Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.2 Rev. Tokuun TANAKA

During “Obon” in 2012 (Buddhist rite to pray for the souls of one’s ancestors, around July 13th and 15th of the lunar calendar. This also is the holiday time.), a large number of people came to the Temple for memorial services. What was terrible on that occasion was the number of rats in the kitchen. Two years had passed since the accident without anything being touched in the temple and with no one living there. On the night of the full moon, rats danced and ran around like mad and you could even feel the house shaking. The first thing I did when I returned was to let the rats know that the master of the house was back by blowing a whistle and beating the drums.

The problem in this region is that the safety standard limits are fixed too high for both water and food. If a dosimeter reads 100 Bq, which is calculated according to the former standard regulated before the disaster, it is the same level radiated from the nuclear waste. However, they say it is safe. They say it because if they keep the former regulations, it may cause panic. It is an issue now to rectify these laws.

It is tremendously tough, either evacuating from or remaining in the contaminated area. What I experienced was that my family was separated between Fukui and Fukushima. Knowing the risk of radioactive exposure to our children, returning home was a very painful decision. It is crazy that we cannot live our ordinary life. My wife was in bitter tears. My children also cried. Spending two years in Fukui, they became fluent Fukui dialect speakers. They didn’t want to leave the place, nor to transfer to another school. Actually, many other children are experiencing this, too. This is the situation now in Fukushima.

There is another problem, i.e. the problem of compensation. I had sent an application for the evacuation expenses through my lawyer after talking so many times with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). However, it had always been turned down. Although I sent the relevant documents four times, they had never gone through for a year and a half. These are the harsh realities of life. TEPCO insists that we should present circumstantial evidence. I think that is something that they should do, not we. They have the radiation protection standards. To legislate the safety standards here means to force radioactive exposure on us.

We have accepted these standards made by those who force us. Both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) are the organizations which were established to protect nuclear industries. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) is under the same umbrella with the former two. We cannot say that they are fair and impartial academic institutions. Do not forget, please, that they are promoters of nuclear power plants. We all have the right not to be exposed to radiation. We do not want nuclear power plants. We should have the right to live in a world without nuclear power plants. We should be free.

We are now on our journey towards reconstruction of Fukushima. Volunteers help us repair damaged houses. We are the young people who wear work clothes now, but who become fully-dressed-up samurais on horseback during “nomaoi”.

There are some elderly women in a village called Murakami on the Pacific coast, who have inherited the rice-planting dance. This was a village of 75 households. The tsunami killed 62 villagers, and the whole village is gone now. Even so, the surviving villagers are trying to pass their traditional festival down to the next generation. It is their hope that the villagers take this opportunity to return to their hometown. It is especially desired now that people gather and celebrate together and create space like heaven where everyone laughs, sings, and dances.