1. Promethus Trap – Men in Protective Clothing. Asahi Shimbun, Japan.

The Asahi Shimbun series on the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster comprises various parts at the following Links. Only the first part is transcribed below.

The first, second, third and fourth series are available at:

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112310048

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201202060076

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201203090078

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a

December 02, 2011

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

The Prometheus Trap / Men in Protective Clothing
December 02, 2011

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

This is a compilation of the eight installments that appeared between Nov. 15 and 27.

* * *

According to Greek mythology, it was Prometheus who gave fire to humans.

The acquisition of fire allowed humankind to develop civilization. Fire derived from fossil fuels further spurred production capacity. In time, humans attained atomic fire, a feat that was also described as “superior energy.” Playing with fire, however, has presented humans with a dilemma.

Humans, who achieved a civilized world through Prometheus, are now troubled by atomic fire. The series of articles contemplate the country, its citizens and electric power in light of the failure of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

* * *

The first series, “Men in Protective Clothing,” looks at the fate and experiences of 25 people who evacuated to Mizue Kanno’s home in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

‘Please, get away from here’

Tsushima district in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, is located in the mountains approximately 30 kilometers northwest of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).

On March 12, the day after the nuclear accident, 10,000 people fled to the Tsushima District from the coastal area that lies within a 10-km radius of the nuclear power plant. Residents took people into their homes, since there was not enough room at the elementary and junior high schools, community centers and temples.

One after another, people began arriving at Mizue Kanno’s home throughout the day. By evening, 25 people had gathered. Although many were relatives and acquaintances, there were also strangers among them.

Her new house had recently been built after having torn down the family’s 180-year-old, traditional Japanese home. It has an impressive gate, expansive grounds and a large room measuring 20 tatami mats (approx. 33 square meters). It was just right for accepting evacuees, and the yard was filled with evacuees’ cars.

“I don’t know what happened at the nuclear power station, but if we evacuate this far, then we should be OK.” Everyone looked relieved for the moment.

Kanno, 59, cooked two pressure cookers full of rice and made an evening meal of rice balls and miso soup with pork and vegetables. People who fled with only the clothes on their backs assembled in the large room and began eating.

Following dinner, everyone introduced themselves and formed rules for living together:

* To prevent the toilet from getting clogged, toilet paper should be thrown away in the cardboard box placed next to the toilet.

* Everyone should help cook and serve meals.

* Do not hesitate to be open with one another. …

The people split into groups and slept in two rooms. Kanno handed out all the futons she had.

Then, Kanno stepped outside, where she noticed a white van that had stopped in front of her house. Inside were two men wearing white protective clothing. They turned toward her and shouted, but she couldn’t make out what they were saying.

“What? What’s the problem?” Kanno asked.

“Why are you here?! Please, get away from here.”

Kanno was shocked.

“Flee? But this is an evacuation shelter.”

The two men got out of the car. Both were wearing gas masks.

“Radioactive materials are spreading.”

They spoke in a grave tone and with a sense of urgency.

National road No. 114 that runs past her house was bumper to bumper with cars at a standstill, full of people who couldn’t get into evacuation shelters. The two men also shouted to the people who had gotten out of their cars, “Quickly, get back into your cars!”

The two men then drove off in the direction of Fukushima city. They did not go to the branch office of the town hall, or place a warning on the message board.

The government had said that areas outside of a 10-km radius were safe. Why, then, were those two men wearing protective clothing and gas masks as well? Who exactly were they?

Kanno was puzzled, but at any rate she hurried back to the house and told the evacuees about the men in protective clothing.

II
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a?page=2&imgIX=0
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
December 2, 2011.

Fleeing farther away in the middle of the night

A discussion began.

“If it really is dangerous, there should be some information from the town or the police. Let’s see what happens.”

Everyone had finally gotten settled in and were reluctant to move.

However, in the middle of the night the situation suddenly changed. Several buses arrived at the community center, which served as an evacuation shelter. One of the evacuees noticed the arrival and told everyone the bus drivers had said they were “moving the evacuees.”

At the time, the town of Namie was shuttling residents within a 20-km radius who were late in evacuating to the Tsushima district. Kanno was unaware of that fact but had concluded that the area was unsafe. She woke her sleeping guests and a discussion began again.

Most did not want to leave, but one woman noted that, “If everyone stays, then Mrs. Kanno’s family can’t leave.” That settled it.

“Let’s drive as long as the gas lasts.”

After midnight, two young couples left with a newborn baby who had just been born in February and their small children.

Though at first the couples were reluctant to flee on mountain roads so late at night, Kanno gave them rice balls, saying, “At least get the children out of here.”

The next morning on March 13, another discussion ensued after breakfast. A young couple with children who had said the night before they wouldn’t leave, decided they would go for their children’s sake. An older woman lent the couple her car.

“Since I’m alone, I’ll catch the bus at the evacuation center.”

By evening, all 25 people had re-evacuated to other locations such as Fukushima, Koriyama and Minami-Soma.

Kanno told others who had sought shelter in a nearby house about the men in protective clothing. One laughed saying, “I worked at TEPCO. The nuclear power plant we built could never be that dangerous.”

The man had fled not from the nuclear accident, but from the tsunami. Kanno felt relieved. She and her oldest son, Junichi, 27, decided not to flee.

Junichi was in charge of distributing food from the regional center, which served as a shelter, and was making rice balls.

“I can’t leave everyone behind.”

At that time, readings at locations approximately 10 km from the Tsushima district using instruments measuring up to 30 microsieverts per hour were going off the meter.

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

III
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a?page=3&imgIX=0

2 December 2011
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

The Prometheus Trap / Men in Protective Clothing

Previous ArticleResearcher: Pollen mask prevents cesium inhalation
Next ArticleCesium-137 deposits 50 times more than previous record

December 02, 2011

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

Radiation information did not make it to residents

On March 13, after the 25 people had left the Kanno’s home, the majority of evacuees still remained in the Tsushima district.

At 5:44 a.m. on March 12, the evacuation order was expanded to cover a radius of 10 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. After the hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 nuclear reactor, the evacuation order was widened to 20 km at 6:25 p.m.

However, at a news conference on the evening of March 12, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, “There will be no leakage of radioactive material in a large quantity. Persons in areas outside of the 20-km radius will not be affected.”

The statement effectively meant that the incident was insignificant but that people in the area are urged to take shelter as a precautionary measure. People believed that the Tsushima district, 30 km away, was safe.

On March 12 and 13, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) employees visited the Tsushima branch office in Namie to make a status report. They were not wearing protective clothing, and they did not say the area was dangerous. Their demeanor was quite different from that of the men Mizue Kanno had met.

Neither the workers in the town hall nor the head of the district had seen the men in protective clothing that Kanno had seen. However, she had carefully made note of what she had seen and heard.

Early on the morning on March 15, following the blast heard at the No. 3 reactor the previous day, a loud boom was heard at the No. 2 reactor, and then the No. 4 reactor building exploded. For the first time, the government requested that people within a 20- to 30-km radius “take refuge indoors.”

That is when the residents of the Tsushima district evacuated. Mayor Tamotsu Baba found out about the explosion at the No. 3 reactor on March 14 from TV reports and decided to implement voluntary evacuations to the neighboring city, Nihonmatsu, from the next day.

On the morning of March 15 at 9 a.m., very high levels of radiation of 11,930 microsieverts per hour were observed at the main gate to the Fukushima No. 1 plant. Despite this, Edano’s statements were optimistic.

“The concentration of radioactive material at distances exceeding 20 km is considerably weakened. The impact on the human body is small or negligible.”

“At present, water is steadily being pumped into reactors Nos. 1, 2 and 3, which is having a cooling effect.”

It was not until later that the people of Japan were told about the meltdown that had occurred at the nuclear reactors on March 12.

On the morning of March 12, police officers in charge of traffic control at Namie were wearing protective clothing.

“Why are the police dressed like that?”

The residents were apprehensive. The chairman of the Namie town assembly, Kazuhiro Yoshida, 65, went to the Tsushima district police substation and asked that the police refrain from wearing the protective clothing because it was making residents nervous.

Yoshida says, “We were the only ones who weren’t informed.”

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

IV

‘Isn’t this murder?’

There is a computer simulation system named SPEEDI that the government spent 13 billion yen ($166 million) to create. When factors such as radiation quantity, geography, weather and wind direction are entered, the system immediately determines information that includes the direction in which leaked radioactive materials will flow.

On March 12, two hours before the hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor, the Nuclear Safety Technology Center (NUSTEC), which is supervised by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, had already run that simulation.

Radioactive materials were shown to disperse in the direction of the Tsushima district. However, the government did not inform the residents.

Fukushima Prefecture, however, was aware of the SPEEDI results. On the night of March 12, the prefecture had called NUSTEC in Tokyo asking for information and received the results by e-mail. However, that information was not used and at some point the e-mail message was erased, and even the record of receiving the message remains uncertain.

The residents who fled the Tsushima district on March 15 were told about the SPEEDI results by the prefecture two months later, on May 20. The issue arose because the facts of the matter were coming under question in the prefectural assembly.

On May 20, the department chief from Fukushima Prefecture in charge of the matter visited the Towa branch office in Nihonmatsu, where the functions of Namie town hall had been moved, to offer an explanation.

“Isn’t this murder?”

Mayor Baba voiced his strong disapproval.

According to Baba, the prefectural department chief shed tears as he apologized for not communicating the SPEEDI results.

The results acquired from SPEEDI were not the only information that was not made known.

Fukushima Prefecture began measuring radiation levels at various locations from early in the morning on March 12, the day after the Fukushima nuclear accident.

At 9 a.m. on the same day, measurements in the Sakai district in Namie registered 15 microsieverts/h, and 14 microsieverts/h in the Takase district. Compared with other towns, those two areas in Namie showed extremely high readings. It was more than six hours before the hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor, and there were many evacuees nearby.

These readings were uploaded to the website of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on June 3. However, the figures were buried among the multitude of other data on the website and their importance was overlooked.

In late August, when that data was shown to Kazuo Ueda, the head of the disaster relief headquarters in Namie, he was astounded.

“This is the first time I’ve seen this. Why didn’t the national and the prefectural governments tell us?”

Kanno said, “Perhaps we were forsaken by the national government?”

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

V
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a?imgIX=0&page=5

2 December 2011
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

‘Am I going to die?’

Where did the 25 people who stayed with Mizue Kanno go after leaving her home?

One of them, Misako Yatsuda, 62, is taking shelter in municipal housing in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture.

She is a distant relative of Kanno and has a house in the Onoda district in Namie. Yatsuda’s house is closer to the sea, approximately 20 kilometers from Kanno’s home. It lies within 10 km of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

On the afternoon of March 11, the earthquake struck while Yatsuda was at home.

Early the next morning on March 12, her younger daughter rushed to Yatsuda’s home from the neighboring town of Futaba where she lived with her family, telling Yatsuda that it was dangerous to stay and they should flee. At 9 a.m., they left her home. National road No. 114, which leads to the Tsushima district and Kanno’s home, was already gridlocked. They got on national road No. 6 and headed north toward her oldest daughter’s home in the Odaka district of Minami-Soma. There they heard about the hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor and everyone set out again toward the Tsushima district of Namie.

They reached Kanno’s home a little past 6 p.m. when other evacuees had finished eating their dinner of rice balls.

Though Yatsuda was tired from driving all day, she participated in the meeting of evacuees. It was Yatsuda who suggested that used toilet paper should be thrown away in the cardboard box next to the toilet. She proposed that rule for communal living based on her experience of traveling in Mexico.

However, her relief at reaching shelter was brief. She soon heard from Kanno about the warning given by the men in white protective clothing.

Her younger daughter’s family of seven, which included a 1-month-old newborn, and her older daughter’s family of four fled in the middle of the night. The following evening on March 13, Yatsuda also left.

She had no place to go, but she headed for Koriyama, thinking that she should get as far away as possible.

At Koriyama, officials were measuring the radioactivity of the people who had come seeking refuge. When the instrument was placed near Yatsuda, the needle jumped. She cried out to the person taking the reading, “Am I going to die?”

That night, she slept in her car. On the morning of March 15, she was finally able to reach her 54-year-old husband by cellphone. He had been in Soma at the time of the earthquake. They met up in Aizu-Wakamatsu and made their way via Niigata Prefecture to Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, where her older sister lives, on March 22.

It was a 12-day ordeal undertaken without any clear direction from either the national government or Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

“The nuclear power plant is safe.” They had heard that said many times before. Their whole life, which had been based on that belief, had crumbled.

However, it is a fact that the residents benefited from the nuclear power plant.

“We can’t say that the nuclear power plant is entirely to blame,” Yatsuda said with a sigh.

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Write

VI

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a?imgIX=0&page=6

December 2 2011
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

Covered with flies

Yatsuda was born and raised in Namie. TEPCO began building the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant when she was a junior high school student.

After graduating from high school, she moved to Tokyo to work but returned to Namie a year and a half later. From then on, her life was colored by TEPCO.

She married and raised three children while running a yakitori restaurant. Her customers were workers at the nuclear plant.

Later, she worked in the TEPCO company dormitory.

She worked there for 10 years until summer last year. She made meals and was adored by the young employees, who affectionately called her “Yatsudacchi.” Aya Sameshima from the women’s soccer team Nadeshiko Japan, was among those who lived in the girls’ dormitory. “They were all good girls and sweet.”

After she had finished raising her own children, she worked and lived in the TEPCO dormitory for managerial staff.

She remembers the effort that TEPCO had put in at election time.

When there was an election for a mayor or the prefectural assembly, the dormitory dining room became a waiting area for TEPCO executives. When the candidate of choice was elected, the executives would all go out to celebrate. She was struck by the sense that “the power company was firmly entwined with the political circle.”

Up to that point, more than half her life had involved TEPCO. In spite of that fact, there was absolutely no information forthcoming from TEPCO about the accident.

Once they fled to Kasugai, there was even less information available. They had the local paper from Fukushima Prefecture sent to them by mail, and read it inside and out. What will their life be like from now on? What about compensation? They were filled with anxiety.

In June, they temporarily returned to their home in Namie. Their refrigerator was overturned, just as it had been after the earthquake, and the rotting food was covered with flies.

In late August, they returned once more to Fukushima to retrieve their car. Her husband drove the eight hours by expressway from Kasugai. They changed into protective clothing at the gymnasium in the town of Hirono and boarded the provided bus.

When the bus stopped, two dogs wearing collars approached them. Along the way, they saw two cats lying dead on the side of the road.

“A single misstep, and perhaps that could have been us.”

After the accident, Yatsuda’s family scattered. Her oldest daughter went to Koriyama and the younger daughter to Niigata.

In September, she and her husband applied to live in temporary housing in Fukushima Prefecture.

“Fukushima has been my home for decades. I want to go home,” said Yatsuda with tears in her eyes.

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

VII

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a?imgIX=0&page=7

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

2 December 2011

Daughter urged parents to flee to Tokyo

One couple fled from place to place at the urging of their daughter living in Tokyo, who communicated with them by cellphone.

Hiroshi Monma, 67, and his wife, Shoko, 68, had sought shelter at Mizue Kanno’s home.

Their house is located in the Gongendo district of Namie, which lies within 10 kilometers of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. On the morning of March 12, the community wireless station for disaster prevention announced that residents should evacuate to the Tsushima district. They fled by car to the home of their acquaintance Kanno’s home.

They arrived at her home before noon. Shoko helped Kanno prepare dinner, making rice balls. After dinner, the 25 evacuees introduced themselves. There were several people they knew among them.

When they heard Kanno’s story about the men wearing white protective clothing, the couple was slow to leave and was left behind.

However, the next morning on March 13, they were urged once again by Kanno to flee and left her home before lunchtime.

They had decided to head north and set out for Minami-Soma. The convenience stores and other shops were closed. They found a restaurant and ate a meal of natto (fermented soybeans). They finally found lodging after being turned away at three hotels.

The night of March 14, they boarded a plane at Fukushima Airport and met up with their oldest daughter Mariko, 36, in Tokyo on March 15.

After the earthquake, Mariko had repeatedly tried to call her parents on their cellphones. Immediately following the earthquake on March 11, she was only able to make contact once. Since then, she could only communicate with them via e-mail.

However, at 8:43 a.m. on March 12 her e-mail messages went unanswered.

Mariko frantically searched for any new information about the nuclear accident on TV and the Internet, and continued sending e-mail messages to her parents: “I’m praying to God that you are both safe.”

At 9 p.m. on March 12, the day when the hydrogen explosion occurred at the No. 1 reactor, Mariko saw an expert on TV saying everything was all right. She sent the message, “It’s been determined that the explosion only occurred at the outer walls and there was no radioactive leak.”

It was a terrible mistake.

On March 13 when her parents sought refuge in Minami-Soma, she sent them an e-mail message.

“The radioactivity has reached as far as Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi Prefecture. It’s not safe there either. Come to Tokyo.”

Then at noon on March 14: “The No. 3 reactor exploded at 11:30 a.m. Come quickly to Tokyo.”

Her father answered, “It’s not necessary to go that far, is it?” Mariko chided him saying, “Just come quickly!”

Not one of the people in a position of responsibility tried to help her parents. That feeling of distrust still plagues Mariko.

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a?imgIX=0&page=8

December 2 2012
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
VIII
They can’t sing ‘Furusato’

Hiroshi Monma, who had evacuated to Kanno’s home, is a retired high school teacher. His involvement in the anti-nuclear power movement began 40 years earlier when the Fukushima No. 1 plant was built.

The movement began when three residents gathered at the public housing complex in the town of Naraha where he lived at the time. They repeatedly argued against the dangers with the prefectural governor, the town mayor and others. For several years they had held talks with Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) once a month, and another discussion had been scheduled for March 22.

Monma, joined a group of 404 that brought a lawsuit against the nearby Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant, but the group lost. He still clearly remembers the words spoken at that time by the presiding judge of the Sendai High Court.

“You need to stop your constant protests and calmly consider the matter, because nuclear power generation cannot be halted.”

That was 21 years ago. The illusion that nuclear power plants are safe has been abruptly shattered.

“TEPCO’s presumptions were naive. How much harm has been done to all these people because of that? How do they plan on taking responsibility for it?”

Yet, there is a similar unease with the notion of the Namie town government calling this accident “an act of murder” and railing against the nation and TEPCO.

There is a plan to build a nuclear power plant in Namie. The plan was initially proposed by Tohoku Electric Power Co. 40 years ago in response to the town assembly, which had tried to lure one.

Last year during a gathering of the neighborhood association, a town assembly member looked at Monma and said, “The nuclear power plant will create a bright future for Namie, although you might be against this.”

When they temporarily returned to their house in July, they took a radioactive reading. Near their home, it was 4 microsieverts per hour.

There is a large persimmon tree in the field, which was planted when their oldest daughter was born. In some years, it produced more than 300 persimmons.

“We can no longer eat the fruit. It’s contaminated now.”

About 30 years ago, they borrowed a town gymnasium and asked a theatrical troupe from Tokyo to perform a play about an accidental radioactive leak. The story was about the residents trying to escape after a nuclear accident. That story became reality, and the couple has been forced to settle into a housing complex in Tokyo’s Kita Ward.

The 135,000-yen ($1,740) rent is expensive, but they decided to live there since it is close to their daughter’s home. They are paying the rent with the temporary payment of 1 million yen they received from TEPCO.

Hiroshi has been fond of singing in a chorus since living in Fukushima. He discovered a choir event in July in Kita Ward and joined it with his wife.

They sang the well-known song “Furusato” (My hometown). “The mountain where I chased rabbits …” Hiroshi and Shoko, overwhelmed, could not finish the song.

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

IX

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a?page=9&imgIX=0

2 December 2012

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

‘I couldn’t tell you then’

As a bride from the neighboring village of Iitate, Yasuko Sanpei came 55 years ago to live in the Akogi district of Namie.

She knows Mizue Kanno as they are in a folk song group at the community center.

Until early August, Sanpei, 77, lived alone in a house at the top of a narrow mountain road.

Right after the March 11 earthquake, she fled with her oldest daughter and grandson who lived in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, to her granddaughter’s one-room apartment in Kanagawa Prefecture.

However, she could even hear noises from next door when the neighbors ate meals and felt she had to be careful of others.

“At my age, living in a big city is uncomfortable,” she said.

She also worried about her dog and cat, so she returned to Akogi in the end of April.

Around that time, there were still a few families remaining in the district, but after a while first one, then two, and finally all the other families left. When the police began restricting traffic near the 30-kilometer border from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, cars stopped driving by.

It was lonely. Nights were pitch black. Even when she tried not to think about anything, her hands would shake, and she would have trouble swallowing her food.

To distract herself, she would go for a drive, but the houses along the road were dark. Those drives became scary when she thought that no one would come to her rescue if she were to drive off the mountain road.

On Sundays, men wearing work clothes with the logo “Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology” on the back came to the district to measure radiation levels. Sanpei would leave the house to meet their car and ask them, “What’s the reading today?”

“15 microsieverts (per hour),” one of them would casually said.

“Will you measure my home, too?”

On a different day, the man took measurements around her house. The reading outside the house was at 10 microsieverts/h, and was 5.5 microsieverts/h in the living room. The levels were much higher than normal.

The man wrote the numbers down on a piece of paper and handed it to Sanpei.

One Sunday in early June, out of the blue, the man said, “I can finally tell you this, but the radiation level at first exceeded 100 microsieverts/h in this area. I couldn’t tell you then. I’m sorry.”

After that, the man gave Sanpei a map of different districts that noted radioactive levels “for her reference.”

Still, Sanpei remained in Akogi until early August.

“You can’t see radioactivity, and even when told the readings, I couldn’t understand what they meant.”

In the beginning of August, Sanpei left Akogi after she was selected to live in temporary housing in Nihonmatsu in the prefecture.

However, she still travels the approximately 25 km by car to her home every two days to feed her dog and cat.

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

X
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a?imgIX=0&page=10

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
2 December 2012

Policeman forbidden from telling the truth

On March 14, Kazuyo Sekiba, 52, fled to her relative’s home in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture. She had lived in the Minami-Tsushima district of Namie, near Mizue Kanno’s home.

Since no instructions for evacuation were given, she returned home on April 2, for the time being. After a few days, a Self-Defense Forces (SDF) jeep stopped in front of her house and an SDF serviceman got out. He said he had come to check on her safety.

Around that time, it had been reported that the radiation levels in Namie were high. Concerned about the reports, she asked nervously, “How high are the readings around here?”

The SDF man smiled and told her the area was fine.

“We’re wearing a dosimeter, so we know how much radiation we’re exposed to each day.”

Sekiba felt relieved after hearing that. She stopped hiding in her house and went out into the neighborhood.

On April 17 when she stood on a bridge near her home, a man walked toward her. It was Naomi Toyoda, 55, a freelance journalist. Sekiba asked him to measure the radiation levels at her home, and he began taking measurements around her yard.

When he measured the area under the rain gutter in her entranceway, he stood up and exclaimed, “Wow. This is too bad.”

Sensing his hesitance, Sekiba asked Toyoda to tell her the truth.

He told her, “In two hours, you would absorb 1 millisievert.”

According to Toyoda, at that time the radiation level exceeded 500 microsieverts per hour. In just two hours a person would exceed the annual permissible exposure of 1 millisievert.

Upon hearing a specific number for the first time, Sekiba at last realized just how serious it was. She hurriedly prepared to leave and fled her home, seen off by Toyoda.

A few days later, when she returned home to get her cat, a patrol car of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department drove up.

She said to the policeman, apparently in his 30s, “This area had a high level of radiation, didn’t it?”

“Yes, it was high. But I was forbidden to tell people by the government,” he answered.

Sekiba was shocked. What about what the SDF man in the jeep had told her?

“If I had been his own family, could he have said the same thing? Wouldn’t he immediately tell us to get away? Is it just someone else’s problem?”

In July, it was revealed that evidence had been hidden in the high-speed train accident in China. The Japanese media sharply criticized the Chinese government’s responses.

Sekiba said she is angry.

“The situation in Japan is almost the same as in China.”

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

XI

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a?imgIX=0&page=11

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

District chief refused to flee

On March 13, when the 25 evacuees fled from Mizue Kanno’s home, the head of the neighboring Shimo-Tsushima district, Hidenori Konno, heard about the men wearing white protective clothing from Kanno, who had come to his home.

However, he didn’t flee. He thought it best not to panic without reliable information. Most of all, as head of the district, Konno, 64, certainly couldn’t leave ahead of others.

At 10 a.m. on March 15, he was called to the headquarters of the task force at the Tsushima branch office and was told that the branch office would be moved to Nihonmatsu in the same prefecture.

Why? Tsushima lies 30 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Wasn’t it supposedly safe? It took a while before he could grasp the situation.

Just then, a news conference of government officials was being broadcast on TV. They were ordering people in the area between the 20-km and 30-km radiuses to take refuge indoors. The staff couldn’t take their eyes off the TV. Was this the reason the office was being moved?

In the afternoon, Konno visited each of the 50 homes in Shimo-Tsushima, telling people to take refuge.

Most houses were empty with the curtains drawn, but 10 families remained. He cautioned them to evacuate, but they refused. Three of the families said they couldn’t leave because of their cattle. There were also bedridden elderly among them.

Konno had his wife, 55, and oldest daughter, 23, evacuate, but he stayed in the district.

The district fell silent after the majority of evacuees left and the melee subsided. That night, the rain turned to snow and the road was blanketed in white. It was quiet.

On March 16, once again he made the rounds of the 50 homes, thinking that some families might have been absent when he visited the day before. Five families that had fled had returned.

An elderly man said that he and his wife had come back because his wife was in a wheelchair and it was difficult for her to use the bathroom at the evacuation shelter. The husband told him, “The radioactivity doesn’t matter. We’re old. This is where we’ll live.” Konno found a different shelter that could accommodate a wheelchair and told the man about it.

“The district will vanish.”

Konno felt frustrated as he drove through the deserted district.

He had been a prefectural public servant and was planning on pouring his energy into preserving the local traditional arts, but that dream of life after retirement was gone.

Konno borrowed a measuring device from the town, and in July, began measuring radioactivity levels at each house in the district. He mailed that data to the house owners, wherever they had fled.

He was doing so not because he was instructed by the prefecture nor the town. When he heard about the men in protective clothing, he thought that if only he had known about the high levels of radiation in Tsushima, he would have tried harder to get the residents to leave. He took readings because he regretted that he hadn’t been able to do so.

The yards of the homes have been overrun with weeds. The plants that his father, who died three years earlier, had so carefully raised have all withered.

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

December 02, 2011

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

District chief refused to flee

On March 13, when the 25 evacuees fled from Mizue Kanno’s home, the head of the neighboring Shimo-Tsushima district, Hidenori Konno, heard about the men wearing white protective clothing from Kanno, who had come to his home.

However, he didn’t flee. He thought it best not to panic without reliable information. Most of all, as head of the district, Konno, 64, certainly couldn’t leave ahead of others.

At 10 a.m. on March 15, he was called to the headquarters of the task force at the Tsushima branch office and was told that the branch office would be moved to Nihonmatsu in the same prefecture.

Why? Tsushima lies 30 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Wasn’t it supposedly safe? It took a while before he could grasp the situation.

Just then, a news conference of government officials was being broadcast on TV. They were ordering people in the area between the 20-km and 30-km radiuses to take refuge indoors. The staff couldn’t take their eyes off the TV. Was this the reason the office was being moved?

In the afternoon, Konno visited each of the 50 homes in Shimo-Tsushima, telling people to take refuge.

Most houses were empty with the curtains drawn, but 10 families remained. He cautioned them to evacuate, but they refused. Three of the families said they couldn’t leave because of their cattle. There were also bedridden elderly among them.

Konno had his wife, 55, and oldest daughter, 23, evacuate, but he stayed in the district.

The district fell silent after the majority of evacuees left and the melee subsided. That night, the rain turned to snow and the road was blanketed in white. It was quiet.

On March 16, once again he made the rounds of the 50 homes, thinking that some families might have been absent when he visited the day before. Five families that had fled had returned.

An elderly man said that he and his wife had come back because his wife was in a wheelchair and it was difficult for her to use the bathroom at the evacuation shelter. The husband told him, “The radioactivity doesn’t matter. We’re old. This is where we’ll live.” Konno found a different shelter that could accommodate a wheelchair and told the man about it.

“The district will vanish.”

Konno felt frustrated as he drove through the deserted district.

He had been a prefectural public servant and was planning on pouring his energy into preserving the local traditional arts, but that dream of life after retirement was gone.

Konno borrowed a measuring device from the town, and in July, began measuring radioactivity levels at each house in the district. He mailed that data to the house owners, wherever they had fled.

He was doing so not because he was instructed by the prefecture nor the town. When he heard about the men in protective clothing, he thought that if only he had known about the high levels of radiation in Tsushima, he would have tried harder to get the residents to leave. He took readings because he regretted that he hadn’t been able to do so.

The yards of the homes have been overrun with weeds. The plants that his father, who died three years earlier, had so carefully raised have all withered.

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

XII

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a?imgIX=0&page=12

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

Thanks to those 2 men who warned us

The 25 people who sought shelter at Mizue Kanno’s home all evacuated a second time after learning about the warning by the “men wearing white protective clothing” and because of Kanno’s judgment. They were able to flee a dangerous situation.

It was a time of emergency, when the residents could have suffered from the accidental release of a large quantity of radioactive materials from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

However, neither the government nor Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant operator, provided the residents with information.

The 25 people, however, acted calmly and without panicking.

Kanno now lives in temporary housing in the town of Koori near Fukushima city.

“Look here,” said Kanno, pointing to children playing in a vacant lot.

“Those small children have to endure the difficulties of life as evacuees from now on. If they had been exposed to radiation …”

But Kanno still wonders who those men in white protective clothing were.

At that time, vehicles were driving throughout Fukushima Prefecture to take radioactive readings. They had been dispatched from entities such as the science ministry, the Fukushima prefectural government, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, TEPCO and Tohoku Electric Power Co.

There were even workers sent from Niigata Prefecture. Their vehicle was passing through the Tsushima district right around the time Kanno saw the two men on the evening of March 12.

The two staffers from Niigata Prefecture had gotten in a van and driven to Fukushima Prefecture to help deal with the nuclear accident. Driving on national road No. 114 in Namie, they passed through the Tsushima district. Around 4 p.m., they were stopped by police in the Kawabusa district and turned back.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, they asked not to have their names revealed because they had been internally exposed to radiation.

According to them, at that time their dosimeters were ringing incessantly and they were extremely anxious.

When they passed through the Tsushima district, they saw all the parked cars and thought that it was an evacuation shelter.

“Protective clothing? No. We weren’t wearing any, and we didn’t get out of our car.”

In the early dawn on March 14, a monitoring vehicle from the National Institute of Radiological Sciences was passing through the Tsushima district. There were still many evacuees there.

Though there were measuring devices in the car, “Our purpose was to transport materials. We didn’t take any readings of radioactivity,” said a public relations official.

Most likely, the men that Kanno met belonged to one of such teams dispatched to take measurements.

“Thanks to the warning those two gave us, we were able to flee. Why is it that the national government and TEPCO didn’t warn us? Even more people would have been able to get away.”

By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

XIII
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112020100a?imgIX=0&page=13
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
2 December 2012
The jungle in the backyard

The temporary housing in Koori where Kanno and her family are living is 40 kilometers from Namie. Once a month, she returns to her home in Namie.

A checkpoint has been established at the turnoff on national road No. 114 to the Tsushima district. Police officers wearing masks get out of their patrol car and check for a pass issued by the town.

In late August, Kanno went back to the district. The rows of houses look the same as before the accident, but the dosimeter she was wearing rang nonstop. It was set to ring when measurements exceed 3 microsieverts per hour.

“I received a temporary payment of 1 million yen ($12,988) from TEPCO, but I spent 210,000 yen of that to buy this device.”

She reaches her home. When she approaches the entrance, the reading jumps to 46 microsieverts/h. Beneath the rain gutter behind her house it stood at 170 microsieverts/h. If she simply stayed there for six hours, she would exceed the annual permissible exposure of 1 millisievert.

Kanno is originally from Osaka. Two years ago, she moved with her 60-year-old husband to Namie to take over his family home in Tsushima. Last year, they took an agricultural training program with the intent of growing greenhouse vegetables. They tore down the old house and built a new one.

Their oldest son, Junichi, 27, who worked in an “izakaya” pub in Osaka, also came with them. He joined a festival group and had just begun learning how to play the Japanese drums in an effort to get settled into the area. Now, however, they may never be able to return to this land.

Kanno has something to say to TEPCO and the national government.

“Drive along the deserted roads. Then you’ll understand what a huge catastrophe you’ve unleashed.”

The weeds behind her house have grown taller than her. It’s just like a jungle. Wasps have built a nest in her doorway and gadflies buzz noisily around. The neighborhood is filled with sunflowers. Residents planted them when they heard that the plant absorbs cesium, but if the sunflowers wither, the cesium returns to the soil and nothing will have changed.

Kanno experienced the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 when she lived in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture. At the time, she worked as a volunteer and visited temporary housing to talk to the elderly about health concerns.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would live in temporary housing myself.”
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer

One Response to “1. Promethus Trap – Men in Protective Clothing. Asahi Shimbun, Japan.”

  1. CaptD Says:

    Temporary Housing thanks to Nuclear Fallout
    From Utility Owned Reactors…

    No wonder the number of Japanese people starting to protest restarting Nuclear Reactors is growing larger daily…

    Japan’s Leaders are in Nuclear Denial*…

    Liked and Tweeted…

    * http://is.gd/XPjMd0

    The illogical belief that Nature cannot destroy any land based nuclear reactor, any place anytime 24/7/365!

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