A photo-essay by Mitsu Maeda.
The crisis was ongoing in Fukushima. People were struggling against the invisible enemy.
Farmers had to stop cultivation as the soil and the air had been polluted with the invisible. Children from 30km radius, if have not been evacuated to other cities like Fukushima city or Aizuwakamatsu, had to go to Kashima elementary school which is located just outside 30km radius from their evacuation shelter. Students from 5 elementary schools were sharing one school building, not even being able to go out to playground. A dockyard was taking the debris away from the factory to restart operating, for the fishermen who lost their ships, knowing they will not be able to sell their fishes from Fukushima for some years, as the sea was polluted.
At Izakaya, Japanese style bar restaurant in Minami-soma, I met 2 men who are running a restaurant. We had some conversations, drinking and laughing sometimes, but what they shared with me was really serious, full of anger, and sadness.
“Our lovely homeland was polluted. Our beach was actually very famous for the surfers all over the world, but now it is a beach which no one can swim.”
“We hear many news of people committing suicide, including the case of children. We have completely no idea of how our life is going to be. Some people we know evacuated to Aizu and enjoying hotsprings after receiving enough money from TEPCO and their company, but for us self-employed without any insurance, some one million yen compensation from TEPCO is just nothing. It really depends on one’s situation. No matter how scary the radiation is, we have to keep operating while letting my wife and children to evacuate, or else how can my family pay the bills?”
“We do not feel alive now. Fukushima prefecture now says that it is going to check our body in a long term. We are like human guinea pig. You know, this kind of radiation leak have never happened before. They would like to know what is going to happen to our body.”
I had never been to Fukushima until the Fukushima Daiichi exploded. After my first visit to Minami-soma, Fukushima on the end of March, I went in and around the 20km radius from the plant for 3 times. The more I spent time with the local people, I started to love the kind people I have met, and the pretty Tohoku landscape which grew these people. And at the same time, I started to feel how much we have lost.