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Afraid about radiation, but afraid to speak out: Fukushima mothers

chld-Japan-medicalReluctant to speak, Fukushima moms admit fear of radiation, pressure from families, Japan Times, BY , 29 Sept 15 STAFF WRITER To stay or to flee. Mothers in Fukushima Prefecture had to make harsh decisions for their families after the nuclear disaster of March 2011. More than four years on, they still have to.

Those who remain there live in constant fear for their children’s health. But choosing to flee opened them to accusations of being bad wives who abandoned their relatives, community and husbands tied to jobs.

It is a no-win situation for those who face the decision to stay or go, because they may be unable to live up to the ideal of a ryosai kenbo (good wife, wise mother).

“Consciously or subconsciously, women are aware of the role we are expected to play in a family. After the earthquake and nuclear disaster, however, everything changed,” said Yukiko (not her real name), a mother and voluntary evacuee in her 30s. “I can’t live up to those expectations any more, and society judges me.”

All women interviewed for this story spoke on condition of anonymity.

As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant began to play out, Tokyo Electric Power Co. established a 20-km no-go zone around the site, outside of which the government said conditions were safe. Many did not believe the assertion.

Yuriko, a woman in her 70s who lives in the city of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, believes the zone restrictions divided the community.

“Some people trusted the government’s word and continued to live here, but others couldn’t stand living every day in fear and moved out,” Yuriko said. “Nobody knew what to believe and communities have fallen apart.”

The fear of radiation, rumors and media reports about the safety of local food prompted many mothers just outside the no-go zone to evacuate voluntarily for the sake of their children’s health. Some moved to neighboring prefectures, including Iwate and Miyagi, and others made the great leap south to Tokyo.

“To be honest, I didn’t have much knowledge about the nuclear reactors in Fukushima. But I did know how deadly high exposures of radiation could be,” said Yuko, in her 30s, who has a 6-year-old daughter. “I evacuated to Tokyo within a week of the disaster. My husband stayed in Fukushima, but I was determined to leave to prioritize the safety of my daughter.”

In many cases, voluntary evacuees like Yuko are mothers who fled with their children while their husbands remained in Fukushima to work………….. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/09/29/national/social-issues/reluctant-speak-fukushima-moms-admit-fear-radiation-pressure-families/#.VgsUZOyqpHx

September 30, 2015 - Posted by | Fukushima 2015, Japan, social effects

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