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Famed Sanriku Railway soon back to pre-disaster operations, asahi, 1/28/2014

MIYAKO, Iwate Prefecture–A railway that was thrown out of action by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster will be back to full strength this spring.

Sanriku Railway Co. is to reopen the last two sections of the two lines that have remained out of service. These are the 15-kilometer section between Kamaishi and Yoshihama stations on the South-Rias Line, and the 10.5-km section between Tanohata and Omoto stations on the North-Rias Line. They will reopen on April 5 and 6, respectively.

The Sanriku Railway has 107.6 km of track that traverses scenic coastal routes in Iwate Prefecture.

The lines were badly damaged in the disaster. Station buildings and sections of rail track were swept out to sea by the tsunami. The railway was forced to suspend all its train services immediately after the March 11 disaster, but five days later it resumed partial operations free of charge to help lift the spirits of survivors.

The Sanriku Railway was the model for a rail line that appeared in the 2013 Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) drama “Amachan.” The show helped thrust the railway into the national spotlight.

Between April and November 2013, the number of passengers (excluding season ticket users) increased to 210,000, up 60 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Restoration efforts have steadily continued since partial operations resumed.

The government has provided more than 9 billion yen ($87.8 million) for the restoration work. With the resumption of the full operations, Sanriku Railway will introduce five additional train cars called “ozashiki ressha,” which will have interiors done up in the style of a traditional Japanese-style sitting room.

Lifting of evacuation advisory looms for tainted Tamura, Japan Times 1/12/14

TAMURA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – The radiation evacuation advisory imposed on part of Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, might be lifted in April at the request of residents, it has been learned.

The area would be the first in the former exclusion zone set up during the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis to have its advisory lifted. Tamura is within 20 km of the ravaged Fukushima No. 1 power plant, which suffered three partial meltdowns triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The 20-km radius hot zone has since been reorganized by radiation level.

At a meeting of five representatives from Tamura and the central government, and 25 residents from the Miyakoji district, residents called for the lifting the advisory on April 1 to match the reopening of the schools, residents who attended the meeting said Sunday.

A central government representative then pledged to make efforts to grant the request, they said. Another meeting will be held with other residents on Saturday.

The government intends to reveal its schedule for removing the evacuation advisory in February, sources said. Work on decontaminating fallout-tainted residential areas of the Miyakoji district was completed last year.

Families with children, however, have called on the government to carry out a new round of decontamination and to set forth clear standards for the cleanup work. The government has said it is difficult to define such standards.

At Sunday’s meeting, a government representative said it would discuss the additional cleanup work for areas with high radiation levels with the Tamura Municipal Government, the participants said.

The government hopes to find common ground with residents, the sources said.

“We want a clear government commitment to decontaminating areas with high radiation levels,” said Kazuo Endo, a 65-year-old leader of residents’ group.

In October last year, Tamura Mayor Yukei Tomizuka said he would try to get the evacuation advisory lifted for the Miyakoji district this spring but did not give a timetable.

Residents OK temporary storage space in Odaka area, fukushima minpo, 1/8/14

The Environment Ministry has obtained the approval of residents in the Odaka district regarding its plan to set up a temporary storage yard in the Oya area for soil and other radioactivity-contaminated materials resulting from a government-run decontamination project under way in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, in the wake of the nuclear power plant disaster. The storage facility, the largest in the district, will cover about 40% of the entire decontamination area and 55% of the Odaka district. The approval is expected to help accelerate decontamination work ahead of the return home of evacuees.
The Oya temporary storage site is to sit on a tract of paddy fields stretching about 50 hectares and straddling four areas of the Odaka district — Oya, Katakusa, Kita-happara and Minami-happara. It will accept contaminated soil from eight other areas in the district — Hansaki, Koyagi, Uwanezawa, Yoshina, Odaka, Okada, Oi and Tsukabara — and the district’s central zone in addition to the four areas where the facility will be located. The ministry will develop the storage site after concluding contracts with relevant landowners. It has secured nine land lots totaling 75 hectares, including the Oya facility, or about 65% of the land needed in the city to store contaminated soil removed under the government project.

What is a mutual aid research collective?

Superstorm Research Lab

The Superstorm Research Lab is a mutual aid research collective. Mutual aid is characterized by solidarity, or fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, and reciprocity, or mutual exchange, with fellow researchers and research participants. We have a non-hierarchical, cooperative decision-making organization where members elect to help one another achieve their goals.

A mutual aid model does not only seek to “do no harm,” it also strives to reciprocate, to respond, and to cooperate. It takes the processes and practices of research, not only the results, as a place to do meaningful normative work.

SRL is comprised of twelve researchers from different universities working to change the way research is done by using a mutual aid model. Organizationally, we develop mutual aid through the following:

  • we hold weekly meetings with a rotating facilitator (rather than a leader)
  • we make decisions by consensus
  • responsibilities are distributed as evenly as possible, and we…

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Dairy farmer records changes to his Fukushima village, asahi, 1/1/2014

DATE, Fukushima Prefecture–Kenichi Hasegawa’s home videos and photos do not contain the usual fare. They show cows heading for slaughter, villagers bidding farewell, and men in protective suits roaming the village.

Hasegawa said he bought a single-lens reflex camera and a camcorder immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the accident at the nearby Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

“I have to keep records for the sake of posterity,” said Hasegawa, a 60-year-old dairy farmer.

His home village of Iitate in this northeastern prefecture was once filled with edible wild plants in spring, mushrooms in autumn and wild boar hunts in winter.

But that peaceful life in the mountains came to an abrupt end when the nuclear accident spewed radioactive substances over the village.

Eight members of four generations in Hasegawa’s family once lived together. They are now separated in four households.

Hasegawa lives with his wife in temporary housing in Date, Fukushima Prefecture.

Driven by the will to persevere, Hasegawa has published two books and a photo collection, in addition to a 70-minute documentary film he released in autumn. He has been to various parts of Japan, Germany and South Korea to give about 200 speeches about the plight of the village.

His photos feature scenes of the departure of his 50 dairy cows, some for a slaughterhouse and others for new owners; his empty cow barn; villagers evacuating Iitate; dilapidated farmland; and the radioactive cleanup work that continues to devour huge expenses.

Hasegawa plans to soon publish his second collection of photos, which will document changes in the village and the travails of villagers following the nuclear accident.

Nearly three years after the nuclear disaster started, an increasing number of Iitate villagers are yearning for land to live on and houses to live in. Hasegawa has acute concerns about the policy line of the village government, which sets return as a foregone conclusion.

The farmer says he believes Iitate’s villagers will fall apart unless a temporary, replacement village is built soon.

“I don’t want others to experience what we have undergone,” Hasegawa said in his characteristic, hoarse voice. “It’s enough that we have had to go through it.”

He said his foremost desire was to be able to live with all his family members under a single roof.

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