The following is an extract from The Wind from Okinawa to Fukushima , a conversation with Reverend Yuichi Kamoshita and Sarasa Aihara, while they were in London during their 2016 The Wind From Okinawa speaking tour of Europe.
Y (Yuichi): You can hear Sarasa’s story. She used to live in Tokyo when Fukushima happened. She was working in an office. At that time she was kind of an ordinary lady but she “woke up”. Maybe she can explain the people’s feeling about nuclear power. I will translate:
311 in Tokyo: fear, confusion, contamination and denial
S (Sarasa)/Y: She was in Tokyo when Fukushima exploded. She was watching unbelievable scenes on the TV screen – the tsunami but also the explosion of the reactor. The first Monday after the Fukushima disaster or explosion, she was so scared, so afraid to go out that she couldn’t go to the office.
L: Was she scared of the radioactivity in the air?
S/Y: She was scared, not only of the radiation, but of the situation that was so – it felt like the end of the world. Watching it on TV, the disaster just kept going on.
L: Was it very chaotic in Tokyo – were lots of people scared?
S/Y: For the first few days people were so confused. But when she went to the office on Tuesday people just behaved normally, in an ordinary way. When they heard news on the internet or TV about the radioactive materials coming through Tokyo, of course people thought about wearing a mask. So she was wearing a mask and her office friends asked her “why are you wearing a mask?” When she answered “because of the radiation” her office friends just laughed. And her boss told her that in this critical situation in Japan “we have to work much harder so Japan can get back to ordinary days.
L: To ‘recover’?
L: What kind of company were you working for?
S/Y: She was a housing agent for students.
L: So you think a lot of people felt they had to be brave and strong?
S/Y: It’s not that people are strong, they just try to forget the Fukushima or try to forget the radiation, and get back to their normal everyday lives.
L: Pretend it didn’t happen?
L: And there’s another word we use – denial. You deny the reality in order to be able to survive. It’s a huge psychological burden.
S/Y: Even the TV companies were showing variety shows, comedies, nothing serious …
L: … to cheer people up, to distract them?
Power cut, traffic jams, “river of people”
L: Did you have a power cut in Tokyo after the accident?
S/Y: Electricity was only cut for 24 hours.
L: that must have been frightening by itself, and stressful.
S/Y: Yah, especially in Tokyo. She was working outdoors on March 11. The train stopped running after the earthquake so she couldn’t get back home. There were thousands of people who were working outdoors who couldn’t get back to their home or office and all the cars had stopped.
L: Traffic jams?
S/Y: Yes, traffic jams. And just people, people everywhere, coming outside of the buildings or trains or cars. So like a carpet, a river of people.
L: Did the food run out – in the stores? Did people ‘panic-buy?’.
S/Y: Yes even in the convenience stores all the food ran out.
L: Were you told not to drink Tokyo tap water for a while?
S/Y: No, she was not told that.
Radiation ‘hotspot’ in north east Tokyo
L: Which part of Tokyo did you live in then?
S/Y: The north east Tokyo. There’s a high level of radiation there.
L: There’s a hotspot?
S/Y: Yes, there was a hotspot where she was living.
L: I read that they warned mothers not to feed their babies tap water. But they didn’t tell everyone else?
S/Y: No. Her mother was pretty much aware of the nuclear issue before Fukushima happened so she told Sarasa about nuclear, about radiation. At that time Sarasa san was not aware of nuclear power or radiation so she does not remember what her mother told her
L: Well it’s complicated and hard to understand at first. It takes a while.
S/Y: Yes. When she started to research nuclear radiation, she understood the danger of radiation so she decided to move out of Tokyo and told to her friends ‘its dangerous’. But her friends denied it. They didn’t want to hear.
L: Well it’s very difficult to leave your life, your friends, your home, your job because of something that’s invisible that may or may not hurt you.
S/Y: If the people, her friends, don’t understand or know about this reality, then they can live a happy life.
L: Yes, but there will be something, a little knowledge because you told them, a little bit pushed away somewhere.
L: When did you leave Tokyo?
S: January 2012, to my hometown of Ogasarawa.
Y: She was born in Ogasarawa Island – it’s like Okinawa, it’s very far away.
L: And you have family there?
L: So you had somewhere to go, some connection.
Health problems after 311
S/Y: After the accident she had a tumour. Inside the chest.
S: no, no, no. …
S/Y: Breast. And in the Uterus.
L: Was the tumour in your breast a cancerous tumor or benign?
L: And not spreading – just staying there?
S/Y: It got bigger – bigger and bigger. So when the tumor got bigger and bigger, the pressure on her lung was a danger to her body so she had a surgery to take it out.
L: And the tumour in your uterus? Is it still there?
L: But not cancer?
S/Y: Not cancer
L: Fibroid maybe?
L: Do you think your health condition – in your breast and uterus – was to do with the Fukushima radioactivity?
S/Y: I cannot say for sure that it’s connected. But just after the Fukushima accident, March 11, I was also trying not to think about the radiation. So I was living my usual lifestyle and maybe during that time I was exposed to the radiation, so now I think it’s connected.
L: If you already had a tumor before the Fukushima catastrophe then perhaps your exposure to radiation made it worse?
Happy now – it’s easier living with the truth
L: Are you still in touch with your friends in Tokyo?
L: And you talk about Fukushima and radiation with them?
S/Y: Laughs – No
L: No point?
S/Y: Because she’s very cheerful compared to her Tokyo life, and she looks happy, the people are very interested – why are you so happy?
L: Because you feel safe — and strong?
L: And is your lifestyle better now?
S/Y: Since I started living with watching the truth of what’s happening in the world, it’s much better, much easier to live.
The government is the ‘dog’ of the nuclear corporations
L: Why do you think the government wants to tell everyone it’s ok and safe? And you (Yamoshita) can tell me what you think about this too!
S/Y: She says there was like a turning point for Japan, for the Japanese government. The truth of the power, the truth of the government, could be seen at that time. Then the government tried to hide it by telling lies, that everything is ok. But nuclear power and radiation is so dangerous to the environment and the people, and if people knew this reality they will maybe speak up and stand up against the government. So they try to hide it.
L: What do you think about the government’s relationship with the corporate or should I say the nuclear industry – do you think they work together?
S/Y: The government is the dog of kaiisha (corporation).
K: Dog – woof-woof – of the corporation.
L: Yes, the ‘lapdog’. That’s what some of us here think as well. Not just with nuclear but with fracking, with oil, and gas and the war machine too.
L: … GMO & big pharmaceutical companies.
S: Mmm, mmm!
S/Y: How do you call it – ‘lap dog?’
L: We say ‘lapdog’ , a little dog that does what it’s told, an obedient little dog like a little pet, not a guard dog, but a passive dog.
S/Y: Many government officials after they retire from government jobs they go to (work for) the companies.
L: Same here. There’s a very close relationship between government and the corporations.
S/Y: In the case of Henoko also – they give construction work to the corporations (with executives) who used to be inside of the government.
L: Yes. Which is very unhealthy.
Y: Oh yeah!
L: It’s not democratic …
L: … the way the government is influenced so heavily by the corporations.
L: But this is a worldwide problem, I think.
L: And there are the two other parts – the military, and the banking – they’re part of the same, uh, ‘mess’. Would you agree with that?
Y/S: Um, I think so!
L: If we had world peace, we wouldn’t need military, we wouldn’t then need nuclear power.