In Fukushima, 3/11 fallout forcing remains to be stored at temples, ancestral gravesites to be moved
FUKUSHIMA – The remains of Fukushima’s deceased evacuees are being left in limbo because radiation is preventing them from being buried.
In municipalities that remain off-limits because of the fallout from the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in March 2011, the inability of residents to return has put burials for their loved ones on hold.
Instead, many relatives are opting to leave remains in the hands of temples or moved their family graves out of their hometowns.
Choanji, a temple in a no-go zone in the town of Namie, is keeping the remains of about 100 people at a branch facility that was set up in the prefectural capital after the nuclear crisis began.
“Evacuees don’t want to bury the remains of family members in places with high radiation levels,” said the branch’s chief priest, Shuho Yokoyama, 76.
To enter the no-go zone, residents need to submit applications to the municipal government in question.
The woman is unhappy with the system as she wants permission to enter the areas freely, at least during Bon, the traditional period for commemorating one’s ancestors. Since the disaster began, she has been unable to visit the grave of her brother-in-law.
At Choanji, 20 percent of some 500 families in the congregation have moved their ancestors’ graves to other areas.
Isao Kanno, 50, who hails from Namie but now lives in Tokyo, was in the area just before the remains of his father, who died two months before the meltdowns, were scheduled to be interred.
“I can’t be evacuated alone and bury the remains in the grave” in a no-go zone, Kanno said. “I’m considering moving the grave somewhere else.”
Some, however, worry their hometown ties could fade if they move their graves.