Okinawa has welcomed the people from Fukushima and other northeastern prefectures (states) affected by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that set off the nuclear disaster. Okinawa is offering 60,000 yen ($750) a month to help relocating families of three or four pay the rent, and lower amounts for smaller families.
“We hope they feel better, maybe refreshed,” said Okinawan official Masakazu Gunji.
Other prefectures have offered similar aid, but Okinawa’s help is relatively generous and is being extended an extra year to three years for anyone applying by the end of this year.
Most people displaced by the disaster have relocated within or near Fukushima, but Okinawa, the only tropical island in Japan, is the most popular area for those who have chosen prefectures far from the nuclear disaster. An escape to Okinawa underlines a determination to get away from radiation and, for some, distrust toward Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operates Fukushima Dai-ichi.
Kazue Sato lived in fear of radiation because the roof of her home in Iwaki, a major city in Fukushima, was destroyed by the earthquake.
And so she moved with her husband, a chef, back to Okinawa, where she had grown up. She now lives in her grandparents’ home and hopes to turn it into a coffee shop with her husband.
But Sato is still struggling with depression, especially because her old friends criticized her for what they thought were her exaggerated fears about radiation. She struggles with a sense of guilt about having abandoned Fukushima.
“Little children have to wear masks. People can’t hang their laundry outdoors,” she said. “Some people can’t get away even if they want to. I feel so sorry for them.”
Sato and Kubota are joining a class-action lawsuit being prepared against the government and Tokyo Electric on behalf of Fukushima-area residents affected by the meltdowns. It demands an apology payment of 50,000 yen ($625) a month for each victim until all the radiation from the accident is wiped out, a process that could take decades, if ever, for some areas.
“We think people have the right to live in an environment not polluted by radiation that may harm their health, and that right has been violated by this accident,” Izutaro Managi, one of the case’s lawyers, said in a meeting earlier this month for plaintiffs in Naha, a major Okinawan city.
Read more at People Flee Japan Nuke Disaster to Faraway Okinawa
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