Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.2 Mr. Tokuun TANAKA

Voices from <span class=FUKUSHIMA Vol.2 Mr. Tokuun TANAKA" />
Lec­ture by Mr. Toku­un Tanaka
13 Sep­tem­ber 2013
Yot­suya, Tokyo
tokuun02I grew up in an ordi­nary Japan­ese fam­i­ly. When I was in high school, I played base­ball but I wasn’t very good so I had to prac­tice a lot. I prac­ticed too much though, and was hos­pi­tal­ized due to an injury. It was then that my teacher rec­om­mend­ed the book, “Miyamo­to Musashi” by Eiji Yoshikawa. I read the book and was extreme­ly attract­ed to Takuan Osho (a high priest), which is why I decid­ed to become a Bud­dhist priest.
Begin­ning in 1997, I prac­ticed asceti­cism for five years at Eihei-ji* in Fukui pre­fec­ture. After that, I was wel­comed to Doukei-ji locat­ed in Odaka ward in Minami­so­ma city as an assis­tant chief priest. Sev­en years ago, the chief priest sud­den­ly passed away, and since then I have car­ried on his role. I was also the chief priest at a small tem­ple called Chuzen-ji eight or nine years ago. Chuzen-ji is a branch of Doukei-ji locat­ed in Futaba­machi. I am mar­ried and have four chil­dren, aged 9, 7, 5, and 1. This is what my life was like when the earth­quake struck.   (Note: “-ji” indi­cates a Bud­dhist tem­ple)
First, I would like to talk about the his­to­ry of this tem­ple. It was built in 1213, and this year is exact­ly the 800th year. In 1394 dur­ing the 13th Soma domain, the tem­ple changed from Tendai sect to Shin­gon sect and was renamed Doukei-ji. The Soma domain, or estate, has con­tin­ued since the Kamaku­ra peri­od (the peri­od of Japan­ese his­to­ry when it was built), and was known for its high reli­gious con­scious­ness. There are only 3 domains includ­ing the Soma who have con­tin­ued since this peri­od until the Mei­ji peri­od (1868–1912), when pre­fec­tures were estab­lished to replace feu­dal domains. The­se domains were the Nam­bu domain in Iwaki, the Shi­mazu domain in Kyushu, and the Soma domain in Fukushi­ma. Soma was a small domain of 60,000 koku (approx­i­mate­ly 10,823 cubic meters of crop yield), though the size may be an exag­ger­a­tion, with some esti­mat­ing it to actu­al­ly be about 30,000 koku. The feu­dal lords, the lords, and the peo­ple were all so close that they would at times drink togeth­er, which is one good aspect of a small domain.
As you know, “Nomaoi”, tra­di­tion­al per­form­ing arts of this region, has con­tin­ued for more than 1000 years. The ances­tor of Soma is said to be Taira no Masakado and once a year, there is this fes­ti­val called “Nomaoi” which is done by gath­er­ing in hors­es which have been put out to pas­ture in nature.  (Note: Nomaoi includes a vari­ety of com­pe­ti­tions among samu­rai horse­men.)
Until the day of the earth­quake, we all lived peace­ful lives. Every time there was an earth­quake though, we were wor­ried about the nuclear pow­er plants. Right after 3/11, we knew by instinct there would def­i­nite­ly be a prob­lem. The tem­ple col­lapsed, too. When the shak­ing set­tled, I went to the school right away, gath­ered the chil­dren, and after con­sult­ing with every­one in the region, start­ed to evac­u­ate. I drove 60 kilo­me­ters to Fukushi­ma, dri­ving some fol­low­ers who were at the tem­ple at the time of the earth­quake home on the way.


In the car, the chil­dren became emo­tion­al­ly unsta­ble. They start­ed to cry every time the wind blew. We made a stop at “Fukuro asso­ci­a­tion”, and then went to Sakaemachi church in Aizuwaka­mat­su. We set­tled there for a while and then drove all night towards Nagano. The next day, we moved towards Fukui, and my fam­i­ly set­tled there.
How­ev­er, I was ter­ri­bly anx­ious about the peo­ple of Fukushi­ma so I returned from Fukui alone and after that, I was con­stant­ly mov­ing between Fukushi­ma and Fukui. Fukushi­ma and Fukui are 800 kilo­me­ters away, and I trav­elled between the two pre­fec­tures prob­a­bly every 5 days for 2 years, about 140 times in total. This was a hard time for my fam­i­ly. Before the earth­quake, we were all liv­ing togeth­er, but all of a sud­den I wasn’t there. My fam­i­ly couldn’t do it any longer, so in April of 2013, we decid­ed we would move back to Iwaki city, which is where my wife’s par­ents’ house is.
I’m jump­ing about a bit in time but, after the earth­quake, around June, I got a per­mit to go into the tem­ple that was off lim­its. I took pho­tos of the dev­as­tat­ed tem­ple, nego­ti­at­ed with the JAIF Inter­na­tion­al Coop­er­a­tion Cen­ter to do the first cleanup activ­i­ty in Octo­ber, and start­ed it with the fol­low­ers. Until the day before the clean­ing, I was still mak­ing nego­ti­a­tions to enter the pro­hib­it­ed areas. There were many incon­ve­niences. There was no water or elec­tric­i­ty. We brought our lunch and clean­ing tools and cleaned as we car­ried out our thoughts of revival. Since then, we have been con­tin­u­ing the clean­ing on the 1st and 15th every mon­th. After each clean­ing we take a pho­to, and eat lunch and drink tea togeth­er. With all of this going on, my 5-year-old child who I left in Fukui wrote his wish on the Star Fes­ti­val paper strip in July, “I want to go back to Fukushi­ma”.
My wife and I didn’t know what to say. Our chil­dren nev­er said any­thing like that to us. They were reveal­ing their con­cerns to us par­ents. We all wish to live togeth­er. Our grand­fa­ther, grand­moth­er, friends, all of us sud­den­ly lost our usu­al lives, were sep­a­rat­ed, and we have not got­ten our nor­mal lives back yet. There have been reg­u­lar activ­i­ties cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to get togeth­er with friends dur­ing long breaks such as sum­mer hol­i­days. We hope the­se activ­i­ties con­tin­ue annu­al­ly. The chil­dren, see­ing each oth­er after a long time, at first feel a lit­tle ner­vous and awk­ward; how­ev­er, they soon open up and get along well. We are the vic­tims of the earth­quake, but at the same time are the sup­port­ers, and the reli­gious peo­ple who give men­tal care. “Shuky­ou” is the Japan­ese word for reli­gion, but it orig­i­nal­ly is about life.
Fold­ing one’s hands every morn­ing and evening, say­ing one’s prayers, is life in Japan. The peo­ple who are actu­al­ly in the region are the ones to become the sup­port­ers.
Humans are ani­mals who make fire and that is the process of evo­lu­tion. How­ev­er, here, in the sit­u­a­tion now, we can­not make fire. If we do, we would get report­ed. May­be this is sym­bol­iz­ing this present age, where we humans have made a mis­take in the use of fire. We are now evac­u­at­ing from the fire of the pow­er plants.
Though there is a reduc­tion in size, the tra­di­tion of “maoi” has con­tin­ued even after March 11, 2011. This is a strong appeal from the local peo­ple that they do not want some­thing that has been cel­e­brat­ed for 1000 years to end.
Dur­ing “Obon” (Bud­dhist hol­i­day to hon­or the spir­its of one’s ances­tors, around July 15th in east­ern Japan includ­ing the Tohoku region) of 2012, count­less num­bers of peo­ple came for memo­ri­al ser­vices. What was ter­ri­ble was the num­ber of rats in the kitchen. Noth­ing had been restored yet in the tem­ple. There were too many rats after 2 years of no one liv­ing there. On a night of a full moon, you could even feel the house shak­ing because of them. The first thing I did when I returned to the tem­ple was to noti­fy the rats that I was back by blow­ing whistles and beat­ing the drums.
The issue around this region is the safe­ty stan­dards. Stan­dards for water and food also apply. If it is 100 Bec­querel then it should be waste, but they say it is safe. They say it is safe because if they reg­u­late, it will cause pan­ic. It is an issue now to rec­ti­fy the­se laws.
Both evac­u­at­ing and stay­ing are tough. What I expe­ri­enced was my fam­i­ly sep­a­rat­ed between Fukui and Fukushi­ma. Return­ing home know­ing the risk of radioac­tive expo­sure to our chil­dren was painful. Not being able to have our ordi­nary lives left us in a state of mad­ness. My wife was cry­ing. My chil­dren were cry­ing. They didn’t want to move, they didn’t want to change schools, but after 2 years in Fukui, my chil­dren could speak the Fukui dialect. Then again, leav­ing Fukui gave the chil­dren anoth­er hard time. Many chil­dren are expe­ri­enc­ing this. This is the sit­u­a­tion now.
Anoth­er prob­lem is com­pen­sa­tion. I have sent an appli­ca­tion for the expense of evac­u­a­tion after talk­ing so many times to the peo­ple of Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny through my lawyer. How­ev­er, it has always been turned down. I sent the rel­e­vant doc­u­ments four times with­in a year and a half, and it has nev­er gone through. For every­thing, they say to show cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence… I think that is some­thing that they should be doing, not us. They have stan­dards for radi­a­tion pro­tec­tion. The ones who force us to be exposed to radi­a­tion are mak­ing the safe­ty stan­dards. What we do is just accept the­se stan­dards made by the­se peo­ple who force us. IAEA and ICRP are both orga­ni­za­tions made to pro­tect nuclear indus­tries. Even WHO lies under them and we can­not say that they are a fair aca­d­e­mic insti­tu­tion. Please do not for­get that they all pro­mote nuclear pow­er plants. We all have the right to not be exposed to radi­a­tion. We do not need nuclear pow­er plants. We should have the right to live in a world with­out nuclear pow­er plants. We should have the free­dom. Nev­er­the­less, Fukushi­ma is start­ing to be restored now. Vol­un­teers are recon­struct­ing the destroyed hous­es. We are now wear­ing work­ing clothes, but we are the young who ride hors­es ful­ly dressed up as samu­rai dur­ing “maoi”.


There are some elder­ly wom­en in the seaside of Murakami, who have inherit­ed the dance for “taue” or rice plant­i­ng. The area used to be a vil­lage of sev­en­ty-five house­holds. Six­ty-two peo­ple died from the tsunami, and the vil­lage is gone now. Even so, the peo­ple from the vil­lage are try­ing to suc­ceed in hold­ing this fes­ti­val. It is their hope that the vil­lagers will take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to gath­er. Espe­cial­ly now, peo­ple want the fes­ti­val to cre­ate an atmos­phere where every­one can laugh, sing, and dance like in heav­en or par­adise.
When you look down, you see abnor­mal traits of grass­es and flow­ers. Three or four dan­de­lion flow­ers are twist­ed on one stem. Some have about ten of them tan­gled up. This is a prob­lem I want the Min­istry of the Envi­ron­ment to know. Some say it is due to excess fer­til­iz­er, but there are white clovers that look like golf balls, and mal­for­ma­tion seen in tad­poles. Today, we deeply under­stand what is impor­tant. It is noth­ing spe­cial. It is our nor­mal, dai­ly lives. Liv­ing togeth­er with your fam­i­ly, say­ing hi to each oth­er like you always do every day, hav­ing the famil­iar faces right by you, spend­ing an ordi­nary day with the usu­al peo­ple. For two years and a half, I have felt deeply how much this means to me. At the same time, though, I feel we need to keep mov­ing for­ward, for the chil­dren, for the future gen­er­a­tions, and for all who live five or ten years from now. I do not want to leave a neg­a­tive lega­cy because what has hap­pened can­not be helped. Before mov­ing on though, we need to reflect our past. Every­one is a vic­tim.
I mea­sured radi­a­tion in sev­er­al places. Not only did I mea­sure in this area, I mea­sured in Tokyo as well. No mat­ter where I mea­sured, radi­a­tion lev­els did not sig­nif­i­cant­ly change. Fukushi­ma was cer­tain­ly high; it was 800 Bec­querel at my tem­ple and under­neath the rain gut­ter was 100,000 Bec­querel. Even in Tokyo, there were places with 300–400 Bec­querel, and places with rain­wa­ter had even high­er lev­els of radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. The­se lev­els of radioac­tiv­i­ty were record­ed last year, yet it shows no mat­ter where we were, we are all vic­tims and there is no safe envi­ron­ment good for rais­ing our chil­dren. At the same time though, we can­not deny that we also are per­pe­tra­tors, as we have desired and enjoyed our con­ve­nient lives. How should we move on from here? We should change our lives, reflect­ing on and con­sid­er­ing the sta­ble and con­ve­nient lives we had in the past.
Recent­ly, there have been many abnor­mal cli­mate behav­iors observed all around the world. This is due to exces­sive con­sump­tion of fos­sil fuel, our under­ground resource. Earth has reached its lim­it. We Japan­ese are Japan­ese, but at the same time want to be peo­ple of the Earth. Japan is one unit­ed coun­try, but dur­ing the Edo peri­od, none of the domains thought we would unite as a coun­try. If you see the Earth from space, there are no nation­al bor­ders. The chil­dren now think of Earth as a beau­ti­ful blue plan­et. This might change in the next gen­er­a­tion though. Abnor­mal cli­mate occur­rences such as tor­na­does and tor­ren­tial rains of over 100 mil­li­liters caused by the con­tin­u­ous con­sump­tion of under­ground resources are all because of us. It is our fault that Earth is suf­fer­ing. We need to become aware of this and think of using resources that are above ground rather than under­ground.
In Minami­so­ma city, there was a tree-plant­i­ng cer­e­mony for recov­ery and repose of souls on Octo­ber 6, 2013. The con­cept of this was to build a great forest wall as a sea­wall. The con­cept is not new; Japan­ese red pines and black pines were con­sid­ered dis­as­ter pre­ven­tion forests though they did not func­tion and most of them were swept away. In Miyagi pre­fec­ture, a great forest wall was planned with everyone’s con­sent but the legal sys­tem of the coun­try put a brake on our plans. Indus­tri­al waste is not to be burned; hence, tide embank­ments are to be made of cement. The type of tree to use was also a prob­lem. From an ear­ly stage, it was planned that every­one gath­er on the moun­tain of rub­ble and plant trees, specif­i­cal­ly to make a forest of broad-leaf trees for the future gen­er­a­tion. In Minami­so­ma city, we were able to do this with the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter, Mr. Hosokawa, as the head of the com­mit­tee. 3000 cit­i­zens and vol­un­teers gath­ered and plant­ed 20,000 trees. I hope the­se projects will be done as a gov­ern­ment project.
The nuclear acci­dent was col­lat­er­al dam­age to our demands for a more con­ve­nient life. Filled with a civ­i­liza­tion of mate­ri­al con­sump­tion, we were think­ing only about prof­its and not about the sea, the moun­tains, the future gen­er­a­tions forty or fifty years from now, and were depen­dent only on eco­nom­ic con­sid­er­a­tions. There is a word in Bud­dhism, “puni­tive jus­tice”. If you do some­thing bad, it will always come back to you. If we ruin nature, it will always come back to us. You all know this law, the law of Kar­ma. This nuclear acci­dent is the last chance for Earth. It is also the last chance for us sur­vivors. Whether we can reduce what is to come back from all of our self-cen­tered actions is depen­dent upon how we live our lives and behav­iors from now on. The Earth is giv­ing out signs, scream­ing from every­thing humans have done the­se forty years filled with end­less greed. There are pre­dic­tions that a Nankai** Earth­quake will come soon. Nuclear pow­er plants are in Fukui, Hamaoka, and in a lot of oth­er places. When we start to get our lives back, we eas­i­ly get used to it and start for­get­ting what has hap­pened. I some­times go to look at the sea and remem­ber what hap­pened two years ago. Two years and a half have passed and I am now get­ting used to the sit­u­a­tion. This reveals our abil­i­ty to adapt, but I still remem­ber the fear I felt from the nuclear pow­er plants.
We should not for­get that, for either good or ill, the signs are clear. I remem­ber I thought, “it has come” at the time of 3/11, when the earth­quake struck and I felt numb. Soon­er or lat­er, the time will def­i­nite­ly come. I think it would be good to have forest bar­ri­ers to pre­vent dis­as­ters caused by earth­quakes and big tsunamis. The­se will be very strong. The laws that humans made can be changed. We want and should start from what we can do; as the gov­ern­ment offi­cials do what they can as gov­ern­ment offi­cials, we do what we can, each one of us does what we can, we need to keep mov­ing for­ward. It is impor­tant that we move for­ward, even by small steps. Let’s begin with what we can do.
Trans­la­tion by Aiko Kumamo­to
* Eihei-ji is the head tem­ple of the Soto Sect of Zen Bud­dhism. It was found­ed in 1244 by Dogen Zen­ji, the Bud­dhist schol­ar who intro­duced Soto Zen to Japan in 1228, after study­ing in Chi­na for sev­er­al years.
**Nankai lit­er­al­ly means South Sea. It is pre­dict­ed that this large earth­quake, about an hour south of Tokyo, would kill thou­sands in the Shizuoka and sur­round­ing areas, with tsunamis as high as 112 feet killing thou­sands more and com­plete­ly destroy­ing sev­er­al large cities.  The Hamaoka pow­er plant lies direct­ly above a pro­ject­ed epi­cen­ter.
(from Asahi Shim­bun news­pa­per arti­cle, Feb­ru­ary 15, 2014, “INTERVIEW: Kan blasts plan to restart Hamaoka nuclear plant”, and Wikipedia, “Tokai earth­quakes”)