Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.8 Ms. Yuko HIROHATA

Minamisoma Odaka 8 years after March 11, 2011: That Day, and from now on

Reflections by Ms. Yuko Hirohata
Head of Odaka Pratto Home
7 September 2019


Thank you for coming to listen to a talk by an ordinary housewife. If asked what I was doing, I would say cooking. Let’s reflect together with me on what happened that day. March 11 ……on that day what were you doing?

I was working within a 3.5 km radius from the Nuclear Power Plant, as just an ordinary office worker.

That day March 11, 2011

An earthquake came, and people were talking, “A mobile phone is making a loud noise.” It was an earthquake early warning. Then from that moment, an incredible quake came. We went outside, trying to stay calm, pushing down the earth. Everybody said he/she would evacuate, but that moment I thought of going back to Odaka. Rushing back it would take 20 minutes, from Okuma machi, 3.5 km from the Nuclear Power plant, to Odaka. My son, 17 years old, usually comes home that time. Heading for Odaka, roads were packed everywhere and it was impossible to take a route along the sea side. I had to take a national route. As I drove just a little farther, there was a crack on the road, about 30 cm wide, so I took a route along the mountain side instead.

As I came near my home and looked at the sea, something was strange. I did not think of a tsunami at that moment. I drove a bit farther and there the thought of a tsunami came to me. Where is my son? The road for bicycles must be hit by the tsunami. People at the gasoline station told me not to go. Where is my son? That was the only thing in my mind. About 200 m before my house, passing through a bit higher place… that was the place where the second tsunami had passed. As I looked at the sea side I could see my house… That was where the tsunami just went over. There were many houses in the neighboring administrative district. The prefectural road was filled with debris, but that was the only way I could take, so I decided to walk that way.

What I am determined to tell people these days is how cruel human beings are. I was only thinking of my own son, a high school boy. While walking through the debris I should have reached out my hands to others, but what was in my mind was only my son. Anyway, I walked along that road. The situation in front of my house was beyond any words. My house was located 7 m sea level. The tsunami was 4 m high, so my house was safe.

The situation of the surrounding area was very sad. I didn’t reach out my hands… just feeling sad and sorry and bowed my head. Human beings are like that. I thought of myself, how cowardly and mean, but while I was walking, I thought for a little while that I might not be able to see my son’s face. Anyway, I thought only of getting home.

He was alive! He saw me as I opened the door and said, “Mom, welcome home!” The next moment, he said to me, “Go back right now and pay 3,000 yen.” I didn’t understand. In the morning his bicycle had a flat tire. He was late to school, was scolded by his teacher, and also at his club activity. He belonged to a Kendo Club. At 1 o’clock usually he finishes the club activity, but that day his teacher said, “You can go home now. You’ve been scolded all day today.” My son went to a bicycle shop, got his bicycle repaired, and got back home at around 2 pm, well before the earthquake.

That night we slept at the entrance hall of the house. The reason was that we had an elderly father who needed ‘support for long term care level 4’. My son was saved from the tsunami by not just one event. The people of the administrative district came around and told him to evacuate. My son knew he had to take his elderly grandpa with him. He needed a wheel chair. When he was ready to go, his grandpa said he needed his medicine and also said he was not warm enough. They had to go back to their house three times. When they stood in front of the house for the third time, they saw the tsunami go by before their eyes.