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Children face “discrimination because of Fukushima,” the discovery of thyroid cancer, and bullying

After the nuclear accident, Zensei Kamoshita evacuated from Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, to Tokyo. 11 years later, he is now a university student. Photo by Shuzo Saito

22, 2022 issue

Eleven years will soon have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident. Many residents have yet to regain their normal lives. In particular, what have the children who have been at the mercy of the nuclear accident been thinking and how have they survived the past 11 years? What did the unprecedented accident bring about? Through the experiences and words of these three grown-up adults, we will consider these questions now.
Nine-Year-Old Wishes to Go to Heaven

I was glad to hear that (my son) talked about the future. Because a few years ago, that boy couldn’t even think about that.”

 That’s what his mother, Miwa, said as she watched Zensei Kamoshita (Matsuki), 19, walk in front of her. After the nuclear accident, he evacuated to Tokyo, where he was bullied and had a tough childhood.

 His nature-rich life, where he would eat Tsukushi (tsukudani) boiled in soy sauce from vacant lots and help lost Karugamo children, changed drastically on March 11, 2011. The accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant shattered them.

 At the time, Zensei was 8 years old and living in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture. He was about to go out with his mother to learn when the earthquake struck. He was held by his mother in front of their house and waited for the long tremors to subside.

 My mother and I immediately went to pick up my younger brother from daycare, and then went out to look for my grandfather, who had gone to Iwaki Station.

 Expecting that the area in front of the station was in chaos due to the earthquake, my mother left Zenjo and his younger brother in a parking lot a short distance away, telling them that she would be back and that they must never leave the car, and then ran to the station.

 However, no matter how long he waited, his mother did not return. The aftershocks continued. Eventually, my brother asked to use the restroom, and Mr. Zensho broke his promise to my mother and took my brother to the restroom at a nearby gas station.

 After about an hour and a half, when his mother returned, Mr. Zengsheng and his younger brother were wailing.

My brother may have been crying because he was inconsolable, but I was crying because I felt like I had broken my promise,” she said.

 Zensei said. As an 8-year-old at the time, the idea that people would die in an earthquake or tsunami “didn’t really sink in,” he said.

Zensei (right) and his younger brother were 8 years old when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident occurred, and the family’s life changed drastically after 3.11.

The next morning around 5:00 a.m., my parents told me that they were going to evacuate the building and that I could pick out three toys. His younger brother wanted to take four, so Mr. Zensho gave his brother the right to one and got into the car.

 During the trip, I don’t remember when I went to bed and woke up, but I do remember that my mother was concerned about the release of radioactive iodine from the nuclear power plant, and she made me eat a large amount of seaweed. This was to avoid exposure to the thyroid gland. There was no evacuation order from the government; it was a so-called “voluntary evacuation. At that time, many people in Fukushima Prefecture were concerned about the situation at the nuclear power plants, which were exploding one after another, and were evacuating outside the prefecture.

 After 19 and a half hours of evacuation, Mr. Zensho was surprised to find himself at a relative’s house in Yokohama. It was dark outside, but the clock read one o’clock.

One o’clock should have been light!”

 But it was eerie that it was night. He could not stay long at his relative’s house, so he took shelter with another relative for a few days. While moving from one evacuation site to another, Zensho’s school life also began. There, he began to be bullied.

 He was bullied, he says, “I was bullied by my parents, and I was bullied by my parents.

The truth is, if I don’t have to remember, I don’t want to remember.

 It was naturally painful to be graffiti on personal belongings, to be subjected to one-sided violence, and to be treated like a “fungus,” but the most difficult part was not being treated like a human being.

As I was bullied, I was made to believe that it was my fault,” he said.

 I was a very good student,” Zensei recalls.

 The 9-year-old’s wish was “I want to go to heaven.

 He described the structure of the bullying in this way.

In the beginning, there was no bullying. In the beginning, there was no bullying because I was the “poor evacuee. But gradually, as I started to live like the other children, for example, I was receiving relief supplies, and when I was able to live the same way, I felt that I should have been lower in the social ladder.

 At the time, he endured the hardship, but gradually he began to wonder why discrimination and bullying occurred.

 In order to escape the intense bullying, he took the entrance examination for junior high school. After entering junior high school, Mr. Zensei lived his life hiding the fact that he was an evacuee. Since then, he has made many friends and enjoyed his life. That is why it was hard for him to hide it.

 Mr. Zensho said.

Posters and other materials say that bullying should be eliminated with words like “be considerate and get along with others. But that is not true.

 Bullying for any reason is a no-no,” is all we need to say. I think it is necessary to think that any human being, even the worst of us, can be protected. So I think it’s a question of human rights.”


March 11, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Queensland’s Smile With Kids helping Fukushima children to rebuild their lives

Fourteen-year-old Karin Hirakuri relished her time at the beach in far north Queensland.
July 28, 2019
Fourteen-year-old Karin Hirakuri hasn’t been allowed to play outside since she was six years old and every time she goes to the supermarket, she worries her food could be unsafe to eat.
Key points
High school students from Fukushima exercise, play and spend most of their time indoors
Refresh programs in Australia give children the chance to connect with families and experience the outdoors
Some children are finding career inspiration through refresh programs
Growing up in Fukushima, Japan, after the catastrophic tsunami and the meltdown of four nuclear reactors in 2011, Karin’s childhood has been spent mostly indoors to limit her exposure to radiation.
She is one of eight high school students in far north Queensland this week with Smile With Kids, a not-for-profit organisation that pairs children from Fukushima with Australian host families.
The program began in 2014, inspired by other “refresh camps” that aim to give Fukushima children a week of outdoor activities.
“They can just come and enjoy nature without worry,” Smile With Kids founder Maki McCarthy said.
A highlight for Karin was sinking her feet in the sand and feeling the spray of seawater on her face at Palm Cove beach, north of Cairns, on Thursday.
“I wasn’t able to go swimming at the beach for five years,” she said.
“We cannot play outside in Fukushima.
“We have to play in the gym or in the house.”
Ongoing concern for young people
Health risks associated with radiation exposure are low in Japan and extremely low in other neighbouring countries, according to the World Health Organisation.
But illness is still a big concern for some young people.
Karin said the fear of developing cancer was always in the back of her mind.
“We think about it a lot,” she said.
The Fukushima Health Management Survey found rates of psychological distress was far greater in Fukushima compared with other areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami that caused the Daiichi power plant meltdown.
It also found an increased prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases like obesity and hypertension after the disaster.
“It’s had a big impact on people,” Ms McCarthy said.
Hirotaka Kuchiki has developed a passion for food and organic farming after the Fukushima disaster.
Looking to the future
Despite the ongoing problems some students in Fukushima face, their experience of the disaster has also been a source of motivation.
Sixteen-year-old Hirotaka Kuchiki said he wanted to become an organic farmer after learning about sustainable agriculture on another refresh camp in Japan.
“After the earthquake everything around me changed,” Hirotaka said.
“I couldn’t eat the food around the area, even the fish I couldn’t eat.
“Later I met an organic farmer in the south of Japan and the organic farmer’s life inspired me, and I want to be like the farmer.”
Families connect
Smile With Kids host Catherine Gunn has been accommodating Fukushima students for the past three years and said the experience had been eye-opening.
“It opens my world up,” Ms Gunn said.
“Also the reflection on how lucky we are in Australia.
“We’ve never experience anything like [the nuclear disaster] in Australia, we have a very free life.”
Ms Gunn said she learnt a lot from the students, including some great card-playing skills.
“Because the students can’t go out and play outside, they play a lot of Uno,” she said.
“When one of the students was here we became really keen on playing Uno and every time she beat me.
“Now I am a champion, but we had so much fun.”
Ms McCarthy said the Smile With Kids program had doubled the number of students it was accepting each year, as more host families came on board.
Maki MaCarthy started Smile With Kids in 2014, three years after the Fukushima disaster and nuclear meltdown.

July 31, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Mothers’ group in Kyoto hosts Fukushima preschoolers, parents for retreat

July 23, 2019
A mothers’ group in Kyoto will host a three-week retreat program starting in October for kindergarten children and their parents in Fukushima Prefecture, where a massive earthquake in 2011 triggered a devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The group “Minna sora no shita,” or Minasora, started its retreat program in 2017. Even eight years after the disaster, many Fukushima residents fear the radiation effect and hope to join the program, according to the group.
During the program through Nov. 2, the children will attend Rakusai-Hanazono Kindergarten in Kyoto’s Nishikyo ward.
The group also plans to facilitate exchanges between mothers in Kyoto and those visiting from Fukushima, as well as host a lecture by a doctor who has examined children in Belarus since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Rie Hayashi, 41, who heads Minasora, said parents she met in Fukushima in May expressed worries over the situation of their hometowns that are still in recovery.
One of them told Hayashi that they still cannot dry laundry outside, apparently in reference to concerns of radioactive contamination, while another lamented that not a single day goes by without seeing waste from decontamination works piled up all around them, Hayashi said.
“I’ve treasured words from a mom who told me that the experience of joining the program has become an amulet in her heart,” Hayashi said. 
To minimize the financial burden on participants from Fukushima, Minasora covers most of their expenses for the program, including transportation and lodging.
As Minasora is a voluntary group of mothers, however, its activities rely on subsidies and donations. While it has decided to go ahead with this year’s program, securing funding remains a major challenge.
“We appreciate even a small help,” Hayashi said.
In addition to donations, the group is also looking for individuals or organizations that could provide suitable lodging for the visiting families, Hayashi said.
The Kyoto Shimbun

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Girl, 11, exposed to high radiation levels after 2011 nuclear disaster

Children don face masks, hats and long-sleeve shirts to limit radiation exposure in Fukushima after the 2011 nuclear disaster.
January 22, 2019
An 11-year-old girl who evacuated from the town of Futaba after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was likely exposed to radiation levels near the government-set standard, despite assurances that no children were exposed to such high doses.
The girl is said to have been exposed to a radiation dose of about 100 millisieverts, the threshold for enhanced risk of cancer, following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The previously undisclosed case, which was reported to The National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) after the disaster, contradicts the central government’s statement that “there has been no confirmed cases of children exposed to radiation doses of 100 millisieverts or higher.”
According to the NIRS, the case was not disclosed at the time because the institute considered that the estimate was based on information from the site using a simple monitoring instrument and that the figures were not calculated precisely.
The Fukushima Prefecture town of Futaba co-hosts, along with Okuma, the crippled nuclear plant, which was inundated by massive waves triggered by the megaquake on March 11, 2011.
On around March 17, 2011, a radiological technician of the Fukushima prefectural government office engaged in radiation check-up tests on residents detected 50,000 to 70,000 cpm of radiation when checking the girl’s thyroid gland using a radiation monitoring device at a gym in Koriyama, according to the NIRS and other sources.
Cpm, or counts per minute, is a measurement of radiation emitted per minute from radioactive substances detected by such a device.
No documents regarding the case remain, but the figures were conveyed to a team from Tokushima University that traveled to the site to provide support for the tests.
The team estimated that the radiation level in the girl’s thyroid gland was likely a dozen kilobecquerels on the assumption that all the radioactive substances were absorbed by her thyroid gland and reported the estimated figures to the NIRS.
A becquerel is a measurement unit that indicates the ability of a radioactive material to emit radiation, or the intensity of radioactivity.
A sievert, in contrast, is a unit that focuses on the effects of radiation on human health.
The NIRS shared the information on the case among its staff members and left memos indicating the dose that the girl may have been exposed to a radiation dose of around 100 millisieverts.
Children are said to be particularly vulnerable to thyroid gland cancer due to radiation exposure.
In March 2011, a government survey of 1,080 children in the three municipalities of Iwaki, Kawamata and Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture found a maximum level of 35 millisieverts of exposure, far lower than the 100-millisievert standard.

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Results of the first-round thyroid examination of the Fukushima Health Management Survey

December 2, 2018
After the accident occurred at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the Fukushima Health Management Survey (FHMS) was initiated. The FHMS consists of a basic survey and four detailed surveys: a thyroid ultrasound examination, a comprehensive health check, a mental health and lifestyle survey, and a pregnancy and birth survey. In this article, we briefly summarized whether an association exists between radiation exposure and the observation of thyroid cancer cases according to the results of the first-round thyroid examination in the FMHS. Regarding this issue, Tsuda and his colleagues showed an association using an internal comparison (odds ratio (OR)=2.6, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.99-7.0) and an external comparison (incidence rate ratio =50, 95% CI : 25-90). However, for this internal comparison, Ohira and his colleagues used two ways of objective classifications of districts in Fukushima; (1) the group of municipalities of which proportion of the exposed external dose level of more than 5 mSv was higher than or equal to 1% (≧1% of 5 mSv), the group of municipalities of which proportion of the exposed external dose level less than 1 mSv was higher than or equal to 99.9% (≧99.9% of 1m Sv<99%), and others, and (2) the location groups applied by WHO. For the classification (1), they obtained OR=1.49 (95% CI : 0.36-6.23) from the highest group to the lowest, which was similar to the results of the classification (2). For the external comparison, Takahashi and his colleagues developed a cancer-progression model with several sensitivities under non-accident conditions, and showed 116 cases were possible to observe in Fukushima under non-accident conditions. Katanoda and his colleagues found an observed/expected ratio of 30.8 (95%CI: 26.2-35.9) of the prevalence of thyroid cancer among residents aged ≦ 20years (160.1 observed of cases and 50.2 expected cases), and a cumulative number of thyroid cancer deaths in Fukushima Prefecture of 0.6 under age 40 with the same method. This large disparity implied the possibility of over-diagnosis in thyroid examinations.
A researcher reported the results were unlikely to be explained by a screening effect, which implied the association between thyroid cancer cases and external radiation exposure. However, subsequently, a possibility that it might be a result of over-diagnosis of the thyroid examinations was pointed. And, no significant associations were found by applying objective classification of districts and by raising comparability with the incidence data of whole Japan, respectively. In the Basic Survey of FHMS, only individual external doses in the first four months after the accident has been observed. So neither external dose after the four months nor internal dose was applied in these studies. Further studies are necessary to clarify the existence of the association by applying the estimation of individual overall thyroid dose.
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[7] Katanoda K, Kamo K, Tsugane S. Quantification of the increase in thyroid cancer prevalence in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster in 2011-a potential overdiagnosis? Jpn J Clin Oncol. 2016;46(3):284-286.
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[18] Wakeford R, Auvinen A, Gent RN, et al. Re: Thyroid cancer among young people in Fukushima. Epidemiology. 2016;27:e20-21.
[19] Ochi S, Kato S, Tsubokura M, et al. Voice from Fukushima: responsibility of epidemiologists to avoid irrational stigmatisation on children in Fukushima. Thyroid. 2016;26:1332-1333.
[20] Rothman KJ, Greenland S, Lash TL. Modern Epidemiology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia; Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008. p.47-48.
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[23] Ahn HS, Kim HJ, Welch HG. Korea’s thyroid-cancer “epidemic”-screening and overdiagnosis. N Engl J Med. 2014;371:1765-1767.

December 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima teens thyroid cancers from overdiagnosis, ‘unlikely’ to be from radiation exposure!!!

Results of mass screening of children, teens for thyroid cancer following Fukushima nuclear accident
November 29, 2018
Bottom Line: The accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in 2011 raised grave concerns about radioactive material released into the environment, including concerns over radiation-induced thyroid cancer. Ultrasound screenings for thyroid cancer were subsequently conducted in the Fukushima Health Management Survey. This observational study group includes about 324,000 people 18 or younger at the time of the accident and it reports on two rounds of ultrasound screening during the first five years after the accident. Thyroid cancer or suspected cancer was identified in 187 individuals within five years (116 people in the first round among nearly 300,000 people screened and 71 in the second round among 271,000 screened). The overwhelmingly common diagnosis in surgical cases was papillary thyroid cancer (149 of 152 or 98 percent).
US screening data from Fukushima shed light on thyroid cancer in kids
November 29, 2018 — The latest results of mass ultrasound screening of children for thyroid cancer after the Fukushima disaster were published online on November 29 by JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery. The study provides vital data on thyroid cancer and may lead to growing demands outside of Japan for more ultrasound scans in younger people, increasing the risk of overdiagnosis, experts have warned.
In an observational study, Dr. Akira Ohtsuru, PhD, from the department of radiation health management at Fukushima Medical University, and colleagues analyzed the incidence of thyroid cancer in children and adolescents screened with two rounds of ultrasound within five years of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The main question they addressed was, what is the pattern by age group of cancer detection via ultrasound screening of the thyroid among children and young adults?
The first round of ultrasound screening was carried out between 2011 and 2013, and the second round between 2014 and 2015. A total of 324,301 individuals younger than 18 years at the time of the disaster were included in the analysis.
Thyroid cancer, or suspected cancer, was identified in 187 patients within five years (116 people in the first round among nearly 300,000 people screened and 71 in the second round among 271,000 screened). By far the most common diagnosis in surgical cases was papillary thyroid cancer (149 of 152, or 98%). Overall, the distribution pattern of the incidence rate by age group in second-round examinations increased with age, according to Ohtsuru and colleagues.
Looming risk of overdiagnosis
Large-scale ultrasound screening can identify many detectable cancers from a sizable pool of nonclinical and subclinical thyroid cancers among individuals of a relatively young age, in an age-dependent manner. However, to avoid overdiagnosis, an improvement in screening strategy based on the understanding of the natural history of thyroid cancer will be urgently needed, Ohtsuru and colleagues explained.
“The fundamental ethical principle of doing more good than harm should be central to accident management, including conducting thyroid screening that is designed to avoid the problems of potential overdiagnosis,” the researchers wrote. “We should not be influenced by the negative experiences or psychosocial issues of the examinees under the potential for overdiagnosis.”
Because the natural progression of thyroid cancer in young patients remains unknown, further studies are required, they believe. Data from the Fukushima Health Management Survey may contribute to understanding how to conduct future screening programs to both limit overdiagnosis and support an accurate evaluation of the effect of low-dose radiation on the thyroid glands of children and adolescents, they stated.
The 2011 disaster raised grave concerns about radioactive material released into the environment, including over radiation-induced thyroid cancer. Ultrasound screenings for thyroid cancer were subsequently conducted in the Fukushima Health Management Survey. The debate over whether a rise in thyroid cancer among children in Japan is related to the nuclear disaster — or whether it’s simply due to overdiagnosis as children near the site of the disaster are screened for the disease — has been ongoing since 2015.
Reaction to latest results
In a linked commentary also published in JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, U.S. experts welcomed the research.
“Before the Fukushima Survey, we did not know if there was a substantial reservoir of subclinical thyroid cancer in children and adolescents. These data show that there is a very large reservoir,” wrote Dr. Andrew J. Bauer, from the Pediatric Thyroid Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, and Dr. Louise Davies, from the VA Outcomes Group at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, VT.
More children and adolescents are likely to undergo ultrasound of the thyroid in the U.S., leading to the detection of a substantial reservoir of subclinical thyroid cancer. This could open up children to the risks and consequences of overdiagnosis and subsequent treatment that may worsen health, as has happened within a segment of the adult population, Bauer and Davies continued.
“We are still left with the difficult question of how to apply the concepts of overdiagnosis in this scenario. Pediatric thyroid cancer has a 98% rate of survival, even for patients with pulmonary metastasis, so benefits of treatment should not be considered in regard to effects on disease-specific mortality,” they pointed out.
Ohtsuru gave a lecture on this topic at the 5th International Expert Symposium in Fukushima on Radiation and Health, entitled “Chernobyl+30, Fukushima+5: Lessons and Solutions for Fukushima’s Thyroid Question.” His full presentation can be downloaded here.
Association between screening-detected thyroid cancers, radiation exposure ‘unlikely’ in Fukushima children
November 29, 2018
Many thyroid cancers detected by ultrasound screening in Japanese children in the 5 years after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident mirror many low-risk, sporadic cases of adult thyroid cancer and are most likely not associated with radiation exposure, according to findings published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery.
“Large-scale mass screening of young people using ultrasonography resulted in the diagnosis of a number of thyroid cancers, including potential overdiagnosis cases,” Akira Ohtsuru, MD, PhD, professor in the department of radiation health management at Fukushima Medical University, Japan, told Endocrine Today. “These findings indicate that ultrasonography screening can identify many detectable cancers from large pool of nonclinical and subclinical thyroid cancers among individuals of a relatively young age, in an age-dependent manner.”
The level of radiation exposure in Fukushima immediately after the great earthquake in eastern Japan on March 11, 2011, has been deemed to be much lower than the levels reported in Chernobyl immediately after the 1986 nuclear power station accident, Ohtsuru and colleagues wrote in the study background. However, the researchers noted that there was a divergence in estimations of the thyroid equivalent dose of radiation during the early phase after the accident, as there was little direct measurement of the individuals, whereas radiation-induced thyroid cancers have been rated as causing some of the greatest concern after the accident.
“Thus, health surveillance, including thyroid screening, has been thought to be necessary for both scientific and social reasons,” the researchers wrote.
In an observational study, Ohtsuru and colleagues analyzed data from 324,301 Fukushima residents aged 18 years or younger at the time of the nuclear accident. Researchers assessed the number of detected cases of thyroid cancer during first (fiscal years 2011-2013) and second (fiscal years 2014-2015) rounds of screening, with age groups stratified by 3-year intervals. Researchers compared results against an age-specific incidence of unscreened cancers form a national cancer registry.
Researchers found that, among 299,905 participants screened in the first round (50.5% boys and men; mean age at screening, 15 years), 116 were diagnosed with malignant or suspected thyroid cancer. Among 271,083 participants screened in the second round, (50.4% boys and men; mean age at screening, 13 years), 71 were diagnosed with malignant or suspected thyroid cancer, according to researchers. In both the first- and second-round examinations, mean age at diagnosis was 17 years; however, mean tumor diameter was larger in the first- vs. the second-round screenings (mean, 12.7 mm vs. 9.7).
Papillary thyroid cancer was the most common pathologic diagnosis, they wrote, at 149 of 152 cases (98%). The researchers also noted that the distribution pattern by age group at the time of the accident increased with older age in both screening rounds, with an interval between screenings of about 2.1 years. The number of detected thyroid cancer cases per 100,000 persons was estimated to be approximately 175 for those aged 18 years at the time of the accident in the first round of screening and 97 for those aged 18 years at the time of the accident during the second round of screening.
Researchers calculated that the estimated age-conditional incidence rate of cases per 100,000 person-years was 0.5 for those aged 15 to 17 years, 1 for those aged 18 to 20 years and 1.7 for those aged 21 to 22 years.
“Although a longer observation period is needed, this pattern by age at the time of the accident differs from that of the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident; for example, there was a higher frequency of cases of cancer at younger ages with a relatively short latent period after the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, an association between the large number of thyroid cancers detected and radiation exposure is thought to be very unlikely, in addition to the very low doses of radiation in the Fukushima nuclear power station accident.”
Ohtsuru added that, to ensure the merit of early detection and prevent overdiagnosis via large-scale screening, development of a careful monitoring system is urgently needed based on the understanding of the natural history of thyroid cancer.
In commentary accompanying the study, Andrew J. Bauer, MD, medical director of the Pediatric Thyroid Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Louise Davies, MD, MS, research fellowship director of the VA Outcomes Group at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont, wrote that researchers should not assume that every asymptomatically discovered case of pediatric thyroid cancer is a “triumph of early detection.”
“Going forward, research to better define which pediatric thyroid cancers are likely to progress, and a better understanding of the trajectory of the natural history of thyroid cancers detected in early life, is urgently needed,” Bauer and Davies wrote. “The extremely high prevalence of subclinical thyroid cancer shown by the Fukushima Survey, including many with lymph node metastases, suggests that we have much to learn about the natural history of lymph node metastases, but that we should not assume that every asymptomatically identified case of pediatric thyroid cancer is an instance of overdiagnosis.” – by Regina Schaffer
For more information:
Akira Ohtsuru, MD, PhD, can be reached at Fukushima Medical University, Department of Radiation Health Management, 1 Hikarigaoka, Fukushima 960-1295, Japan; email:
Disclosures: One of the authors reports he received grants from commercial sponsor JCR Pharmaceuticals Co. Bauer and Davies report receiving travel funds from the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

December 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Thyroid cancer relapses in some Fukushima children

The 3.11 Fund for Children with Thyroid Cancer made the appeal at a news conference that a survey conducted by the fund shows that cancer returned to 9.5 percent, or 8, of 84 children diagnosed with thyroid cancer after the accident. They had to undergo second operations as a result.



A private fund offering financial assistance to young people diagnosed with thyroid cancer after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident has called for a detailed follow-up survey of those who have relapsed.
The 3.11 Fund for Children with Thyroid Cancer made the appeal at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday.
The fund’s name refers to March 11th, 2011, when a tsunami triggered by a powerful earthquake crippled a nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
A survey conducted by the fund shows that cancer returned to 9.5 percent, or 8, of 84 children diagnosed with thyroid cancer after the accident. They had to undergo second operations as a result.
The fund says the 8 people were 6 to 15 years old at the time of the accident 7 years ago. Their cancers returned about 28 months on average after their first surgeries. One relapse occurred just a year later.
Fukushima Prefecture has been offering thyroid cancer screening for local residents who were 18 or younger at the time of the accident.
The 3.11 Fund pointed out that an expert committee advising the prefectural government has not taken up the issue of relapses among young thyroid cancer patients.
Fund director Hisako Sakiyama said that to get a clear picture of the health effects of the nuclear accident, it’s important to continue screening with particular attention on relapses.
Thyroid cancer relapses March 1 2018.jpg

March 1, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

The Occupation and Glass Badges

It is an article five years ago. But very important so I will post again.
—”Why are children and pregnant women, who are not inside nuclear power plants, wearing these badges? The proposal came from the National Cancer Center of Japan, which suggested to both central and Fukushima regional governments the use of dosimeters “to calm the anxiety of the children and their guardians.”
Today, children in Fukushima are mandated to wear radiation dosimeters called ‘glass badges.’ Some of the regional governments also require pregnant women to wear them. They are a durable, modified version of film badges, one of three main types of radiation monitors: -alarm meters, film badges, and pocket dosimeters – all used by the workers in nuclear power plants.
Why are children and pregnant women, who are not inside nuclear power plants, wearing these badges? The proposal came from the National Cancer Center of Japan, which suggested to both central and Fukushima regional governments the use of dosimeters “to calm the anxiety of the children and their guardians.” The Cancer Center, prior to giving badges to children, had monitored radiation exposure on public health nurses who went to the vicinity of the Fukushima Daiichi to give medical care to the residents. Under this project, the nurses, most of whom are women, were turned into radiation monitoring devices. The Center’s official report of the project clearly states that “[the public health nurses are] to become representatives of local residents for monitoring radioactivity.”1 Since the nurses had capacity to go about every single house in the region to check health condition of the residents, the Cancer Center supposedly tried to check radiation exposure of the people by taking advantage of their role.
Every three months, the glass badges are collected from the people by various research institutions, universities and specialized companies2, who then would gather the data to report to the Cancer Center. However, aside from collecting the data, the Center as well as any other governmental agencies never give the people any advice as to how to protect themselves from exposure to radiation and how they can deal with health damages caused by radioactive materials. After reporting the levels of exposure, they neglect to offer any health management and support and leave them up to local governments. On the other hand, there is a person who advocates a very simple method to protect oneself from radiation; the representative being Dr. Shun-ichi Yamashita. His simple and honest advise is: “you will not get damage of radiation as long as you are smiling. You only do if you worry.” (There is a Japanese saying ‘Fancy may kill or cure’ – the very word that the former PM Yasuhiro Nakasone had said during his visit to Hiroshima Atom bomb casualty Hospital, trying to calm the minds of hibakusha he met there. Nakasone, known to have passed the very first budget for nuclear power plants in Japan during his term, always promoted nuclear energy.
Being a hibakusha nisei or the son of a hibakusha, Shun-ichi Yamashita is a doctor with various entitlements, who took the position of the Radiation Risk Advisor in Fukushima after 3/11, then was appointed for the vice president of the Fukushima Medical College. He also received the 2011 “Asahi Cancer Award,” which is supposed to be given to those who contributed to cancer treatment, presented by Japan Cancer Society, many of whose faculty are appointed from the National Cancer Center. This particular award was co-presented by the relatively liberal newspaper Asahi Shimbin, which came as a surprise and disgust to many, especially since Yamashita’s overly unscientific remarks had been a topic of ridicule even among mass-media.
As I described above, the residents of Fukushima today are made into the subjects of human experiments by the Japanese government, research institutions as well as mass-media that support their stance. In a TV report by WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) in Germany, a school teacher, who hands out the glass badges to his pupils, says: “I’m not happy with these dosimeters. They are going to turn our students into study subjects. The dosimeters only accumulate data in them, instead of displaying the levels of radiation. I wish they were radiation alarms which warn you when you have to get out of the area.”
The people of Fukushima are expropriated of their health data without being provided with care or treatment. The very situation reminds me of what had been done to hibakushas in Hiroshima and Nagasaki under the US military occupation.
In August 1945, atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thereby many people were killed and exposed to radiation through the thermic rays and radiation. About a year later, the occupying US military under the order of Harry Truman founded ABCC (Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission) under auspices of the military regime, in order to prepare for the future nuclear wars. At the newly set-up research facility in Hiroshima, ABCC began researching the effects of radiation on human bodies. The United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) stated as follows: “The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki provided an exceptional and unique opportunity to monitor the effects of radiation on human groups.3” Although the ABCC collected data and human biological samples from the victims, they never provided any kind of treatment. The focus of their research was the effects on DNA. And this required the development of dynamic statistics of population, the institutionalization of pregnancy/birth registration and the establishment of public health office. Therein, crucially needed for the research was the role of mid-wives, who were to be ordered to record and report in detail the conditions of pregnancy, birth, and the newborn, and if they were safely delivered or miscarried. The research was also targeted on pregnant women and children of the resident ethnic Koreans and other foreigners. It goes without saying that the Japanese government was co-opted to this crime.
A woman from Fukushima stated at a rally last summer: “the people of Fukushima have become the subjects of a nuclear experiment. Vast amount of radioactive waste will remain. In spite of the huge sacrifice, the clout of the proponents of nuclear power prevails. We have been abandoned. (…) We are ‘the demons of the northeast’ quietly burning flames of wrath.” There are quite many who understand the meaning of having glass badges attached on their bodies. Thus the people in Fukushima ought to become demons. Not another person, child or woman should be exploited by the development of nuclear military industrial complex.4
We must recall the following phrases over and over again:
It was not that the victims were never given explanation about the research. However, one might wonder if there were any agreements between the researchers and the victims over the purpose of the research. What kind of resulting reports were given to the victims? Were they ever informed how the results from the experiments were used?
During the time [of the nuclear research], no adults ever accused the cruelty of the bomb causality research, nor they told their children what it meant. In this sense, the adults were responsible as well.
(from Masao Sasamoto, Atom-Bomb Research Under the US Military Occupation)
2 One of the companies, Chiyoda Technol, is a corporation whose facility is build in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, under the support from both Central and Aomori governments. They are proponents of nuclear energy.
3 Hewlett, Richard G. and Oscar E. Anderson Jr. The New World, 1939-1946, (History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, Vol.1), University Park, 1962.
4 In Manhattan Project even before the dropping of the atomic bombs, the people were made into subject of human experiments where they were injected with plutonium to see its effects. (Albuquerque Tribune, Manhattan Project: Human Plutonium Injection Experiments)

December 23, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima radioactive contamination: Children nosebleed while asleep and also in daytime, especially after playing in the sand!

Soil contamination survey: 80% of schools have amazing figures!!
The government and Fukushima prefecture do not measure the soil contamination, and lifted the evacuation order one after another, as “external radiation dose has come down to less than 20 mSv/year.” Besides that, Fukushima prefecture closed off in March 2017 the free housing support for voluntary evacuees. “Voluntary evacuees” are evacuees who are evacuating from areas outside the evacuation order zone. The exact number is not grasped and it is estimated to be about 17 thousand people.
For voluntary evacuees, there is no mental reparation from TEPCO, which is paid to forced refugees, 100,000 yen (~1000 $) per month, so only the free provision of housing is a lifeline. Many people will not be able to continue the evacuation life if this is cut off.
Sakamoto says, “The prefecture officials repeatedly said at the briefing session for borrowed housing termination,” We do not know about contamination of the soil, because there are people living in Fukushima. ” But this contamination situation of soil extraordinary. We, the residents in Fukushima, cannot protect ourselves if our prefecture does not clarify the details of soil contamination.”
evacuation standards.jpg
In Fukushima prefecture, accurate information was not given to residents after the accident. Some people evacuated in the direction of radioactive plum, and many stayed outdoors for a long time in order to get water and food.
Sakamoto’s second daughter was healthy until the nuclear accident, but for some time after the accident, she suffered from symptoms such as nosebleeds, diarrhea and anemia.
“There are so many people who regret that they allowed their children exposed at that time. We hear that the staff of Fukushima Medical University took iodine, which was not given to residents. We never want children to be exposed. “(Sakamoto)
The government and the Fukushima prefecture evaluate the safety only by external radiation dose. Mr. Kono of the citizen environment research institute also alarms the danger of the evaluation.
“Since radioactive material that fell on the ground enters the soil with the passage of time, the radiation dose of the space is shielded by the soil. But it will not be eliminated from the ground and radioactive substances attached to the fine particles soar up and move. Decontaminated ground will be contaminated again and you may suck in and have internal exposure. In fact you do an exact soil survey and decontaminate the place where people live as many times as you can. If the prefecture can not decontaminate, it should give the right to emigrate to people who want to move. It is presumed to be because they do not want to reveal the seriousness of pollution that the government and prefecture do not investigate soil contamination in detail. “
Medical Doctor Ushiyama, clinical professor of Shimane University, and in charge of medical departments at Sagami Hospital, who visits medical sites in Chernobyl often, also said, “To judge safety only by radiation dose in space ignores the risk of internal radiation exposure when radioactive substances are taken into the body. “
In fact, Mr. Sawada (Fukushima-city) who found that cesium was detected from the urine of her child and she is exposed to internal radiation said:
“I was pregnant when a nuclear accident took place 5 years ago. and I evacuated to Yamagata with my 2-year-old daughter. I gave birth at Yamagata and was struggling to raise children by myself. However, since her eldest daughter became emotionally unstable and wanted to return home, I returned home in January 2014. In Fukushima city, the eldest daughter came to take a nosebleed after playing sand. Nosebleed in asleep and in daytime, and my second daughter also took nosebleed after playing outside.
Now that her eldest daughter became first grade in primary school and she does not play sand, it’s gone … …. “
Mr. Sawada says that if children have nosebleed from now on, they will think about evacuation again.
Mr. Endo (Minamisoma city) also talks like this.
“Radioactive dust is terrible because heavy duty trucks carrying decontamination soil and gravel frequently comes and goes back and forth around the school. Her son who goes to the nursery school is picked up by car, but her elder brother goes to
school by bicycle. I worry that my son will inhale the radioactive dust … ”
According to a survey group, soil contamination was 449,000 Bq / square meteron the school road in Minamisoma where Mr. Endo lives (around Ishigami 2nd elementary school) . In Fukushima city where Sawada lives, 480,000 Bq / square meter (around Fukushima Daiichi Junior High School) was detected. Ushiyama mentioned that Both the contamination is the value corresponding to the “move rights area” in Belarus ‘(Chernobyl).
“Even a trace amount of radioactive substances taken into the body continue to emit radiation irradiate the organs within the body until it is discharged. It いsl be difficult to get out when the radioactive substance enters the lungs. I heard from a Belarusian doctor that there is a possibility that bladder cancer increased by excretion of radioactive substance in the urine. The accumulation in genital organs is also concerned about the influence on the next generation. , It has also been reported that the abnormality worsened if insects are grown with bait contaminated with radioactive materials. “
Mothers are exhausted by the irresponsible constitution of the government and the prefecture and the social pressures that force to consider “Don’t worry, Fukushima accident never happened, everything is all right.”
Terumi Kataoka who told me the story that removed the slide says.
“Aizu is believed to have little pollution, but it depends on the location.In Aizu Wakamatsu City, the mayor has declared the safety declaration earlier so it is not even decontaminated.If you want the mayor to decontaminate previously If we asked, “Although tourists are returning, if we decontaminate now, both original and child will be lost” was rejected ”

December 19, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Many children diagnosed with thyroid cancer after 3.11 disasters, families still worried

Nearly 80 percent of respondents in a survey by a group supporting children diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster say they remain worried about the cancer, despite the prognosis for those who receive appropriate treatment being good.
The survey was conducted by the 3.11 Fund for Children with Thyroid Cancer, an independent, not-for-profit organization providing support for child patients of thyroid cancer and their families. It was sent in August to 67 households of people who were living in Fukushima Prefecture at the time of the outbreak of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 and whose medical expenses the fund has helped to cover. A total of 52 households responded — a response rate of about 78 percent. Twelve of the respondents had received treatment themselves, while seven were fathers and 33 were mothers of those who had been treated.
A total of 40 respondents, or 77 percent, said they remained worried. When asked specifically what they were worried about, 23 people said “a relapse,” nine each cited “metastasis” and “health status in general,” while five each said they were worried about “pregnancy and childbirth” and “finding a job and working.”
Among children, some worried about cancer testing being scaled back. A total of 28 respondents called for the status quo to be maintained, while another 17 respondents called for the testing system to be enhanced. None said it should be downsized.
“Excessive diagnosis” has been blamed in the past for the large number of thyroid cancer patients in the wake of the nuclear disaster, but when given space to write their own opinions, some respondents were supportive of testing from the perspective of early detection of cancer, saying, “It’s better than finding out too late,” and “If a person has cancer, they’ll feel better if it’s removed.”
The fund’s representative director, Hisako Sakiyama, commented, “There’s a need to listen to what the afflicted people and their families want, and to hear what problems they are facing.”

December 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Thyroid Cancer Detection by Ultrasound Among Residents Ages 18 Years and Younger in Fukushima, Japan: 2011 to 2014



Background: After the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011, radioactive elements were released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Based on prior knowledge, concern emerged about whether an increased incidence of thyroid cancer among exposed residents would occur as a result.

Methods: After the release, Fukushima Prefecture performed ultrasound thyroid screening on all residents ages ≤18 years. The first round of screening included 298,577 examinees, and a second round began in April 2014. We analyzed the prefecture results from the first and second round up to December 31, 2014, in comparison with the Japanese annual incidence and the incidence within a reference area in Fukushima Prefecture.

Results: The highest incidence rate ratio, using a latency period of 4 years, was observed in the central middle district of the prefecture compared with the Japanese annual incidence (incidence rate ratio = 50; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 25, 90). The prevalence of thyroid cancer was 605 per million examinees (95% CI = 302, 1,082) and the prevalence odds ratio compared with the reference district in Fukushima Prefecture was 2.6 (95% CI = 0.99, 7.0). In the second screening round, even under the assumption that the rest of examinees were disease free, an incidence rate ratio of 12 has already been observed (95% CI = 5.1, 23).

Conclusions: An excess of thyroid cancer has been detected by ultrasound among children and adolescents in Fukushima Prefecture within 4 years of the release, and is unlikely to be explained by a screening surge.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Current Fukushima Kids Situation


Via Kaye Nagamine

I’ve heard that the video reveals the information that has never been disclosed before and it’s ONE and ONLY video that documented the true reality of the current Fukushima kids situation presented by a Japanese medical scientist in an academic conference internationally.

Mr. Suzuki, the lecturer in this video, is the one who have operated 125 child thyroid cancer patients in Fukushima. He had been trying to voice the plight situation but he was muted by some political intention.

Here’s the story I’ve heard: He has been verbally and attacked and insulted by Mr. Shibuya of Fukushima Health Committee during its committee assembly, and his false accusation made Mr. Suzuki leave his position of committee member. The conscientious one always has to leave.

I don’t get it. Shibuya malevolently accused Mr. Shuzuki that the doctor must have even operated the case of trifling and unnecessary cases, padding the number of operations and disguising the figures LARGE and GRAVE.

Mr. Sukuzki, with his shaky voice in anger, insisted that serious cases of metastasis to lymph and lung as well as deeper infiltration were seen in the children under the surgery, but his voice was spurned by Shibuya and his friends in the committee. … so this video is probably the only one official evidence Dr. Suzuki left.

September 2, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Radioactive cesium detected in the urine of 100 children after the catastrophic accident of TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant

 Cesium concentration found in more than 70% of the urine sample tested in Fukushima Prefecture



Scientific paper from Sachiko Saitou, Tomoya Yamauchi, Kobe University, submitted 16. January 2017.

Amounts of radioactive cesium, Cs-137 and Cs-134, in 24 h urine of 37 children have been determined using a HP-Ge detector, in Fukushima Prefecture between February 2014 and March 2016.

As comparisons, those of 25 children have been also measured who live in Western Japan from September 2016 to March 2017, and that of one child in Ibaraki Prefecture from April 2014 to January 2017.

We have found the cesium concentrations in the more than 70 % of urine samples from Fukushima Prefecture are in the ranges from 0.06 to 0.30 Bq/L.

No radioactive cesium is observed in the samples from Western Japan, under the detection limit of 0.1 Bq/L.

In the case of Ibaraki, the radioactivity keeps its value around 0.20 Bq/L during the inspection period, indicating the chronic ingestion of the radioactive cesium in his daily life.


July 21, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Nationwide UPLAN Press Conference about Fukushima Children Recuperation Program


June 26, 2017 – 108 organizations
Present status of “recuperation”: Over 9000 people participate annually
After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, many private organizations at citizen level throughout the country have carried out a recuperation program r
esponding to the needs of children of the Fukushima Prefecture or its vicinity, implemented a recuperation program centered on outdoor activities.

The number of people who wish to participate in recuperation has increased as housing support ended last March.
However, 7 % of the budget of the organizations recuperation program comes from donations. Now in the seventh year, it has come to a tough phase of finance and human resources.
Among the rress conference participants:
Aozora childcare NPO (Fukushima), Fukushima city One Parent NPO (Fukushima), and from other areas: Refresh Support Kikumi Hikida, Fukushima warm-up project Eriko Yano (Fukushima prefecture).

20170626 UPLAN【要望書提出・記者会見】「保養団体に公的支援を」
法人青空保育たけの子 代表(福島県)
リフレッシュサポート 疋田香澄
福島ぽかぽかプロジェクト 矢野恵理子


June 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | 1 Comment

The Children of Fukushima Return, Six Years After the Nuclear Disaster

1Children at a nursery school this month in the hamlet of Naraha in Fukushima. The government lifted the evacuation order on the town in 2015.

NARAHA, Japan — The children returned to Naraha this spring.

For more than four years, residents were barred from this hamlet in Fukushima after an earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at a nuclear power plant north of town. When the government lifted the evacuation order in 2015, those who returned were mostly the elderly, who figured coming home was worth the residual radiation risk.

But this month, six years after the disaster, 105 students turned up at Naraha Elementary and Junior High School for the beginning of the Japanese school year.

Every morning, cafeteria workers measure the radiation in fresh ingredients used in lunches. In some grades, as few as six students take their lessons in classrooms built to accommodate as many as 30. There are not enough junior high students to field a baseball team on the new field next to the school.

Yet the return of the schoolchildren, the youngest of whom were born the year of the disaster, has been a powerful sign of renewal in this town, which is in the original 12-mile exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant.

Reopening the school “is very, very meaningful,” said Sachiko Araki, the principal of the junior high school. “A town without a school is not really a town.”

The new, $18 million two-story building has shiny blond wood floors, spacious classrooms, two science labs, a library filled with new books and a large basketball gymnasium. A balcony at the back of the building overlooks the sea.

Many emotions fueled the decisions of the families who returned to Naraha. It was always a small town, with just over 8,000 people before the disaster. So far, only one in five former residents has come home.

2The library at Naraha Elementary and Junior High School. The school was being built when the disaster hit, so workers started over, removing mounds of dirt in an effort to decontaminate the site.

A bank, post office and medical clinic are now open, but a supermarket is still under construction. Because neighborhoods have stood empty for so long, wild boars sometimes roam the streets.

With thousands of bags of contaminated soil piled high in fields around town and radiation meters posted in parking lots, the memory of the nuclear disaster is never distant.

At the Naraha school, which was being constructed when the disaster hit, workers destroyed a foundation that had just been laid and started over, removing mounds of dirt in an effort to decontaminate the site.

Today, radiation is regularly monitored on the school grounds as well as along routes to the building. The central government, based on recommendations from the International Commission on Radiological Protection, set a maximum exposure of 0.23 microsieverts an hour, a level at which there is no concrete scientific evidence of increased cancer risk. (Microsieverts measure the health effects of low levels of radiation.)

Still, some teachers say they are extra careful. Aya Kitahara, a fifth-grade teacher, said she and her colleagues had decided it was not safe to allow children to collect acorns or pine cones in the neighborhood for art projects, for fear that they would pick up small doses of radiation.

Nearby, a nursery school and day care center was built mostly with money from the nuclear plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, in 2007 and reopened this month. Keiko Hayakawa, the principal, said she was surprised that the city had pushed to bring back children before all bags of contaminated soil had been cleared from town.

We had to start and keep moving to open this facility as soon as possible,” Ms. Hayakawa said on a morning when 3- and 4- year-olds romped in a large playground, climbing a jungle gym, riding scooters and digging in a sandbox. “Otherwise, there was a fear that people might never come back.”

3A class of elementary students. In some grades, as few as six students take their lessons in classrooms built to accommodate as many as 30.

Calculations of radiation exposure are imprecise at best. They may not detect contaminated soil from rain runoff that can collect in gutters or other low-lying crevices. Risk of illness depends on many variables, including age, activities and underlying health conditions.

I don’t want to accuse anyone of being consciously disingenuous,” said Kyle Cleveland, associate professor of sociology at Temple University in Tokyo, who has written about the psychological effects of the Fukushima disaster. But government officials “have every incentive to downplay the level of risk and to put a positive spin on it.”

Reviving the towns of Fukushima is also a priority for the central government. With the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to deliver on his promise that the Fukushima cleanup effort is “under control.”

It is really up to the individuals whether they would accept the current environment or not,” said Kentaro Yanai, the superintendent of the Naraha school district. “But for us, we did the best that we could have done so far in order to reduce radiation levels.”

For young families, factors other than radiation risks weighed on the calculus of whether to return. Some longed to go back to the town that had been their home for generations, while others assumed they could afford more space in Naraha.

And as national compensation payments for evacuees are set to expire next year, some residents secured jobs working for the town government or for contractors involved in the reconstruction work. Still others are employed by Tokyo Electric, which is coordinating the huge cleanup at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Ayuka Ohwada, 29, had originally thought she and her family would stay in Iwaki, a city of about 340,000 more than 20 miles south, where many Naraha residents lived during the evacuation period. But once her parents moved back to their old home, Ms. Ohwada and her children, now 8 and 6, began visiting on weekends.

4Day care workers and children in Naraha. The town now has a bank, a post office and a medical clinic, but a supermarket is still under construction.

I started thinking that maybe the countryside is a much better environment for my children,” said Ms. Ohwada, whose parents offered her a piece of land to build a new house. Ms. Ohwada, who was employed as a convenience store clerk before landing a job at town hall, said she and her husband, who works in a nearby town at a company involved in decontamination, could never afford a stand-alone house in Iwaki.

In Naraha, the school is doing as much as it can to cushion the return for young families.

The building, which was originally designed for the junior high school, now houses two elementary schools as well. Extra counselors talk students through lingering anxieties, and the fifth- and sixth-grade classes have two teachers each. All students will receive tablet computers, and lunch and school uniforms are provided free.

Yuka Kusano, 37, said her children had grown accustomed to large classes while they were evacuated in Iwaki. But after enrolling in the Naraha school this month, she said, they benefit from individualized attention rare in Japanese schools.

Her 12-year-old daughter, Miyu, is in seventh grade with just five other classmates, and her son, Ryuya, 9, is in a fourth-grade class of 13 students.

It is really luxurious,” Ms. Kusano said. Still, with so few children in Naraha, she drives Ryuya to Iwaki on weekends so he can continue to play on a softball team.

Hints emerge of the turmoil the students have endured in the six years since the disaster. During a recent presentation for parents, one girl with thick bangs and large black glasses said she had struggled with frequent moves.

I am doing O.K.,” she said. “I just want to keep stability in my life.”

Such stability is one reason many families with young children have chosen not to return.

5Uninhabited houses in Naraha. The town numbered just over 8,000 before the disaster. So far, only a fifth of the former residents have returned.

Tsutomu Sato, a nursing home manager with three daughters, 9, 5 and 2, said the family had moved seven or eight times after being evacuated from Naraha.

I just want to build a base for my family as soon as possible,” said Mr. Sato, who bought a house in the Yumoto neighborhood of Iwaki. He said his oldest daughter cried whenever he raised the possibility of moving back to Naraha, where his parents and grandmother were restoring their house and planned to move back next year.

In exile, he maintains a fierce attachment to his hometown and has formed a volunteer group, Naranoha, to stage cultural events to bring together the diaspora of former residents around the region. He said that if his parents grew too frail to take care of themselves, he would consider moving back.

With or without the disaster, we have to make life decisions based on our circumstances,” he said.

In Naraha, the mayor, Yukiei Matsumoto, said surveys showed that just under three-quarters of former residents wanted to return eventually.

In order to clear the stigma that people have,” he said, “we are back now to show the rest of the country and the rest of the world that we are doing well.” But he acknowledged that if more young people did not return, the town had a dim future.

Kazushige Watanabe, 73, said he had come back even though his the tsunami had destroyed his home and his sons lived outside Fukushima Prefecture.

He has moved into a compact bungalow built by the city in a new subdivision in the center of the town, where he has lived alone since his wife’s death in January.

He pointed out a house around the corner where a family with three children had moved in recently. “I can hear the children’s voices,” he said. “That is very nice.”

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment