Voices From Fukushima 1: Fears Arising From the Nuclear Disaster

It’s frightening to breathe. It’s dangerous to go outside. When we do go out, we wear masks. We wear long sleeves even in summer. Doors have to stay shut, always. Of course, children no longer frolic in the woods or play in the dirt, even in my town, which is located 60 kilometers from the Daiichi Plant.

Because of the nuclear accident that began after the earthquake on March 11, 2011, residents in a third of the area of Fukushima Prefecture have been evacuated and forced to relocate. Government offices, schools, hospitals—all human activities are halted or hampered. The lives of the people of Fukushima, who enjoyed the benefits of the lush countryside, have been transformed. Fear of radiation prevents them from living in nature; they must remain aware at all times that their lives are at risk. 
  • Teachers teach their lessons, while measuring their students’ exposure levels with dosimeters.
  • Mothers fearing internal exposure buy food from outside the prefecture.
  • Parents desperately spray-wash their property.
  • Some parents decide they must move out of the area to protect their children’s future. Desperate to live, desperate to protect their children.
People who lost their houses and their jobs took shelter in gymnasiums. These days, they live in temporary housing, wondering what will become of them. They have learned that decontamination is a tremendous task that will take years. Maybe they’ll never return home.
The nuclear accident has taught us something. Human beings at this time are not able to control radiation. We are awaiting the results of research on the effects of radiation—particularly low-level radiation.
We understand that there is no place to put the radioactive waste.
A girl in junior high school said,
Even if I’m okay, what about my future children? Will they be okay?
We must do the work that will enable us to properly answer her question.
Yayoi Watanabe
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