Fukushima Survivors’ Experience of Discrimination After Nuclear Accident

The following is the testimony given by Ms. M, a mother who had decided to relocate her family from their home in Fukushima, at a symposium on discrimination organized by the Kyodan Buraku Liberation Center, held in June 2014 at Wakamatsu Sakaemachi Church

 

Resisting the calls to just “forget about radioactivity”

 

Ms. M and her family evacuated from a certain city in the Nakadori district of Fukushima Prefecture, close to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, to the Aizu district of Fukushima and stayed there until March 2014, after which they moved to a neighboring prefecture even further away from the power plant. “When I look back on the days immediately following the earthquake,” she says, “I deeply regret that we did not relocate right away. I had let my children be exposed to radiation because I was ignorant and indifferent about society and the nuclear power plant.”

 

The family was living in an apartment when the great earthquake hit, and she evacuated to her parents’ house in Fukushima Prefecture with her two sons, a first grader and one-year-old. She expected that the Japanese government would evacuate them if the nuclear power plant was truly dangerous. However, she watched in dismay as the neighborhood continued to lose residents, and she finally decided to evacuate her family to Aizu. Although they returned to their home once, she felt uneasy about the continued inaction of the central government and went to a temporary shelter in a nearby prefecture. When that shut down, she decided to relocate her family to Aizu, as that was the only place with enough distance from the power plant, but from where her husband would still be able to commute to work, thereby allowing the family to remain together.

 

Most of the people who voluntarily evacuated moved outside of Fukushima Prefecture. There was little radioactive contamination, and certain housing facilities leased by Fukushima Prefecture were provided free of charge. The evacuees were also allowed to maintain their residency in Fukushima and so were able to receive various administrative services from the areas they originally lived in and were also able to send their children to public schools around their temporary homes. For these reasons, the evacuees had fewer burdens placed upon them.

 

However, unlike the people forced out of their homes in the mandatory evacuation zones, no support is provided to those who voluntarily relocate within Fukushima Prefecture. Housing facilities were taken over by the local government and provided to the forced evacuees, leaving little availability for those who voluntarily evacuated by themselves. Mrs. M appealed to the local government to permit voluntary evacuees to enter such housing facilities, but she was told that priority was given to evacuees from the designated evacuation zones. As school was starting in the spring, her family had to move to Aizu on their own, paying for all expenses out of their own pockets.

 

When the forced evacuees finished their relocation in October, she questioned local authorities again about housing availability, but their response was cold, saying that there was nothing available for the voluntary evacuees. During that time, the mortgage on their original house, the rent and cost for living in their new home, and tuition fees for their children’s private school (instead of public school, as children from outside the designated area were not allowed to attend) piled up. Her efforts to persuade the government to allow her family to enter the evacuation housing facilities were treated as nuisance claims, as they had not been forced out of their homes in the beginning.

 

Eventually, she met others in the same predicament at the Information Center for Radioactivity in Aizu and began a movement, appealing to the local administration to accept voluntary evacuees into designated housing facilities for those displaced by the earthquake disaster. They went through appropriate channels, in accordance with the Disaster Relief Act, and submitted a petition to the Reconstruction Agency and the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. In November 2012, the housing where certain voluntary evacuees lived was recognized as government housing, but there were conditions that applied. Only those with children and/or pregnant women were considered for government support, and there were limits to rental costs. Due to this, many voluntary evacuees had to continue to live without any government support.

 

In Aizu, Ms. M did not speak of having evacuated voluntarily, knowing she would be told that she acted like a victim when she fled from a safe zone, in overreaction to radioactive contamination. Consequently, her family would lose their place in the surrounding society. She cannot even contact her old neighbors and friends, as she harbors guilt that her family escaped while theirs did not. Not everyone had the means to escape, and those left behind begin to feel as if life has been denied to them and thus brew jealousy toward those who managed to escape. Relationships are divided and broken, and that division happens even within families. “My parents were against me in my decision to evacuate,” says Ms. M. “They told me that I was selfish to make my son transfer schools, when the government had declared our neighborhood a safe zone. I wondered myself, if I was only overreacting.”

 

They eventually sold their apartment, and the husband changed jobs. They also moved out of Fukushima Prefecture again. The family is able to live together, but they do not see eye to eye. “My husband says he agreed to move out of Fukushima to stop me from worrying so much about radioactive contamination,” Ms. M says dejectedly. “He threw away everything, and so he wanted me just to forget about radioactivity and move on. I thought that we would all be happy if we could all relocate and live together as a family and that we would see eye to eye, but differences in opinion still continue to haunt us.” It may be easy to forget about everything when living outside Fukushima, as there is little available information on the situation at the power plant and radioactive contamination. “But it’s also scary just to forget about what’s going on in Fukushima,” she continues. “The fact remains that we have been exposed to radioactive contamination. I do not want to return to the indifferent and ignorant person that I was before the disaster and repeat the same mistakes.” (Tr. KY)

 

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), December 2014 issue Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko

フ クシマに聴く 被 害者たちの証言

原発という差別

2014年6月に若松栄町教会で行われた差別を考えるシンポジウム(日 本基督教団部落解放センター等主催)で の、自主避難者で、母親であるMさんの証言である。

「放射能のことは忘れろ」という声に抗う

 Mさん一家は、福島第1原発に近い、福島県 の中通り地方の某市から、2014年3月まで福島県内の会津地方に自主避難をし、現在は更に離れた近県に移住している。彼女は「震災当初 を振り返ると、どうしてあの時すぐに避難しなかったのか、と物凄く後悔します。原発や社会に無知で無関心だったために、子ども達を被曝さ せてしまった」と言う。マンション(集合住宅)に暮らしていたが、一歳児と小学一年生の二人の息子と福島県内の実家に戻った。本当に原発 が危ないなら国が避難させてくれる、と思っていたが、周囲から次第に人も車も減っていくのを見て不安に感じ、ようやく会津へ一時避難し た。一度は自宅に戻ったが「国が何もしてくれないこと」に疑問を抱いて近県の避難所に行き、そこが閉鎖されたあと、会津への避難を決め た。会津は「夫が職場に通える範囲で、家族が離散しないで済むギリギリの場所」だったからだ。他の自主避難者の多くは福島県外に避難し た。放射能汚染が少ないこと、(県が)借り上げた住宅に無料で住め、住民票を移動しなくても(元々の地域からの)行政サービスが受けら れ、子どもは公立学校に入れるなど負担が少ないからであった。しかし福島県内に自主避難すると、避難区域内から強制避難する場合とは異な り、何の支援も得られない。県内の住宅は避難区域からの強制避難者のために県が借り上げ、ほとんど空きはなかった。Mさんは「自主避難者 も、借り上げ住宅にいれて欲しい」と県に訴えたが、避難区域からの入居が優先だと言われて、春の学校開始に合わせて自費で引っ越した。強 制避難者の引っ越しが終わった10月に、県に問い合わせると「自主避難者が入れる借り上げ住宅はない」と冷たかった。避難生活では、被災 まで暮らしていた自宅のローンと、避難先での家賃と生活費、公立校への区域外就学が認められない子どもの私学学費が重なった。県に何度も 電話をすると「(避難区域外から)勝手に避難してきて、借り上げ住宅に入れろと騒いでる」と解釈された。会津放射能情報センターで出会っ た、他の自主避難者達と、災害救助法の適切な運用による自主避難者の借り上げ住宅への入居を県に求める活動を始め、復興庁や厚生労働省に 請願書を出した。2012年11月に、自主避難者が住む物件が、県の借り上げ住宅として認められたが、条件は、子どもや妊婦がいる世帯、 家賃の上限などがあり、多くの人が今も自己負担で暮らしている。会津では自主避難してきたことは話さなかった。「安全な地域から逃げてき て、被害者のような顔をしていると言われ、放射能を気にしすぎる人と思われると、行き場を失うからです。」元の自宅マンションの友人達に は「自分達だけが逃げた罪悪感で」連絡すらできない。(諸事情で)避難できない人から、避難者へのねたみが生まれたり、避難しないで残さ れた人は自分の生活を否定されたように感じるなど、人間関係が分断されていく。分断は家族の中でも起こる。「私は避難するとき、親から反 対されました。国が大丈夫だと言っているのに、子どもを転校させて避難するのは、わがままだ、と。私も自分が大袈裟なのだろうかと苦しい 気持ちになりました」結局、自宅マンションを売り、夫は転職して、福島県外に再度移住した。家族で一緒に暮らせているが、同じ方向を向い てはいない。「夫は、県外に移住したのはおまえが放射能を気にしすぎることをやめさせるためだ、そのために自分は他のすべてを捨てたのだ から、おまえも放射能のことはもう忘れろ、と言うのです。家族で一緒に避難出来れば同じ気持ちで暮らせて幸せだ、と思っていましたが、夫 との気持ちの擦れ違いは続いています。」放射能の情報が少ない県外で全てを忘れることは簡単なのかもしれない。が「気にしないという雰囲 気に流されるのも怖い。被曝の事実は消えない。震災前の無知で無関心な自分に戻って、同じ過ちを繰り返したくないのです」(信徒の友 2014年12月号より)