Monday, April 11, 2011

(7) March 21: Beautiful Fukushima

My mother's home in Iwaki

Since my mother comes from the city of Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture, I have relatives living in Fukushima and Miyagi Prefectures (they are adjacent). A cousin of mine lives in the city of Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture and her house was swept by the tsunami. Now, she lives with her daughter at one of the shelters. Her husband was at work at the time the tsunami hit and in the beginning he was unaccounted for; luckily he was found four days later living at another shelter.

My mother’s older sister still lives alone in Iwaki. She has a daughter who lives nearby but her house collapsed after the earthquake so she stayed first at a shelter and then went to her other daughter’s house in Fukui Prefecture.

The house where my mother was born still exists; her older brother (my uncle) lives there. Although it is near the seashore, it wasn’t damaged by the tsunami but because of the possibility of radiation exposure, he had to leave Iwaki and go to his grandson who lives in the city of Niigata. He wants to return to Iwaki though, since he always had a problem sleeping anywhere else but in his home.

This uncle has a son (my cousin) who is living with him. He is a conductor for the Japan Railroad company’s Tohoku section. When the earthquake hit, he had finished his shift and was in the train, returning to his home. Since the train stopped and since he was close to the sea he run to the nearest shelter and after the tsunami passed he hitch-hiked back to his place.

This cousin’s daughter was working at a hospital which is near the seashore. She told us that she saw the tsunami approaching from the hospital’s window and she tried frantically to escape. The hospital was completely ruined so now she is staying at a shelter in Ibaraki Prefecture.

This same cousin has a grandson who is about two months old. The baby’s mother had gone to her parents’ home for the childbirth so my cousin’s son (the baby’s father) was alone when the earthquake hit. He went out to take his car and try to escape and at exactly that moment he saw the parking lot’s ground being torn apart by the tremor. Now, the couple with their baby (and with both the girl’s parents) has found shelter at a house in the city where I live; actually they are quite close to our house. “If it was only the earthquake and the tsunami, I would have hanged on” she told us when we went to see the baby. “After the accident in the nuclear power plant, though, I had to leave. It is not a problem for us –we will be OK. But I was very scared of the idea that the baby could be exposed to radiation day in and day out for, who knows, how long”.

I mentioned before that my uncle is been living with his grandson. This grandson, used to work at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The year before the last, there was a problem at the Kashiwazaki nuclear power plant so he was transferred there to help with the repairs. Now, he has decided to return to his old post. “I think I’ll have to go back and help” he told us; since March 20 he is been working again at the distressed power plant in Fukushima.

All of my relatives escaped from this disaster unharmed. But all of them had to leave their homes. They don’t know when they will be able to return; and even if they return, they will probably not be able to plant rice in their paddies this year.

When I was an elementary school pupil, I used to spend all my summers in Fukushima, at my uncle’s home. It breaks my heart to see that the whole world has already connected Fukushima with this terrible thing that happened in the power plant. Still, I believe the day will come when I will again be able to chase fireflies and catch frogs at my uncle’s rice paddy. Like I used to…

Toyama Atsuko

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