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.