Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.8 Ms. Yuko HIROHATA

Odaka Pratto Home

While growing flowers, I started commuting to Odaka from my temporary house in Kashima, about 25-30 km away.

What I saw in Odaka was my own house deteriorating. Time just goes by, day after day.
What is the difference between the disaster from the tsunami and from the Nuclear Power Plant accident? The disaster from the Nuclear Power Plant is not like the one from the tsunami, which takes away everything at once. It is to keep watching the scenes and my house deteriorating day after day. I go home having a thorn piercing my heart. The next time again I come home, another thorn piercing my heart… Hirohata’s heart.
This continues, and this is the disaster from Nuclear Power Plant accident.
It is not cesium, not radiation, but I am piercing myself. Just to look at a farm that is covered with grass pierced my heart… This continues.
Coming back from this place without talking with anybody made me feel very sad. I commuted to Odaka, wanting to see someone, but I could not see anyone.
Talking about ‘Odaka Pratto Home’, people say “That’s great!” Now when I look back, I begin to realize little by little that it was for myself that I started it. I wanted to see someone. I couldn’t bear any more coming home from Odaka without seeing anyone. I thought it might have been great as people said, but now I’m beginning to feel that it was because I myself wanted to see someone. I may have felt that other people have felt the same as I did. I wanted to see someone.

If we keep a light in Odaka where nobody lives, someone may come and see me. I wanted to see someone whom I know. This is how ‘Odaka Pratto Home’ was started. In the beginning there was no water, no toilet, but it was OK. You could find water and a toilet somewhere in the town.

It was good. I told my visitors to walk to the station where they could find a toilet. That was the only thing they could do, so they walked around the town where nobody was walking. People who saw this were very happy because they saw someone in the town that day. That visitor was walking just to find a toilet. This is how Odaka became a place where we could see people walking. I don’t know even now what brings happiness.

Starting from this, another thing was born. What I have in my mind will never grow beyond myself. Things have happened this way despite the way I had wanted things to happen. This is how we see now the 4th year of Odaka Pratto Home.

Setting out a Red Pepper business?!

July 2017 People started coming to Odaka.
“Good we are back, but, …” “The corn in my farm was all eaten by white nose raccoons.” “Good to be back, but I don’t know who is where.” This is what most people were talking about here and there.
Sometimes a farmer came and asked where he could send what he grew or what to do with his produce. Thinking of what we can do, I came up with an idea. I had never heard that red peppers were damaged by animals. Corn ‘No good’, potatoes ‘No good’, but not for red peppers, which means it is OK to grow red peppers.
I decided to be a merchant of red peppers!
In the year 2013 I started a ‘Noratomo Farm.’ In the year 2015 I opened ‘Odaka Pratto Home.’ In the year 2017 I started ‘Odaka Kobo (workshop).’

Did I start it? Did I have to do it? I just did it. I didn’t know any other words than saying ‘YES’. And it was good.

What is your profession? When asked, if I say “housewife”, people will ask, “How do you make a living?” Then I don’t know what to say. It could be the same with other people in the town. It is a bit hard not to be able to answer that question: “What do you do to make a living?” and “How can you eat?” I thought if there was just a little industry in Odaka… If those who are not connected now could be connected, I thought. That thought of ‘just a little bit’, ‘just a little bit’, ‘just a little bit’, led me to think of red pepper. That would be the only crop never damaged by birds and animals. If we could send the produce to market, the economy would start working and also the same with the industry. That is the red pepper project. Some people say this red pepper project is a mean business. You sell a young red pepper at 100 yen, buy back the grown red pepper at 100 yen, and make them into a product to sell at 500 yen. People laughed at me, saying that my business was such a mean one.

Since March 11 till now there have not been any common topics to talk about.

The first question I usually asked was: “What were you doing on March 11? Then what did you do?” That talk continued for about 2 hours. The only common topic was about March 11. For 8 years after that by making red peppers, my red peppers, your red peppers, … became our common topic for conversation.
I don’t know what the restarting of a community is. To me, a community is not what we make, but it is something that forms.

The first year we started with only three members. We made only 15 red pepper trees. The second year 64 people applied for the project. Some planted in the garden of the town office, in the garden of the Health Center, or in the veranda of the fifth floor of an apartment house and many other places. The oldest of the members was 84 years old. In order not to think of the influence of the radiation, some people bought earth at a home center and started growing red peppers. Now many people participate and make various things because anyone can do it.