Sunday, November 06, 2011

A Day in Fukushima

A friend of mine who lives in a neighboring prefecture of Fukushima (so he was not required by the government to evacuate -120km (75miles) from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plants) releases his blog every week about his volunteer activities of rubble removal in Fukushima tsunami disaster area. I live in west Japan over 600km (370miles) from Fukushima, so I feel it is difficult for me to do such activities frequently. But I wanted to know about the real condition of Fukushima and learn what I can do for the Fukushima people. Many nuclear power plants are located in Fukushima, which is far from Tokyo, to generate a lot of electric power for Tokyo. They feature facilities that promote "the safety of nuclear power generation." I wanted to see them. Therefore, I asked him to guide me around Fukushima and he agreed to do so.

The first day - visiting facilities to promote the safety of nuclear plants

On the 5th of November, after a 6-hour train trip that was over 6 hours lomg, I met him in his home town. He drove me in his car to Tokai nuclear plant. It is not a Fukushima plant, and was not damaged by the tsunami, but it was the first nuclear plant in Japan. We visited two well-equipped facilities within a 10-minute-drive from each other. Both of them promoted safety and importance of nuclear power generation and plants, even to kids with some interactive attractions designed to learn about atomic power.

I don't have deep knowledge about them. But I realized one thing clearly -Nuclear power generation companies and electric power companies pay a lot of money for these facilities. They have strong reasons to do so.
I took all available brochures and textbooks from them. I'm going to read them to learn more about their story.

The second day - visiting an area which has been affected not only by the Tsunami but also by radioactivity

On the 6th of November, we went to Iwaki city, which is located in the south end of Fukushima prefecture. The distance from the damaged nuclear plants to the city is within 50km(30miles). The amount of radioactivity in the air (1m from the ground) is 0.2-0.5mSv of radiation, which is not large enough to have an affect on the human body. It is one one-hundredth the amount of radioactivity present at the edge of the restricted area, 30km/19miles radius of the damaged Fukushima plant. But some people, in particular parents who have small children, are nervous about the condition because it is double that of other normal areas.

Anyway, whenever people around the world hear the name "Fukushima", they generally think about the radioactivity, rather than the damage by the quake or tsunami. It may be a "natural" reaction these days. It is the same in Japan. However, I realized that this way of thinking is not entirely accurate.

It took about an hour to go from my friends town to Iwaki by car on the express way. He has a pass to go on the expressway without any fee, because the ceiling of his house was damaged by the quake (he and all his family were not injured).

Approaching Iwaki, the road condition gradually worse -like the shape of a wave. It is the result of the earth quake power. Except for that, the downtown of Iwaki (an inland area) looks very normal.

Was this a railway station in the disaster area?

When we went to the coast area, the landscape suddenly changed.

A damaged Seven-Eleven convenience store. The store remains open -selling things out of a store vehicle.

Leveled housing lots. Eight months ago, there were many houses here but they were washed away by the tsunami.

Rubble of destroyed of houses were gathered here at the former location of a school by volunteers.

The seashore was washed away, so there is a temporary embankment.

This grocery store suffered a lot of damage, but...

It is actually still opens for business!

Messages of encouragement from people to the shop.

I was surprised by the cheerfulness of the shop clerks... They worked with smiles and cheerful voices.

The harbor which is located at the back of the shop.

A flower in the rubble wilderness. It is the "work" of the artists of the project called "Let's make flowers bloom in the rubble field." They paint flowers on the walls of the wrecked houses which the municipal government has decided to tear down, to change the devastated landscape.

Flowers on the wall

After driving along the coastal area, we went back inland area and visited a temple. It was designed in the image of buddhist heaven and was established in 1160.

A Calm place. It was hard to understand that this garden and the wrecked coast were in the same city.

After this trip, I asked my friend what I can do for Fukushima people from far distant area except donation and purchasing Fukushima products. His answer was "remember them and this experience". At first, I follow the Twitter List whose member are the people in charge of reconstruction Fukushima. I read their tweets everyday. It is the first step for me. I'm thinking about the next step now.