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Can 3.11 Radiation Victims Speak?

Translators’ Notes:

The article below began circulating in Japanese just a few days after we found out that Chikanobu Michiba (道場親信), a well known sociologist who wrote on Japanese social movements, had passed away. He was the partner of Mari Matsumoto, who has been a long-time inspiration for us through her work on the radiological effects of 3.11. We felt it was important to translate the article into English because it articulates a dimension of the disaster that has been difficult to put into words, but which we believe is critical to intervening in the “myth of safety” (安全神話) – a widespread discourse that attempts to mitigate the consequences of the 3.11 nuclear disaster.

The Japanese state and nuclear industry’s implementation of the “myth of safety,” which has been supported by international regulatory agencies such as the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and World Health Organization (WHO), has been very successful both domestically and internationally. In part, this may be due to the previous successes of similar discourses in the wake of extensive nuclear weapons testing, [1] nuclear war, [2] and other nuclear disasters such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. [3] In the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in New Mexico, a short panel on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster reads:

“There were no deaths caused by the immediate exposure to radiation, while approximately 18,500 people died due to the earthquake and tsunami. Future cancer deaths from accumulated radiation exposures in the population living near Fukushima are predicted to be extremely low to none. In 2013 (two years after the incident), the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that the residents of the area, who were evacuated, were exposed to so little radiation that radiation induced health impacts are likely to be below detectable levels. Plant workers and emergency responders received radiation doses which increased their risk of developing cancer in the future.”

While we believe that avoiding radiation exposure should be a focus for anti-nuclear struggles, we recognize that it is, at the moment, one of the most difficult aspects to fight, especially for low-income and working class people. Invisible, odorless, and tasteless radioactive isotopes attack the human body at the cellular level, manifesting as innumerable illnesses across time. Few people, including Matsumoto and Matsudaira, who is fighting late-stage cancer, have publicly spoken out about health damage (健康被害) as everyday people living the consequences of the 3.11 disaster. It may be useful for readers to familiarize themselves with a number of state policies and state-supported public discourses that emerged in post-3.11 Japanese society:

– Support by Eating program

A state-led campaign which enlists food businesses to purchase produce from the Tohoku area (the northeastern region of Japan, including Fukushima). This is a tactic to shift responsibility for the consequences of nuclear disaster onto consumer relations: i.e. the only way to support farmers and others making their livelihoods in affected regions is to consume their products.

– Lack of financial assistance for evacuation

Tens of thousands of people who lived outside the state-mandated evacuation zone fled without much financial assistance, and continue to live away from home to this day. A mother of two shared that she decided to move from Fukushima because she witnessed her son suffering heavy nosebleeds on multiple occasions. He asked in tears if he would be okay living in Fukushima. [4] In March 2017, the government of Japan will be ending subsidies to support housing costs for those they call “voluntary evacuees” (自主避難者). These evacuees will ultimately be given two options: bear the financial burden of living in their new homes (many of these evacuees already face poverty and have been forced to live on welfare programs), or be forced to return to their hometowns in Fukushima contaminated by radiation still today. Because of the lack of governmental assistance, most of the population in Eastern Japan, including Tokyo, never moved out of the area.

– Recovery programs & businesses

This includes implementation of festive events on a national scale (i.e. the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo) to actively turn population’s attention toward positive activities and away from the gloomy state of affairs that has dominated the country since March of 2011. This was also the case internationally. In 2012, the Japan National Tourism Organization began hosting an annual “Japan Week” in New York City on the anniversary of 3.11. Their 2016 exhibit was themed around the revival of Tohoku to “commemorate” the disaster. Global nuclear capitalists have begun attacking the population through rezoning and development, which also corners poor people into further marginalized positions.

It is also important to note that even liberal NGOs and civic groups have participated in government-led recovery programs and uncritically endorsed standards and information on radiation disseminated by the government and TEPCO.

In this context, Matsumoto and Matsudaira’s statements about the policing of discussions about radiation, and the difficulty of deciding whether they have experienced tangible effects/losses/damages from radiation exposure, are especially critical. Accounts that emphasize the health consequences of the disaster tend to focus on identifiable syndromes or illnesses that can be directly linked to the triple meltdown. Who should decide whether these are “real” injuries or not? Should that even be up for debate? Members of the 3.11 Health Victims Group are speaking out to us.

We’d like to thank the authors Matsudaira Kōichi, Matsumoto Mari, and the magazine Jyōkyō for letting us translate the article.

Support the activities of 3.11 Radiation Health Victims! We are running a fundraiser to support Matsudaira Kōichi’s medical expenses. You can send him food items and more through his amazon wishlist (in Japanese) or donate through our paypal (credit cards accepted):

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Can 3.11 Radiation Victims Speak?

by Matsudaira Kōichi

Original text: 3.11被曝被害者は語ることができるか

English translation by Sloths Against Nuclear State & Friends: Tomoki Birkett, Joshua Rogers, Neo Sora, Lita Hakoda

What, and who, are the “radiation [5] victims of 3.11?” I want to raise this question. The Fukushima nuclear accident [6] caused untold damage to Fukushima prefecture’s local residents and the workers at Fukushima nuclear power plant, yet we still do not understand the true extent of the disaster. The term “disaster victims” [7] of the Fukushima nuclear accident refers mainly to residents of the government’s mandatory evacuation zone in Fukushima prefecture. And when speaking of the “health victims” of the accident, the focus today is on laborers at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and on young patients with thyroid cancer in Fukushima prefecture. However, I would like to broaden the denotation of “3.11 radiation victims” here. All beings residing in the prefectures neighboring Fukushima, or eastern Japan including even the Kantō area, [8] could potentially be “3.11 radiation victims.” And many people living in eastern Japan who have fallen ill could, in fact, be potential “health victims.” However, in order to argue that specific patients residing in eastern Japan could be “radiation victims” or “health victims,” epidemiological and scientific examination becomes necessary. If this is carelessly argued, one runs the chance of being denounced and criticized as having “radiation brain.” [9]

Radioactive contamination was observed in many areas of eastern Japan after the nuclear accident. According to the ICRP’s 2007 recommendation, [10] the annual radiation exposure limit was set at one millisievert (mSv) or less. However, there is a terrifying number of people who were exposed to radiation beyond this limit in eastern Japan.

If we rethink what damage from radiation exposure should really mean, we can say that people who received even a tiny amount of radioactive contamination from the nuclear accident, excepting natural radiation, should all be defined as “3.11 radiation victims.” In this sense, I can say that I, Matsudaira Kōichi, born and raised a Tokyo-ite these 38 years, am surely a 3.11 radiation victim.

And now the name Matsudaira has been added to the list of people with an illness that is unremarkable these days. And, there is a possibility that I, Matsudaira, am also a health victim of the Fukushima nuclear accident. In other words I —or we, the afflicted residing in eastern Japan— can identify ourselves as “3.11 radiation victims.” But at the same time, as for whether we can say we are “health victims of the Fukushima nuclear accident,” brute courage is sometimes necessary. In this cultural criticism column [11] I hope to use the imaginative potential of language to shift from the position of “3.11 radiation victims” to the position of “health victims from the nuclear accident,” and to thereby reexamine the historical role that health victims should take. In order to do so, I would like to cite the following report.

Interview with Matsumoto Mari

“Thinking About Radiation Damage Five Years After the Accident from a Feminist Perspective”

(This piece was formed by editing the comments that Matsumoto Mari delivered at the May 5, 2016 assembly of Health Victims of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident (below, Health Victims Group), Kantō Area Radiation Damage Vol. 2: Expanding Damage, Connections, the Hope of Evacuation. They were edited into the format of an interview with Matsumoto Mari.) [12]

The Health Victims Group was a gathering started by people who met each other through the anti-nuclear movement after 3.11, or during demonstrations in front of the Diet. [13] Originally, we were protesting to reveal the state and TEPCO’s responsibility for the nuclear accident, and to push for support for Fukushima children who had suffered health damages and for struggling evacuees. However, five years have passed since the accident, and it was in the fifth year after the 1986 Chernobyl accident when various types of damage to people’s health began to increase explosively. In this context, we began discussing whether we noticed various health damages appearing around us. We then realized anew that we had many friends suffering from illnesses like colon cancer, heart problems, thyroid abnormalities, the aggravation of skin diseases and allergies, exacerbated inflammation of the esophagus, and the aggravation of multiple-chemical sensitivity syndrome. We are also aware of exactly how hard it is to talk about health damage from Fukushima, or about wanting to evacuate. To change these conditions, those of us suffering health damages in Kantō, young and old, have to raise our voices. We hope to create a climate where people can openly say that anyone can suffer health damages from radiation exposure, and that the state and TEPCO must fulfill their responsibilities for this.

Today, we would like to speak with Matsumoto Mari from the Health Victims Group. Matsumoto-san was originally publishing feminist research and articles in the field of contemporary philosophy. Since the nuclear accident, she has been writing articles precisely on this problem of radiation exposure. What is necessary for us, as people who suffer from health damage and those who are concerned?

Matsumoto:

In the past I was wrote on feminism and various issues related to women. After 3.11, at first I wrote a few pieces about the nuclear disaster. However, after that, I became sick. I had argued in my writings that [protection from] radiation exposure should be our main objective, but the response from those around me was so cold and indifferent—when I reflect on why I became sick, it was because of this indifference about radiation that was normalized around me. [14]

There were a lot of simplistic criticisms that portrayed mothers trying to protect their children from radiation exposure as “maternalistic.” I felt it was horrible that even the left and feminists were heavily criticizing them. Looking back, given that health damages are manifesting today, these criticisms actually benefited the discourse of the “reassurance wing” [15] which basically ended up benefiting from insulting mothers as being “overprotective”.

This is a somewhat personal story, but in 1985 I was in Kiev for a short while, just one year before Chernobyl. Afterwards I kept in touch with some of the people who were studying Japanese there, but we slowly fell out of touch. There were issues with the postal system, but I remember being shocked, even though I was still young, when one time a young person said that she had developed cataracts. I had no idea that young people could get them. Of course now I know better. But I think I remembered it so clearly because I felt like that society, a society that had experienced a nuclear accident, was slowly beginning to crumble.

Because of this, the first thing I thought about after the nuclear meltdown on 3.11 was radiation exposure. But in the metropolis in particular—and let me say first that I don’t want to criticize this outright, and that I am certainly against restarting [the nuclear power plants]—most people at that point were still mainly talking about opposition to restarting the nuclear power plants. There were lots of protests and gatherings organized around this issue. But I felt like something was getting left behind in the midst of this, that there was something that we needed to say that was getting bottled up while people were getting involved in movements and political activities, that we were going forward while ignoring the thing that we should actually be seriously focusing on. I couldn’t talk about that thing directly, and even if I say something I can’t reject [people’s need] to say things like, “It’s fine,” or, “I just want to think positively.” I can’t deny that people want to think that it will be ok as long as they are careful.

But because I was suppressing this unease somewhere deep down in my heart, I started to be harsh to people sometimes. For five years, people around me didn’t understand what was wrong, and I also put up walls of my own.

During all of this, I kept in touch with mothers who had evacuated. There are also lots of people, probably across the entire country, who evacuated voluntarily and are now doing their best to make themselves heard, or who have started their own autonomous activities in their new homes. I do feel more connected with people who are doing work based on their experience of this diaspora. It’s like I can’t talk to those close to me, but can with those far away, which makes me feel like I’m experiencing this strange kind of recalibration of distance that’s been produced by the nuclear accident. You can’t see it, and you can’t reduce it to something economic or physical, but this breakdown of relationality is, to some degree, another injury caused by the nuclear accident, and is part of the current situation.

In the meantime, in January of this year my partner was suddenly diagnosed with an intractable form of cancer at the age of 48. There were no signs whatsoever beforehand, and it’s a difficult type to detect in the first place. He’s in treatment now, but it was already in stage four when it was discovered. This is hard to understand unless you experience it yourself, but I knew from the beginning, at least on an intellectual level, that thyroid cancer would be more common because there was a nuclear disaster. But now we’re fighting a completely different battle than something as simple as having the statistical knowledge that the number of cancer patients will increase. As someone who now provides care and nursing, I’ve realized what it means for an individual human to get cancer, and I’m in the process of learning. While I can accept that indeed statistically the number of health problems will increase, I also feel resistance to thinking about things only from a statistical perspective. I feel like I’m still not quite able to express this feeling.

Our bodies are all individual, and our illnesses and symptoms are individual. With cancer, a child’s thyroid cancer is different from a 48-year-old’s, which is different from an elderly person’s. It’s different for men and women. Each person’s treatment and the problems that they face and must overcome are all radically different. So even though it is not wrong to say things like, “The number of cancer cases increases after a nuclear accident,” or, “More people get sick,” I feel that today we need different language, a different approach, words that can help people who are sick connect with each other. We need an environment in which people who are sick, people who care for them, and people who are offering support can speak more easily.

For myself, when I speak about my partner’s cancer, it’s not that he is thinking, “This is an effect of radiation exposure.” In other words he hasn’t concluded that radiation exposure was the only influence, and there are no materials [to prove] that either. But, he and I think it is probably one cause among many; we don’t “deny” it. That is our position.

And in January 2016, when we were informed [of the cancer diagnosis] and were running around pell-mell, the 3.11 Thyroid Cancer Families’ Society was established in Fukushima. When I saw an interview with them—and let me say young children getting cancer is different from getting it one’s 40s—but I thought, on the verge of tears, “This kind of [message] is really needed.” Apparently there were extremely few cases of children’s thyroid cancer until then. Rare cases.

Now there are self-help groups and organizations for patients at hospitals and other places. That is something that’s really great. But there have been few cases of rare cancers, rare cases until now, so it is difficult [for people] to connect. I was impressed by people’s efforts to get on their feet by at least connecting at first, to do necessary mutual aid kinds of things, in such circumstances.

At the same time, reading articles on blogs like “Health Victims’ Group,” I was also moved by passages like, “Instead of the rallies, now our own bodies and hospitals are becoming the site of struggle.” It made me realize that this is a crucial awareness to have in a society in which a nuclear accident, with its irreversible impact, has occurred.

This is what I wanted to say right after the accident. Until now radioactive material has been falling on the metropolis, which is both a political issue and simultaneously a problem that individuals must face. At the same time, voluntary evacuation and relocation are problems that are being “individualized.” While these issues must be fought on the individual level, we should also hold on to their political and social aspects. And although damage to health is something that affects people of all genders, it’s also true that care and nursing generally end up being women’s issues.

Right after the nuclear accident, I wrote about mothers’ care for their children from the perspective of “reproductive labor” and “care work” within the context of capitalism. The issue is who has to bear the liability for massive environmental disasters. This is also a sphere that can’t be converted into currency. Some feminists said that this was “simple maternalism” or that it would “strengthen familism,” but they are missing the point. These days such people have stopped saying anything at all, maybe because their initial stance is inconvenient for them now. They offer no helping hand regarding the outbreak of pediatric thyroid cancer in Fukushima, and offer no support for the single-mother households of voluntary evacuees. At some point they need to seriously consider their criticism of people tied to the accident, and the incorrect assessments of the situation they made initially.

Thinking back on it now, right after the accident there was a massive surge of both accurate and inaccurate information about the damage to health caused by radiation exposure. Honestly it was a difficult mix of good and bad, a kind of informational anarchy.

Even so, people wisely chose from among the available information, and eventually formed and attained a certain kind of literacy and understanding of the situation. And yet slowly there developed a very clear sense of “moment” or “instance” that silenced this kind of understanding, and which functioned more strongly than the visible forms of systemic censorship. It’s impossible to determinedly say that this sense was manufactured by the media or the government or the Ministry of the Environment. It was an unintended outcome, but it did create a climate in which people hesitate to talk about damage to health.

For instance, you might have heard of the “Oishimbo nosebleed incident.” [16] What I find problematic about this whole fuss—although some might find this sort of expression itself problematic—is that a town in Fukushima went and made a complaint against the comic series, which led to an additional complaint from Fukushima prefecture, which finally led to the Ministry of Environment officially making a conclusive statement that “there is no such thing” as increased nosebleeds in Fukushima.

Since I have grown quite familiar with feminism, I know that historically the repressive authority of dominant discourses has prohibited us from speaking about our own bodies. For example, menstruation has been regarded as an unclean or private matter in different historical periods. Even so, there have been efforts by women to speak up about topics that are difficult to talk about and to gain social recognition on such topics. One such effort was the fight for menstrual sick days, or to gain recognition that symptoms can be unique for different individuals.

As for health concerns and everyday concerns after 3.11, even in political spaces we’ve been coerced to be silent about these concerns and made to accept that even speaking about them is taboo. It isn’t that there is visible censorship or regulations, but there is censorship that arises from people’s own minds; we are all are expected to perform self-censorship. People around you say “That is a very complicated thing to talk about,” or, “Are you still afraid of radiation?” This kind of thing can even make you feel like your worth as a human is being judged.

It is precisely because we are obstructed from each other in this society that we need to speak up about radiation issues. To people who react to me by saying, “Still talking about it?” or, “Still worrying about it?” I’d like to respond immediately and ask, “Have we ever seen any policy or system developed or improved regarding measures against radiation exposure? For compensation for evacuees? There hasn’t been anything, has there?”

Philosopher Paul Virilio has called Chernobyl a “time accident”, meaning that it is one that will last for generations. In this climate too in Japan, we need to carefully watch and observe our society as it is being destroyed over a long time span.

Ryo Omatsu, a scholar of Russia, has studied the Chernobyl [nuclear disaster] and has published work introducing social movements ignited by residents and nuclear cleanup workers at the Chernobyl site. Similarly, we are familiar with a number of movements led by people with illnesses and people who became ill due to different types of industrial contamination.

There have been many lawsuits against nuclear power plants in the past 70 plus years since the end of WWII, and there are still many today. With these facts in mind, we need to carefully create environments and discursive spaces where people who feel that they have been affected are comfortable speaking up and where they can connect. When we refer to post-Chernobyl support systems, we are immediately met with the argument that we can’t replicate them because we have a different social system in Japan. However, I believe that Chernobyl must be studied as a historical reference regarding social support systems for nuclear disasters.

Those who are pro-nuclear can use as their strength the uncertain nature of how radioactive exposure manifests as illness. It is tricky that experiencing a nuclear accident and becoming ill are not in a direct one-to-one relationship. Nevertheless I think people need to not only keep the nuclear accident in their minds but also make some kind of record of their experiences.

The fact that those who suffered damages need to prove the damage is absurd in itself. Nevertheless, you can create records of what you were doing before and after 3.11; where you were; if you are in the Kantō region, then what the radiation levels are in the soil around your home. For instance I participated in a project where I wore a film badge dosimeter [17] to study my radioactive doses for a week (although the dosimeter is only capable of measuring doses on the external surface of your body, not total contamination levels). We could start something like this even now. An accumulation [of this data] could be our strength in the future.

I want to remind everyone that people with cancer and other intractable illnesses have always organized themselves to share their experiences, offer mutual aid, and share information. It is very necessary for people to have this kind of space today. While we hear “radiation exposure is scary” and “radiation exposure is terrible” these phrases are often used as vague images without the concreteness of illness [as it manifests in our bodies].

It has been five years since the accident; we are past the point of arguing about what is right and what is wrong. It is not a question of that. Instead we need to share concrete knowledge about how to protect our bodies, and how to act if we become sick. We need to communicate with, not isolate, each other as much as possible. It should be something like a self-support group. While being a self-support group, it should not settle itself as a closed group—its members should take political stances and open themselves to the wider society. That’s the kind of organization we need.

Mastudaira:

Regarding the Oishimbo incident and other issues, I feel that there is an implicit network of physicists and scientists of all sorts who suppress any statements by those who oppose nuclear energy. What do you think about this?

Matsumoto:

Here we’re talking about where the discourse known as “radiation exposure crushing” (hibaku tsubushi) [18] emerges from. We can consider three possibilities: whether this discourse originates in economic concerns, is linked to power relations, or if it is solely an internal issue. There are many uncertainties on these points, but I think if we look into it deeply enough, we will find some definite conclusions. What I’m concerned about, though, is the the third possibility I raised, that hibaku tsubushi discourse is coming from self-censorship. There are many people who are self-censoring and actively adopting the myth of radiation safety. I am terrified of the power that these acts have on people.

In thinking about who is producing this discourse in an organized way, it’s possible to build a solid argument by finding where exactly the money is coming from. We have seen this in the work of Ryu Honma who investigates public relations in the nuclear industry. Somewhat differently, Takashi Soeda has demonstrated the falsity of the phrase “this accident was unforeseeable” (sōteigai), which is often used by nuclear apologists when describing the nature of the 2011 disaster. There have been many investigative journalists making enormous efforts to bust those myths. Kosuke Hino’s work has also been an indispensable contribution.

We must use these exceptional reports as a guide to fully investigate discourses that have underemphasized radiation exposure post-3.11. Another troubling aspect of this discourse lies within our everyday life; what ruptures our human relations is self-censorship and willing acceptance [of safety myths]. I’d like to suggest that we constantly take note of why we actively participate in reinforcing the discourse of the ruling class.

It’s difficult for nuclear victims to connect and act in solidarity due to the fact that damage can manifest in a wide range of forms both spatially and temporally, which is one characteristic of nuclear disasters. This is especially true in today’s society where, thanks to neoliberalism, we are expected to act at our own risk and work out our own salvation.

This accident was also the first since the development of social networking. In the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC/Euratom), the ways in which social networking performs during a nuclear disaster has already become a research theme and subject of analysis.

In the first two or three years after the accident, I saw my friends and acquaintances start to actively believe in the myth of radiation safety and wondered to myself, “Why are they turning against themselves like that.” But thinking these kinds of thoughts too much just tires me out, and now I catch myself observing them as subjects who are mobilized in the creation of public consensus, when clearly the discourse of hibaku tsubushi actively minimizes the damage of the incident. I observe them to try and understand why people decide to actively conform to such discourse. This is a different case, but I’m sure similar things probably happened with Minamata disease [19] or the atomic bomb. I believe it is necessary to look at these cases and compare them to what is happening today.

It is the sixth year since the accident now. Forces that divide people, along with both tangible and intangible damage—including actualized health damages—will continue to become stronger. In March 2017, the government will terminate financial assistance for voluntary evacuees. More recently, the government began speaking about ending restrictions to the entire “difficult-to-return” [20] zone in 2021. The government of Japan is desperately fabricating the final end of the nuclear disaster, with the help of events like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. People say that it is wrong to diminish memories because they are personal, while the social phenomenon of “structural diminishment” is getting stronger and stronger. This phenomenon obscures responsibility for the accident and for the management of its aftermath.

In this context, there is an urgent need to create concrete spaces of mutual aid and rebuild relationality, which includes modifying our own language and thought.

Testimony: Matsudaira Kōichi’s colon cancer—radiation damage and cancer patients

Matsumoto went to Kiev right after the Chernobyl accident, and she became concerned about the issue of radiation damage in the Kantō area very early on. I think she has spoken candidly about her very incisive hesitations regarding those who were indifferent about radiation damage from the Fukushima nuclear accident. Matsumoto says that it is important to document, and the Health Victims Group has argued since its founding that it is important to leave “testimonies as victims.” Members of the Health Victims Group and I tentatively created the following questionnaire to collect testimonies:

1.    Name, age, gender

2.    Where did you live until 3.11? (Please include your prefecture and municipality.)

3.    If your residence changed after 3.11, please tell us the new place and when you moved.

4.    What symptoms do you have, or what is the condition of your health now?

5.    Did you have any symptoms of illnesses listed above before 3.11? If so, were there any differences before and after 3.11?

6.    Please describe your everyday habits.

7.    Were you getting regular health check-ups?

8.    Do you think [your condition] is related to the nuclear accident?

9.    What do you find most difficult since you became ill?

10. What are your current hopes?

In the Health Victims Group, we are seeking people who would like to share their experiences of health damage with each other.”

I responded to these items in the following way. This is my simple self-introduction concerning my condition as a radiation victim, and it is also the health record of one patient. Below is my testimony (taken May 8, 2016) as a member of the Health Victims Group.

How is the condition of your health now?

My name is Matsudaira Kōichi and I’m a cancer patient. I am 38 years old. I was diagnosed with colon cancer in November of last year (2015). It has been almost half a year since I learned that I have cancer. When they found it, it was already stage four and had spread to my liver. I was told that my five-year survival rate is 18%. The cancer has spread widely throughout my body, and surgical resection was not possible. I am receiving chemotherapy, but there has not been much change since the diagnosis. Chemotherapy apparently helps to prolong one’s life, but I understand that it eventually stops working.

Right now, because of the side effects, I always feel unwell, and I often end up sleeping the entire day. I keep going back to the hospital for stomach pain and constipation. My colon is not functioning, so I have a stoma (colostomy). I feel miserable since my problems are related to fecal matter.

How was your health until your illness was discovered?

In November, I was attacked by horrible stomach pain and went to the hospital, where I learned that I had cancer. Until it was discovered, for about a year, there were many times I felt unwell, like having diarrhea. I would have diarrhea 6 or 7 times a day. I thought it was psychological. I felt anxious leaving for work every day. In October and November, I became unable to stand in front of the toilet. It was so painful I stayed curled up on the floor, wondering if I should call an ambulance.

Please describe your everyday habits.

In terms of my habits, I ate at Yoshinoya very frequently. [21] There were some days I would go to Yoshinoya twice in one day. I also went to Saizeriya [22] often. I ate out often from ages 20 to 37.

Where do you live? Where do you work?

I have mostly lived in Fuchū city in Tokyo since I was born. Around the time the nuclear accident occurred, I would stand in the street in Ginza (Chūō ward) every day for work. I worked there from March 2011 to February 2012. From April to June 2012, I worked in Tameikesannō (Chiyoda ward); from November 2012 to October 2015 in Ariake in Kōtō ward. Although I didn’t want to drink the water around there, I drank the tap water. I also tended to drink a good amount of alcohol. When my cancer symptoms became worse, there was one time I felt so sick the day after I went out drinking that I couldn’t get up for the entire day.

Were you getting health checkups?

I got a health check-up once a year. Besides having a low pulse, I didn’t have any abnormalities. In 2015 alone, I had a routine check-up through my job in the summer. Then in October I worked for a clinical trial of new drug and was briefly hospitalized. During the checkup for the drug trial, they did not find any abnormalities. I assume that there must have been a pretty significant cancerous tumor in my body around that time. In May and September, I had two instances of pain below my right chest area, which I had assumed was caused by falling off my bike and bumping my chest.

I felt sick for about 25 days [in May ’15], and about 14 days [in September ’15]. I saw an orthopedist for this pain but they didn’t find anything wrong. Had I received a thorough examination at that time, I think they would have found the cancer. I think my internal organs were probably inflamed from the cancer.

Do you think [your illness] is related to radiation from the nuclear accident?

In my case, I think the causes of cancer were too much intake of beef and food additives, a lifestyle lacking in vegetables, and everyday stress.

But, it is also rare to get cancer at my age, and I think it may be related to the nuclear accident. Yoshinoya and Saizeriya are both “support by eating” [23] companies, so it is possible that radiation from the accident increased my chances of cancer. Right after 3.11 happened, I thought that I would become sick if I did not evacuate, but I didn’t dare evacuate. I think it makes sense that I would get a major life-threatening illness living in Tokyo, where it is possible to be affected by exposure to radiation.

What is the hardest thing about being sick?

I used to like cross-dressing as a woman. I am sad that I can’t anymore because having a stoma and being constantly ill prevents me from doing what I want to do. My hair has fallen out and become thin. I was also interested in marriage and raising children, but sadly I realize that it is probably no longer possible. Lately, I have started watching the anime Assassination Classroom—I cry thinking about the relationality of fate between the students who have to kill their teacher, and the teacher who has been mentoring the students yet becomes their target of assassination.

What are your current hopes?

To destroy TEPCO and Japan.

I’ve been hearing a lot about the Minamata disease these days as it’s approaching the 60th year since the disease was officially recognized by the state as an illness caused by industrial pollution. I think the movement led by Minamata disease victims was a really long struggle. But if it is going to take over 10,000 years before radioactive waste is no longer toxic, then for health victims of nuclear power plants, it may take us a “hundred thousand years of war.” We are being shot from somewhere by an invisible gun called radiation, and those who have been hit are dying one by one. We must resist this. We should carry on the ambition of past anti-nuclear movements and of the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and have a “hundred thousand year war” with Japan and with “worldwide nuclear empire.” [24] I will participate in this war, and my hope is that even if I am defeated, I can entrust the spirit of struggle to the future generation.

That is the extent of my testimony. However, I have an unresolved question I must continue to investigate: whether I am a “true” “health victim” “of the Fukushima nuclear accident.” To begin with, historically, the number of cancer patients in Japan has been increasing since before the nuclear accident.

In July 2016, the National Cancer Center of Japan reported its estimates of the number of new cancer diagnoses and the number of people who will die from cancer. The number of diagnoses was 1,010,200 and the number of deaths was 374,000. A tremendous number of Japanese have cancer and are dying. And there certainly isn’t one uniform cause for developing cancer.

Furthermore, although I’ll leave out the full explanation of the evidence here, even if we use a very conservative estimate employing the ICRP model, we can estimate the impact on humans of the radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear disaster will likely lead to thousands of additional deaths from cancer in the Tokyo metropolitan area alone. We should recognize this.

One thing I want to stress in this discussion is that even if “over a million cancer cases emerge” and “thousands end up dying of cancer in Tokyo,” you are talking only in terms of a statistical figure. But each and every cancer patient in that figure struggles in their own different way in their sickbed.

By the way, I did not know this because I hate television and do not watch it, but while I was penning this article, I heard about a person named Shuntaro Torigoe who ran in the Tokyo gubernatorial election. Like me, he had colon cancer which had spread to his liver. I received encouragement from people who would say that mine “hadn’t spread yet,” and, “Torigoe had cancer even in his lungs but he’s better now and running in the gubernatorial election, so you should keep at it too.” I understand that these people acted with good intentions to help me stay optimistic. But, just because someone else recovered from late-stage colon cancer does not mean that I will too.

After being a cancer patient for a while, I feel that at times there is a kind of “cancer harassment” that happens. It doesn’t matter if someone “has the same colon cancer” or “there are other people with stage four cancer who have survived.” The fate that awaits each person is never bound to be the same.

This is completely irrelevant, but Torigoe was involved in a sex scandal, alleged to have seduced a university student, and I think that he is innocent of this. Anyhow, I got a hernia when I recently had sex for the first time in a while. A slight amount of pressure on my abdomen will cause my intestine to protrude out of the colostomy site on my abdomen. By now, stoma prolapsing is normal, and whenever I raise my body, or have some kind of emotional stress, or after I eat, my intestines spill out like a samurai who has committed harakiri. It will keep spilling out unless I hold it in with my hand. Apparently this is because my intestines are loose inside of my body. My doctor tells me that it may be the side effect of the cancer medicine working, or it could be that my cancer is becoming worse.

In this condition, it scares me to be alone with a woman. My mind goes completely blank whenever I imagine it being like this until I die. I remembered feeling frustrated at my parents who, a few days earlier, told me they “would like to see [their] grandchild’s face.” The symptoms of the hernia get better if I stay laying down, but in that case, I will have to live sideways forever. The struggle against an illness varies from person to person, even among people with colon cancer like me.

Someone compared nuclear power plants to cancer. A malignant tumor pretends that it is a companion to a human and avoids being attacked by immune cells. Malignant tumors then send their own cancerous cells to healthy organs, infect them, spread all over the body, and continue to grow more tumors. One by one, these tumors destroy major organs in the body until the body dies. For the earth, nuclear power plants are a cancer. Pro-nuclear people use flowery words to convince others of the necessity of nuclear power plants and dupe people into the idea of “energy for our bright future.” They rooted the power plants deeply into Japanese society.

The disease of pro-nuclear forces in the world is a serious problem.

I don’t know if I am a “victim of a nuclear accident,” but as a “3.11 radiation victim” there is one thing I want to say: nuclear power can never be forgiven, because it continues to increase the number of people that must die terrible deaths due to cancer.

Cancer irreversibly damages organs one by one in people, causing painful death. Cancer patients who die each have their own life, full of poetry. We cannot allow even one more person to die of cancer because of nuclear policies propelling this old and futureless technology. Enough is enough.


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1. See Barker and Johnston 2008, The Rongelap Report: Consequential Damages of Nuclear War for a thorough review of research on the effects of American nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands and the systematic censorship of evidence pointing to American culpability for health damages suffered by the Marshallese.
2. See Lindee 1994, Suffering Made Real: American Science and the Survivors at Hiroshima.
3. See Stephens 2002, “Bounding Uncertainty: The Post-Chernobyl Culture of Radiation Protection Experts,” in Catastrophe and Culture: the Anthropology of Disaster; Petryna 2006, Life Exposed: Biological Citizens After Chernobyl.
4. See discussions of the “Oishimbo incident” for more information on these politics and the success of the myth of safety, such as Ochiai 2013, “The Manga ‘Oishinbo’ Controversy: Radiation and Nose Bleeding in the Wake of 3.11”.
5. “Radiation exposure” (hibaku) is expressed as one word in Japanese, with the characters for “suffer/receive” (被) and either “bomb” (爆) when referring to exposure from nuclear weapons, or “expose” (曝) when referring to exposure from other sources. Here, the term used is hibaku higaisha (被曝被害者).
6. The official Japanese term uses the word “accident” (事故) rather than “disaster” (災害).
7. The term used here, hisaisha (被災者), can be translated as “victim,” but refers primarily to victims of natural disasters, as opposed to higaisha (被害者), which refers mainly to the victims of accidents. Except for this first instance, higaisha is used throughout this article. In the context of the Chernobyl disaster, the Ukrainian state introduced the legal category of “sufferer” in 1991 to recognize those affected. We have chosen to translate the term higaisha as “victim” to convey the sense in Japanese that harm has been wrongfully caused. For more on Chernobyl “sufferers,” see Petryna 2013 [2002], Life Exposed: Biological Citizens After Chernobyl and Alexievich 2006, Voices From Chernobyl: the Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster.
8. The Kantō region comprises the Greater Tokyo Area and the prefectures of Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa.
9. This is a reference to the way that concerns about the effects of radiation, or discussion of actual injuries from radiation exposure, have been stigmatized as a psychological or emotional hypersensitivity to (fear of, or anxieties about) radiation. This is conveyed through a play on the word for radiation, hōshanō (放射能), where the last character has been replaced with the character for “brain” or “mind” (脳), which is also read “nō”. C.f. Kimura 2016, Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists: the Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima. There have also been many cases where those who discuss concerns about “low-level” radiation exposure have been described as “hysterical,” “irrational,” divisive, and unpatriotic. This is similar to attributions of “radiophobia” directed at victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. C.f. Petryna 2013 [2002].
10. See ICRP, The 2007 Recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
11. The author writes a cultural criticism column for the magazine, Jōkyō (情況).
12. This text is based on the transcription of a speech by Matsumoto Mari. A recording of the event can be found here: https://youtu.be/pU4mjehgcaA
13. The National Diet is Japan’s legislature.
14. Translation adapted to reflect past conversations with the author.
15. Those who endorse the safety of radiation exposure, mostly standardized by the state and nuclear industry interests.
16. The popular comic series Oishimbo ran episodes about Fukushima in which the author portrayed residents in Fukushima claiming that they experienced frequent nosebleeds due to radiation exposure. The series immediately came under fire upon publication, criticized by media and government offices.
17. Referred to as a “glass badge” in Japanese (garasu bajji; ガラスバッジ).
18. Discourses that suppress or “crush” (tsubusu; 潰す) any talk about radiation exposure and its effects, effectively censoring dissident voices post-3.11. Such voices are usually labeled as overly radiophobic, or afraid of radiation.
19. Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by mercury poisoning. It received national attention in Japan when the wastewater of a chemical factory in a small fishing village in southern Japan became contaminated with mercury. The disease began to appear first in 1953, and although the government officially recognized it in 1956, it took the factory owner years to acknowledge its liability. The victims’ families have fought for decades, and still continue to fight for recognition and compensation.
20. The official designation of the most contaminated zone around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, with an annual exposure dose exceeding 50 mSv/year. This zone includes areas from seven municipalities declared “difficult to return to” by the Japanese government.
21. Yoshinoya is a Japanese fast food chain serving gyūdon (beef over rice). In 2013 the company established joint venture, Yoshinoya Farm Fukushima Co. in Shirakawa City, 40 miles west of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, to grow rice and vegetables for their restaurants.
22. Another chain, referred to as “family restaurants” in Japanese. Comparable to Applebee’s in the U.S.
23. State-led campaign which enlists food businesses to purchase produce from the Tohoku area (around Fukushima). This is a tactic to shift responsibility for the consequences of nuclear disaster onto consumer relations: i.e. the only way to support farmers and others making their livelihoods in affected regions is to consume their products.
24. In Japanese, quotation marks are often used to distinguish a concept. Here, Matsudaira advocates fighting against both actual countries with nuclear power, and with an imperialist system of nation-states/the system that produces them.


Photo: Children’s drawings on display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque, NM. Photo by Lita Hakoda

No Legitimacy, No Principle in Japan’s Nuclear Victim Support Policy

By Toshinori Shishido

原発事故被害者支援策の、論理的根拠と正当性の欠如(日本語)

In July 2015, the Fukushima prefectural government announced its plan to terminate housing assistance for nuclear evacuees who fled areas outside of the restricted zone at the end of March 2017. It has absolutely no intention to change this policy as of this moment in February 2016. Continue reading No Legitimacy, No Principle in Japan’s Nuclear Victim Support Policy

On Fukushima Prefecture and Hiroshi Kainuma: How Officials and Popular Academics Have Responded to Disaster Victims in the Wake of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident

By Toshinori Shishido

日本語の原文『東京電力福島原子力発電所事故発生前後から現在までの、福島県庁と開沼博氏達による被災者への対応』

  1. About the author

I worked as a full-time teacher at a public high school in Fukushima for about twenty-five-and-a-half years, until July 31, 2011. During the first four years of my career, I taught at Futaba High School in Futaba-machi, home to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Naturally, I have heard stories about the harsh working conditions of nuclear workers. For example, in a certain area of the power plant, working for 10 minutes would exceed the legal maximum daily radiation exposure limit. So each shift was officially recorded as 10 minutes even though their actual worked shift was 8 hours. The workers would primarily wipe water leaking from the piping surrounding the nuclear reactor. When workers died of illnesses like cancer, their families received unusually high amounts of cash as lump-sum payments, while actual workmen’s compensation insurance was not provided.

At the time of the 2011 nuclear accident, I was living in a city 53 kilometers (33 miles) away from the power plant with my wife and two children. I was working at a public school 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the plant.

After the accident, on the evening of March 15, 2011, the maximum airborne radioactive levels of 23 microsievert/hour was detected in Fukushima City, where I worked. Outside the school the following day, however, the annual school acceptance announcements were held as scheduled. Several faculty, including myself, met with the principal to insist that usual outdoor announcement be cancelled as to avoid having young students exposed to radiation–but the announcement event was forced outdoors.  The principal cited  reasons such as, “the Fukushima Prefecture office strongly supports the outdoor plan” and he “had no choice as the school principal.”

From April 2011 on, aside from the prohibition of outdoor gym classes, neither my school nor the Fukushima Board of Education took any measures to prevent further radiation exposure for students. The school had students practice club activities outdoors as usual. Indoor club athletes were made to run outdoors as well, without any protective measure against radiation exposure. Despite the standard practice, measures such as gargling, washing hands, changing clothes, and showering weren’t deemed necessary for students when returning from outdoor activities. Since I had some knowledge about radiation exposure, I advised the students to take caution to remove potential contamination whenever possible. However, in response to my giving the students advice to prevent radioactive materials from entering the building, I had been cautioned by the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education, in the form of official “guidance” which forbids me to even talk about radiation and nuclear power plants to the students. Given that I was officially barred from protecting students from radiation exposure, I decided to make my move: along with my family, I evacuated my hometown and relocated to Sapporo city in Hokkaido. Once we evacuated, we found out about a financial system by Fukushima Prefecture which supports voluntary evacuees from the areas outside of the officially restricted zone (though it only approved applications from evacuees pre-December 2012; those who evacuated thereafter would not be financially supported).

I have been teaching part-time in Hokkaido. Since finding out that within the public school system the Fukushima Prefecture Board of Education can intervene to oversee public high school relocation anywhere, I have been teaching at private schools only. Aside from my part-time job, I have been involved in a nuclear power plant damages lawsuit as a plaintiff as well as a member of the refugee organization.

 

  1. Fukushima Prefectural Government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident

The reactors at the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, especially Unit 1 and Unit 2, were delivered and installed from the US after the US manufacturer finished all of their construction. As for Units 3, 4, 5, and 6 the Japanese manufacturer added their own “improvements” to the original structure.

I will try to avoid a lengthy explanation. TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant frequently had accidents immediately after beginning operation and the nuclear workers’ exposure levels amounted to twice to ten times the average exposure dose at other nuclear plants. Furthermore, TEPCO kept a lot of serious accidents hidden from Fukushima Prefecture and the Japanese government. TEPCO proposed using Unit 3 for so-called pluthermal power generation, utilizing fuel which can contain weapons-grade plutonium in order to reduce the plutonium surplus in Japan. Eisaku Sato, then-governor of Fukushima, strongly objected to the proposal.The Japanese government arrested and convicted Governor Sato on bribery charges with the amount of the bribe recognized as “zero yen.” They drove him to resign, then elected Yuhei Sato as the new governor. As described above, neither the Fukushima governor nor the organization called the Fukushima Prefectural Government had power over TEPCO.

 

  1. Nuclear accident and the Fukushima Prefectural Government

March 11, 2011, when a massive earthquake hit a wide area including Fukushima Prefecture, the building of the Fukushima prefectural office (which had been planned to function as a Disaster Response Headquarters) was damaged in the earthquake. The headquarters were set up in a small building next to the main office building to serve temporary functions. The prefectural government has never publicized records of proceedings and documents from over 20 meetings in the beginning. From the 25th meeting, they finally began keeping records of proceedings.

At the time, the temporary disaster response headquarters was believed to have had little to no communication lines, and had reportedly only two satellite mobile phones. Although the communication infrastructure began to be rebuilt gradually, what was happening then still remains largely unknown. There has been no official investigation into the correspondence between the local governments, the central government and TEPCO, and no evacuation orders to the local communities.

As far as public record goes, the only time Fukushima Governor issued an announcement in the first week was on the evening of March 14th. “Follow the instructions and  do not panic,””High school entrance announcements will be held as planned on March 16th,”— these two lines were broadcast repeatedly throughout local media.

From another angle, the recordings of the TEPCO video conference shows that Fukushima Prefecture requested TEPCO make a public announcement saying “the explosion in the Unit 3 at Fukushima Daiichi will not cause health damage.” Appalled by the request, thinking they “couldn’t say such an irresponsible thing,” TEPCO decided to “ask the central government to suppress Fukushima Prefecture,”—as evidently recorded during the video conference.

However Fukushima Prefecture repeatedly expressed that in the “Nakadōri” region—which includes the prefectural capitol, Fukushima City, and the commercially and industrially flourishing Koriyama City—there would be zero risk of health damage from radiation.

There has been a use of protective measures like wearing long-sleeves and masks for school children, which may have been a globally familiar sight through media reports. However this was not a recommendation or an order issued by Fukushima Prefecture, but rather a result of demands from local PTAs to boards of education in individual school districts.

Towards the end of March 2011, right before the school year resumed, the Fukushima governor was seen out in local grocery stores saying “Fukushima today is business as usual,” in which he began a campaign to “dispel harmful rumors” about local agricultural produce being contaminated by radiation. The governor also opposed widening the evacuation zone beyond the 20km radius of the nuclear power plant, and has repeatedly made remarks to avoid increasing the number of evacuees from outside the official evacuation zone.

As a result, aside from two local Fukushima newspapers, NHK, and four private television networks in addition to NHK Radio and Radio Fukushima, there was little to no mention of messages from outside Fukushima offering free housings and support networks for voluntary evacuees. Fukushima Prefecture also prohibited the use of not only public conference centers, but private facilities for hosting “counseling room” for evacuation as well. People around me practically had no knowledge of local autonomous support groups offering evacuation support. I have heard numerous times that “there is no evacuation order from outside the prefecture, meaning we have been abandoned.” In fact, it was Fukushima Prefecture who had been interfering with such efforts to reach our community.

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Click to enlarge
  1. Hiroshi Kainuma, “the Sociologist”

In 2011, an author from Fukushima became renowned after publishing the book “Fukushima’ theory–the birth of a nuclear village,” based on a thesis he wrote as a sociology student at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Sciences. His name is Hiroshi Kaiuma, born in Iwaki City, Fukushima, and graduated from the University of Tokyo Literature department at the age of 25 and advanced to the graduate program. I must note that this is difficult to grasp if you are not well-connected within Fukushima. But in short, Iwaki City, where Mr. Kainuma was born and raised, has very little connection to the Futaba district which hosts TEPCO’s power plant. In terms of large-scale trading areas, while the Futaba district is part of the Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture trade area, Iwaki City would be part of Mito City in Ibaraki Prefecture. In any case, Mr. Kainuma did not have strong connections to the Fukushima Prefectural government prior to March 11th, 2011.

Since the meltdown, however, he has somehow become “the Fukushima spokesperson who speaks about Fukushima on TV and radio.”

Additionally, I have written several critiques of his writings, one of which can be found on the following link (in Japanese): “Personal note on “‘Fukushima’ theory–the birth of a nuclear village'” http://togetter.com/li/815862

 

  1. Hiroshi Kainuma and the Fukushima Prefectural Government

After 3.11, his master’s thesis was published in books and he began to be featured in various media, including an appearance as a commentator on the popular evening program “Hodo Station (News Station).” We must note that the content of his remarks have been consistent—such as, “The acceptance of nuclear power plant by local communities was necessary for the regions’ survival”; “Those outside of Fukushima protesting against nuclear energy do not understand the reality of nuclear-hosting communities.” His views and comments on the anti-nuclear movement have been antagonistic from the beginning, for example, “People who oppose nuclear energy are rubbing local communities the wrong way.”

Mr. Kainuma currently holds the title of Junior Researcher of the Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization, but at the same time he is a PhD student at the University of Tokyo. While it would be appropriate to call him a sociology researcher, I feel it’s an overestimation to refer to him as a sociologist.

Currently the gist of Mr. Kainuma’s speech is towards the “recovery of Fukushima in visible forms” and its target audience is outside Fukushima Prefecture. While many others have in fact been referring to “bags” jammed with contaminated waste—seen everywhere and impossible to be ignored upon entering Fukushima—Mr. Kainuma continues to emphasize the “ordinary Fukushima” without mentioning the bags.

I see the previous governor of Fukushima, Yuhei Sato, in Mr. Kainuma in many ways, like in his seeming lack of experience interacting with people in temporary housings immediately following the meltdowns, or with shelter residents still living with much confusion and inconveniences as a result of the disaster.

Even the current Fukushima governor does not seem to have made too many visits to temporary shelters during or after elections.

To those who evacuated Fukushima to outer prefectures like myself, the Prefecture kept even more distance. By principle, they never made any official inspection visits to meet the evacuees. There is a notable lack of inspection visits not only in remote areas such as Hokkaido, but also in places like Yamagata and Niigata which are adjacent to Fukushima Prefecture.

In the wake of the disaster, though there was housing support for those who evacuated the areas outside of Fukushima as well, such efforts have gradually died down—as of March 2016, state subsidies for housing would be available only for evacuees who are from Fukushima. In addition, the housing subsidy program for those who evacuated the non-restricted zone will end in March 2017. However, there is no housing program for returning residents to Fukushima even if they decide to move back there.

Starting March 2017, voluntary evacuees still living in outer prefectures need to choose one of the three following choices:

1) Return home to Fukushima while paying out-of-pocket for most of the expenses associated with the move and your life thereafter. 2) Continue living outside Fukushima while relinquishing your rights to access resources as a disaster victim 3) Upon proving your need for financial assistance, receive housing subsidies for up to 2 years to live in privately-owned housing.

The reason for this policy change was credited to correspondence between the Minister of Environment and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, a non-governmental agency to provide scientific grounds for nuclear policy. The Minister of Envirnoment asked the NRA if “it is considered desirable to evacuate the areas that don’t have restrictions” to which the NRA answered, ”these areas are no longer fit to be evacuated.” It should be noted that there was no legal ground for this correspondence to be treated as official; how this exchange was reviewed and by whom is unknown.

Based on this document issued by the NRA, the Japanese government made a Cabinet decision to largely reduce support for evacuees through the Nuclear Accident Child Victim’s Support Law.

Following this decision, Fukushima Prefecture also determined its policy would end support for the voluntary evacuees from non-restricted areas.

Hiroshi Kainuma is working from an assumed role to justify such policy of Fukushima Prefecture, utilizing his position as a so-called sociologist. Even if he has ideas and views that differ from Fukushima Prefecture’s policy, he does not speak about them on media or at talk events.

For instance, when Mr. Kainuma was relatively unknown before 3.11, he had reportedly interviewed local anti-nuclear activists. Another instance tells us that although he had met and interviewed several people who have moved voluntarily out of the non-restricted areas, he proceeds to ignore the voices and opinions of them as though they had never existed.

Last year, nuclear reactors in Japan started resuming operation. Mr. Kainuma has not been seen or heard expressing opposition to it. Neither Fukushima Prefecture nor the Prefectural Assembly expresses any intentions to oppose nuclear restorations.

  1. The current presence of “Hiroshi Kainuma”

Through the circumstances described above, Hiroshi Kainuma is working so as to be portrayed by the media as a Fukushima Prefecture spokesperson, intent on selling “business-as-usual” appeal and depicting a Fukushima that “overcame a nuclear disaster.”

Meanwhile, and quite unfortunately, many Fukushima residents agree with his words and actions. Just as there are many people hoping to forget the scars from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, there are many who explicitly “do not evacuate,” comprising an overwhelming majority of the Fukushima population and wishing to forget and move past the disaster and nuclear crisis.

Here we have an academic scholar who speaks for us and to those who are outside Fukushima as well, saying to leave the nuclear disaster in the past.

Thus, this concludes the significance of Hiroshi Kainuma’s existence today.

 

(Translation by Sloths Against Nuclear State)

Voices of Evacuees: Joint Lawsuit Begins in Hokkaido

by TODOS SOMOS JAPON

Photo: In November 2012, activists and parents appeal to the head of Reconstruction Agency to reinforce new law to support the life of children who are affected by the nuclear disaster. (Courtesy of  LaborNet Japan)

Here is one of the latest news from Fukushima: the residents of Tamura city (20-40 kilometers from the crippled nuclear plant) was told by the government: “we could not clean up radiation in your town. Radiation is still not low enough for you to live in. But go home anyway, we’ll give you dosimeters to detect radiation on your own.”
Continue reading Voices of Evacuees: Joint Lawsuit Begins in Hokkaido

We Just Want to Have a Family – An Interview with former U.S. Sailors Jaime Plym and Maurice Enis

by TODOS SOMOS JAPON

Jaime Plym (right) and Maurice Enis (left) speak at FUKUSHIMA FALLOUT in Stony Point, NY. Photo courtesy of Sachiko Akama  | ニューヨークでのイベントFUKUSHIMA FALLOUTで話すジェイミー・プリムさん(右)とモーリス・エニスさん(左)写真:赤間幸子
(English transcript is below Japanese – scroll down to read: We Just Want to Have a Family – An Interview with former US Sailors Jaime Plym and Maurice Enis)

Continue reading We Just Want to Have a Family – An Interview with former U.S. Sailors Jaime Plym and Maurice Enis

Radiation Exposure is Unequal

By SHIRO YABU

(photo: Global2000 on flickr)
(Originally published in Japanese for Gendai Shiso 現代思想, July 2012 Issue)

 

Doesn’t Radiation Discriminate?

The Japanese Reggae musician, Rankin Taxi, has a song he has been singing for over twenty years: “You can’t see it, and you can’t smell it either.”

Radiation is strong

Radiation is powerful

It doesn’t discriminate

And you can’t beat it

Yes. Nobody can beat radiation. Nobody can escape its harms — so Rankin Taxi sings, and he is right. Continue reading Radiation Exposure is Unequal

Voluntary Evacuation: A New Form of Struggle – A Conversation with Takako Shishido (1)

by TODOS SOMOS JAPON

(Photo: Takumi Sakamoto – Goldenrods grow tall in the abandoned rice fields in Fukushima.)
【日本語は下部に掲載。スクロールダウンしてお読みください。】

Voluntary Evacuation: A New Form of Struggle
A Conversation with Takako Shishido by Todos Somos Japon (1)

June 23, 2012, NYC

Takako Shishido (TS)
Ayumi Hirai (AH)
Sabu Kohso (SK)
Yuko Tonohira (YT)

Yuko Tonohira: Today in New York we are joined by Takako Shishido from Fukushima on her trip back from Rio de Janeiro. When the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was struck by the earthquake and tsunami, followed by the series of explosions and meltdowns, Shishido-san was living in the city of Date, Fukushima Prefecture, 50km away from the plant. Last year she relocated to Sapporo City in Hokkaido with her two children and husband. As an evacuee herself, she volunteers as an organizer of the local evacuees network.

Sabu Kohso: Looking at the situation from outside of Japan, it seems that voluntary evacuation is such a crucial process and I am convinced that whoever can must evacuate the area affected by evident radioactivity. Here somebody’s evacuation itself will have a strong impact even on those who don’t need to evacuate yet, let alone those who do now. One definite thing to consider is the unstoppable spread of contamination, which will surely affect all human lives across the world, one way or another. I have a sense that there will be many many more people who follow the path of evacuation from now on. In this respect, a large network of support systems is crucial. Evacuation involves not only the efforts and determination of evacuees, but also necessitates help from those who accept the evacuees at new homes, and many other solidarity projects such as legal, mental and financial support. With this in mind, we may have an option to expand the network even overseas, to create a wider support structure, even though the immediate support must happen within Japan in the first place.

Takako Shishido: Yes, certainly. Right now, very few or no visible effects have been detected in the bodies of those of us who live or have lived in radioactive area since last March. It is quite likely that we have already been affected, but it is hard to confirm. Under such circumstances, much fewer people are voluntarily evacuating than we feel necessary at the moment. We can’t determine what will be sufficient, since nobody knows what is and will be happening to our bodies. When it becomes necessary, however, it will be very difficult for people to make an immediate decision to evacuate – especially if there is nowhere to go or no one to accept them. So it is surely important to have a system of support to accept those who want to evacuate at any instant in the future. If the state of the Fukushima Daiichi and radioactive contamination worsens, the entire Eastern Japan may face total devastation. Therefore one of the vital measures to be taken is for the State to acknowledge the right to evacuate for those who feel it necessary. It is important to create a consensus for this right so that we can say evacuation is not wrong. If many people offer their support for this, it would be so much easier for those who are living with unbearable anxiety to make their decision to get out. This is such a relief for many, and it will be much needed from now on.

YT: Sabu, what you just said was to set up some kind of system to accept evacuees even outside of Japan?

SK: Yes, first of all, a network within Japan is most crucial, but at this point the disaster is proving to be unprecedentedly huge, and the nuclear accident itself hasn’t been resolved. Some point out grave risks involved even in living in the Tokyo area. It is a matter of historical magnitude that Tokyo, a world metropolis, might need to be evacuated. And to have people move out of Tokyo cannot be imagined within the scope of Japan alone; this could develop into a global refugee situation. So there is a possibility that we will need to create a support movement based on borderless networking.

TS: Yes, it would be too late to form a support system when people are already trying to evacuate and move out of their homes. People would feel more comfortable migrating if there were good support system and organizations already in place. We panicked when the reactors exploded because there was no such evacuation system. In this on-going situation we can expect anything could happen. So any preparation will not hurt. Even if the efforts and practices may not see immediate results, they won’t be wasted for they will be needed when similar things happen elsewhere in the future. Today the core of such a support system consists of the so-called “support organizations” which are basically run by the common people. The support group in Hokkaido however tends to have many useful connections to the administration and municipal offices; community organizations and the administration are able to work together. Since the voices of evacuees are heard in exchanges with various sectors, things can work very well. We feel we are receiving significant support from the administration when we see officials help us, walking the fine line between the legal and extra-legal. The administration and the community groups have different capacities and each has separate agendas. When the two capabilities are combined, it makes a strong system for supporting the evacuees. It is extremely crucial to share capabilities in different places–not just in Hokkaido. In addition, I’ve been trying to involve many different types of people like those who can address mental needs, legal needs and so on. I think it is necessary to stay connected with as many people as possible.

SK: When we initially got together to begin Todos Somos Japon as a global solidarity project, with Yuko, Marina (Sitrin) and myself, we talked about the potentiality of these needs emerging. Our conversation didn’t go into much detail at first, but we did think about such possibilities. Since Marina has been involved in many social movements in Latin America, she envisioned several ideas; for example, connecting with the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brazil to start working with certain groups and municipalities, even on a small scale. In another instance, the government of Bolivia might actually listen to us if we try connecting with them. Any of these things we can’t predict, but we need to slowly examine who is willing and able to work with us, as we go on. It may take several years, though.

YT: In fact, if we think within the frame of the US, we may limit possibilities.

SK: Yes, what I imagine is to approach strongly-organized and well-mobilized social movements or even certain governments in Latin America.

TS: I am actually sensing something like the second wave of emigration to Latin America. For that matter, their invitation to Brazil may well have included a tacit message that Japanese evacuees could move there. Mr. Sato*¹ told us that he wanted us to see what kind of place Brazil was. I felt that he wanted us to see in our own eye that Brazil was a great place and we could migrate if we wanted to. In fact, immediately after the disaster, there were several offers from different governments for people to relocate there. Next time anything similar is offered to us, the situation will have become much worse than it is now- that kind of networking is very necessary.

*¹ Johsei Sato: A second generation Japanese born in Brazil, who runs a Buddhist temple in Brasilia. He has invited Ms. Shishido to Rio+20 People’s Forum in the summer of 2012 to discuss the current situation and spread the voice of Fukushima.

YT: Yes, there are already big Japanese immigrant communities in Latin America especially in Brazil, so in reality it would be easier for people evacuating from Japan to adjust to a new life, with familiar language and even the food culture already in place.

TS: Even within Japan, I have learned about some communities inviting those who have given up farming in contaminated areas, so that they can start farming again. But farmers cannot easily give up on their own land. They cannot simply move out of the land they have kept for generations, no matter how toxic it may be. One of Mr. Sakamoto’s photographs*² from Fukushima shows a former rice field, kept for the last three hundred years, now taken over by those tall weeds called goldenrod. Once goldenrod grows in a field, it can no longer function as a rice paddy. Even in this desperation, some long to go back to their land inside exclusion zones, and those who have not been restricted by the government’s safety regulations are trying their best to continue producing and harvesting. But I wonder that eventually many rice farmers will have to abandon their fields. Especially rice paddies closer to mountains get more damage. Since Japanese soil has a clay-like consistency, it is harder for contamination to spread. But still, some products have been banned for high-level radiation. Thus, the farmers today are forced to determine how to deal with the situation when their products are contaminated. For them it is not easy to simply evacuate.

*² Takumi Sakamoto: a photo journalist and writer reporting the devastation of the nuclear disaster in 2011. His photographs from the exclusion zones around Fukushima Daiichi include abandoned cattle, slaughter ground and former rice field that has since been abandoned.

SK: I see. If I put myself in their shoes, it wouldn’t be an easy thing to do. Just by imagining abandoning your house. In this respect, Shiro Yabu*³ may be an extreme example.

*³Shiro Yabu: a prominent activist and writer who evacuated from Tokyo to Nagoya immediately after the nuclear disaster.

TS: He can write his texts wherever he goes. If your job doesn’t restrict where you live, you can be mobile and move more easily, especially if you have an established profession. My husband, for example, is a high school teacher, but he had to give up his job since we relocated. Then the question is whether he can raise his children without a stable job. If not, your life would be equally devastated; you can no longer maintain your livelihood. So what you do is to weigh the benefits of giving up financial stability against the need of protecting your children from radiation. As a result, many cases of evacuation are limited to mothers and children, leaving the father behind to keep his job.

SK: Under such circumstance, people would definitely choose to remain in Fukushima while trying their best to avoid exposure to radiation. However, if the authorities give more strict figures to clarify possible health risks in areas wider than those currently under restriction, there will be more people who want to evacuate, I suppose.

YT: I agree. I think the biggest crime is that the authorities never properly announced that this was no longer a place humans could live. Then on the other hand, there is the people’s monitoring movement that prompted some municipal offices to start working towards protection of the community against radiation. Do you think there still are chances for the government to shift their position on that?

TS: Well, the Japanese government’s consensus has been that humans can live outside a 20 kilometer radius.

YT: So that’s probably not going to change?

TS: The state has finally acknowledged that some parts of the exclusion zone will forever be inhabitable. But that zone is way too small in our opinion. In fact the red zone around Fukushima Daiichi is much smaller than the zone around Chernobyl set by the Ukrainian and Belarusian governments. People all over Japan, let alone those in Fukushima, still don’t know how to accept this fact.

SK: Everyone seems to be stepping carefully in trial and error in this new situation. Shishido-san, at your public speech yesterday, you talked about the decision to leave or stay: that you would respect each one’s idea and decision. I was really moved by your consideration. Can you say a few more words?

TS: The matter of fact is that nobody knows what’s right. Many people are confronting the problem, only to realize that they have never dealt with such an unprecedented situation. Nobody had ever had to choose a way to survive on a daily basis. But now people are continuing to ask themselves what is best for them, and when they make their own decisions, each decision has its own value for the life of each. Right now in most places, people are still arguing against and rejecting each other’s ideas: “you are poisoned by pro-evacuation scholars,” or “you are influenced by pro-radiation safety scholars.” Meanwhile, there’s no way to foresee who is going to be proven right; it may take decades to know the truth. Then it’s up to each of us to determine our own course of action. First of all, we all need to recognize and understand the each other. Our ultimate goals are not far from each other – ultimately they are all for abolishing nuclear energy while protecting our children in safer places. We finally agree that we want to lead ourselves to a better future. Everybody I talk to comes to the same idea. So we should all be able to work on needs, while supporting each other, saying: “good luck on your decision, though I’m going other way, but we can still raise our voice together toward the areas we agree on.” In reality, however, people are telling each other that you are not right, everything you’re doing is wrong. Some people think what they do is the only way out. But the matter is not simple. So I say: let’s try to acknowledge the people who want to evacuate but cannot. Not all of them think radiation is okay. Some people decided to stay even fully recognizing the danger of radiation. There are others who stand by the ‘radiation is safe’ position and work on reconstruction of their towns. But none of us can decide what’s right for everybody, so all we can do is to do what we can do and say what we can say. If we find a definite resolution at some point, we can then start over by making necessary changes of orientation.
Right as I say this though, I must admit that I am betraying my true belief: I want everybody to evacuate. But would it bring any solution by pushing my idea onto those people who cannot evacuate? I doubt it would. So as I said, each of us should do what we can do and say what we can say. Yet again, if some health effects become apparent, I am sure that I will regret my tolerance. But that is the only solution I can come up with at the moment.

SK: It seems to me, however, that mental or political pressure and regionalist imposition are more intense on those who leave the community than on those who stay.

TS: I think so. For example, the levels of pressure are very different between those imposed upon compulsory evacuees and voluntary (self) evacuees. For us self-evacuees, there are accusations such as “why can’t you listen to what the state says?” The state tells us that everything is all right. Especially pressures from the older generation are tough on us: a grandmother speaking of her daughter-in-law complains, “what a wife who opposes the government.” This is because older generations are more attached to their land and find it difficult to leave. Also, often times husbands have grown up and lived long in the same town and have many friends who share strong connections to the town. But wives in many cases have come to the household from out-of-town and have an easier time being mobile. Therefore, we (mothers) often get harsher social pressures. It’s only natural that those who wish to evacuate but are unable to do so feel jealous of those who actually can evacuate. But we can’t really blame them. Feelings of jealousy are spreading rapidly and intensely in Fukushima today, especially towards the people from the exclusion zone who have received compensation from the government for their relocation. Some people claim: “lucky you, getting the money,” but there is nothing “lucky” about the lives of people who have been deprived of their land and subsistence, not knowing what to do. Sadly, such feelings are persistent among Fukushima residents. Lately it has been determined that certain compensation is to be offered both to some voluntary evacuees and some of those who remain in Fukushima. I hear that some are becoming extremely jealous and even panicked by the order of distribution of compensation. It is very disheartening to see the people driven into a corner to this degree. At the same time, those who remain in Fukushima are also accused of “prioritizing the economy and neglecting the health of the children.” This isn’t true, either. Many people are doing their best to protect the lives of their children within the condition of having to remain in Fukushima. If that’s not the case, why would people bother to buy bottled water and choose safe vegetables every single day? People are trying their best to minimize children’s exposure to radiation. Even some indoor playgrounds have been built. How could anyone say that people in Fukushima are sacrificing their children for financial profit, or that they aren’t brave enough to evacuate? This is very cruel, I think.

YT: For example, I heard about a daughter of a person from Fukushima who’s very active in the work of evacuation and compensation: after they evacuated their home in Fukushima, the daughter stopped going to school, protesting that she never wanted to part with her friends back home. After a while, the mother finally gave up and determined to move back to Fukushima. I realized that warning people to make their life decisions is not easy, when it is based solely on health hazard.

TS: It is true that the stress from evacuation has negative effects on our bodies. I mean: although I’m totally against the idea held by the group in support of radiation ‘safety’ that ‘stress is worse than radiation’, some aspect of it is true. There certainly are effects of radiation, but we won’t see them immediately. It may take years until we see them in the concrete. And during these coming years, there will be innumerable people who are mentally drained. Here we see a tendency among us of having to choose one of two options: psychological damage or radiological effects. It is fundamentally wrong that people have to face such decisions. Therefore, the root of this forced decision and forced care has to be terminated; we must never let the condition that imposes the choice — nuclear power– persist. How can you not go crazy having to make such intense life-and-death decisions every single day? How can you be living and doubting if you can breath the air around you? So many people, including myself, have had to adjust to breathing less, and haven’t breathed deeply until we moved to Hokkaido.

YT: Also, thinking about why these people are forced to internalize such sufferings as if they were their own problems, I believe its root goes back to what TEPCO caused and the state’s irresponsibility that scattered all these problems onto the people. We recently learned that Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Plaintiffs had gathered to bring criminal charges against government officials and TEPCO executives. I have been shaken up by their effort and determination. Shishido-san, how do you see the effort for the lawsuit?

TS: That is the group headed by the prominent antinuclear activist, Ruiko Muto*. While I was helping them hand out fliers in Sapporo City, I learned that there had been so little judicial intervention and nothing would happen unless the people actively work on the lawsuit themselves. For example, there have been so many criminal investigations into various cases of business corruption, but nothing has been done against TEPCO. This is an abnormal state. We must motivate and move the judicial system, and in order to do so, bringing suit against the criminals ourselves is most effective. We need to pursue responsibilities of the government and TEPCO. And after all, we also need to hold ourselves accountable for our own indifference on nuclear energy that has lasted till now.
* Ruiko Muto has been involved in anti-nuclear activism since Chernobyl. The Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe forced her to close her café in Miharu-cho, Fukushima.

SK: This is an extremely multi-faceted struggle!

TS: That’s why what each can do in her capacity comes to be very important. If you think, for instance, project (A) needs to be done now, you must gather the like-minded people. While at the same time, project (B) is better handled by a different group of people, with whom you can act on that.
What we need are such loosely connected networks. If you determine one way, you won’t be able to rise up again when that single path is cut off. Meanwhile, improvising and working as we have been with flexibility, our ideas have been gradually transforming since day 1 of the nuclear disaster. This is how fifty thousand people have come to gather in front of the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo. For instance, while calling for “no nukes” may put many people off, “elimination of nuclear energy for protection of our children” may gain wider support. It’s important to stretch the base wider. We have lawsuits and we have individual compensation — we need to work in parallel on these issues.

YT: It seems like multiple issues are simultaneously falling onto each individual as their tasks. Many people are in such stressful circumstances.

TS: I think so too, and that’s why some people are unable to catch up and stop thinking. Many people had never been so political nor so intensely forced to take their lives into their own their hands. Ordinary life suddenly disappeared one day. This plain fact alone hurts people, and it’s natural that many are giving up thinking. But we should never torment nor ridicule them that they aren’t thinking anything.
This is just the beginning. I hope many more people will take into consideration how to connect different individuals and to connect with each other effectively. One person has two hands – each one of us could connect to two more people, and so on. I think this is how we can make our project bigger, gradually. I don’t believe there will be a Revolution – at least in the social climate in Japan today. But a slow transition, if not a rapid one, is definitely necessary, though I’m not sure if we can continue to catch up with the situation we are facing.

YT: We can argue how we define Revolution, though.

Ayumi Hirai: A slow transition can be a part of Revolution.

TS: We probably won’t be overthrowing the government. Then who would take care of all the political affairs related to the disaster?

SK: Perhaps there is a stance that the administration has to be overthrown first. But a revolution can involve various processes and can happen slowly as well. First of all, one needs to protect her own life. And her family’s lives. Think about communities. Work on legal action too. And to top it off, work on the anti-nuclear campaign. Facing so many objectives, my brain would probably burst out and stop thinking.

TS: One of the things I heard many times is: “are you going to save only yourself? What’s the point? We are all irradiated anyway.” I would say: what is wrong with saving myself? Only thereafter, we can say: “let US save ourselves!”

YT: I agree, I think that the basis is protecting ‘myself and my loved ones’ in the first place.

TS: But the social trend tends to oppose the idea quite strongly. So we need to change the trend to make people understand that they CAN protect themselves on their own.

AH: Hearing this reminds me of the crucial fact that the people are in the state wherein they are given their lives rather than living them by and for themselves, wherein their bodies and spirits are bound up and tied onto a big power.

TS: After all, we have lived according to a set of rules which someone else had decided for us. For instance, my mother-in-law is someone who would insist that evacuation isn’t something you should decide on your own. I opposed her strongly and questioned who on earth should decide; aren’t you entitled to have your own opinion? Who else, if not I, will make decisions for my life? In the end, we are all faced with the question: what each of us wants to do. This nuclear disaster has made many of us face ourselves with this severity, for the first time ever.

SK: In this respect, if I may say, there is a wonderful element to it, too. It implies: ‘people have been given their lives by some external power,’ but now a new subjectivity is rising. And this subjectivity is completely different from one of the Japanese in the traditional sense. In this process, there is a clear sense of new subjectivation by way of making one’s own choices. Of course, taking the reality of the disaster into consideration, I cannot really say it’s ‘great’, but if there is anything positive coming out of this apocalyptic situation, it is that people are beginning to make decisions on their own.

TS: In the state where many of us were suddenly thrown to the other side of our thinkable reality zone, we found ourselves in shock, incapable of acting. So how to stand up again from the state of shock is becoming very crucial. Thus we would like to see all of us making our life decisions by ourselves. What has happened to us can happen to everybody else – this isn’t just a problem in Fukushima.
But in Japan now, I do see this issue treated as something of the past and something particular to Fukushima. So unless we change this mental climate, we can’t make a movement big enough to change this situation. Last and foremost, considering the on-going damage caused by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, I can never take this situation positively. I have seen people be ‘thankful’ for what has happened – they are happy that it has brought awareness, that they can connect with many others. When I heard someone saying ‘thanks to the nuclear accident,’ I was taken aback and couldn’t possibly agree with it. I want people to keep in mind that the magnitude of the event is unprecedented — such is what is happening around us now.

To be continued.

 PDF (English)

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自主避難とあたらしい抵抗の形

対談:宍戸隆子 & トドス・ソモス・ハポン (1)

2102年6月23日、ニューヨーク

宍戸隆子
高祖岩三郎
殿平有子
平井亜由美

殿平: 今日は、リオデジャネイロからの帰りにニューヨークに立ち寄ってくださった福島出身の宍戸隆子さんを迎えての対談です。宍戸さんは、福島第一原発の爆発とメルトダウンが起きたとき、福島県伊達市にお住まいでした。事故後北海道へ避難されて以来、札幌で二人の子どもさん、旦那さんと暮らしています。そして現在札幌で、自主避難者のひとりとして地域の避難者の人々と自治会を結成され活動なさっています。

高祖: 大枠の話になりますが、外から大きい視点で見るとやはり自主退避というのはすごく切実なことで、必要な人には自主退避してもらわなければいけない。その行為自身が、退避する必要があるひとだけじゃなくて、その他の人たちにとってもすごく重要な事ではないかと。一つには放射能の汚染がどんどん広がるという事実があって、そこにやはり人命というのがすごく大きい問題としてある。その時に僕の予想としては、これからもっと傾向として避難が増えていくだろうといえる。その時に、もう既にあるんでしょうけど、それを大きくサポートするネットワークの存在が、すごく重要だと思うんです。避難というのは、退避する人だけではなくて、それを受け入れる人、そして法的、精神的、経済的なサポートなど色んな側面があるんですよね。そういう事を考えると、このことは日本国内がまず重要だと思うんですけど、ある種の世界的サポート・ネットワークみたいな事もオプションとして考えられるのかなと思うのですが?

宍戸: そうですね、まず、まだ私たちの体に異常らしい異常はまだ出ていない。もしかしたら出ているのかもしれないけど、それが表面化してない中で、いま自主避難っていうのは少し下火なんです。ですが、これから何が起こるのかわからない。その段階で、いま確かに自主避難を選択する人は少ないけれど、いざ避難したいって思った時に誰も手を差し伸べてなかったらその人はやっぱり避難できないんですよ。いつでも避難したくなった時に「私の手をとって」と差し伸べてくれてる人たちが全国にいることがひとつ。例えばこれからもっと放射能、原発の状況が悪くなってきたら、それこそ東日本全部が壊滅してしまうかもしれない。その時に世界からも私の手を取ってと差し伸べてもらっていたら、本当に心が傷ついてどうしたらわからない人も手を取りやすいと思うんです。だから先ずは、自主避難の権利というものを国がちゃんと認めてくれること。避難することは悪い事じゃないっていうコンセンサスをとることが大事だし、それをサポートするかたちで沢山の人が手を差し伸べてくれていたら、本当にもう不安で不安ではち切れそうな人が手を取りやすい。その時に手をとれる、その安心感。いざとなったら誰かが手を差し伸べてくれてるって思えていたらそれはそれでぜんぜん心の安定にもなるし、これから絶対に必要になってくる事だと私はおもいます。

殿平: 高祖さんが今言ってたのは、日本国外への避難にまで及ぶときの、それに対する受け入れという意味ですか?

高祖: うん。まずはやっぱり日本だろうと思うんだけど、僕の予想だとこの事故はかなり大きい規模で、まだ収束してない。例えば東京すらやばいという意見もかなり大きい。東京ですらある地域によっては避難の可能性を考えといていたほうがいいというのは、ものすごい事ですよね。世界のメトロポリスですから。だからここから人が退避しなきゃいけないというのは一体何をもたらすのか、といったら、もう日本だけでは背負いきれない、ある種の世界難民という状況がくるのではないか。その時にある種の国境を越えたサポート運動みたいな事が必要なんじゃないかという予想がじゅうぶんできると思うんです。

宍戸: やっぱりいざその時がきてからサポート体制を組もうとしたら遅いんですよね。そういう予測に基づいてある程度組織をつくっておいてくれたらいざという時に動きやすい。結局、予防原則が無かったから原発が爆発した時にパニックになってしまった。起こりえない事はこの世に存在しないので、だからいま準備してもらっておいた方が絶対いい。もしその準備が無駄になったとしても、例えばこれから同じ様な事が他の国で起こったりだとか他の地域で起こった時に、そのノウハウってものすごく活かせるんですよね。今その支援の主体は各地にある「支援団体」であり、市民です。北海道の支援団体は、たまたま行政の関わりもものすごく大きい。行政と市民団体が関わって一緒に動ける。あとそこに避難者も加わって意見を交換できるっていうのが、ものすごい力になってるんですね。いざという時に行政の力を借りられるということは素晴らしくて、行政も法律のぎりぎりのところを歩いてわたしたちを助けようとしてくれている。その気持ちや心が伝わるという事はものすごく大きい。やはり行政ができることと、市民団体ができることって別なんですよね。そこを組み合わせたら、ものすごく強力な支援体制ができる。そういうことを北海道だけではなく他の地域でもできるようにしておくことはもの凄く大事です。あと私は本当にできるだけ色んな人を巻き込もうとしているんですけど、やっぱり心のケアやなにかも必要だし、法律的なケアっていうのも必要だし、そういう点でもあらゆる沢山の人と繋がりをもっていくこと。それが必要だと私は思います。

高祖: そもそも有子さんとマリーナ・シトリンと3人で、Todos Somos Japon結成の話した時ってそういうこともちらっとでてたよね。

殿平: そうですね。

高祖: そんなに僕らが大きい範囲でできる話にはいかなかったけど、そういう可能性もあるんじゃないか。そもそもマリーナは南米の色々な社会運動をよく知ってる方なんですよね。彼女が提言していたのは、最初から大きい範囲では無理かもしれないけれど、例えばブラジルの『土地なき農民運動』というグループとコンタクトを取って、そういう形で少しずつその特定の運動なり特定の自治体なりと交流するとか。または、例えばボリビア政府なんかは話がきくかもしれない。これはちょっと全然予想できないけれども、どういう所が受け入れる力をもっているかとか、いろんな側面で試行錯誤しながらいかないと。いきなりはじめる、というよりも2、3年はかかるだろうから。

殿平: ここアメリカという枠で考えると実は結構可能性が薄れるのかもしれないですね。

高祖: そう。想像できるとしたらラテンアメリカのわりと力の強い社会運動、或いは政府なんかもありうるかもしれない。

宍戸: 本当に第二の移民時代が来ちゃうかもしれないっていうのも勿論あって、私がブラジルに呼ばれたのも実はそういう側面もあったのかもしれない。ブラジルがどういう所か知ってほしいっていうのは、佐藤先生(*1) に言われたんですよ。ブラジルはこれだけいい所なんだからこっちに来てもらってもいいよって言う風なことを、あなたの目を通して知ってもらいたいんだ、っていうのはあったと思うんです。いざという時に。それこそ、今回事故が起きてからすぐに来てくださいっていう政府が、実は何カ所かはあったんですよ。もしそういうふうなことがこれから起きた場合は、今以上に酷いことになっている訳だから、そういうのは絶対に必要だなと思います。

*1 佐藤清浄氏:ブラジル生まれの日系2世で、現在ブラジリアで本願寺派の住職をつとめる。今夏リオデジャネイロで開かれたRio+20の市民フォーラムにて宍戸隆子さんを招聘し、ともに福島の現状を伝え、提言している。

殿平: そうですよね。ラテンアメリカの国々、特にブラジルはすでに日系人コミュニティーというのがあることを踏まえると、現実的に言葉の問題だとか、食べ物の習慣っていうところで、避難する人達が生きやすいところではあるのかもしれないですね。

宍戸: 一応、日本国内でも本当に農民の方達、農地を持っていた方達に移住してもらって、こっちで農業やりませんかっていうような運動もあるんです。ただやっぱり農民の人たちっていうのはじぶんの土地を離れがたいんですよね。どんなに汚染されててもずっとずっと自分たちで造ってきた土地なんですよね。昨日坂本さん(*2)の写真でも、300年つくってきた水田がセイタカアワダチソウだらけになってた、あれは本当にショックな事なんです。セイタカアワダチソウが生えたら水田はもう普及できません。その絶望の中でもやっぱり警戒区域に戻りたい人はいるし、作付けを制限されてない人たちは何とかそこで食物をつくっていけないかってすごい努力をしています。でもどうなんだろう、実際問題として何割かの水田は放棄しなきゃなくなってくる。山の側の水田なんかはやっぱり駄目なんですよ。日本は粘土質だからそれほど想像以上に放射能が米には移行してないんだけど、それでも出荷停止になるところがどうしても出てきてしまう。その時にどうしていいかはみんなこれから考えていかなきゃいけなくなってくる。簡単に避難というのは、本当にできないんですよ。

*2 坂本工(たくみ)氏:。2011年の原発事故による破壊を警戒区域内で撮影するフォトジャーナリスト。

高祖: そうですよね。自分の身に当てはめて考えてみるとなかなかできることじゃないですよ。住んでる場所を捨ててって考えてたら。矢部史郎さん(*3)なんかはかなり極端だと思うけども。

*3 矢部史郎: 震災後すぐに東京から名古屋へ避難した活動家。

宍戸: 結局彼は本を書けるじゃないですか。

高祖: うん、そうなんですよね。

宍戸: 仕事がどこに行ってもできる、そういう人はやっぱり避難しやすいんですよ。手に職のある人とか。でも、うちの旦那は教師なんですが、やっぱり避難したってことで仕事できなくなってしまって。じゃあ仕事の保証が無い中で子ども達を育てられるか?それは放射能の危険にさらすこととほとんど同じですよね。生活ができなくなるかもしれないっていう。そこを天秤にかけたときに、じゃあ母子だけ避難しましょうというところに留まってしまう。

高祖: そうすると、やっぱり福島に留まって、なんとか放射能を避けながら生きていこう、そういう選択をする人たちも絶対出てくる。でもこれはもっときっちりと厳しい基準の範囲に基づいてここからここまでの人は避難してくださいと言われたら、避難したい人はやっぱりいると思うんです。

殿平: そうですよね。とても残念だけど、この土地はもう住めるような場所じゃないからっていふうにきっちり政府や行政が宣言しなかったことが、そしてまだ言っていないってことが罪だといえる。でも一方で、行政なりにちゃんと宣言させるに至った放射能計測などの運動もあった。どうなんでしょう。今からでも行政が新たにきり出すっていうのもあるんでしょうか。

宍戸: ただそれこそ20キロ圏外に関しては人が住める土地だっていうのが日本のコンセンサスなので。

殿平: そこはやはり変わらないんでしょうか。

宍戸: 警戒区域のなかで一部のところは人が住めない土地になります、とようやく国も認めてる。でもその範囲は私たちにしてみればあまりにも狭い。ウクライナとかベラルーシ、チェルノブイリの周りで避難指示が出ている所よりもかなり狭い範囲なんですよね。それをどう受け止めるかは福島の人たちだけではなく、日本の人たち全員がまだどうしたらいいかわからない状態にある。

高祖: 本当にある種の新事態なので、それぞれがどうしたらいいか試行錯誤してるという状況だと。昨日のトークの中ででもう一つおっしゃってたのは、福島に残る判断と出る判断。そのなかですごく印象深かったのは、例えば残るっていう判断を非難したりするんじゃなくてそれぞれの決定をすごく尊重するって仰ってましたよね。それにすごく動かされたんですけど、そのあたりもう一度言っていただけますか。

宍戸: 本当に何が正しいのかわからないんですよ。そのなかでじゃあ自分はどうしていくかという問題にしても、みんな今までの人生で、そこまで突き詰めて考えたことなんてきっとなかったんですよね。毎日毎日命の選択を迫られることなんてありえなかった。だけどそのなかで自分はどうしていくのかってみんな自問自答してる。そこで結果として残る決断をする、避難する決断をする、その決断の重さに差はないはずなんです。今の状況としては、お互いがお互いをあなたの考えは違うとか、その考えは避難を呼びかける学者に毒されているからとか、安全派の学者に毒されてるからとかやり合ってる状況なんだけど、一方で学者の論理といってもその答えが出るのは何十年先かもしれない。であれば結局は自分たちの判断次第ですよね。お互いがお互いのしたことを認めるのがまず先だと思う。目指す所って実はそう遠くないんですよ。やっぱり、安全なところで子供達を守りながら原発はなくしていこう。それでより良い未来に繫げていこうっていうところに何となく話は収束する。誰と話していてもそう。だからその為にみんながそれぞれできる事をそれぞれの立場から発言したり活動したりしてたほうがいいだけの話で、そっちはそっちで頑張ってね、私はこっちの道を頑張る。でも手を繫げるところは繋いで一緒に声をあげていこう、と。なのに、いやここ違うから、あんたらの言ってる事は全部だめだ、とかいうふうになりかけているのが現在。自分たちのやってることだけが本当の正しい道だ、とまで思ってしまう人達もいる。でもそうじゃない。本当に避難したくてもできない人達もいる、という事は認めよう。その人達は決して放射能が危なくないって思ってる人達ばかりじゃない。放射能の危険を十分に感じていながらも、それでも私はここに残るって決断をした人達もいる。もちろん放射能が危なくないっていう論拠にそって復興を頑張っていこうって言う人達もいる。でもどれが正しいかは今本当にわからないから、みんながそれぞれできる立場からできる事をし、言える事を言っていく。どれか最後に一つ正しい道があるとしたら、そこに誰かが辿り着いたその時にまたみんなで変えていけばいい。
ただしこう言ってはいますが、自分の心情としては裏切ってるところはあって、本当はみんなに避難してほしいんですよ。それでも、じゃあ私の思いをみんなに押し付けて何とかなるか 、といったら絶対そうはならないんです。だから本当みんなができることをし、できる場所で声をあげていく、そういうふうにいうしかない。そういうことしかできない実感がありながらも、もしこれで健康被害がでてきたら、わたしはきっと後悔すると思う。それでも私は今できるのはそれしかないと。

高祖: やっぱりそういった精神的、政治的プレッシャーと、地域主義的な軋轢というのは、どちらかというと出ていく人に対してのほうが強いんじゃないかという気がするんですが。

宍戸: うん、そうですね。例えば国から避難しろと言われた人と自主的に避難した人のあいだではプレッシャーの質が違うんですよね。私たち自主避難者には、「なんで国のいうこと聞けないの?国は安全だっていってるじゃない」と言われる。特におじいちゃんおばあちゃん世代は、「まあ国に逆らうようなことしてうちの嫁はまったく」ってことにどうしてもなりかねない。やはり土地を離れがたく思うのはその土地に根ざした人達だから、祖父母世代のほうがより土地に対する愛着が強い。更にお父さんは結局その家のある土地の流れにそって生きてきたわけだから、おなじ土地でつながっている友人なども多い。その分お母さんは割と他から嫁に来てたりする。なので身が軽いんだと思うんですよね。そういう風な事もあって、確かに私たち(母親)に対するプレッシャーは強いです。やっぱり避難したくてもできない人達が避難した人達を羨む感情っていうのはもちろんあるし、しかしそれは悪い事だとわたしは言えないと思う。

高祖: 羨む感情というのがあるんですね。

宍戸: 福島のなかでは今、嫉妬の感情がものすごいんです。それこそ警戒区域で避難を強制されてる人達は国から保証が出てるわけじゃないですか。「あんたたち金もらっていいな」という人が出てきてしまうのですが、そんなの「いい」わけがない。土地も奪われ仕事も奪われてこれからどうしていいのかわからないのにお金をもらってるだけで、羨ましいなんて言えるんでしょうか?そういう思いはかなり強く存在するんです。その後自主避難者にはある程度賠償がでることになり、福島にいる人達ににも賠償が出ることに決まったんですけど、たとえばその賠償の出る順番が違っただけでパニックになるほどの嫉妬もある。それだけ気持ちが追いつめられてるということでもあるし、辛いです。でも、福島に残る人は残る人で、「あんたら経済優先して子供達の命を蔑ろにしてるんだろ」と言われてしまう。でもそうではない。福島に残る人達はそこで生活していく中で子供達の命を守ろうとしている。そうでなかったら毎日毎日ペットボトルの水を買い、安全な野菜を選ぶなんてしないでしょう。そうやってどうにかして子供達の被ばく量を減らそうと頑張っている。さらに屋内遊具施設なんかもできています。どうにかしてそこで生きていこう、でもそれに対して簡単に、「お前達は経済の為に子供達を犠牲にしてるんだろう」とか、「避難できないのは勇気がないからだ」っていうのはものすごく酷だと思う。

殿平: 例えば、避難や補償のために活動しているあるお母さんの娘さんの話を聞いたのですが、家族で福島から出た後にどうしても友達と離れるのがしんどくてしんどくて登校拒否してたそうです。どうしても嫌だ、と。そこにお母さんはとうとう折れて福島に戻ったと聞きました。だからこう健康被害だけを考えて警告するっていうのは、一筋縄ではいかないのですね。

宍戸: 確かにストレスが体に良くないっていうのは本当で、安全派の人達がストレスの方が害があるという説、すごく嫌なんだけど、実は一理あるんです。放射能による健康被害があるとしたらすぐには出ない、それこそ数年後かもしれない。それまでに精神がやられちゃう人は必ず出るんですよね。「どっちを取るか」になる傾向がある。でも本来であれば、精神被害をとりますか?放射能の被害をとりますか?なんて選択が迫られる事自体おかしいですよ。だからそういうケアが確実に必要になってしまうようなことをもともと起こしてはいけない。原発事故というものを絶対に起こしてはいけない。こんなに命に関わる事を毎日毎日考えて生きていたら気が狂います。だって空気を吸うこと自体いいのかって思う。ありえなくないですか?ほんとうにみんな呼吸が浅くなっちゃってて、例えば私もそうですが、北海道に来たときに久しぶりに深呼吸しましたという方の話を聞きましたし。

殿平: それから、なんでこんなにもの苦痛をあたかも自分の問題として内在化させないといけないのかって考えたときに、やっぱりこれは東電が起こした事と国の無責任さが直接人々に降りかかっているのだ、というところへどうしても回帰するとおもうんです。福島原発告訴団の人々が政府と東電などに対し刑事告訴を始められましたよね。みなさんの努力と信念を見たり読んだりして胸が震える思いです。宍戸さんは刑事裁判についてどうお考えですか?

宍戸: それは、武藤類子さん方のグループですね。私も北海道で刑事告訴のビラとかの手配をさせていただいたんですが、まったくもって市民の側から告訴しないと、本当に司法の手がなんにも入っていないということに気づかされます。例えば去年の事故後から今までのあいだも色んな会社の汚職とかに関してはすぐに警察が入っているのに、東京電力に関してはまだ一度も入っていない。その状況自体がまず異常である。どうにかして司法を動かしたい、それは刑事告訴っていう手段はもっともだと思います。勿論きっちり国と東京電力の責任を追及していかなければいけない。それから、自分たちが原発に対してあまりにも無関心だったことは刑事告訴とは別に自分たちが考えていかなければいけないことだと私は思いますね。

高祖: ものすごい多面的な戦術を駆使する闘いですね。

宍戸: だからそれぞれの立場でそれぞれができる事というのは非常に重要になってくる。今はこれをやるべき、思ったらその人のもとに集まってそっちを伸ばしていけばいいし、これはあっち人の方が得意だからあっちの人に力を貸してもらってそっちもやっていこう。という緩やかなネットワークが本当に必要なんじゃないかと思います。これはこの道しかない、とがっちりと決めてしまうと、その道が断たれたらもう立ち上がれなくなってしまう。現に、こっちが駄目ならこっちもいこうよ、あっちもいこうよ、そう言ってるうちに少しずつみんなの意識も原発事故の当初とは違ってきている。だから5万人も官邸前に集まってくる。例えば、「反原発なんです!」というと引いてしまう人もいますよね。でも「子供達の命を守るために原発無くしていきたい」と言えば、それはすごくよくわかる、という人がいる。とにかく裾をひろげていくことが大事なんじゃないかな。だから刑事告訴があり、個人個人が賠償を求めていくこともあり、それらを平行してやっていくのはもちろん大事ですよね。

殿平: いくつもの問題が同時多発しており、それをひとりいくつも抱えこまなきゃいけない、というのが多くの人達の置かれてる状況ではないでしょうか。

宍戸: そう。だからついていけなくて思考停止しちゃうのもものすごくわかるんですよね。だってたくさんの人々が今まで政治なんて全然興味なかったし、命の事だってそんなに突き詰めて考えてこなかった。普通に生活できてたことが突然普通にできない。それだけで人間ってものすごい苦痛になる。だから思考停止しちゃうのは当たり前で、その人達を決して責めてはいけない。その人達なんにも考えてないんでしょ、と笑っても絶対にいけない。
これからなんですよね。その人達とどうやって繋がっていこうか、どうやって人々を繋いでいくか、という風に考える人が増えていく事を願います。一人でも増えていけば、手は二本あるから二人の人を繫げられるじゃないですか。そうやって少しづつ広げていくしかないんだと私は思います。私は革命は絶対に起こせないと思う。日本の風土としての革命を起こすというのは無理だと思う。でも急激な変化じゃなくて緩やかな変化は間に合うか分からないけど起こさなくてはけないと思います。

殿平: 革命をどう定義するか、ということも考えらると思います。

平井: 緩やかな変革というのも革命の一部かもしれないし。

宍戸: 政権打倒してっていうのは無理だから。じゃあこれからの政治誰がやるの?となる。

高祖: おそらく、例えば野田政権をまず倒すべきだ、という見方はある。でも革命っていった場合にはいろんなプロセスが考えられるし、緩やかなこともあり得る。ただ、まず自分の命を守る、家族の命を守る、共同体を考える、法的な事もやる、それから原発反対する。あまりの多面的な課題に、僕だったらパンクして思考停止しそうなかんじしますけどね。

宍戸: そう。よくいわれた事が、自分だけ助かるつもりなの?みんな被ばくしてるからいいじゃないって。何で自分が助かっちゃいけないの?だからこうやってみんなで助かろうよ、と言いたいのに。

殿平: そうですよ。まずは自分自身や自分の親しい者が助からなければ、というのが基本にあるものなのではないか、と思うのですが。

宍戸: でもそれをいいことだと思わないっていう風潮はものすごく強い。自分の命は自分で守っていいんだっていうところをみんなが実感するように変えていかないと本当はまずいんだろうな。

平井:それを聞いてると、誰かに生きることを与えられてるというか、大きな権力に自分の体と精神を繋ぎ止められているような状態にあるような気がします。

宍戸: 結局今まで誰かが決定してくれていた事に沿っていたっていうのがあると思う。私の義母さんなんですけど、避難する/しないは自分が決める事じゃないっていうのをものすごくはっきり言ってて、じゃあ誰が決めることですか?自分の意見はないんですか?、とすごく強く思ったことがあった。自分の命すら自分で決められなかったらどうするの?結局私たちが突きつけられたものって自分はどうしたいか、だと思う。原発の事故で、多くの人が初めて自分と向き合う様になったんじゃないでしょうか。

高祖: そういう意味では、こう言うのもなんですけど、すばらしいことでもあるわけですよね。今おっしゃったように今まで何らかの力に生きさせられてきた、というニュアンスがあるとしたら、ある種の新しい主体が生まれて、それはもしかしたらもはや旧来の日本人というものじゃないのかもしれない。主体化のプロセス、自分で決定して判断するプロセスが明確化しているような感じ。もちろん状況があまりにも酷いので全然「良く」はないんですが、そのなかで良い事があるとしたら自分で決める、ということではないでしょうか。

宍戸: 今まで踏み込んでこなかった思考の向こう側にどうしてもバンって放り投げられた状況だから、先ずはショックで動けなくなっちゃうと思うんですよ。そこからどうやって立ち直っていくかっていうのがものすごく重要になってきて、じゃあどういう選択をしていくかってみんなが考えてくれるようになったらいいなって。私らに起こったことはみなさんにも起こり得る。福島だけの問題じゃないから。
でも、日本のなかでもそれはもう過去のことだし、福島だけの事だしっていう印象が強いから、そこが変わっていかないとやっぱり大きな動きにはならないんだろうなってうのはありますけど。やはり地震と津波と原発災害が引き起こした重さを考えてしまうと、もちろん状況を肯定する事は私は絶対にできないですね。でも、そういうものに対してありがとうっていう人たちもいるんですよ。わたしは気づくことができましたと。いろんな人と繋がって私は今幸せです、原発の事故ありがとう、とまで言われたときには、それは言っちゃ駄目だと思ったんですけどね。それだけ直面せざるを得ない事が起きてるというところは心に留めてほしいなと思いますね。

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