SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
M. Jakfar Idrus ”Revival of Iitate-mura：the status quo and its problem”
A weird warning siren, which announced that the ICBM by North Korea has overflown Hokkaido (the most northern part of Japan), blared out in the archipelago in the early morning on September 15 (Fri.) 2017.
Listening to this news, we, sixteen SGRA Fukushima Study Tour members left Tokyo Station by Shinkansen for Iitate-village in Fukushima Prefecture. The SGRA Fukushima Tour, sponsored by the Atsumi International Foundation, started in the year 2012 for the purpose of inspection and studying the situation of the revival there after the disaster.
Recall that on March 11, 2011, a big “Tsunami” hit Tohoku (North-Eastern)-area in Japan and radioactive contamination by the Fukushima Nuclear Power Accident caused by Tsunami became an extraordinary accident in world history. Our tour has been focusing on Iitate village where people were forced to take refuge and we have made site inspections every year for these six years. It was the third time for me.
Tour members this time came not only Japan but also from Indonesia, South Korea, China, Ghana, Italy, Sweden, Canada, Nepal and the United States. In Iitate, a provision for the evacuation zone was lifted this April and people were returning to build a new village. We, tour members, wanted to understand how these people are tackling the difficult problem of building a new village. We have been watching the actual change of Iitate through communication with villagers. This was the most important purpose of our tour.
I vividly remember a scene of Iitate when I visited last time in 2015. At that time, the provision for evacuation was not lifted yet and we saw only decontamination workers. It was very miserable to see houses which were left as vacant houses and exposed to the wind and rain. Many houses were still vacant and we saw only a lot of flexible container bags of decontamination soil around houses and on fields.
When I entered the village this time, I could see different sceneries. Some crumbling houses which belong to the people who are allowed to return are being newly built and I could see vinyl farming houses here and there. We could see also field of rice (for making Japanese “sake”. Such changes of sceneries made me feel strongly that the people have already started to build their new village. A gloomy image of the disaster-stricken area has already changed.
We met Mr. Muneo Kanno, a villager of Iitate and Vice-President of the “Association of Resurrection of Fukushima”, and came to know that building a new village is not simple.
He said “though the village was removed from the evacuation area category and the villagers have been allowed to return, we are faced with a lot of difficulties. I like you to see with your own eyes and feel by yourself what problems or difficulties we have. ”It was really our purpose of the SGRA Fukushima Tour.
According to the Manager, General Affairs Section, Iitate, “there were about 6,000 villagers before the disaster. And only 400, out of those 6,000, came back now but almost all are the aged. Many people come on village daytime every day from outside of Iitate. We have to overcome a lot of difficulties to restore to original condition and we have to improve the present environments for the return of villagers.”
We visited many facilities and got the opinions of people who endeavor to build a new village. I like to report here some of these opinions..
- Nursing home for the aged
They can use, even now, a nursing home for the aged which was built before the disaster and was not damaged. However, there are not enough nurses or care workers to maintain or operate such a home.
- Mega-solar panel：
In the western area of Iitate, we saw large-sized mega-solar panels which are manufactured by a big company in Tokyo. The fields were not for farm use. The solar panels may be a trial for building a new village, but I had a feeling that something is out of place and not in harmony with nature. I hope the solar panels would not become another trouble for the life of the people in Iitate.
- Flower gardening：
We visited Mr. Takahashi’s vinyl house. He is a farmer and growing flowers there and got his powerful opinion. I got a strong feeling that the efforts for their future by the people who returned to the village are the basis for their development. Takahashi-san’s energy or power which try to overcome such difficulties impressed me a lot.
- Roadside station：”House of MADAY LIFE”：
House (station) of “MADAY” Life was built as an overriding policy by the government as a symbol of the revival of Iitate. As there is no shop in Iitate yet, such shops, convenient shops, direct sales of farm products from farmers and light meal corners in “House of MADAY”, are being completed for the improvement of villagers’ life and interchange of villagers themselves. I hope people from other area also come to House of MADAY.
＊Maday ：Dialect of Iitate area in Fukushima
- Flower Garden in Meadow：
We visited the flower garden of Mr. Kin-ichi Okubo (aged 76 years) who is called as a “wizard of flower”. It is not the same as Takahashi-san’s flower garden mentioned above. Mr. Okubo has a dream and is trying to build a large scale flower garden for narcissuses or cherry trees utilizing the mountainside or paddy field, both of which are polluted by radioactivity. Young fellows are also working together as volunteers. I was surprised at his energy which does not look his age of 76.
I am sure this flower garden would become a famous spot in Iitate in the near future.
- Religious facilities：
We visited “Yamatumi-shrine”. We met the village chief by chance and we were able to get his opinion about the present situation of the village. I think religion plays a big role in the revival of the village. Especially in Japan, traditional habits or festivals are deeply connected with the local shrines or temples. I am an Indonesian and a Muslim. In Indonesia, religion also plays an important role for the revival from disasters.
We could make a heart-warming interchange with the people in Iitate in this SGRA Fukushima tour and learned a lot. We appreciate people who cooperated with us this time. I believe the lifting of the evacuation area would be a starting point for their restoration.
And I like to keep my strong interest in Iitate hereafter believing in a brilliant future of Iitate.
SGRA Report of The 6th Fukushima Study Tour in Japanese (Original)
（Visiting Researcher of Kokusikan University）
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Max Maquito