed up the rate of reconstruction ahead of the Summer Games.
“To better grasp the situation, I will make it my priority to go to those areas. It’s my basic strategy to listen to all requests and demands directly from those regions and to try to respond to them,” he said.
The government will draw up a concrete action plan to complete rebuilding efforts before disclosing them by year-end.
For Watanabe, the clock is ticking as the agency is scheduled to fold in 2021.
“There are only 2½ years left and during this period I am motivated to do the utmost to complete rebuilding,” he said. “Obviously reconstruction of areas devastated by the nuclear disaster should be seen from a long-term perspective and even after the agency is abolished, Japan should make concerted efforts to act on the aftereffects (of the nuclear disaster).”

The Fukushima nuclear crisis: How communities, doctors, media, and government have responded

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Chapter Title: Informal Labour, Local Citizens and the Tokyo Electric Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Crisis: Responses to Neoliberal Disaster Management Chapter Author(s): Adam Broinowski Book Title: New Worlds from Below [extensive footnotes and references on original]
Faced with the post-3.11 reality of government (and corporate) policy that protects economic and security interests over public health and wellbeing, the majority of the 2 million inhabitants of Fukushima Prefecture are either unconscious of or have been encouraged to accept living with radioactive contamination. People dry their clothes outside, drink local tap water and consume local food, swim in outdoor pools and the ocean, consume and sell their own produce or catches. Financial pressure after 3.11 as well as the persistent danger of social marginalisation has made it more difficult to take precautionary measures (i.e. permanent relocation, dual accommodation, importing food and water) and develop and share counter-narratives to the official message. Nevertheless, some continue to conceal their anxiety beneath a mask of superficial calm.
As Fukushima city resident Shiina Chieko observed, the majority of people seem to have adopted denial as a way to excise the present danger from their consciousness. Her sister-in-law, for example, ignored her son’s ‘continuous nosebleeds’, while her mother had decided that the community must endure by pretending that things were no different from pre-3.11 conditions.75 Unlike the claim that risk is evenly distributed, it is likely that greater risk is borne by those who eat processed foods from family restaurants and convenience stores, as well as infants, children and young women who are disproportionately vulnerable to internal radiation exposures. Most mothers, then, have an added burden to shield their children while maintaining a positive front in their family and community.
Some, such as Yokota Asami (40 years old), a small business owner and mother from Kōriyama (60 km from FDNPS), demonstrated initiative in voluntarily evacuating her family. She decided to return (wearing goggles and a mask, she joked) in September 2011 when her son’s regular and continuous nosebleeds (in 30-minute spells) subsided. The Yokotas found themselves the victims of bullying when they called attention to radiation dangers, and were labelled non-nationals (hikokumin 非国民) who had betrayed reconstruction efforts. Her son was the only one to put up his hand when he was asked along with 300 fellow junior high school students if he objected to eating locally produced school lunches. He also chose not to participate in outdoor exercise classes and to go on respite trips instead. When it came time to take the high school entrance exam, he was told by the school principal that those who took breaks could not pass. He took the exam and failed. When he asked to see his results he found that he had, in fact, enough points to pass (the cut-off was 156 while he received 198 out of 250 points). The Yokotas decided that it was better to be a ‘non-national’ and protect one’s health. Their son moved to live in Sapporo.76
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In March 2015, Asami reported that doctors undertook paediatric thyroid operations while denying any correlation (inga kankei 因果 関係) with radiation exposures. They also urged their patients to keep their thyroid cancer a secret to enhance their employment or marriage prospects, although it would be difficult to conceal the post-operation scar.77 Yokota also indicated she knew of students having sudden heart attacks and developing leukaemia and other illnesses.78
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This seems to be supported by Mr Ōkoshi, a Fukushima city resident, whose two daughters experienced stillbirths after 3.11.
While Ōkoshi found that doctors have regularly advised women in the area to abort after 3.11, presumably to avoid miscarriages and defects, they do not discuss direct causes. He also observed regular illnesses experienced by many of his friends, and some sudden deaths. After a friend (62 years old) started saying strange things, he was diagnosed with brain dysfunction. He died quickly. Another friend (53 years old) was advised by a doctor to monitor a polyp in her breast. When she sought second opinions, she discovered she had accumulated an internal dose of 22 mSv and had a rapidly developing liver cancer. She also died quickly.79 There are many more such stories that are being actively ignored by the authorities. As Shiina put it, ‘we’re getting leukaemia and cataracts and we die suddenly. The TEPCO registrar has been inundated with complaints’.80
While radiation contamination is clearly a health and environmental issue, state-corporate methods deployed by executives to protect (transnational) financial, industry and security interests and assets also make it a political issue.81 As things do not change by themselves, rather than turning one’s frustration inward in self-blame, turning to prayer or deceiving oneself into returning to pre-3.11 lifeways in contaminated areas, Shiina states that people, particularly those most affected, must develop political consciousness.
To achieve this ambitious objective is not as complicated as it might sound. Nishiyama Chikako (60 years old), for example, returned to Kawauchi village to run for the local assembly after the mandatory order was lifted in December 2011. She found, as she commented in her blog, a link between TEPCO and the tripling of the Kawauchi budget post-3.11. Subsequently, she reported that her blog was shut down by unknown hackers on several occasions.82
 
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This sort of information and communication control appears to be widespread. After 3.11, the central government hired advertising companies Dentsū and Hakuhōdō (formerly McCann Ericson Hakuhodo) to run a ‘public acceptance’ campaign. Young teams were dispatched nationwide to conduct ‘public opinion guidance’ (yoron yūdō 世論誘導). The teams consisted of casual labour (earning 2,000–4,000 yen per hour) hired under a confidentiality clause (shuhi gimu 守秘義務) to manipulate information (jōhō kōsaku 情報工作) and harass internet users.83
 
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Media professionals have been subjected to similar tactics. The Asahi TV journalist Iwaji Masaki (Hōdō Station), one of the few mainstream journalists covering the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in depth, for example, was intimidated by police for interviewing (December 2012) informal nuclear workers who showed shoddy decontamination practices that entailed contaminated waste disposal rather than removal and the mother of a child with thyroid cancer. Airing the program was delayed until August 2013. Before he could complete his planned segments on the US$1 billion class action for compensation for unusual and serious illnesses filed against TEPCO, General Electric, Hitachi and Tōshiba in 2015 by sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan (which provided assistance quickly after the disaster, and among whose crew 250 were ill and three had died),84 on 29 September 2013, Iwaji was reportedly found dead in his apartment (having suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in a sealed room as he slept). Much speculation followed on social media, including both plausible reasons for suicide and testimonies from friends that knew him well that Iwaji himself stated he would never commit suicide, but the story was conspicuously ignored by major news channels.85
The former mayor of Futaba village Idogawa Katsuichi was harassed on social media for calling attention to illnesses and for the resettlement of pregnant women and children. When Kariya Tetsu characterised Idogawa in his popular manga series (Oishinbo 美味しんぼ), and depicted the manga’s main character as suffering from nosebleeds after visiting Fukushima, Kariya’s editors shut the series down following accusations of ‘spreading rumours’ from some readers, media commentators and high level politicians. Similarly, Takenouchi Mari, a freelance journalist and mother who evacuated from Fukushima in 2011, received thousands of slanderous messages and threats to her two-year-old son and her property after criticising the co-founder of Fukushima ETHOS on her blog in mid-2012. She too reported that her internet account was suspended and her request for a police investigation ignored. She was counter-sued for harassment and subjected to a criminal investigation and civil law suit.86
Among the activists who have been arrested for anti-nuclear protests, the academic Shimoji Masaki of Hannan University (9 December 2012) was arrested by Osaka Prefectural Police and charged with ‘violating the Railway Operation Act’ for walking through an Osaka station concourse while participating in a demonstration against radioactive waste incineration (17 October 2012). Shimoji had reiterated that residents, due to radioactive incineration (which was due to commence in Osaka in February 2013), would be forced to bear the burden of air, food and water contamination.8
Despite such obstacles to developing a political consciousness as well as the obvious difficulties in permanently resettling large populations, it has been not only evacuees who have had to think about their fundamental life priorities after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear distaster. Some have adopted real (not only psychological) self-protection mechanisms. The  voluntary Fukushima Collective Health Clinic (Fukushima Kyōdō Shinryōjo 福島共同診療所), for example, is founded on three principles: respite (hoyō 保養), treatment (shinryō 診療) and healing (iryō 医療). Co-founder Dr Sugii, advocates a return to the 1 mSv/y limit, and seeks to inform those who for whatever reason cannot move from contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture.88 This is modelled on Belrad, the independent health clinic in Belarus run by Alexey Nesterenko, which prioritises knowledge, safety and open information on radiation and its health impacts. 86
To counteract the misinformation residents were exposed to post Chernobyl, over time and with limited resources, Belrad and other organisations have disseminated information and organised respite trips for children in affected areas. In 2015, for example, subsidised respite trips were organised for 50,000 children, and results have shown that  over  two  continuous years of respite those who accumulated 25– 35 Bq/kg had reduced the amount to 0 Bq/kg. Unlike the flat limit of 100 Bq/kg of Caesium in food in Japan (50 Bq/kg for milk and infant foods, 10  Bq/kg for drinking water), Belrad recommends an internal radiation limit of 10–30 Bq/kg in the body (although it advises below 10 Bq for infants to avoid lesions and heart irregularities).89 It should be noted that these limits do not guarantee safety against the effects of repeating internal radiation exposure from consuming contaminated foods, which is relative to the length of time the radiation remains and its location in the body.
While some communities, such as the town of Aketo in Tanohama, Iwate Prefecture, have struggled to block the siting of nuclear waste storage facilities,90 others are also organising to reduce radio-accumulation in their children through respite trips,91 as well as concentrating on indoor activities, measuring hotspots and decontaminating public areas and pathways, pooling funds for expensive spectrometers to monitor internal exposure and food and water, incorporating dietary radioprotection, as well as finding ways to reduce anxiety
Many local farmers cannot admit the already near-permanent damage to their land (which may continue for hundreds of years) because it would imply the devaluation of their property and produce as well as threatening their ancestral ties to the land, commitments and future plans. While many are keenly aware of their responsibilities, the push by the Fukushima and central governments to identify and gain access to markets for produce from irradiated areas would make it easier to overlook uncomfortable factors. Some have argued that given the reassurances of safety from the highest authorities, these offical figures should therefore relocate to contaminated areas and consume these products regularly. Despite the fairness of this statement, a more utilitarian logic has prevailed. In the name of reconstruction and revitalisation of Fukushima and the nation, the dilution of Fukushima produce with unirradiated produce to return measurements just under the required limits, radiation spikes in soil and food or the mutation of plants as Caesium replaces potassium (K40), for example, tend to be minimised. In this climate, the distribution and relabelling of Fukushima produce for urban and international markets (i.e. in a black market of cut-price bulk produce picked up by yakuza and other brokers) is likely to continue.
To date, the majority of evacuees have refused to return to (de)contaminated areas. Some claim they are yet to receive accurate information to justify it. Independent specialists such as Hosokawa Kōmei (Citizens’ Commission on Nuclear Energy), who develops models for transition to renewable alternatives, anticipate an increase in evacuee populations as they predict increased resettlement of Fukushima residents over 20–30 years.92 As some evacuees recognise the potential for second or third Fukushimas, they have sought to strengthen their collective identities and rights. Through local organisation and alternative life practices, whether in micro-scale ecovillages and transition towns93 with communal occupancies and squats, parallel currencies and local exchange systems (roughly 70 substantive projects), organic food co-ops, self-sufficient energy systems, local production and recycling, carpools and free kindergartens, such groups are seeking to reconstruct and model core social priorities, focusing on clean food, health and community cooperation rather than the internalised and dreary competition for material accumulation.
Although the accountability of authorities with prior knowledge has yet to be properly investigated, one of the largest groups of collective legal actions  to be mounted in Japanese history includes some 20 lawsuits by  10,000 plaintiffs. The Fukushima genpatsu kokuso-dan (Group of Plaintiffs for Criminal Prosecution 福島原発告訴団), formed on 20 April 2012, filed a criminal case (lodged 3 September 2013, Fukushima District Court) against 33 previous and present officers of TEPCO, government officials and medical experts for ‘group irresponsibility’ and the neglect of duty of care, environmental damage and harm to human health. Mutō Ruiko, one of the key plaintiffs, declared the main aim to be symbolic: to publicly record injury, reclaim the victims’ sense of agency and protect the next generation. In short, they were seeking recognition of wrong and harm done rather than primarily financial redress. This moderate aim was undoubtedly tempered by recognition of regulatory capture: those who were cavalier with safety procedures ‘were now in charge of restarts; those responsible for the “safety” campaign were now in charge of the Health Survey; [there has been] no responsibility for the SPEEDI cover-up; and TEPCO is not being held responsible for [faulty] decontamination’.94
The judgement of this case was handed down at the Tokyo District Court on the same day as the announcement of Tokyo’s successful Olympics bid (9  September 2013). The case was dismissed on the grounds that the disaster was beyond predictability (sōteigai 想定外), which made negligence  hypothetical.95 A citizens’ panel (Committee for inquest of Prosecution) overturned the dismissal and renewed the claim against three TEPCO executives on 18 December 2013. They demanded, alongside a  ruling of negligence against three former TEPCO executives, the inclusion of physical, economic, social and psychological harms: illness, paediatric underdevelopment (radiation exposures, excessive isolation indoors), financial losses (unemployment, loss in property value, rental costs of two homes, relocation, travel, etc.), family and community division, ijime (bullying いじめ) and stress. Many plaintiffs also claimed that their disrupted reliance upon nature,96 as inviolable and precious,97 should be recognised as harm. This too was dismissed and again a citizen’s panel found against the three TEPCO executives.98 In May 2015, 10 groups of plaintiffs formed a network named Hidanren (被弾連, Genpatsu Jiko Higaisha Dantai Renrakukai) comprising 20,000 people. The Fukushima kokuso-dan again made a claim to another citizens’ panel, which found in July 2015 in favour of indicting the three TEPCO executives for trial.99 In addition, a civil case filed in June 2015 by 4,000 plaintiffs from Iwaki seeking to prove negligence and not just harm sought to use previously withheld evidence to show fair warning of a 3.11-type scenario was given. This case focused the court on the operator’s calculation of risk probability of a tsunami of that size and, rather than aiming at financial compensation, it sought to deter nuclear operators from future negligent practices if ruled in favour. In anticipation of out-of-court settlements, the Japanese Government increased the budget for compensation payments to 7 trillion yen (US$56 billion). 

Fukushima episode of Netflix’s Dark Tourist sparks offence in Japan

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05 September, 2018,
Government unhappy after programme hints food in region is still contaminated with radiation and host enters clearly marked no-go zone
The recent Netflix series Dark Tourist is a grimy window into areas scarred by tragedy, providing a perspective as rare as it is compelling – but a controversial Japan-set entry in the series may have gone too far.
The country’s Reconstruction Agency is set to hold talks with the Fukushima prefectural government about a unified response to the second episode in the series, which looked at a tour for foreign visitors to some of the areas worst affected by the 2011 tsunami, earthquake and nuclear-plant disaster.
The episode raised hackles in Tokyo and Fukushima after David Farrier, the New Zealand journalist who hosts the series, was filmed eating at a restaurant in the town of Namie – a former nuclear ghost town which reopened its doors to visitors in April 2017 – and stating that he expected the food to be contaminated with radiation.
Farrier was also filmed aboard a tour bus nervously watching as the numbers on a Geiger counter continued to rise beyond levels members of the party had been told were considered safe.
At one point in the programme, which was released on July 20, a woman holding a Geiger counter says radiation levels “are higher than around Chernobyl”.
Farrier also slips away from the group without permission, and enters an abandoned game arcade within the no-go zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
The prefectural government and the Reconstruction Agency, which was set up after the disaster to oversee the nuclear clean-up and rebuilding efforts in the region, are reported to be unhappy that Farrier entered a clearly marked no-go zone and the programme’s suggestion that food in northeast Japan was not safe to eat.
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Authorities are also unhappy the programme failed to specify that the high levels of radiation initially reported in the area have fallen significantly, and only a relatively small area is still officially listed as “difficult to return to” for local residents.
“We are examining the content of the video,” a prefecture official told the Jiji news agency.
The Fukushima government declined to provide further comment on Dark Tourist or the action that it might take.
A spokesman for the Reconstruction Agency in Tokyo told the South China Morning Post a response would be prepared after consultations with the prefectural authorities.
“We would like to provide accurate knowledge and correct information about the situation surrounding radiation in Fukushima Prefecture to the domestic and international media,” the official said. “We cannot comment specifically on the Netflix case at this point.”
An estimated 100,000 foreign tourists have visited Fukushima last year, many attracted by the offer of trips described as “dark tourism”.
Authorities, however, have been working hard to get across the message that the vast majority of the Tohoku region of northeast Japan is perfectly safe to visit and that local food and produce is safe to consume.
Campaigns are also under way to rebuild export markets for local foodstuffs.
The condemnation from authorities comes as Japan acknowledges for the first time that a worker at the Fukushima plant died in 2016 from radiation exposure.
The country’s Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry ruled that compensation should be paid to the family of the man in his 50s who died from lung cancer, an official said.
The worker had spent his career working at nuclear plants around Japan and worked at the Fukushima plant at least twice after the March 2011 meltdowns. He was diagnosed with cancer in February 2016, the official said.

Fukushima government considers action over Dark Tourist episode

September 4, 2018
DARK Tourist has been a global hit, but officials in Japan are not happy with scenes in this episode.
ITS willingness to boldly take audiences to some of the most offbeat, off-putting and downright disturbing places on the planet has made the Netflix series Dark Tourist a global sensation.
The first season of the groundbreaking documentary series, which was released in July, follows host David Farrier’s excursions to grim locations, from a forbidden ghost city on Cyprus to the Milwaukee sites where serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer murdered his victims.
But the series has landed in hot water due to its second episode that was filmed in Japan.
There, government officials are considering taking action against Netflix over footage from inside Fukushima, which was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
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The second episode of Dark Tourist sees host David Farrier on a nuclear bus tour in Fukushima.
 
In the episode, Farrier, a New Zealand journalist, takes a bus tour with other foreign sightseers into areas affected by the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
 
The bus passes radioactive exclusion zones and Farrier and the other tourists become increasingly nervous by the skyrocketing readings on their Geiger counters, which measure radiation.
At one point in the episode, the reading is 50 times higher than levels deemed to be safe.
In another scene, the group visits a local restaurant where Farrier is concerned about eating locally sourced food that may be contaminated.
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Farrier was unsure about eating local food.
 
In another, he comes close to being arrested after sneaking into an abandoned arcade that was deemed a no-go zone by the government.
Now, officials from the Fukushima Prefectural Government said they are investigating the Dark Tourist episode, concerned it would “fuel unreasonable fears related to the March 2011 disaster at Tokyo’s Electric’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant”.
A senior government official told The Japan Times they are working with the Reconstruction Agency in considering how to respond to the footage.
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The camera followed Farrier as he broke away from the tour group and entered an off-limits arcade.
 
“We’re examining the video content,” the official said.
The three issues of apparent concern to officials were Farrier being worried about eating the restaurant’s food, his visit to the off-limits arcade, and the exact location of the bus not being specified when the high radiation readings alarmed the tourists.
Farrier previously said it was “super disconcerting” to visit the areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“Essentially, you’re in the middle of a microwave,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
“You can’t feel anything but this device is telling you that the radiation is way higher than is safe.”
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In the episode, Farrier and the other tourists are concerned about the readings on their Geiger counters.
 
Hundreds of thousands of people fled for their lives when a tsunami swept through Fukushima and set off three nuclear meltdowns at the Daiichi power plant, exposing the region to radioactive material.
The Japanese government has deemed some of the affected areas to be safe to return to, but many remain abandoned. Other areas are still designated as off limits.
But Fukushima’s perceived nuclear danger and its eerie setting have made it one of the world’s most popular drawcards for “dark tourists” — travellers who seek out locations with disturbing histories and associations with death and tragedy.
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Although dark tourism is booming, many area of Fukushima remain no-go zones.
 
So-called nuclear tourism attracted about 94,000 overseas visitors to Fukushima in 2017.
Similar nuclear tours operate in the Ukrainian ghost town of Pripyat, which has been a radioactive wasteland since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urges Australian travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in Areas 1 and 2 near the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and advises against all travel to Area 3 due to “very high” health and safety risks.

Japan’s Fukushima Considering Action Over Netflix’s ‘Dark Tourist’ Nuclear Episode

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August 3, 2018
The local government and the Reconstruction Agency are not happy with portrayals of unspecified high-radiation locations and speculation over contaminated food.
Japan’s Reconstruction Agency and Fukushima Prefectural Government are considering legal action over the episode of Netflix’s Dark Tourist, which visited places still dealing with the aftermath of the March 2011 triple nuclear meltdown.
The episode, the second in the series released on the streaming giant July 20, sees New Zealand journalist David Farrier visit Japan, with just more than half of the program following him on an organized bus tour through areas near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.
Farrier and the other tourists become concerned as the readings on their Geiger counters showed radiation higher than they were told to expect and what is deemed to be safe levels. The group eventually decides to cut the tour short, but not before eating at a restaurant in the area and Farrier leaving the group to enter an off-limit gaming arcade. While at the restaurant, Farrier talks about his concerns about the food being unsafe, before finishing his meal.
“We’re examining the video content,” a senior official from the prefecture told news agency Jiji.
The parts of the video that the authorities have taken objection to are the section showing the high radiation levels, but not saying where they were filmed, the speculation about food contamination and Farrier’s excursion into the off-limits area.
Almost 100,000 foreign tourists are estimated to have visited Fukushima last year on what have been dubbed nuclear tourism tours.
Nearly 20,000 people died in March 2011, when a huge earthquake set off a devastating tsunami that knocked the cooling systems of the nuclear plant out of action, leading to three reactors at Daiichi melting down.
The local and national government have been working to have bans on food produces from the area rescinded, which they have been gradually achieving.
During the episode, Farrier also visits the Aokigahara forest, an area known for suicides. YouTuber Paul Logan faced a backlash at the beginning of the year after posting a video from the forest, where he had discovered a corpse. Farrier also stays in a robot-run hotel and takes a tour to the abandoned Hashima Island. Once a coal mine, the industrial wasteland of the island has attracted tourists and attention in recent years, appearing in the James Bond film Skyfall and the Japanese Attack on Titan live-action movies.
Other episodes feature tourism related to voodoo, drug barons, mass murderers and survivalists.

 

Fukushima mulls action against Netflix over Dark Tourist video of 3/11 hot zone

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The crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is seen from the sky in February.
Sep 1, 2018
FUKUSHIMA – The Fukushima Prefectural Government and the Reconstruction Agency are considering taking action against a video from the Dark Tourist series of U.S. online video streaming giant Netflix Inc., informed sources said Saturday.
The video shows a tour organized for foreigners of areas affected by the March 2011 triple core meltdown in Fukushima. During the tour, a New Zealand journalist, the host of the video series, suspects a meal served at a restaurant in the town of Namie has been contaminated by radiation.
The prefecture and the agency are concerned the video could fuel unreasonable fears related to the March 2011 disaster at Tokyo Electric’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the sources said.
The video also shows the journalist entering the no-go zone around the crippled nuclear plant without permission and reporting from an abandoned game arcade there.
Furthermore, the video shows tour participants getting upset by rising radiation readings on their bus, although where the bus was traveling is not specified.
The video of the Fukushima tour attracted attention initially online and has been covered by overseas media.
Alarmed by the situation, the Fukushima Prefectural Government has decided to cooperate with the Reconstruction Agency in responding to the matter, the sources said. The defunct atomic plant is managed by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
“We’re examining the video content,” a senior official from the prefecture said.
Netflix offers unlimited access to online movies and TV dramas at flat rates. It has about 130 million subscribers in 190 countries.
In its Dark Tourist series, the New Zealand journalist travels to places associated with negative historical events around the world, including a former nuclear test site in Kazakhstan.