The sun was setting in Wakasa’s sea. It was as beautiful as the one she had seen in her childhood. The beach in Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, is the archetypal scenery of her home for Miki Suzuki, 44. But Miki is a little afraid of the place now. “We also have ones here.” Her eyes were directing to the white domed nuclear reactors.
Miki came back to her home town Mihama two years ago. Until then she had lived with her husband in Fukushima’s Minami Soma for 20 years. She evacuated to her mother’s home from that nuclear accident. The nuclear power plant in Mihama has been a familiar existence for her since she was a child. Most of her relatives and acquaintances work for the power station. She entered a local bank after graduating from the high school, and worked at one of its branches near the powerhouse. The slogan of the day at the bank was “Let’s solicit deposit to workers at the nuclear power stations!” It was the late bubble economy in 1980s, when a sodium-cooled fast reactor “Monju” was being built in Tsuruga the next town to Mihama, and many workers came to Fukui.
Miki’s home town was getting affluent. She left Mihama, looking at the sight. She got married a man at the age of 21 and moved to Minami Soma in Fukushima Prefecture. Her husband was a teacher in Fukushima. “In Fukushima, the sun rises from the sea,” he said. The climate and the language were different there from her home town, but its local people were very friendly and Miki had two daughters. She was happy there. She was going to live there forever as her second home town until Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant, which was in 25 kilometers south of her house, exploded…
As soon as Miki and her family evacuated to Mihama, her husband went back to Fukushima for his job and her older daughter entered a university in Tokyo. After she and her younger daughter were staying at her mother’s house for a while, they decided to move to an apartment for victims of the disaster. But her home town offered an old building of Kansai Electric Power Company standing along the sea. “What if a big tsunami comes? What would happen to the nuclear power station?” She who had lost her home in Fukushima because of the radioactive contamination felt like being hit her mental bruise. Hinako, the younger daughter, had to say goodbye to all of her friends in Minami Soma and to enter a junior high school in Mihama. She cried in her bed every night: “I wanna go back to Fukushima! I don’t mind being exposed to radiation!” Moreover, she sometimes shouted “This is not a home. Just a box!”
In the spring last year, one year after Miki’s evacuation, when the plan of the resumption of Ohi No.3 and No.4 Nuclear Reactors came alive, Mike sent a message to the governor of Fukui Prefecture. She thanked for the support for the victims, but opposed to the resumption: “Please don’t forget many victims are living in Fukui.” She did not receive anything from the governor. And soon the nuclear power plant restarted.
Hinako has entered a high school in Fukui, but still now she says: “This is your home town, not mine, Mom.” The evacuation instruction has been left around her home in Fukushima. “Are you coming?” Whenever Miki’s husband says so, she wants to go back. But she cannot say “Let’s go home,” to her daughter because the radioactive density is still more than 10 times the normal value there.
“What does richness mean?” Now Miki is thinking about that when she looks at handsome roads and tunnels in Mihama and Tsuruga. “Everything might have been in exchange for security.” She is now suffering the reality between her two home towns: Fukushima and Wakasa. Home is a comforting, nostalgic, and relaxing place for everyone. My hometowns have changed. Nuclear Power Plants have changed them…
(The Chunichi June 3, 2013, translated by Moshimoshimo)