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Manga about work at Fukushima No. 1 stirs locals’ ire, japan times, 4/30/2014

Cartoon characters who suffered nosebleeds after a visit to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant are turning into a headache for manga publisher Shogakukan.

Locals are apparently angry about the “misleading” depictions in an episode of the popular manga series “Oishinbo” published Monday in the weekly Big Comic Spirits magazine.

Visiting the stricken plant two years after the 2011 nuclear catastrophe, a group of characters, all newspaper journalists, are momentarily exposed to hourly radiation levels of 1,680 microsieverts. After their tour, which takes them near the plant’s six reactors, lead character Shiro Yamaoka begins to complain of “extreme exhaustion” as well as sudden nosebleeds that span days. His colleagues confess to suffering similar symptoms.

Later, when they meet a character named Katsutaka Idogawa — based on a real-life former mayor of the town of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture — they learn that he too has suffered repeated nosebleed attacks and felt “unbearably sick” since the accident.

“Many Fukushima residents have been afflicted by the same symptoms. It’s just they don’t say it openly,” Idogawa tells them.

In another scene of the episode, the team of reporters complain that they were allowed to publish only a handful of photos taken at the site, an apparent dig at plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co’s rigorous censorship of the media.

In response, a Twitter user with the handle @jyunichidesita who claimed to be a resident of the city of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, expressed anger at the depictions. The user claimed he or she had “never suffered such symptoms over the past three years.”

By noon Wednesday, the protest had been re-tweeted more than 13,000 times.

When contacted by The Japan Times, the editorial department of Shogakukan was unapologetic. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the weekly’s managing editor said the publisher had been inundated with phone calls and emails from readers saying the descriptions risk arousing public prejudice against the prefecture.

The editor said the episode drew on “meticulous reportage” conducted by manga author Tetsu Kariya and his team in Fukushima. Nothing the Idogawa character said deviated from the opinion of the real-life mayor, the editor insisted. Kariya himself once told the media that he had suffered several bouts of nosebleeds and been plagued by unusual fatigue following his visits to the plant.

However, the managing editor stressed that the publisher was not pointing the finger at radiation exposure as the cause of the characters’ illnesses. He noted that Yamaoka, the main character, is at one point assured by a doctor that no medical studies indicate radiation in Fukushima could have resulted in his nosebleeds.

The editor, however, also added doctor and radiation expert Eisuke Matsui, another real-life character who appeared in the episode, told the editorial staff that “the connection between sickness and radiation is not exactly zero” and that his opinion would be reflected in future episodes.

In an apparent attempt to dodge further criticism, the editorial department said in a statement dated Monday: “We would like to stress that past ‘Oishinbo’ episodes clearly stated that it would be a huge loss for consumers if they balked at eating (Fukushima) foods proved safe just due to their lack of understanding.”

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Fukushima residents unsure of return to no-go zone, ap, 4/29/13

TOMIOKA, Japan (AP) – Whenever Kazuhiro Onuki goes home, to his real home that is, the 66-year-old former librarian dons protective gear from head to toe and hangs a dosimeter around his neck.

Grass grows wild in the backyard. The ceiling leaks. Thieves have ransacked the shelves, leaving papers and clothing all over the floor so there is barely room to walk. Mouse dung is scattered like raisins. There is no running water or electricity.

Above all, radiation is everywhere.

It’s difficult to imagine ever living again in Tomioka, a ghost town about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the former Fukushima Dai-chi nuclear plant. And yet more than three years after meltdowns at the plant forced this community of 16,000 people to flee, Onuki can’t quite make the psychological break to start anew.

His family lived here for four generations. Every time he goes back, he is overcome by emotion. Especially during that brief time in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom.

“They flower as though nothing has happened,” he said. “They are weeping because all the people have left.”

The Japanese government is pushing ahead with efforts to decontaminate and reopen as much of a 20-kilometer (12-mile) no-go zone around the plant as it can. Authorities declared a tiny corner of the zone safe for living as of April 1, and hope to lift evacuation orders in more areas in the coming months and years.

Former residents have mixed feelings. In their hearts, many want their old lives back. But distrust about the decontamination program runs deep. Will it really be safe? Others among the more than 100,000 displaced have established new lives elsewhere, in the years since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami sent three of Fukushima’s reactors into meltdown.

If the evacuation order is lifted for their area, they will lose a monthly stipend of 100,000 yen ($1,000) they receive from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the owner of the Fukushima plant.

A survey last year found that 16 percent of Tomioka residents wanted to return, 40 percent had decided never to return, and 43 percent were undecided. Two-thirds said they were working before the disaster, but only one-third had jobs at the time of the survey, underlining the challenges to starting over.

Former resident Shigetoshi Suzuki, a friend of Onuki, is outraged the government would even ask such a question: Do you want to go back?

Of course, we all want to return, he said. People like him were effectively forced into retirement, the 65-year-old land surveyor said. If he hadn’t evacuated to a Tokyo suburb with his wife, he would have continued working for his longtime clients.

“It is a ridiculous question,” Suzuki said. “We could have led normal lives. What we have lost can’t be measured in money.”

In protest, he has refused to sign the forms that would allow his property to undergo decontamination.

The government has divided the no-go zone into three areas by radiation level.

The worst areas are marked in pink on official maps and classified as “difficult to return.” They are still enclosed by a barricade.

Yellow designates a “restricted” area, limiting visits to a few hours. No overnight stays are allowed.

The green zones are “in preparations to lift evacuation orders.” They must be decontaminated, which includes scrubbing building surfaces and scraping off the top layer of soil and is being carried out throughout the zones.

Tomioka has all three zones within its boundaries.

The green zones are those where authorities have confirmed radiation exposure can be brought below 20 millisieverts a year.

The long-term goal is to bring annual exposure down to 1 millisievert, or the equivalent of 10 chest X-rays, which was considered the safe level before the disaster, but the government is lifting evacuation orders at higher levels. It says it will monitor the health and exposure of people who move back to such areas.

In the yellow restricted zone, where Sukuki’s and Onuki’s homes lie, a visitor exceeds 1 millisievert in a matter of a few hours.

During a recent visit, Onuki and his wife Michiko walked beneath the pink petals floating from a tunnel of cherry trees, previously a local tourist attraction.

The streets were abandoned, except for a car passing through now and then. The neighborhood was eerily quiet except for the chirping of the nightingales.

“The prime minister says the accident is under control, but we feel the thing could explode the next minute,” said Michiko Onuki, who ran a ceramic and craft shop out of their Tomioka home. “We would have to live in fear of radiation. This town is dead.”

Both wore oversized white astronaut-like gear, which doesn’t keep out radioactive rays out but helps prevent radioactive material from being brought back, outside the no-go zone. Filtered masks covered half their faces. They discarded the gear when they left, so they wouldn’t bring any radiation back to their Tokyo apartment, which they share with an adult son and daughter.

Junji Oshida, 43, whose family ran an upscale restaurant in Tomioka that specialized in eel, was at first devastated that he lost the traditional sauce for the eel that had been passed down over generations.

He has since opened a new restaurant just outside the zone that caters to nuclear cleanup workers. He recreated the sauce and serves pork, which is cheaper than eel. He lives apart from his wife and sons, who are in a Tokyo suburb.

“There is no sense in looking back,” Oshida said, still wearing the eel restaurant’s emblem on his shirt.

Older residents can’t give up so easily, even those who will never be able to return – like Tomioka city assemblyman Seijun Ando, whose home lies in the most irradiated, pink zone.

Ando, 59, said that dividing Tomioka by radiation levels has pitted one group of residents against another, feeding resentment among some. One idea he has is to bring residents from various towns in the no-go zone together to start a new community in another, less radiated part of Fukushima – a place he described as “for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

“I can survive anywhere, although I had a plan for my life that was destroyed from its very roots,” said Ando, tears welling up in his eyes. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suffering. I’m just worried for Tomioka.”

Survey: Half of Fukushima evacuee households split up; distress rife in families, asahi, 4/29/14

FUKUSHIMA–Nearly half of households that evacuated following the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been split up while close to 70 percent have family members suffering from physical and mental distress, a survey showed.

The number of households forced to live apart exceeds the number that remain together, according the survey, the first by the Fukushima prefectural government that attempted to survey all households that evacuated.

The results were announced on April 28.

Between late January and early February, Fukushima Prefecture mailed the surveys to 62,812 households living within and outside the prefecture.

Of the 20,680 respondents, 16,965 households, or 82 percent, originally lived in the evacuation zone near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, while 3,683 households, or 18 percent, lived outside the zone but voluntarily evacuated after the nuclear accident unfolded in March 2011.

It was unclear if the remaining 32 households were originally within the evacuation zone.

Some 44.7 percent of the households still lived with all family members at their new homes. The figure included single-person households.

But 48.9 percent of households said their family members now live at two or more locations, including 15.6 percent whose family members are scattered at three or more locations, according to the survey.

The results showed that many households in municipalities near the nuclear plant originally contained many family members, but they were forced to give up living together as their lives in evacuation continued.

Families are often divided over the degree of fear about radiation contamination. Locations of workplaces and schools also split families, while many members end up living in separate temporary housing.

The prolonged life in evacuation, now in its fourth year, is taking a toll. The survey revealed that 67.5 percent of all households had family members showing symptoms of physical or psychological distress.

More than 50 percent said the cause of their ailments was that they “can no longer enjoy things as they did before” or they “have trouble sleeping.”

“Being constantly frustrated” and “tending to feel gloomy and depressed” followed, at over 40 percent.

More than one-third of respondents, or 34.8 percent, said their “chronic illness has worsened” since they entered their lives as evacuees.

Forced to Flee Radiation, Fearful Japanese Villagers Are Reluctant to Return, NYT, 4/27/14

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/04/28/world/asia/forced-to-flee-radiation-fearful-japanese-villagers-are-reluctant-to-return.html?referrer=

Fukushima evacuation zone residents allowed to stay at homes overnight, mainichi, 4/27/14

FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) — Residents of an evacuation zone within 20 kilometers of the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from Saturday are allowed to stay overnight as well at their homes following progress in radiation cleanup work.

Previously, the area’s residents had been allowed to spend only the day inside the evacuation zone.

The change means the residents will be free to spend the entire 24-hour day at home, for the next three months, after which the evacuation order may be lifted permanently.

However, because of the lingering fear of radiation, only 40 residents of 18 households applied to return home from evacuation housing, out of 276 residents of 134 households in the zone of Kawauchi village, Fukushima Prefecture.

The central government is in talks with the Kawauchi municipal authority and residents about lifting the evacuation order completely, given the progress in decontamination work.

If lifted, the zone in Kawauchi would become the second case of an evacuation order being lifted on an area within a 20-kilometer radius of the Fukushima plant, following the Miyakoji district in the city of Tamura, also in Fukushima.

A total of 10 municipalities including Kawauchi village are still subject to evacuation orders around the plant devastated by a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Katsutoshi Kusano, 69, and his wife Shigeko, 68, said they have returned home in the village from a temporary housing in the city of Koriyama in Fukushima as they “remain attached to” their house and garden.

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