Thousands Who Left Fukushima Face Hardship via Voice of America


Matsumoto is among nearly 27,000 people who left areas that the government did not identify as required evacuationzones.

Now, the Fukushima local government is preparing to cut unconditional housing assistance at the end of March. Many people will face the choice of returning to places they fear are still unsafe or learning to deal with financial hardship.

“Because both the national and the local governments say we evacuated ‘selfishly,’ we’re being abandoned. They say it’s our own responsibility,” Matsumoto, who is 55, told reporters, her voice shaking.

“I feel deep anger at their throwing us away.”


At the time of the earthquake, Matsumoto lived with her husband and two daughters in Koriyama city, about 55 kilometers west of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

Japanese officials declared a ‘no-go’ zone 30 kilometers around the plant, but Koriyama was outside of that area.

When her younger daughter, then 12, began suffering nosebleeds and diarrhea, Matsumoto and her children moved to Kanagawa, near Tokyo.

Her husband, who operates a restaurant, stayed behind in Koriyama to ensure they could make payments on their home loan and other bills. But, because of travel costs, the family can only meet every one or two months, and they face social pressure.

“People like us, who have evacuated voluntarily to escape radiation, have been judged by our peers as if we selfishly evacuated for personal reasons,” said Matsumoto.

She feels her only support is housing aid that the Fukushima government gives to voluntary evacuees, who numbered 26,601 by October 2016.

The payment is generally about 90,000 yen, or $795, for a family of two or more in Matsumoto’s area, a Fukushima official said. He added that full rental payments on housing are covered until March 31.

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