Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.6 Ms. Miho NOBUKI and Ms. K

Nobuki: What do you desire most now?

Ms. K: In the short run, we want the lease for evacuee housing to be extended. It will expire next July (2014), and we are very worried that we will be sent back to Fukushima, whatever the situation may be.
There is great discord among two groups of people in Iwaki: those who are the original residents of Iwaki City, and those who arrived from Compulsory Evacuation Zones outside of Iwaki. This means that the original residents of Iwaki, who are themselves victims of disaster, have to accept victims from other areas. There is anger and bitterness. The host residents are unhappy that they are being forced to shoulder the burden of hosting evacuees who receive far more compensation and do not have to pay taxes nor rent. There were ugly incidents where cars on the street were wrecked, or where the walls of the evacuees’ houses were vandalized. Iwaki City had never experienced such violence before. I am very sad and worried that Iwaki has become a city where people hate each other. And if those evacuees were to be evicted all at once from the shelters, the people of Iwaki will naturally go back to their own hometown; while those from Futaba and Naraha Towns (Compulsory Evacuation Zones) would also want to return as well. To them, Iwaki is after all, more habitable than Koriyama or Aizu-Wakamatsu. The population will increase and other reasons for discord will arise.
But for the past two years, I was not able to engage in normal conversations with those from the Compulsory Evacuation Zone. The moment the other party came to know that I was from Iwaki, something in the air tightened and I could not utter a word. While staying in Akasaka Prince Hotel, I could not tell that I was from Iwaki for fear of being told to go back to Iwaki since it was considered to be free of radiation. When those from Compulsory Evacuation Zone started getting paid compensation, people from Iwaki in turn began retorting: “You’ve received compensation from TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), haven’t you?” Relations between people became tense and antagonistic. It was only recently through participation in the yoga lessons together that we had more opportunities to talk each other. We came to understand well that both sides were experiencing aches and pains. Money does not give us perseverance. Even huge sums of money cannot compensate for our sufferings. Families are still forced by circumstances to live apart. Just because people who suffer received compensation, they are made to keep silence. This is the hardest part in the struggle. Do something for our town, please! Please do something for us so that we may live peacefully. The more the Japanese Government spends money, the more hostile feeling increases and the division among groups will arise. This is the first issue that needs to be addressed.
If you have a chance to visit Fukushima, see for yourselves: the beautiful nature, the sea abundant with different kinds of fish, and mountains with mushrooms and edible wild plants. Everywhere, the beauty of nature is as it used to be. With the naked eye, there appears to be no difference. But in fact, they are contaminated and lost, never to be put on the table. I was born in Yokohama and had lived in Fukushima for 15 years after my marriage. When I first visited Fukushima (Iwaki), I decided to settle down in Fukushima at a glance. Iwaki is the most beautiful in November. Please go and see that beautiful Fukushima.

Nobuki: There are evacuees, not only in Tokyo but also within Fukushima Prefecture itself, in Aizuwakamatsu City. There are those in the north of Fukushima, such as Yonezawa City of Yamagata Prefecture. Evacuees are scattered in various cities and towns. Life as evacuees is really tough. For example, in Aizuwakamatsu City, rent was not compensated and schoolchildren were not admitted to school. The City Officials told them to go to schools in the cities and towns where they are registered. In Yonezawa City, organizations which provided support have withdrawn one by one. Subsidies to such Support Groups were cut, while those groups which help repatriation were given priority in getting subsidies. In other words, the message to evacuees was: “Go back to Fukushima”. Hence, Support Groups are also in a difficulty. The situation is getting worse and more complicated. Evacuees are also worried that the support activities may stop and they are obliged to return to Fukushima. Voluntary evacuees are estimated to be 30,000 to 50,000; of whom about 7,500 live in Tokyo, and 10,000 in the entire Kanto District.

Ms. K is one of the plaintiffs taking legal action against the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Damage Tokyo Trial. Please support this action. If you register yourself as a supporter, you will receive notices of the following upcoming trials, court hearings, reporting sessions, etc. Unless we increase the number of supporters, and raise the level of interest amongst the population, as well as keep close observation of how the trials are proceeding, the trial might end up with only compensation being paid to the people in the Compulsory Evacuation Area. Currently, the number of the plaintiffs is three, but I think it will increase in future; to about 10 at the next trial. Similar legal action against TEPCO will be taken in Yamagata and other prefectures. The first trial took place recently. Ms. K’s husband read the statement during the trial.
When he read the statement, the court fell in total silence. It must have touched the judges. Immediately after the first trial, there was a meeting during which attorneys of both parties, together with the judges, negotiated for the next session. The defendants, i.e. the Government and TEPCO requested to stop the plaintiff’s from giving personal testimonies. It was because the defendants’ attorneys are afraid that the judges should be moved by the plaintiff’s statement. The meeting ended with the plaintiff’s counsel even more determined that the testimonies of the evacuees should continue. The year 2011 was when the voluntary evacuees suffered tremendously from distress, and got a cold look from the society. At first, none of the voluntary evacuees whom we had supported would dare to appear in the media, nor at a meeting like this. In spite of being in such adversity, Ms. K and several others started coming to the meetings and conferences. And now, there are people who finally could speak out and share their experiences.

Question: You said that the provision of temporary housing would end in July 2014. Are there any rules and regulations around this?

Ms. K: The Disaster Relief Act mandates that temporary housing is provided for two years. Iwaki City was devastated by the tsunami and is covered by the Disaster Relief Act. Evacuees whose original homes are not in the Compulsory Evacuation Zone are often referred to as “voluntary evacuees” because they were not under central or local government orders to leave. Voluntary evacuees, like me, will have one more year of housing because the government extended the period. In places like Sanriku, Iwate Prefecture, houses cannot be built in time for earthquake/tsunami victims, temporary housing cannot be closed yet and therefore the term was automatically extended for another year. The term of quasi-temporary housing was also extended nationwide for another year. Three years in total was allowed, but what will come after that? The National and Prefectural governments want all the evacuees to return to Fukushima in any case. However, as mothers, we are apprehensive about taking children back to Fukushima.