Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.8 Ms. Yuko HIROHATA

A community is now coming to be formed

As I have already mentioned, I don’t think that a community is made by someone, but it is to be formed. This I really want to tell you.
It doesn’t matter what we do and where we are. A tool to be connected to you all …
Sometimes later when we meet again and if someone says, “We met a month ago, didn’t we?”,
I would be very happy.
To someone who has no one to talk to, or who does not know what to do, I’ll tell them to grow flowers. There may be someone flower lovers who may stop and ask you what this flower is. A cat lover may also come, but a cat may run away soon. When you try to chase away a cat, you may become friend with the cat lover. A community may be formed as we talk and argue. Even if we say to one another “Let us be united, you and me”, we can never be united when the two do not get along well. It is very hard when we are forced to do something. When we were in the evacuation center, it was very hard. “Can I bear it?” I thought. Since then gradually I became what I am now.

In the documents I gave you today, there is a copy of a local legend ‘Odaka Large Snake.’ I brought it today, just because I wanted you to come to Odaka, not just listen to my talk. If I give out a pamphlet of Odaka now, I’m sure some of you may come sometime in the future. Where to eat, how to get there … all the necessary information is there. Please do come.

My town Odaka

The population now is 3,600.
In March 2011, it was a bit less than 13,000, which then dropped to zero. All the residents evacuated. In July 2016 when the evacuation direction was lifted, 386 residents came back. The following day they said there were 500 residents. Half a year later, 1,000. After another half a year, 2,000. One year after that, 3,000. And now, 3,600. I don’t know if we are better than Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, but if we compare the speed of the increase of the population Odaka is greater!
In September 2019 I’m sure there are many towns, not only in the Tohoku Area, but all over Japan, with the population of 3,600. But what was the population of those towns a year before that? We need to take time and think about it. In Odaka it took 3 years from July 2016 for the population to come to 3,600. Did these people come from a Town A whose population was decreasing from 5,000 to 3,600? This is what we need to think about. We sometimes hear that the depopulation is over. We always talk about it. We want to see the population grow. We suffer because of the depopulation, we suffer from a lack of manpower, and the people look downhearted. However, I think a town with a population of 3,600, considering the speed of the population increase may be the number one town in Japan. I say this purposefully. It is something I want to hear. If someone is crying because of the depopulation, or is angry and sad and feeling at a loss, would you like to go to that town? If all of the 3,600 people are at least enjoying their life, and laughing for the time being, the number of people will go up. If you live in a town, complaining about the depopulation, suffering and feeling sad, no one will come to the town.
Do you want me to come to a town where people complain about depopulation, crying and looking sad?
Do you think you can say “Please come and enjoy” when you yourself are not happy and enjoying your life? We can say “Come and enjoy with me because I am happy and enjoying myself.” That is why I think these 3,600 people are great. That is why I love this present Odaka. These people have come to stay in Odaka by their own choice, not just as people who came back. The lifting of the evacuation direction means that on that day anyone is allowed to choose to come to Odaka, no matter who: people from USA, Okinawa, Hokkaido. It is not the day that former residents of Odaka should come back.

There are two people coming from Hokkaido. They did not live in Odaka before, but they just chose to come and live in Odaka. The lifting of the evacuation direction means that. People can now choose to come and live in Odaka.

We will walk forward with the hope that a town where people are enjoying their life will attract more people to come.

Thank you for coming today.