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I just wanted to live a normal life – Akiko Morimatsu

February 15, 2022

It will soon be 11 years since the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
It is estimated that 27,000 people have evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture and 39,000 people have evacuated to 915 cities, towns, and villages in 47 prefectures across Japan (all figures as of January 12, 2022, compiled by the Reconstruction Agency). (As of January 12, 2022, according to the Reconstruction Agency.) However, the exact number of evacuees is still unknown due to discrepancies between the totals of Fukushima Prefecture and those of municipalities, as well as cases where the government has mistakenly deleted evacuee registrations.

The accident is still ongoing.
We would like to share with you some of the stories we have heard from the evacuees.
This time, we would like to introduce Ms. Akiko Morimatsu, who gave a speech with Greenpeace at the UN Human Rights Council on the current situation of the victims.
(All information in this article is current as of 2018)

Akiko Morimatsu’s eldest daughter, who was a newborn infant at the time of the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, is now in elementary school. In the seven years since she left Fukushima Prefecture, she has never lived with her father.
Her eldest son, who was three years old, is a father’s child. Whenever his father came to see his evacuated family once a month, he would return to Fukushima Prefecture, and I could not tell you how many times I wet my pillow with tears of loneliness and sadness.

In March of this year, Ms. Morimatsu made up her mind to stand on the stage of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ms. Morimatsu is a so-called “voluntary evacuee. Housing support, which was the only support for “voluntary evacuees” from outside the evacuation zone, has been cut off, and now there are even eviction lawsuits against “voluntary evacuees” who cannot pay their rent.

In the fall of 2017, Greenpeace, together with the victims of the nuclear accident, appealed to the member countries of the United Nations Human Rights Council about these human rights violations that the victims continue to suffer. Many people who supported us with signatures and donations supported this project.

Subsequently, recommendations for correction were issued by Germany, Austria, Portugal, and Mexico. Greenpeace is calling on the Japanese government to accept these recommendations.
We hope that as many people as possible will know why Mr. Morimatsu decided to speak directly with Greenpeace about the current situation in front of the representatives of each country at the time when the decision to accept the recommendations will be announced.

A nursery school in Fukushima Prefecture in 2011

In the midst of impatience, anxiety, and unpredictable fear

It was during the Golden Week holidays, two months after the disaster, that Ms. Morimatsu decided to evacuate.
Until then, she had been trying to rebuild her life in Fukushima Prefecture.

However, even though no evacuation order had been issued for the area called Nakadori, where he was living at the time, the kindergarten distributed disposable masks to all the children and instructed them to wear long sleeves and long pants. Elementary and junior high school students in the neighborhood drive their own cars to school, even if it is within walking distance. They are not allowed to go outside without permission, and of course they are not allowed to play outside either at the kindergarten or around their homes.

On weekends, the whole family travels to Yamagata and Niigata prefectures on the highway to take the children out to play. Radioactive materials have been detected in tap water and fresh food. We could not hang our laundry or futons outdoors.

No matter what we did, we had to first think about the possible effects of radiation on our children and pay close attention to everything.

No one can tell us what is the right thing to do.

I don’t even know if I should continue to live here. I feel impatient, anxious, and unpredictable.

One by one, families in the neighborhood and kindergartens were leaving Fukushima Prefecture, and it was the fathers of the children who first suggested to Ms. Morimatsu that she take the children to the Kansai region, where she had spent her school days, as they were planning to use the holidays to reorganize their living environment.

What she saw there was a media report about the danger of radioactive contamination, which had not been reported at all in Fukushima Prefecture.

What can we do to protect the future of children who are highly sensitive to radiation?

Only I, as a parent, could protect them.

It was time to make a decision.

Greenpeace radiation survey at a kindergarten in Fukushima Prefecture, 2011.

I separated the children from their father.

With the encouragement of relatives and friends in the Kansai region, and with the agreement of her husband, who continues to work in Fukushima Prefecture, Morimatsu decided to evacuate with her children.

No evacuation order was issued for the area where the Morimatsu family was living. They had to pay separate rents and utility bills for the rental house they rented to replace their house that was damaged in the earthquake, and for the house they rented to house their mother and child in Osaka (*Housing support for voluntary evacuees ended in March 2017. Because Ms. Morimatsu had left public housing early, which had a short move-in period, she was not provided with housing after that and is not counted in the number of evacuees, forcing her to continue living as an evacuee completely on her own).

Even for fathers to come to see their young children, the high cost of transportation is prohibitive.

What kind of impact will not being able to see their fathers most of the time have on the children’s mental development?

How do fathers feel when they can’t watch their adorable children grow up?

Was the evacuation really the right thing to do, forcing families to live apart?

Mr. Morimatsu was in agony, but he decided to find a job in the evacuation area so that he could see his father and children as often as possible.

However, there was no way to take care of her oldest daughter, who was only one year old at the time, at the evacuation site.

Because of the risk of not receiving information from the local government regarding public support and health surveys for children, victims who are voluntarily evacuating cannot inadvertently report their departure. As a result, they were not able to receive services such as day-care centers smoothly in their evacuation areas.
As a result, although she was able to be placed on a waiting list for childcare, her childcare fees were also determined based on her household income, so her own income, which she had begun to work to supplement her double life, was added to her household income, which was quite high. Since she is not a widow, she is not eligible to receive subsidies for single-mother households.

Empty playground of local day nursing school called “Soramame” in Fukushima city. Before Nuclear crisis, this school was taking care of 24 kids. However, since most of them have evacuated to other places with their families, now only 7 kids left. A director of the school, Sadako Monma 48 says “After March 11th, kids are not playing on the playground and instead they are playing inside the school all the time due to nuclear issues”. Since many kids left the school, Monma is thinking about closing the school which has been running for the past 15 years due to financial situation. Fukushima prefecture.

The Best Choice in the Worst Situation

The number of people like Ms. Morimatsu who evacuated from areas where evacuation orders were not issued is a small minority compared to the total number of victims of the nuclear accident. She said that she felt guilty and conflicted about evacuating from a place where even temporary housing could be built for victims from areas where evacuation orders had been issued.

But no one would willingly abandon their current life to evacuate.

Ms. Morimatsu’s husband chose to continue working in Fukushima Prefecture even if it meant leaving his family.

Whether to evacuate or not, each victim’s decision should be respected as the best choice under the worst circumstances.

Voicing one’s anxiety or pointing out what one feels is wrong should not be denied.

But we are practically forced to close our eyes, keep our mouths shut, and pretend to forget about it.

The biggest victims are “children”.

Seven years have passed since the accident, and yet the “right to health” of children, who are the most vulnerable to radiation exposure, has not been given equally to everyone’s children?

I just want to live a normal life together with my child.

I want my children to live a long and healthy life, even if it’s just for a minute or a second.

It is a natural wish for parents to long for this.

The current situation is such that even this desire is being ignored.

Akiko Morimatsu (photo taken in 2021) ©️ Greenpeace / Kosuke Okahara

Protecting the Human Rights of Victims of the Nuclear Accident

The right to avoid radiation exposure and protect one’s health continues to be violated regardless of whether one evacuates or not.

Is the right to avoid radiation exposure, in other words, the right to evacuate, equally recognized for those who want to evacuate?

The policy of not recognizing the right to evacuate, discontinuing the provision of housing without medical support or information, and effectively forcing victims to return home through economic pressure is a violation of human rights for the Morimatsu family and other victims of the nuclear accident.

If the same thing happened to you, what would you protect?

What would you value the most?

The right to life and health is a fundamental human right given to every individual, from the newborn baby to the elderly person whose life will end tomorrow.

Mr. Morimatsu is still evacuating with his children.

Greenpeace’s activities are based on scientific evidence derived from the results of radiation surveys conducted in the area immediately after the accident.
We will continue our research activities and human rights protection activities for the people affected by the accident.

February 21, 2022 - Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , ,

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