An anonymous mother from Tokyo helps a nearby child wash his hands at Kego Shrine in Fukuoka City, Japan


Anonymous helps a nearby child wash his hands at Kego Shrine in Fukuoka City, Japan



A mother who moved with her daughter from Tokyo to Fukuoka after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima

"The people around me were living a normal life, not caring about the radiation. I saw two parallel worlds: one that was exactly the same as before the accident, and one that was contaminated with radiation. I still feel this even now. "

On March 12th, 2011, the first nuclear accident happened, and soon after there were some more explosions from other reactors. I kept having this unknown fear no matter how much the government or the media said that everything was fine with the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Also, I had a feeling from early on that the problems of this accident couldn't be solved any time soon.

I was living a life where I had to get the information I needed through the Internet, I went to lectures, read books related to the issues, investigated the wind direction, looked for water and food that I felt was safe, sometimes attended demonstrations, and always wore a mask.

However, I started to feel that I couldn't live in Tokyo any longer after becoming afraid of the tap water there. The media and the government kept giving us false information, and they would always issue reports later saying, "Actually…" From the impressions of the towns and people, it seemed like the issues with the nuclear accident had already been resolved. But each day I felt more and more anxiety about dangers that I couldn't see.

I got to know someone living in the same area at a lecture that was held in the summer, and I finally got the opportunity to share information and talk about the nuclear accident and radiation with other people. Up until that point, there was no one else that seemed concerned about these issues.

Every time my child and I ate out, she asked me, "Is this safe to eat?" She also relies on me when it comes to the food that we eat at home. Can I accept the consequences if my child`s health becomes affected in the future because of exposure of radiation? Each time, I was strongly reminded that I am the only one who can protect my child and her health. Her future depends on my judgment.

There was a difference between the information that I got from the internet and the information I got from the government and the media. The people around me were living a normal life, not caring about the radiation. I saw two parallel worlds: one that was exactly the same as before the accident, and one that was contaminated with radiation. I still feel this even now.

The more I lived this unnatural life every day filled with a fear of the unknown, anxiety, and the feeling that something was wrong because of the lack of information I was seeking, the stronger the need to evacuate became.

I had an opportunity early in the fall of that same year to listen to a lecture from Dr. Katsuma Yagasaki about how powerful internal radiation exposure could be. In his lecture he clearly said, "You cannot raise your children in Tokyo," and at that point I made up my mind to evacuate.

All we wanted to do was protect our child.
From what I can remember, my daughter started having health problems starting from around November of 2011.

In the beginning, my husband was not as aware as I was of the dangers of radiation exposure from the nuclear accident. He would say things like, "You're too worried," or "It's the 'fear of radiation'." But as time passed, I could see changes in his thoughts. He was very cooperative with our evacuation. But his first priority was his job, so he wouldn't consider evacuating with us.

Since there was radioactive contamination in Tokyo, I knew I wouldn't be able to go back. So our evacuation meant that our family would have to split apart, and that my husband would be alone in such danger. There was a conflict inside of me every day.

I deeply hoped to evacuate all together, so we discussed evacuation almost every day. We would even have arguments and fights.

With the safety of our daughter as our first priority, I decided to evacuate with my child alone, without plans. As I started to think about leaving, I began to consider where to move to. It had to be somewhere that was far from Fukushima Daiichi and the nation's other power plants.

I had almost decided on Okinawa, a place I love and which I've visited few times. But my husband wouldn't agree to it. He said it was too far and the climate there was very tough. Kumamoto became a candidate because there is a lot of nature there, and a friend and her child had already evacuated there. My husband chose Fukuoka as a candidate. The level of self-sufficiency in both Kumamoto and Fukuoka seemed high. But considering my husband's opinion, we decided to evacuate to Fukuoka.

In the meantime, Tokyo decided to burn radioactive debris from the stricken disaster area without asking the opinions of its citizens. After visiting Fukuoka for the second time we abruptly decided to move here in December. So, the evacuation with my daughter started in January of 2012.

The problems which began on March 12th, 2011 haven't been solved yet, and accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors have been happening one after another ever since. A lot of the people in the stricken areas have been left there, and they have no other choice but to live in the evacuation centers. There are many people including my friends in East Japan who want to evacuate but cannot.

That day changed the lives and values of the Japanese people. As a result of that day, I am still living the life of an evacuee. The plans for our life that we had before the earthquake are all gone, and we don't have anything to replace them with.

March 2013 Update: Anonymous' husband has transferred within his company from Tokyo to Osaka. His family still lives in Fukuoka, so he continues to live separately from his wife and children despite the transfer. A transfer to Fukuoka was not possible. His wife would like him to come and visit them in Fukuoka once every two weeks, but sometimes this becomes once in six weeks due to his demanding work schedule.




All images and interviews © 2013 Neil Witkin
Translators: Yoko Mada and Yuko Murakami
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