“There are children who are very fearful. They ask before they eat anything, ‘does this have radiation in it?’ and we have to tell them it’s okay to eat,” said Mitsuhiro Hiraguri, director of the Emporium Kindergarten in Koriyama, some 55 km (35 miles) west of the Fukushima nuclear plant.
“But some really, really want to play outside. They say they want to play in the sandbox and make mud pies. We have to tell them no, I’m sorry. Play in the sandbox inside instead.”
Hiraguri said that stress was showing up in an increase of scuffles, arguments and even sudden nosebleeds among the children, as well as more subtle effects.
“There’s a lot more children who aren’t all that alert in their response to things. They aren’t motivated to do anything,” he said.
Koriyama has removed decontaminated earth in public places, sometimes more than once, and work to replace all playground equipment in public parks should finish soon.
Yabe, at Koriyama city hall, said parental attitudes towards the risk of radiation may be slowly shifting.
“These days, instead of hearing from parents that they’re worried about radiation, we’re hearing that they’re more worried because their kids don’t get outside,” he said.
But Hiraguri said things are still hard.
“I do sometimes wonder if it’s really all right to keep children in Fukushima. But there are those who can’t leave, and I feel strongly that I must do all I can for them.”