Swans Commentary » swans.com December 19, 2011  



Perspectives: A Review of 2011


Living With Radioactive Contamination


by Kazue Daikoku





[ed. Kazue Daikoku, the publisher and editor of "Happa-no-Kofu," was very gracious and generous to share her sensitive thoughts last April about the natural disaster that befell Japan, her beloved country.]


(Swans - December 19, 2011)   When I think back on 2011 it would be the days after March 11, the day that the earthquake and the nuclear accident happened in Tohoku. I don't remember well, to be honest, before that. So for me this year means almost nine months after March. In particular, as for the Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant accident, it has made a big impact and strong influences on many people who live in the eastern half of Japan, and it will continue in the future. I live in the suburbs of Tokyo, and it belongs to the eastern half.

March 15, on the day when the second reactor seemed to degenerate into a dangerous situation (I was afraid that some kind of meltdown might occur), I got on the train to the west with my partner. First we bought a train ticket to Osaka at the station, and once in the train we extended it to Okayama. It is about 930 km (ca. 580 miles) from Fukushima, and over 600 km (ca. 375 miles) from Tokyo. Osaka might have kept enough distance from Fukushima, but Osaka is a mega city, the second biggest city in Japan, so we were afraid that if something happened in the eastern area Osaka would be filled with refugees from Tokyo and other eastern areas. All the traffic and the whole city may have fallen into a state of panic.

I got a call from one of my friends in the train. He told me that he was in Okayama with his wife and little son, and he was thinking of going farther west, Fukuoka or Hakata. And if needed he would fly to Taiwan -- his wife's native country; they had a passport with them.

We stayed in Okayama for ten days. In the hotel, I watched television almost all day long to see how the situation was changing. I met a few people from the eastern area in the public bath of the hotel. We talked about our feelings and exchanged some information related to the nuclear accident.

We went back to Kawasaki where we live after ten days because the situation didn't seem to get worse. Recently, I read a bit of information about radioactive contamination in the newspaper: on March 15 and the following days there was much radioactive contamination of the rainwater in the wide range of northeast Japan including Tokyo. But, of course, there was no information about it at that time; nobody knew about the actual situation of their living place.

Now, after nine months following the accident, we still live with fears of radioactive contamination in Kawasaki, Tokyo, and all the northern and eastern areas. When I go to the supermarket to buy vegetables, fishes, meat, milk, yogurt, etc., I carefully look at the tag of production area, where they were grown and harvested. There are many vegetables from the Fukushima or Tohoku areas in the shops. Originally the area was a farming district. Some people believe or manage to believe they are safe because the government allows the stores to sell them. But other people have some doubt; they wonder: Can we believe the temporary standard of radiation quantity for food and tap water that the government told us? The government raised the standard value of radiation quantity soon after the accident. I searched the official articles about it on the Web and found the date and quantity that they had changed. So I haven't bought any vegetables and fruits from the eastern and northern areas anymore. But it is really inconvenient for making meals. I have to go to several shops to find maybe-safe vegetables from the western areas like Kyoto or Kyushu. Sometimes I can find them, but sometimes I can't; somehow all the Hakusai (Chinese cabbage) in my neighboring shops are only from Fukushima or the eastern areas on some occasions, and then I can't buy it.

I have been using tap water for drink and meals. But some people, especially families with children, buy a water server in their house because they fear radioactive contamination in tap water. They don't believe the statement of the government that said "no immediate health hazard" in tap water.

During these nine months after the accident we have been hearing this statement all the way along the line from the government. "No immediate health hazard" in tap water, vegetables, fishes, the air, rainwater, seawater, etc. But we are not sure whether we ought to believe them.

Yesterday, I read an article about a big chain-store that sells foodstuff. They received claims about a test of radioactive contamination from over six thousands consumers. People want them to check radioactive contamination in foodstuff by themselves, not just believing the result from the government.

Living with radioactive contamination in our daily life is to think about our country and the government. I wonder whether Japan deserves our credit. We are asked which way we would take; to believe our government and the social system tamely and live peacefully on the surface, or to kick against them and live in a stressful situation. The end of 2011 is coming soon, and the impact of the accident is fading away, but the real fear of radioactive contamination is just getting started for us all.


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About the Author

Kazue Daikoku is the publisher and editor of a nonprofit Japanese Web Press, "Happa-no-Kofu," which means "leaf miner" in English (an insect larva that lives and feeds within a leaf). Happa-no-Kofu specializes on bilingual (Japanese-English) publications both on the Web and in print on demand. Daikoku writes in the site's about page, "We value the uniqueness of each individual's ideas. We support the individual's power and energy, and believe that our activity on the Internet helps international communication on an individual level." She is also a translator from English to Japanese. To learn more about her (and see a picture of her), please read the 2007 interview she gave for Červená Barva Press. Kazue Daikoku lives in Kawasaki, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan.   (back)


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Internal Resources

Years in Review

Ecology & the Environment

Patterns which Connect

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Published December 19, 2011