Iwaki City, Fukushima: Report from the Stricken Area

(日本語による原文下部に掲載)

Iwaki City, Fukushima: Report from the Stricken Area
Sacchan
(Translation by Umi Hagitani)

I visited Iwaki City, Fukushima on April 16th. I hadn’t been there since the earthquake. I went there to play a gig. “We don’t want our show to be a part of the Stay Strong Fukushima campaign. We want nuclear power plant to be the theme of the event,” K, who organized the show, said to me. I too was personally irritated that Tokyo doesn’t listen to what Fukushima really has to say. In Iwaki, the coastal area has been devastated by tsunamis, and the northern part, close to the nuclear power plant, is designated as a zone where people are required to take shelter and stay indoor. I wanted to feel and see with my own eyes what folks from this area think about nuclear plant. With these thoughts in mind, I headed to Fukushima.

Seeing My Friends Faces, I Felt Relieved…

It had been several months since my last visit to downtown Iwaki. The town wasn’t so devastated except for the gaps in the roads, or patches of blue plastic sheets covering the broken roofs where the bricks had fallen off. What I noticed more was people wearing masks on the street. The Japanese government has developed campaigns throughout Fukushima, to trivialize the catastrophes of the nuclear incidents. None of the residents is so foolish as to take it for granted. But many are upset and confused because they want to bring their lives back to what they used to be (wanting to believe that things are alright), at the same time, they have suspicions and distrustful of the government and TEPCO (doubting that anything is alright).

There is only one music club in downtown Iwaki. Its owner runs a PA company where he rents PAs and sends operators for events. His business has been ruined by the earthquake, but the club has survived and become a temporary shelter for the local musicians since. While trying to find funding to reopen the club, the only job offer he found was for an event to promote the nuclear power plant. “I am against nuclear power!”, he yelled and declined the offer.

At the moment all the staff operate the club as volunteers, and they organize free gigs daily. All the staff members are male. Those with family members have already let their wives and kids evacuate  Fukushima, and remained in Iwaki on their own. Although my friends who I hadn’t long seen had smiles on their faces, they’ve all got anxiety over their living situation; some lost their houses, some lost jobs, some suffer from motion sickness of aftershocks. “We are very thankful that you came all the way, because we wouldn’t expect that at this time of nuclear crisis,” some said to our band. When the organizers requested Tokyo musicians to come, many declined because it was “too scary” for them to come to Fukushima, and they “didn’t know what was going to happen to the power plant.”

K, one of the organizers of the event that day, had taken shelter at my house in Tokyo a week after the earthquake and nuclear accident. It took him a week to make it our to Tokyo because of the lack of gasoline in his town. But after several days of evacuation, K went back to Iwaki. He needed to talk to contractors about fixing his house, and had to negotiate with his banks for loans. Since K works at the local post office, once the office resumes its operation, he will have to deal with receiving and delivering piles of donated supplies. On top of it, he feels repulsed to TEPCO and local administration. Since he was involved in the struggle against the construction of Fukushima Daini (second) Power Plant when he was seventeen, he knows too well how the people against the nuclear plant get harassed by TEPCO and its supporters. When the nuclear accident took place, supporters of nuclear power were the first to flee Fukushima, leaving other residents behind. At the same time, an old man, who had been excluded from his native Futabacho-town as well as from his workplace for his adamant rejection of the power plants during the dispute over the construction, now came back in town after the quake and walked around urging remaining residents to evacuate the town.

To the Disaster-stricken Area on the Coastal Line

The day after our performance at the club in Iwaki, K drove us around to see the stricken area along the coastline. I’d heard media reports saying that “many gawkers were coming to Iwaki from Tokyo” but I only saw vehicles with Iwaki number plates. There were so many closed roads from vehicular traffic, and it would be difficult for people without a sense of local geography to get into the devastated area that was stricken by tsunami.

When we cut through the gradually recovering downtown area to the tsunami-stricken harbor area, the scenery suddenly changed. Onahama port, which used to flourish with fish market, was now a mass of piled up rubbles and trash that have been carried out from fallen buildings. Restaurants and fish processing plants are all destroyed. We by-passed many closed roads, and went further north along the beach. The condition was getting worse and worse as we approached smaller port towns (Toyoma, Usuiso, and Yotsukura) where no media reporters have reached. Ships and boats capsized, houses destroyed, villages burnt down to coal due to the fire after tsunamis, houses that we could not recognize if not for barely remaining foundations and endless heaps of rubble(…) After more than a month since the earthquake, these ruins remain untouched looking like a bombed landscape.

We maneuvered between heaps of rubble where a car could barely make it through. Old folks gathered their relatives, slowly moving pieces of wood and boards, walking dully. We noticed that there were surprisingly few volunteers helping and very small number of heavy machines cleaning up the rubbles. The volunteer coordinating offices in Iwaki city are dysfunctional as they are forced to refuse accepting new volunteers from outside of Iwaki and Fukushima. On the contrary, these offices even interfere with the volunteers who are willing to work independently. Even K who lives in Iwaki city has a hard time delivering donation supplies such as picture books and snacks to shelters. We saw notes attached to some buildings that read, “[the local administration] allows that this building be dismantled”, following the public order to the residents  whose houses were destroyed. I couldn’t express how I felt when I read a note saying “pending” attached to the houses that in fact looked totally destroyed. What simply looked like a piled up pebbles in my eye actually used to be a place of everyday life to some people. In addition, I felt the reality that the nuclear disaster is causing an on-going catastrophe and making further devastations past earthquakes and tsunamis.

I was astonished to see, however, that ships were still moored in the middle of these overwhelming scenes. Any fisher in Japan (my father is a fisherman too, by the way) would know that When your port is hit by tsunami, all fish boat must go offshore. Looking at the surviving boats I thought instinctively, “If there are so many boats remaining, they can manage to live off of fishing along the shore with saved fishing nets.” Ship owners must have crawled over the tsunami waves to protect their families and their lives, fighting a fear. But the sea itself has been taken away from fishing buisiness because of the water discharged from the nuclear reactors, contaminated with radiation. I cannot even begin to imagine how torn those fishers might feel. I can look back now, how I processed my thoughts at that moment. I could imagine the revival of fishing because ports had been cleaned up unlike the piled up rubble in residential areas. There seemed to be enough space to unload fish. It seemed as if they could start going offshore to fish again any time if they wish to. Ships and people are waiting for the day to start working again.

In Kunohama district, 18 miles away from the power plant, I found billboards made of pieces of tatami wrecked by the tsunami, on which every word was hand-painted, filled with rage, and resonated to my heart. Because the city announced the “safety” of this district soon after the nuclear accidents, the local residents were not able to evacuate, but at the same time no donations or volunteers reached this area since it was deemed close enough to the power plant. I heard that similar kind of messages on billboards began appearing increasingly around April. As we drove by, we saw many voices in rage against the government, scribbled on pieces of found materials and woods. Mass media do not distribute any of these voices, but it is these people of Fukushima who have a lot to say.

1: We don’t want nuclear power! (Genshiryoku Iranai!)
2: Are you gonna kill the people of your own country? (Kokumin Korosu Ki ka?)
3: Take the reactors somewhere else with you. (Genpatsu dokoka e motteke)
4: Locals are exposed to radiation. (Jimotonin Hibaku Naru)

We found an open-air market at Michi-no-eki (a roadside rest station along highways where the local government promote local produce and tourism) in Yotsukura. All the broken windows were covered with traditional fishing flags that read: “a good haul”. Of course we didn’t find any of their famous marine products. They didn’t have much to sell except barbecued frozen yakitori (grilled chicken), fruits and pastry. It looked like they had gathered anything they could sell. At the free section lined up red and black randoserus (designated school bags for elementary schoolers). A girl of about 10 years old, picked one and carried it on her back, looking happy. They also sold canned juice and bottled liquor that they apparently dug out from the sand after the tsunami and wiped the dirt off each of them by hand. I could not open the cap of bottled shochu (distilled liquor) we bought because of there was so much sand stuck inside the cap. We kept turning the cap around and around (…).

The Focal Point: “To Remain or Not to Remain”

During our journey, K told me what happened in his community. When one of K’s band members, whose job is to clean up heavy machinery, arrived at his work site one morning, he was suddenly ordered to put a NBC suit on, and was forced to clean up vehicles used in the power plant during the nuclear accidents. There was no prior explanation given to him. He saw tents nearby, where day labors were sleeping exhausted from the lack of decent meals and extreme working condition. He saw TEPCO employees chatting with each other in padded cars, doing nothing. Those TEPCO employees only came out of their cars when media and parliament members made visits, in order to show them  how hard they worked. When K’s friend saw this whole thing, he had an urge to “kill them”.

As far as K knows, a day labor who takes care of the nucler reactors after the accidents gets 15,000 yen (US$130) at highest, and 9,000 yen (US$80) at lowest. Who on the earth  could exploit these workers in such ways? K happens to know a TEPCO employee, who himself evacuated Fukushima with his family but pretended that they were still in Iwaki, tweeting “Iwaki is alright. Everything is safe” on and on. When K accused him on twitter, the TEPCO employee immediately terminated his account.

Because there are so many stories like this among the residents in Iwaki City, they talk almost exclusively about whether they should “leave” or “remain” in the city.

The night before we left Iwaki for Tokyo, we stopped by a tripe barbecue restaurant near the Iwaki train station. The restaurant looked totally normal, but everybody there talked about earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear accidents. The local TV station constantly broadcasted the radiation measurements  in various areas, and announced in which areas issuing certifications of victims was necessary. Of course, none of these topics are reported in Tokyo. From every little corner in the restaurant, we heard “such and such milli-Sieverts” or “Geiger counter this and that.” I almost cut into the conversation when I overheard youngsters talk about anti-nuke protests.  As we were leaving the restaurant, the middle aged woman who runs the place on her own said to us: “no worries for radiation here, come by again!” We had really cheap and delicious tripe barbecue there. We will drop by again, even if nothing is alright!

It was sprinkling next morning. All the school children wore a mask, a raincoat and had an umbrella on their way to school. On April 15th, the Japanese government increased the ‘safety’ measure of radiation exposure for children to 20 milli-Sieverts per year. This number exceeds the standard measure to authorize workers’ compensation for industrial workers how are diagnosed with leukemia. At many schools the level of radiation issued was as high as levels in “the radiation control zone” where the government mandated its residents to evacuate. Parents and guardians have demanded that local governments wait to reopen schools, but the Japanese federal government ordered the Fukushima Board of Education to resume classes. There are reports that the residents in some areas were forced to sign a pledge: “If anything happens, the school will not be responsible for the matter”.

We have to ask ourselves how to create solidarity in realistic way with the folks in Fukushima who are not able to come to Tokyo to speak out. There are two urgent tasks: The first is to demand TEPCO and the government that they take their responsibility, and force them to reconsider their nuclear policy. This includes having children take refuge in safer places with sufficient guarantees for their daily lives. The second is to provide medical and social aids to those who decide to remain in Fukushima. It is inevitable for us to expect an increasing number of children with disabilities or pediatric cancer. We must think of how to compensate the damage on them as well as to establish their human rights. This will be a big task here in Fukushima in the coming years.

When I said goodbye to K in front of the Iwaki train station, he smiled at me and said: “If anything happens, I will run away to Tokyo again. So it’s gonna be alright.” Shortly after I came back to Tokyo, he called me to say: “we’re planning to do an anti-nuke music festival in Fukushima this summer, at an outdoor site as close to the power plant as possible.” I think this guy might drop by Tokyo, but seems like he would never move to live here. I will continue dropping by Iwaki to say hi. I will go back there as much as I can, and, though the day may never come, until we can eat Mehikari (lizardfish) and Ankou (monkfish) with no worries.

PDF (English)

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福島県いわき市: 被災地レポート (文・さっちゃん)

4月16日、震災後では初めて福島県いわき市を訪れた。ライブ出演のためだったが、ライブの主催者で友人のKさんいわく、「福島がんばれ、という風潮には乗りたくない。原発をテーマにしたライブにしたい」という。俺自身も、福島からのリアルな声がなかなか東京まで届いてこないということに、もどかしさを感じてもいた。沿岸部が津波の被害を受け、市の北部が原発事故の自宅待機地区に指定されたいわきで、町の人たちの原発に対する思いを肌で感じ取りたい。そういう想いを胸に福島県に向かった。
仲間たちの顔に安堵

数ヶ月ぶりに訪れたいわきの町は、道路に段差ができてデコボコだったり、屋根の瓦が落ちてブルーシートで応急処置している家などが目に付くが、市街地については壊滅的な状態ではなかった。それよりも気になるのは、町を行き交う人たちのマスク姿だ。政府はいま、原発事故の被害を軽く見せるためのキャンペーンを福島全域で行なっている。住民はそれを鵜呑みにするほど愚かではない。しかし、早く元の生活に戻りたい(大丈夫だと信じたい)という気持ちと、政府や東電への不信感(大丈夫なはずがない)の間で、多くの人が動揺している。

いわき市内にある唯一のライブハウス。ここのオーナーの本業は、イベントに音響機材とオペレーターの派遣をする音響会社の社長だ。この地震で全ての仕事が吹っ飛んだ。ライブハウスは一時期、音楽仲間たちの避難所として共同生活の場になった。ライブハウスの営業再開を目指して金策に走り回る彼に唯一入ってきた仕事の依頼は、原子力発電所のPRイベントの仕事だった。「俺は原発反対だ!」と怒鳴りつけて断ったという。

彼の店はいまボランティアスタッフのみで運営され、無料のライブを連日行なっている。スタッフは男性ばかり。家族のある人はみな、県外に妻や子を避難させて自分だけいわきに残っているという。久しぶりに会った福島県の友人たちはみんな笑顔だが、家が壊れて生活の目処が立たないヤツ、仕事を失ったヤツ、いまも続く余震に「地震酔いが酷い」とこぼすヤツ…誰もが暮らしに不安を抱えての来場だ。「こんな時にいわきにライブしに来てもらえただけで嬉しい」と言うヤツもいた。出演のオファーのために東京のミュージシャンに連絡した時、「怖い」「原発がどうなるか分からないから」と断られたケースもあった。

いわき在住の友人でこの日のライブの主催者であるKさんは、地震と原発事故が発生してから1週間後に、東京の我が家に避難してきた。ガソリンを入手するのに1週間かかったという。しかし数日後、Kさんはいわきに戻ってしまった。家の修理をするために業者と打ち合わせをする必要があるし、銀行に借金の相談もしなければならない。Kさんの仕事は郵便局員だから、業務が再開したら大量の支援物資の受け入れと配達も待っている。加えて、東電や行政に対する反発もある。17歳の時、福島第2原発の建設反対闘争に参加したという彼は、原発に反対した人々が東京電力や推進派の役人からどんな嫌がらせを受けたか、よく知っている。その原発推進派の連中が、事故発生と同時に住民を置き去りにして真っ先に県外に逃げたのだ。双葉町では、村八分にされ仕事を奪われて引っ越していった反対派の老人が、いま地元に戻ってきて、町に残っている人たちに避難するよう説得して回っているという。
沿岸部の被災地域へ

ライブの翌日、Kさんの案内で海沿いの被災地を回ってみた。一部では「東京から見物人がおしかけている」という報道もあったようだが、すれ違う車はいわきナンバーばかり。通行止めになっている道が多く、土地勘のない者が行っても津波被害の深刻な地域に入るのは難しいとのことだ。
少しずつ日常を取り戻しつつある市街地を抜け、津波の被害を受けた港の地域に入ると、景色は急に一変した。魚市場で賑わっていた小名浜港は、大量の瓦礫や、倒壊した建物から運び出されたゴミが路肩に積み上げられ、道路沿いの食堂や水産加工場はことごとく壊れている。そこから通行止めを避けて迂回を重ね、海沿いをさらに北上。マスコミがほとんど入っていない小さな港町(豊間、薄磯、四倉)に入ると、町の状況はどんどん悪化していく。転覆したままの船、倒壊した家々、津波のあとの火災で真っ黒に焼けた集落、土台しか残っていない家々、そして大量の瓦礫の山、山、山…。震災発生から1ヶ月以上も経った今でも瓦礫の片付けさえほとんど手つかずで、まるで爆撃を受けたあとのようだ。

瓦礫の隙間の、辛うじて車が1台通れる道を行く。老人たちが親戚をかき集めて、遅々とした足取りで板切れを運んでいた。瓦礫を片付けるはずの重機も、ボランティアの人々も、やけに数が少ない。市のボランティアセンターは機能不全に陥っていて、市外や県外からのボランティアの受け入れを拒否している。それどころか、独自に動きだしたボラティアの邪魔さえしてくる始末だ。いわき在住のKさんでさえ、支援物資の児童書やお菓子を避難所に受け入れさせるのに苦労しているという。倒壊した家々には行政からの指示で「この建物の解体を承諾します」と書かれた紙が貼ってあるのだが、明らかに全壊している家に「保留します」と書いてあるのを見た時、何とも言えない気持ちになった。俺にとっては瓦礫の山にしか見えないこの塊は、誰かにとっては何気ない日常の場だったのだ。この原発災害が、地震・津波の被害の上に追い討ちをかけるように起こっているのだという事実を、改めて痛感する。

そんな壮絶な景色の中で目を引いたのは、港には意外と船が残っているということだ。津波が来たら、まず船を沖に逃がすこと。これは日本の漁師なら誰でも知ってる知恵である(ちなみに自分の父は漁師だ)。俺は直感的に「これだけ船が残っているなら、無事な網をかき集めれば沿岸漁業なら十分やれるだろう」と思った。船の持ち主は家族や生活を守るために、恐怖と闘いながら必死で津波を乗り越え沖を目指したはずだ。ところが漁に出る海自体が、原発からの放射能汚染水の放出によって奪われてしまったのである。その理不尽さたるや、一体どれだけのものだろう。いま思うに、俺がこの港での漁の再開を想起させられたのは、町の惨状とは対照的に港の瓦礫は片付けられていたからだ。桟橋に障害物もなく、水揚げのためのスペースも十分にあり、その気になればいつでも出漁できそうに見えた。船も人も、漁に再び出られる日を待っている。

原発から30㎞の線上にある久ノ浜地区で、こんな立て看板を見つけた。津波で使えなくなった畳に書いてある文字は怒りに満ち、胸に迫る。この地区は市が早々に「安全宣言」を発したために避難することもできず、支援物資も支援の人も入ってこない。4月に入った頃から、この看板のような落書きが増えてきたとのこと。この写真の他にも、廃材置き場のベニヤ板などに政府への怒りを書きなぐったものを何度か見かけた。こうした声が報道されることは全くないが、福島の人たちこそ本当は言いたいことがいっぱいあるはずだ。

四倉の「道の駅」で小さな青空市をやっていた。割れたガラス窓を大漁旗で覆い隠しての営業である。名産品の海産物など、もちろんない。商品は冷凍の焼き鳥を焼いたものと、果物、菓子パンなどごく少ない。売れるものを何とかかき集めたという印象だ。赤と黒のランドセルが並べられていて「ご自由にお持ち下さい」と書いてあるのを、10歳くらいの女の子が嬉しそうに背負っていた。津波の後、砂の中から掘り起こしたという缶ジュースや酒が売られていた。1本1本、手できれいに拭いたのだという。購入した瓶入りの焼酎は、フタと瓶の隙間に砂が入り、くるくる空回りして開けることができなかった。

「残るのか、残らないのか」が焦点化する中で

道すがら、Kさんが彼の身近な人の間で起ったことを話してくれた。

大型重機の洗浄の仕事をしているKさんのバンド仲間は、ある朝、指示された現場に行くといきなり放射線防護服を着せられ、原発事故処理に使われた車両の除染の仕事をさせられた。事前に何の説明もなかった。そばにはテントが張られていて、かき集められた日雇いの作業員たちが、粗末な食事と過酷な労働条件で疲れ切って仮眠をとっている。東京電力の社員はフカフカのシートの車中で談笑していて、基本的には何もしない。彼らがマスコミと議員の視察が来たときだけ車から出てきて仕事振りをアピールするのを見て、Kさんの友人は「殺意を覚えた」という。

事故処理にあたる日雇い作業員の日当は、Kさんが把握してる限りでは、上は15万円、下は9千円。一体どこの誰がピンハネしていったのか。Kさんの知人である東電社員は、家族とともに県外に避難しておきながら、あたかもいわき市内に留まっているかのように装って「いわきは大丈夫です、安全です」とツイートし続けた。Kさんが抗議すると、ツイッターからアカウント自体が消えた。

いわき市民の身の回りには、こんな話がゴロゴロしている。だからこそ、「いわきから出ていくか、残るか」が鋭く焦点化しているのだと思う。

いわきから東京に戻る前夜、駅前のモツ焼き屋に入った。一見すると和やかな店内も、客の話題は地震・津波・原発だ。東京では全く報道されないが、福島のローカルテレビ局は今も常時、各地の放射線濃度や、罹災証明書の発行についての告知を字幕で流している。店のあちこちから、「ミリシーベルト…」とか「ガイガーカウンターが…」などという会話が聞こえてくる。若い子たちの集団が「原発反対のデモが…」と話してるのを聞いたときは、思わず話しかけそうになってしまった。帰り際に、店を1人で切り盛りしてるおばちゃんが、「放射能大丈夫だから、また来てね!」と微笑んだ。安くて本当に美味いモツ焼き屋だった。大丈夫じゃなくても、また来ます!

翌朝は小雨がぱらついていた。雨合羽に傘をさして登校する子供たちは、全員マスク着用だ。4月15日、政府はこどもの被曝線量の上限を20mSv/年まで引き上げた。これは白血病の労災認定基準を上回る数字である。いま、福島県内の多くの学校で、「放射線管理区域」に相当する放射線量が記録されている。保護者たちは自治体に対し「学校を再開しないでくれ」という要請をしたが、国は授業の再開を県教委に命令した。地域によっては授業の再開にあたって「何かあっても、学校の責任ではない」という念書を書かされた住民もいたという。

とても東京に出てきて発言するような状況にない福島の人たちと、具体的にどう連帯していくのかが、今まさに問われている。まずは東京電力や政府に責任を取らせ、原発政策自体を見直させなければならない。子供たちを最優先に、安全な場所へ十分な生活保障と共に移動させること。そして福島に残ることを選んだ人にも、健康に対する最大限のケアを行い生活を保障すること。この両方が急務だ。増える障碍児や小児ガン罹患児への被害の補償と、この子どもたちの権利をどうやって確立するのかということが、恐らく数年後には現地で大きな課題になってくるだろう。

いわき駅前で別れ際、Kさんは「何かあったら、また東京に避難するから大丈夫だよ」と笑った。東京に戻って少しするとそのKさんから、「夏頃に原発になるべく近い場所で、反原発の野外ライブをやろうと思っている」という連絡がきた。ヤツは東京に遊びに来ることはあっても、東京に避難してくることはたぶんないのだろう。俺はこれからも、いわきに時々遊びに行くつもりだ。メヒカリやアンコウを安心して食える日が来るまで(その日は永遠に来ない可能性もあるが)、何度でも行くつもりだ。

PDF (日本語)

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