SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
Jin_Hongyuan Miscellaneous Thoughts on Fukushima
It was not the first time to visit Fukushima.
I visited Fukushima for the first time in 2012 summer as a volunteer.
Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake (March 11, 2011), I was lost in my planned study abroad program in Japan, and by chance I found a recruitment of university volunteers to Fukushima on the bulletin board of Zhejiang University in China. When I called, it was a private exchange activity where a Japanese exchange student from Keio University contacted the Fukushima Prefectural Office and recruited university students in China to go to Fukushima. During the seven nights and six nights, we visited the villagers in temporary housing and visited agricultural facilities along with the sightseeing. The most impressive thing was that many young people fled outside the prefecture, but the old people who remained there were surprisingly strong and cheerful.
When I left Fukushima, I told “I will come back soon !” But, it was seven years later that I could visit Fukushima again. I visited Iitate in September, 2019 as “Fukushima Study Tour”. I was interested in agriculture because I have majored in agriculture in the university and I have a little knowledge about agriculture. I checked economy of Fukushima in advance and found that manufacturing is main. Contribution by agriculture is not so big, but some of the agricultural products are famous. For example, “Akatuki” and some of other peach breeds in Fukushima are very famous in Japan. There are some rice breeds which are as good as other breeds in neighboring prefectures like Niigata, Yamagata and Miyagi. Fukushima premier branded beef is also famous, and we can find “Akabeko”, which is a folk toy of cow, everywhere in Fukushima.
However, after the nuclear power plant accident, agricultural products from Fukushima suddenly came to the spotlight from all over the world. Frequent news such as foreign import bans. I also learned that all agricultural products made in Fukushima Prefecture that were not affected by the nuclear accident were suffering from reputational damage as “from Fukushima.” In China, there is a proverb “好事不出門、懐事伝千里”. It means “There are few people who care good things. But, bad news travels quickly”. The same is true of Fukushima’s agricultural products that are being beaten. According to a report by the MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), the change in prices of six kinds of products like rice, beef, peach and plaice etc. are showing below the national average, despite of gradual recovery. It is not radioactive contamination but a prejudice for agriculture that Fukushima people should challenge for their restoration.
Now, let us come back to Iitate. It is true that profit from agriculture are damaged by prejudice as the second damage. But they do not know their actual latent impact on their health by radioactive contamination, which comes from invisible radiation by cesium, which have long half-life period. Immediately after the accident, wind brought such radioactive materials and spread to soil of Iitate. This time, I measured radioactive rays by dosimeter by myself walking in the village and found that data on the surface of ground and muddy place shows higher figures. In the windbreak forests, the place, where the wind from the nuclear power plant blows directly, shows higher figures. In Fukushima, they removed surface soil physically in order to keep their living and production. There were various reports about this. Some of them reported that they have tried to bury contaminated soil into deeper place, but they could not do it by the opposition of the people who live there. There was a plan by country which contaminated soils would be reused as piling up soil for their new roads. There seems no good idea for contaminated soils and we saw a lot of durable plastic bags alongside roads temporarily.
After two or three weeks later of our trip, the 19th typhoon hit Iitate and the contaminated soil flowed out by heavy rain. It was a problem. When I saw the news of flowing out of contaminated soil, I had mixed feelings in my mind. I know “anybody do not like to touch contaminated water and soil”. As a foreigner, I felt a sense of helplessness like a bystander.
Fortunately, when I saw the faces of the villagers in Iitate, I was very impressed with their spiritual strength and strong mind. Of course, it is understandable that many former villagers remain in urban areas without returning after seven years of evacuation. Therefore, I respect the villagers who return and stay alive after canceling the evacuation orders. Seeing many NPOs working hard for the future of Iitate Village, I was impressed by the variety of ways of life, and it was a memorable trip.
I saw many calves in Iitate rich in nature which villagers began to raise. I wish I could enjoy nice Iitate beef when I would come back next time.
Jin_Hongyuan / 2019 Raccoon, Special researcher at Department of Integrated Bioscience, The University of Tokyo
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala