SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
Mailisha ”Fukushima Study Tour : Collaboration Circle”
I joined the SGRA Fukushima Study Tour for the first time on May 25,2018.
Every year, since 2012, SGRA (Atsumi International Foundation) has been continuing to organize study tours to Iitate Village in Fukushima, which is an area affected by the nuclear power station accident.
Before I left Tokyo, I had read opinion pieces and impressions written by other SGRA members who had visited Iitate, and I thought that Iitate would still be in harsh conditions.
We visited Iitate under the guidance of Mr. Yoichi Tao, President of the “Resurrection of Fukushima”. One year has already passed since Iitate inhabitants began to return to the village.
Frankly speaking, I had a feeling that this beautiful “SATOYAMA “ (village-vicinity mountains) are on the verge of extinction. And, it was my strong impression on the first day that the “Resurrection of Fukushima” is trying to solve some very difficult problems. Generally speaking, in rural areas in Japan, people are worrying about depopulation and aging. In areas affect by the nuclear power accident, such fears are escalated.
During the tour, I was surprised by how many people were going in and out of the area frequently. I saw a lot of people who came from other areas. On Saturday, a miracle occurred in a depopulated area in which most of the inhabitants were senior citizens. Many people of different ages and from different fields visited the activity base of “Resurrection of Fukushima” located in the area called Sasu for rice-planting the next day.
I got the strong impression that the power to change the future is born in places where many people get together. In the Sasu area, collaboration for development of decontamination works and growing tests of farm products by villagers, specialists and volunteers started three months after the accident. Together with other participants, villagers have been growing rice throughout the year, starting from planting seeds, rice-planting and harvesting. A circle of collaboration has formed through connecting people, and is growing ever wider.
People get together every Saturday and Sunday at the activity base of “Resurrection of Fukushima” . We met volunteers from the Saitama Prefectural Konosu-High School and university students of circles from the University of Tokyo. Creative activities which collaborate with universities are being developed. I thought the resurrection of farmland or activation of rural community from a villager’s perspective would be possible through collaborations with the University of Tokyo or Meiji University.
These “circles” which create connections or links with people are now creating new possibilities for the succession of histories and cultures, and are not limited to environmental preservation. There are a few examples of this. Cooperation in the restoration project of the painting of a wolf on the ceiling of the hall of worship in Yamatumi-shrine in Iitate village, the preservation and practical usage of schoolhouses which have been built in the Meiji era, and a project for the succession of Miso--paste etc.. I had a feeling that such sustained exchanges and collaborations would contribute to establish a system of “Resurrection (of homeland)”.
I, as a foreigner, was encouraged very much by this development of social activities and the establishment of social value by various bodies.
Iitate is known as one of the most beautiful villages in Japan. I have encountered an unbelievably beautiful scene in Iitate – “collaboration circles” which are encouraged and promoted by creating connections.
I was deeply impressed by the links of people here.
I would like to come to this beautiful village again.
(Mailisha / Professor, Faculty of International Studies, Showa Women’s’ University)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sonja Dale