Sufferings of Evacuees from Non-compulsory Evacuation Areas
Children’s Sorrow and Parents’ Agony
Reflections by Ms. Miho Nobuki and Ms. K
Co-representative of KiraKiraboshi Net
29 June 2013
Nobuki: I am Miho Nobuki, co-representative of a small volunteer group called KiraKiraboshi Net. Today, I would like to talk with Ms. K., one of those who evacuated to Tokyo.
Ms. K: We evacuated from Iwaki, a city designated as a “Voluntary Evacuation Zone”. Two years and four months have passed already. I had been living here with my two sons. My husband left his job last autumn (2012) because of his deteriorating health and all my family members are together now. But, most of the families in the same evacuee housing as us are single parent families, as the fathers remain in Fukushima due to their work.
Nobuki: KiraKiraboshi Net was set up in September 2011. People affected by the disasters in Fukushima began to evacuate to Tokyo around March 16 of that year. Together with Mr. Tetsuo Iwata, a parishioner of St. Ignatius Church, I am a representative of KiraKiraboshi Net. Shortly after March, we were exchanging opinions on how the support system for the refugees was, and we decided to visit some refugee shelters together. And that was how we started as KiraKiraboshi Net. In actual fact, towards the end of March 2011, the evacuees were in great difficulties. There were children, young mothers and elderly. Members of the Catholic Church and volunteers from various other places had approached the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to offer volunteer services, but were rejected. We were told: “There is no need for volunteers. The evacuees here are not in any difficulty. They can stand on their own two feet. They will return to their homes as soon as this catastrophic situation has settled down”. And with that, we were sent away.
Mr. Iwata was very indignant. What they said was unbelievable. We decided that we would have to take matters into our own hands. Just at that time, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced that evacuees could stay in Akasaka Prince Hotel. We thought we could do something, since the Hotel was situated close to St. Ignatius Church. There would certainly be a chance for us to interact with the evacuees. We were certain that we could provide some sort of support. And so on that positive note, we began our activities in June, and continued all through summer vacation. This was the precursor of KiraKiraboshi Net. As for myself, I had started visiting Akasaka Prince Hotel every day to talk with some of the mothers. One of them called some other mothers in the Hotel. I think I met 10 to 20 daily and Ms. K was one of them.
It was already June, but the radiation levels in Fukushima remained high. They were anxious as to whether they could return to Fukushima. They were worried that, if they remained in Tokyo, how would they manage their homes and their children’s education. Many also feared that their application for evacuee housing would not be accepted. From April, they continued their lives in this chaotic and uncertain state. From their stories, we gathered that many had evacuated with literally nothing but the clothes they wore. The media had reported much about the stories of the Alert and Compulsory Evacuation Zones, but almost nothing about the Voluntary Evacuation Zone. Nothing would have been known, if we had not heard from those evacuees themselves. Gradually, we came to realize that these evacuees were very anxious about what would become of them. Let us hear more about this later from Ms. K. But first of all, we would like to show you a short DVD; which summarizes how these voluntary evacuees took refuge, what was in their mind on their way, and how they now live.
Ms. K: The singer in the DVD is a mother who evacuated with her child. She is from the same town and lives in the same condominium now.