A teenager’s account of the Fukushima ordeal
By Linda Pentz Gunter
Ten years after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, how has the Japanese government responded and what is it like for the people affected, still struggling to return their lives to some semblance of normality? Here is how things look:
- Manuals are being distributed in schools explaining that radioactivity exists in nature and is therefore not something to be afraid of.
- The government is considering getting rid of radiation monitoring posts as these send the wrong message at a time of “reconstruction”.
- The Oversight Committee for Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey is discussing the possibility of stopping thyroid inspections at schools because they stress children out and overburden teachers and staff.
- Depression and suicide rates among young people from Fukushima are likely to be triggered by being called “germs” and by being seen as “contaminated”.
- Those who speak out about radiation are more stigmatized today than they were 10 years ago.
- Those who “voluntarily” evacuated, recognizing that the so-called protection standards were not adequate for their region, are often ostracized from their new communities. They are seen as selfish for abandoning their homeland, friends and families “just to save themselves” and are bullied as parasites living on compensation funds, even though the “auto-evacuees” as they are known, received none.
- Those forced to evacuate are also bullied if they do not now return, accused of not trusting the government and its assertions that it is safe to do so.
- The taboo against speaking out for proper radiation protection and for compensation has grown worse as the rescheduled Olympics loom for this summer and Japan is determined to prove to the world it has fixed the radiation problem and beaten Covid-19.
- On March 1, 2021, it took three judges all of 30 seconds to dismiss a case brought by 160 parents and children who lived in Fukushima prefecture at the time of the nuclear accident, and known as the Children’s Trial Against Radiation Exposure. The class action suit sought 100,000 yen per person in damages from the government and the prefecture, due to the psychological stress brought on by the lack of measures to avoid radiation exposure after the accident.
These are some of the realities uncovered by France-based Japanese activist, Kurumi Sugita, as she interviewed those affected and began to compile a graphic short story about her findings, entitled Fukushima 3.11 and illustrated by French artist, Damien Vidal. The booklet is produced by the French NGO, Nos Voisins Lontains 3.11 (Our Distant Neighbors 3.11).