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Tablet PCs connect nuclear crisis evacuees of Fukushima village, kyodo, 8/8/12

A communications system went into full operation Wednesday involving the use of about 2,500 tablet personal computers to connect people who had to evacuate their village as result of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Some 6,100 residents of Iitate who have been living in different locations since the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster can now talk face-to-face online and receive news and videos of their hometown via their tablet PCs.

Among accident-affected municipalities, Iitate village is the first to utilize tablet devices, allocated to all its households, to help residents keep in touch, said the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Making a home away from home / Tomioka plans to create 3 temporary towns to encourage residents’ return, yomiuri, 4/22/12

FUKUSHIMA–The town government of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, which is located entirely within the no-entry zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, plans to create three “temporary Tomiokas” for evacuated residents, it has been learned.

The plan aims at preserving the town residents’ communities, which were dispersed after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at the plant. According to a draft of the plan, the three locations will be in the cities of Iwaki and Koriyama in the prefecture, and a part of Tomioka where radiation is low.

Town government officials revealed the plan on Friday at a town committee meeting to discuss reconstruction plan.

However, it is expected to be difficult to realize the project, as consultations with relevant municipalities have not progressed.

According to the plan, the Tomioka town government will first set up its headquarters in the town. It will then prepare for the future return of its residents by conducting decontamination work, readying water supply and sewage systems, and encouraging the relocation of residences in areas hit by the March 2011 tsunami to higher ground.

For residents unable to return to the town in the near future, the town government will encourage them to live in temporary “satellite Tomiokas” in Iwaki and Koriyama.

The town government will ask residents to move back to Tomioka when they are ready to return.

The town’s population as of the end of March was 14,608, including about 4,000 in Koriyama, where the town government is temporarily located, and about 5,000 in Iwaki.

In Tomioka’s planned temporary sites in Iwaki and Koriyama, the town government intends to set up public housing, hospitals, schools and nursing homes for its evacuees.

According to the plan, the town government will name one site after sakura (cherry), the town’s tree; one after tsutsuji (azalea), the town’s flower; and one after sekirei (wagtail), the town’s bird.

The original Tomioka is thus expected to be called Sakura Tomioka, while its temporary locations will be Tsutsuji Tomioka in Iwaki, and Sekirei Tomioka in Koriyama.

Meanwhile, the central government is expected to reclassify the town into three zones.

Zones where accumulated radiation exposure exceeds 50 millisieverts per year will be designated as “zones where residency is prohibited for an extended period.”

Zones with annual exposure from 20 to less than 50 millisieverts per year will be designated as “zones with restricted residency,” where residents will be permitted to make brief visits to their houses while being urged to remain evacuated.

Zones where radiation exposure is below 20 millisieverts per year will be designated as “zones preparing to lift restrictions on residents’ return.”

Sakura Tomioka will be created by selecting areas with low radiation from the “zones preparing to lift restrictions on residents’ return,” with a decontamination target of 1 millisievert or less per year.

In the areas, the town government plans to prepare collective housing and other facilities.

However, an area where the town office was previously located is not likely to be included in Sakura Tomioka because radiation there is still relatively high.

In the two satellite towns in Koriyama and Iwaki, the town government plans to ask its residents to move from temporary housing units or privately rented houses to shared or individual houses.

The town government will consider establishing medical facilities and water supply and sewage systems independently, to avoid overburdening the Koriyama and Iwaki city governments. It also will conduct a survey to determine its residents’ intentions regarding the plan prior to compiling the town’s reconstruction plan in July.

However, the town government has yet to explain details of the plan to the two city governments, a town official said.

“We’d like to consult with the central and prefectural governments as well as the relevant local governments to flesh out the details of the plan,” the official said.

Among local governments that have relocated their offices, the town governments of Okuma and Futaba–both near the crippled power plant–also are considering creating temporary towns in other municipalities.

The town government of Okuma has announced a plan to establish a “temporary Okuma” in Iwaki or municipalities around Iwaki.

The town government of Namie also is planning to prepare communities in the cities of Iwaki and Minami-Soma.

Concerning such moves by municipalities, Iwaki Mayor Takao Watanabe said Thursday: “The city of Iwaki has also suffered serious damage due to the earthquake and tsunami. The housing shortage and strain on medical and nursing services are becoming more severe.

“The central government should create a road map for municipalities of Futaba County [in the prefecture] that indicates a timeline for the residents to return to their original municipalities.

“We don’t know how long we’ll need to support them,” Watanabe added.

A senior Koriyama city official on Friday declined to comment about the Tomioka’s plan.

(Apr. 22, 2012)

Sendai district raises handkerchiefs of hope, japan times, 4/12/12

Thursday, April 12, 2012


SENDAI — Sendai residents have begun stringing together yellow handkerchiefs in a coastal area hit by the March 2011 tsunami in a symbolic expression of their hope to rebuild their hometown.

News photo
Flag day: Yoshio Sato, a 77-year-old fisherman, places yellow handkerchiefs at the site where his home stood in Sendai’s Arahama district before the March 2011 disasters. KYODO

Each of the handkerchiefs, placed at sites where tsunami debris has been cleared, bears printed messages or drawings transferred from those sent originally to the city’s Arahama district from well-wishers across the country and overseas.

“I’m praying for Arahama’s recovery,” says a message on one handkerchief, while another reads: “Let’s walk hand in hand.”

Arahama residents started the movement late last year after only a yellow flag out of five with different colors hoisted at a local temple survived last year’s quake and tsunami that devastated a large swath of the Tohoku region.

Yoshio Sato, a 77-year-old fisherman who has placed yellow handkerchiefs at the site where his home had stood before the disasters, hopes to see a house for him and his family rebuilt at the same location.

“We can’t fish if we don’t live near the sea,” Sato said. “I’m raising these handkerchiefs in hopes that we can continue to live here and hang tough.”

The Sendai Municipal Government has prohibited residents in Arahama and other areas facing the risk of more than 2 meters of tsunami-induced inundation from building new homes or extending their houses.

The city is encouraging them to move out instead, but many residents are unwilling to leave.

Early this year, a Nagoya-based nonprofit organization joined the handkerchief movement, which typically features a string of handkerchiefs hung on two ropes pegged to the ground on one end and the top of a 4-meter pole on the other. As of late March, the handkerchiefs were set up at 21 locations.

preparing for tanabata festival in the sakari neighborhood of ofunato

for my last work day in ofunato, i had the pleasure of helping prepare for the tanabata festival, which unfortunately was happening after i left. but putting up the decorations in the street was pretty fun! the decorations are attached to huge bamboo poles, which have to been carried, set up, and lashed to the electric poles, all with the correct angle and without getting them snagged on any power lines. the first one took a long time, but our team got better after that. actually i didn’t do much heavy lifting, but mostly trying to translate for the guys from all hands who didn’t understand japanese, as we guided the bamboo up and down the street and angled it. the streets were destroyed by the tsunami, so when they rebuild them, they built in little holes to hold the bamboo. we worked together with some local guys, and there were also student volunteers from a university in tokyo, and also high school students.

also, for the last few nights, i had the chance to help a local neighborhood group who was preparing their float-a wooden frame, which is then covered with paper panels hand painted with scenes (in this case, it was the kid’s float, so lots of cartoon characters) and hand painted geometric trim.

i still feel like there are a lot of challenges involved with bringing outsiders into a local community in general, and all hands is not immune, and is in fact working on this. in fact, the night before i left there was a meeting about how to improve the role of the translators on job sites.  but when the local neighborhood groups are welcoming the international volunteers to join in their festival, and i have the chance to work next to the local ladies as they are brushing glue on the frames for the paper, as we are carrying the bamboo together down the street, i’m not worried about this relationship. we (foreign volunteers) may be strange and different, may sometimes be awkward or accidentally rude, and we definitely are a new sight that was not in ofunato 6 months ago. but it feels like the local people have embraced all hands, the volunteers’ smiling faces that are as bright as the clothes are dirty after a day in the ditches. i feel that huge credit is due to the folks who organized all hand volunteers’ participation in the tanabata festival, which you can see more of here.

Fukushima Pref. city to build tenement house to prevent solitary deaths, mainichi shinbun, 6/10/11

An artist’s drawing of the “Soma Idobata Nagaya.” (Courtesy of the Soma Municipal Government)
SOMA, Fukushima — The municipal government here will build “nagaya” or traditional and convivial Japanese tenement houses to prevent mainly elderly evacuees from dying solitary deaths in the aftermath of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Drawing a lesson from the lonely deaths of elderly people in temporary housing following the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the city decided to build the tenements called “Soma Idobata Nagaya” (Soma gossip tenement house).

Each building in the project, unveiled June 9, features 12 units each with about 23 square meters of floor space covering two bedrooms plus a dining room and kitchen. Also in the building will be a common dining room, a tatami parlor, a laundry and a large public bath. The aisles will be equipped with rails, and toilets for the handicapped will be installed, city officials said.

The buildings will accommodate elderly people and couples taking refuge in evacuation centers or temporary housing units due to the earthquake and tsunami. The city will not set a move-in deadline.

Once the city gets the city assembly’s blessing in June, it will start building five of the tenement houses in the heart of the city this fall.

Soma Mayor Hidekiyo Tachiya said, “Elderly households will live together by helping each other, so there will be no solitary deaths.”


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