Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.1 Ms. Mikako TAKAHASHI

Pro­file: the rep­re­sen­ta­tive direc­tor, Hokuy­ousha Co., Ltd.
She took over the laun­dry from her par­ents.
Short­ly after the earth­quake / triple dis­as­ter she wrote and post­ed an appeal on the company’s web­site describ­ing the present con­di­tion of the dis­trict. This post­ing received many respons­es. After­wards she issued the newslet­ter, “Let­ter from Minami­so­ma”, and now the 8th let­ter has been released.
Right after the earth­quake dis­as­ter and the acci­dent of the nuclear pow­er plant,
I wrote an appeal about the present con­di­tion of Hara­machi-ku, Minami­so­ma (city),
through the web­site of my com­pa­ny, begin­ning with the sen­tence, “Please know
this.” Unex­pect­ed­ly, I received a big respon­se, and I began to give lec­tures. I think
those who lis­tened to my sto­ry or read my appeal under­stand the real­i­ty which we are now fac­ing.

We still live here now. Of course many chil­dren live here, too. They can­not play out­side freely with­out anx­i­ety. Every day they are tak­en to tem­po­rary schools by bus. They are often seen wear­ing masks. Some say that to wear a mask is being too ner­vous, is an over­re­ac­tion. But in spite of all who crit­i­cize us, we have to pro­tect our chil­dren. To pro­tect our chil­dren is to pro­tect our lives, and to pro­tect lives is to guar­an­tee the lives of those who work in the dis­trict. There­fore, to pro­tect lives means to pro­tect the whole dis­trict. By pro­tect­ing the chil­dren, we hope to even­tu­al­ly regain our bro­ken home­town.

How­ev­er, it is also true that the chil­dren are exhaust­ed, and they are more tired than adults. It can be said that the prob­lem of the chil­dren is the biggest prob­lem in Minami­so­ma at present. If we want to provide the chil­dren here with the edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties that are com­mon­place else­where, we have to think dif­fer­ent­ly from those in oth­er dis­tricts. We can­not change the edu­ca­tion­al cur­ricu­lum with­out the instruc­tion of the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion and Sci­ence. It is nec­es­sary to cre­ate spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tions, such as cre­at­ing a spe­cial edu­ca­tion­al ward, in order to give our chil­dren the same pos­si­bil­i­ties to learn as those in oth­er dis­tricts have. At present, regret­ful­ly, such needs have yet to be empha­sized; pos­si­bly they have not even been tak­en into account. We have been told that those whose homes are with­in 30 km of the nuclear pow­er plant can either be evac­u­at­ed to anoth­er part of Japan or go on liv­ing here. Whether we are sin­gle indi­vid­u­als, sin­gle cor­po­ra­tions, or a small com­mu­ni­ty, we can­not regain the basic human rights which we were robbed of. In the name of “self-respon­si­bil­i­ty,” we would like to be able to make choic­es about our own lives. We ardent­ly yearn for deci­sion-mak­ers to con­sid­er us and to be in dia­logue with us at every lev­el of con­cern.

What I’ve keen­ly come to real­ize is a sense of incon­gruity: that the big­ger the orga­ni­za­tion is, the far­ther it is from our dai­ly sense of real­i­ty. We strong­ly real­ized that the first pri­or­i­ty for deci­sion-mak­ers liv­ing else­where is to defend their orga­ni­za­tion. They don’t even acknowl­edge our exis­tence. We respond to this sense of incon­gruity direct­ly by often say­ing, “Please come to live here and see for your­self!” We have come to the point that we wor­ry that we will be desert­ed. Please plan a speci­fic pro­gram for the chil­dren in Minami­so­ma. The nation must play a key role in the plan, with each office coop­er­at­ing, over­com­ing the hier­ar­chi­cal struc­ture of the orga­ni­za­tion.

The dis­trict itself has already begun to take action. The young, espe­cial­ly, have risen up. The change in their faces is clear­ly notice­able com­pared to last year. The cam­paign which, was begun with a few young peo­ple, has now spread. They are act­ing to make a new town where new­com­ers can enter, rather than to call the evac­u­at­ed back to the for­mer town. How can we make a town where new­com­ers can live safe­ly and com­fort­ably? To do so, we have to make an envi­ron­ment in which we our­selves can live safe­ly and com­fort­ably. The edu­ca­tion­al cir­cum­stances writ­ten above are fun­da­men­tal for us to do so. If chil­dren can’t live in the dis­trict, their par­ents can’t live there, either.

Recent­ly, we have received many frank opin­ions, point­ing out defects in our behav­ior at the evac­u­at­ed place, and my heart aches for those so accused. They are des­per­ate, but they are given mon­ey; so more and more, they come to lose sight of them­selves. It is also true that, by their var­i­ous words and behav­ior, the rep­u­ta­tion of the dis­trict has grad­u­al­ly gone down.

One of our present oblig­a­tions is res­ur­rec­tion of man. The young are also try­ing to do var­i­ous things in this field.

But think for a while. At that time, we all ran away with bags and mobile phones. We just ran away with­out think­ing that it was a relaxed evac­u­a­tion. We ran away, because it was dan­ger­ous, think­ing that we would be able to come back soon. After a while, when we faced the real­i­ty that we will not be able to return home, we lost our abil­i­ty to think. All we had was anger. Finan­cial com­pen­sa­tion is mon­ey to relieve our anger, and it is this mon­ey that we don’t want to see because it rep­re­sents los­ing homes, fam­i­lies, and home­towns. And so we think we should use it. We aren’t hap­py with the mon­ey, and we hate it. Do you think that we can con­struc­tive­ly use mon­ey which is given from the “ene­my”, with the words, “You can’t earn your liv­ing, can you?” Some peo­ple express despair, humil­i­a­tion, and anger, to which we can’t give in. But we are not allowed to spend mon­ey in such a way or say so or behave so. As for me, when the com­pen­sa­tion was given, I was very much mor­ti­fied. Fur­ther­more, they said the com­pen­sa­tion is “tem­po­rary.” I was forced to write a receipt. How ridicu­lous was that! They may say that I am tak­ing too much advan­tage of it. Now one year after the dis­as­ter, my anger has not calmed at all.

mikako02The destruc­tion of our home­town gives us the same sense as if our bod­ies are being cut into pieces. The earth­quake and tsunami may be “nat­u­ral dis­as­ters,” but the acci­dent of the nuclear pow­er plant is, with­out doubt, a human error. Human error can be pre­vent­ed by human wis­dom. Now that the human error has occurred, we ardent­ly long for the best solu­tion, gath­ered from all the knowl­edge and wis­dom through­out the world. We must improve the think­ing, by con­trast­ing it to the real­i­ty of our sit­u­a­tion. We real­ly need such a cre­ative idea.

One year has passed since the earth­quake and the acci­dent of the nuclear pow­er plant. We will go on liv­ing in the dis­trict. But our present life is not “real life.” All of it is
“tem­po­rary”; “tem­po­rary res­i­dence”, “tem­po­rary schools”, and “tem­po­rary pay­ment” of
the com­pen­sa­tion. It is nat­u­ral for us to be depressed. My father passed away on March 1st last year, and my moth­er lived as an evac­uee, with my father’s ash­es, but she died on Novem­ber 24th, at the age of 84. She still remained calm and dig­ni­fied to the very end, which taught me how to die.

The acci­dent of the nuclear pow­er plant has not been solved. Although the acci­dent might be for­got­ten as time goes by, we have to face the invis­i­ble radioac­tiv­i­ty, and sur­vive coura­geous­ly.