Tag Archives: tsunami

The Sacrificial Light – Wakasa’s Tears 7: Two Homes (From The Chunichi, a local newspaper in Nagoya)

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wakasa 7     “That’s a monster of civilization. You don’t need to go and rest near the monster’s coffin in old age.” (“Kokyo (Hometown)” Tsutomu Mizukami)

     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)

The Sacrificial Light – Wakasa’s Tears 6: The dancing village (From The Chunichi, a local newspaper in Nagoya)

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wakasa 6

    “As long as you have this thing called nuclear power plant, you belong to a big family who lives under the control of it.” (“Kokyo (Hometown)” Tsutomu Mizukami)

     The mirrors occupying the wall reflect children’s emotions prosaically: happy smiles when they succeed, chagrined faces when they fail, and sometimes sulky eyes. This is a dancing school held on Sundays. It is located on the third floor of a multiple-tenant building in Obama, Fukui Prefecture.

     “Children are great. They absorb anything,” said Kiyoto Takada, 29, the instructor. He works there for a very low amount of money because he is happy to see the development of children. Kiyoto’s day job is a worker at the nuclear power plant in Ohi next to Obama. He joined a local company which maintains intake pumps at the powerhouse four years ago.

     He was born and raised in Obama. After graduating from the junior high school, he became an apprentice cook in Osaka, but he quit it soon and hoboed. He could not keep at any jobs for long. But he likes his present job because he takes pride in his work which supports the energy of Japan, and “the income is good and it’s stable.” He bought a ring equivalent to his two months salaries at a department store in Kyoto for his girlfriend one year after he began working at the company. The nuclear power plant brought him a secure feeling: “I can live in my home forever.”

     Kiyoto is not only the person who has a sense of security in the village. Two of his friends, who have known him since they were children and are his fellow dancers, also work for the nuclear plant. Kiyoto and his friends often booze up at the beach, where they enjoy talking about old times. “We might be separated if we didn’t have the power station.”

     He could not believe his eyes while watching TV news that day when Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant exploded. “What if the same thing happens?” Ohi Nuclear Power Plant is located on the sea. Fear of tsunami went through his mind, but disappeared soon. The accident was something far away for him.

     “No Nuke!” After the disaster, the public mind went to the antinuclear power movement, and all of the nuclear power stations in Japan stopped working in May last year. Since then Kiyoto sometimes worked at a thermal power generation instead of the nuclear power station. He became anxious. “What will happen in the future?” That was why he was relieved when the government decided to restart Ohi Nuclear Power Station one month later the suspension.

     “No Resumption!” Anti-nuke people were shouting at the gate of the power station that day when Ohi No.3 and No.4 Reactors resumed. But there were no local people who Kiyoto knew in the group. “They’re just outsiders.” Kiyoto thought that when he was heading for the station by car through those protesting people.

     “We need nuclear power stations.” Because he believes that, he feels anxiety about the existence. He noticed by the accident in Fukushima that there was no guaranty of the nuclear power plants’ permanent continuation. Most of the villagers would have to let go of their rich lives if they lost the nuclear power station. How would the village be after the children grow up? Kiyoto thinks about his village’s future when he sees those dancing kids. He is now holding back fear in loud music.

(The Chunichi June 2, 2013, translated by Moshimoshimo)

Resumption of Operation of the Nuclear Power Plant: The government is eager to resume the operation of Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant without plausible safety measures and citizens’ opinions.

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     It was not only Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant to get damaged by the earthquake and the following tsunami but also Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant of Tohoku Electric Power Company was. Onagawa Plant is in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. The towns in Onagawa have been also flattened by the quake and the tsunami. Luckily, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant stopped automatically after the earthquake unlike Fukushima, but the government has already tried to resume operation at the plant, while the local residents are too busy putting their lives back in order to think about it. This is an article on the Chunichi on June 23. I’ll translate it in English below. onagawa nuclear power plant

     Oshika Peninsula in Miyagi Prefecture is rich with nature and a beauty spot, where you often see wild deer as its name suggests. Oshika means male deer. Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant is built along the coast. All the villages on the coast were damaged by the tsunami, and some of them were wiped out. A civil servant at the age of 60, who was praying at the remaining shrine on a hill, said, “My house is almost dilapidated. I’m now living in a part of its remaining second floor without electricity and running water,” and looked down at the ground. “I can’t even think about the nuclear power plant in this situation,” he added.

     That day, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant was also hit by the big tsunami. It didn’t have a serious damage unlike Fukushima’s, and Tohoku Electric Power Company says that it is because all of its safety measures worked. But it might nothing but sheer luck. In fact, the earthquake shorted circuit the high-voltage power supply at the first reactor and caused a fire there. Because of that, one of the two emergency diesel generators was impossible to be used. In addition, the second reactor is built nearer the coast than the first one, and its heat exchanging room at the reactor building was flooded. That is why one of the two emergency generators was broken there, too. Moreover, the fuel oil storage tank was destroyed by the tsunami, and the water of the spent fuel pools of the first to the third reactors overflowed by the quake. There were damages above in Onagawa Plant, but a serious “accident” didn’t occur because it could use the external power supply. The height of the tsunami which hit Onagawa Plant was about 13 meters. The expected height was 9.1 meters tops before the quake. The reason why the plant didn’t have a big damage seems that it is located 14.8 meters above sea level. monitaring station

     Before fixing the emergency generators, another big earthquake hit the area on April 7th. One of the five lines of the external power supply was being checked and three of them were broken by the quake. They had to operate the facility with only one line. It was a tightrope. That tsunami has also broken four of the eleven monitoring stations for checking radiation dose near the plant. The Nuclear Off-Site Center about 8 kilometers away from the nuclear power plant in Onagawa and Prefectural Environmental Radioactivity Monitoring Center were also flattened. The monitoring center was about 400 meter away from the coast, and was swept away to the sea. They lost two of their staff. Other three including the head are still missing at the office of Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

     The Mayor of Onagawa Nobutaka Azumi and The City Mayer of Ishinamaki Hiroshi Kameyema are taking a forward-looking stance for resumption of operation of the nuclear power plant, saying “After carefully checking the safety,” meanwhile, the governor of Miyagi Prefecture Yoshihiro Murai says, “It’s unacceptable until the government brings up a new safety criterion.” Tohoku Electric Power Company has announced in public new safety measures, such as building coastal levees and setting three big power-supply units, after the earthquake disaster. Besides, the Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda requested to resume the operation of the nuclear plant, which is having a regular check now, because its emergency safety planning was being carried out appropriately on 18th.

     But most of the local people can’t think about it right now. They are spun out on their daily lives. They used to oppose to build the nuclear power plant around 1965 because they were afraid of the radioactive contamination. But the tide changed in 1973 when the oil shocks occurred. The government pushed people to agree dangling subsidies or finance loan when the marine fuel was escalating. After the long-term protest campaign, they decided to have the nuclear power plant in their town in 1979. The plant has brought them great benefit. Inns had many construction workers to stay, the village has received lots of subsidies, and even the gymnastic, where about 650 people are taking shelter now, was built by the subsidy. Hospitals and sports parks were also built by the money. prefectural nuclear center

     About 360 people evacuated to the building of Tohoku Electric Power Company just after the earthquake. Staff of the company gave them food and blankets. Refugees appreciate it, saying, “Tohoku Electric Power Company did many things to us kindly.” A man, 57, who was fired because his company had been destroyed by the quake, was afraid of the future, saying, “Onagawa depends on the nuclear power plant. If it stopped completely, our town would go into a decline.” A woman, 79, said, “We have had luxury lives due to the electric power company. We can’t say the nuclear power plant is scary at this late date.”

     On the contrary, some voice concerns. A woman, whose undergraduate daughter lives in Fukushima, 55, said, “I can’t regard Fukushima as having nothing to do with us. It’s possible for Onagawa to have a similar serious accident.” A man fired by a fish processing company said, “I don’t think the nuclear power plant shouldn’t be resumed again, but it may be premature to start now.” Mr. Hiroshi Takano, a town councilor, said, “We’ve built buildings one after another with the subsidy, but the cost of maintaining them have bore down to the town. Local businesses haven’t grown up, and people have left for other places. People have become changing their opinions gradually after the accident in Fukushima, I think…”

     Experts have pointed out the possibility of a major earthquake off Miyagi Prefecture in the near future. Mr. Ikuo Kusaka, a member of a civic group on the nuclear power, said, “We should inspect the earthquake disaster thoroughly at first. It’ll be possible we have to rethink of guidance depending on the analysis result.” Onagawa plant recorded the earthquake acceleration more than the government had expected. He added, “We shouldn’t talk about the resumption of operation without the local citizens while they are making efforts toward recovery from the disaster. We should discuss about it with time and care and public opinions to decide what to do.”

The Survived Sake from the Earthquake and the Tsunami

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otokoyama1       There has been no bright perspective for the future yet here in Japan. It has already passed a month and a half since the great earthquake hit the northeastern Japan on March 11. The number of the death is 14,574 and missing is 11,324 from the earthquake and the tsunami following the quake as of April 28. There are still lots of big aftershocks, tons of undisposed debris in towns, over 300,000 evacuees, and the unsettled nuclear problems in this county… But I’m going to write something positive here today.

     This is the article about the “survived” sake on the Chunich of 20th. I’d like to introduce it through my translation as below.

     A lot of sake breweries have been visited by the disaster while brewing this time. “Otoko-Yama Honten”, the well-established sake brewery in Kesen-numa, Miyagi Prefecture, is one of them. Luckily they have been able to keep unrefined mash in their tanks and to make new sake. otokoyama2

     Kesen-numa Port, one of the biggest catch landings in Japan, has lost its beautiful scenery and has become just a huge pile of debris. There’s dust in the air and burned fishing boats still at the pier. The name board written “Otoko-Yama” in Chinese character with bright gold color stands out there. It’s an old-line sake brewery “Otoko-Yama Honten”. The building was made about 40 years ago and was a cultural property before the earthquake. It used to be a three stories high building, but now only the third floor is standing there. “According to a witness, a ship hit and destroyed this building,” said Mr. Akihiko Sugawara, 49, the president of the sake brewery. The company was established in 1912 and he is the fifth officer since then. The tsunami climbed up the mountains and came close to the brewery, but it stopped coming before a few meters from their factory.

     All of the employees are victims. Some of them have lost their families and houses. “I can’t make sake at times like this…” Mr. Sugawara thought and began giving up making sake this spring, but many people all over Japan encouraged him after the quake. “Orders are pouring in!” Mr. Sugawara said that with a mixed expression of crying and laughing.

     Tons of orders have come to this brewery, saying “I’d like to buy the “survived” sake from the tsunami” or “I’d like to buy your sake as a support,” since the company restarted at the end of last month. But they can’t send their products easily to their customers due to their lack of packages.

Pop, pop ,pop…

     “I had never thought such a high tsunami would come,” said Mr. Daisuke Kashiwa, 44, the sake brewer, who was working at the brewery at that time of the earthquake. He went outside after the shaking stopped, when he heard of the waves coming. He saw lots of houses being washed away with a big noise. As soon as the tidal waves went out from the parking lot, he ran away from the factory with his colleagues by car. He saw the port burning red in dark of the night through the window of the car. It was snowing hard. Burning ships blazed up when they hit the quay. “Yet, sake was safe,” said Mr. Yukihiro Takeda, 39, the worker.

     When they came back to the brewery, they found out its wall had deep cracks and tanks inclined. However, the two tanks of unrefined mash, which had been prepared for making sake since last November, survived. The unrefined mash began fermenting in March. They heard of this sound, “Pop, pop, pop,” from the tanks. They thought, “It’s alive!”sotendenzyungin1_8

     They had to judge the time to stop fermenting and to press the unrefined mash with the machine for making sake. They had only two options: discarding the mash or starting to brew. Mr. Sugawara thought, “This mash is our hope. I want to make it sake,” and Mr, Katsuhei Kamata, 68, the chief brewer, said to him, “Let’s make sake!” Mr. Kamata is veteran. He hasn’t changed his dietary habit even after the quake: eating little bit hard rice and drinking sake and hot green tea at night. According to Mr. Sugawara, Mr. Kamata never changes his life rhythm. 

Hurdling Electric and Water Outages

     They couldn’t use the electric power and the tap water. They used the well water for preventing too much fermentation. It was lucky for them that the temperature went down after the quake. But still they needed the power for using the machine to press the mash. Fortunately, an acquaintance lent them a large generator and some neighbors helped to bring the heavy machine into the building. “Once we decided to make sake and started it, the circle of support grew bigger and bigger.” Mr. Sugawara said that and appreciated it.

     “Otoko-Yama Honten” makes sake named “Fushimi-Otoko-Yama”, “Kashin” and “Sotenden” mainly. Actually, Japan’s young people don’t drink sake so much and the market of sake is flagging. “I’d like to offer nice sake going best with our local specialties: fish, oysters, and scallops.” Mr. Sugawara thought that and started creating new taste about 10 years ago. “Sotenden” is the latest one. It has become popular with its image of Kesen-numa’s blue water and sky, and young workers skills have been getting improving. And then the earthquake and the tsunami hit them.

Many Words of Encourgement

     They sold their sake to Tokyo area and Sendai, but over 70% of their sales were created in local liquor shops and restaurants before the quake. But about 80% of their profitable customers have become victims, and the orders pouring in now are from all over the country and most of them are new clients. Mr. Sugawara is wondering until when they can get those orders.

     There are lots of encouraging letters from all over Japan in the office. A letter from a woman living in Fukuoka says, “My 85-year old father has stopped drinking beer and shochu sprit, but he loves Fushimi-Otoko-Yama and drinks it every day. Please remember there is a fan in Kagoshima far from Kesen-numa.” Other letters say “I would be very happy if I could help Kesen-numa by drinking your sake. There are many fans in Tokyo!” or “Even non-drinkers among my colleagues have agreed for the group buying.”

     Mr. Sugawara said, “The orders coming now are back-ups from all over Japan, I think. That is, they didn’t order because they just wanted to drink. I’d like to respond to their encouragements. Luckily we have a brewery in this divastated area. It’s our mission to keep making sake here.”

The Northeastern Japan Earthquake: We will recover from this crisis soon! -Operation Yashima and Ueshima

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地震      The Northeastern Japan Earthquake hit on March 11 when I thought I was going to write something on this page. I felt something strange in my room around 2:45 in the afternoon. It was as if something blocked my ears suddenly. Earthquake! I thought that, but the shakiness didn’t come soon. So, I started thinking I was wrong, when it came very slowly like a huge snake slithering underground. The quake was felt for about three minutes. I’ve never experienced such a long and powerful earthquake before. The quake with the magnitude 9.0 is the largest in Japan since records began in 1879.

     Next morning, it was revealed that things were getting worse and worse. Not only the earthquake itself but also tsunami triggered by the quake have destroyed many towns and killed a great number of people. Moreover, the earthquake and the tsunami have severely damaged the Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima. According to a report today of March 26, 10.151 people are dead, and 17.053 are missing, and 17 workers at the power plant were radiation-exposed. The number must increase day by day. 原発

     Japan and Tokyo Electric Power Company haven’t controlled the nuclear reactors yet, and which have leaked radiation. Various sources of rivers, fields and the ocean are radioactivity-contaminated, and numerous people are facing lack of water. Lots of farmers have been ordered to stop shipping vegetables in Kanto area because of the radiation pollution. That’s why people who are not disaster victims cannot get water, vegetables and many supplies easily in Japan. 

     Kanto area including the Tokyo metropolitan district has been forced to cut powers. It is taking a huge toll on not only economies but also daily lives. So, now we are working on ways to save electricity. It is called Yashima Sakusen, or Operation Yashima in the youth. It means saving electricity, for example, disconnecting unnecessary plugs from the wall outlet, or avoiding cooking and taking a bath in evening, when many people use the power. eva

     The name of Yashima Sakusen (Operation Yashima) comes from an episode of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, a Japanese animation in 1995. In the story, robots operated by boys and girls inside fight to enemies. In the episode six, the robots base faces power shortage, and it collects power from all over Japan, and then robots defeat the enemy. It is called “Yashima Sakusen (Operatin Yashima)” in the animation. So, you may find notices like “We are saving electricity by Operation Yashima” here and there in Japan. By the way, the word of Yashima is a place name and the original operation in the animation comes from an old war in Japan in 1185.

     Actually, there is another ダチョウcampaign called Ueshima Sakusen (Operation Ueshima) among young people. It means stopping panic buying. After the earthquake, many people have started buying up, such as pet bottled water, flashlights, dry cell batteries, rice, dried noodles, rice cake, instant rice, crackers, cookies, canned foods, toilet paper, tissue paper, diapers, and fuel etc…It’s difficult to buy those above even outside devastated area now. Ueshima Sakusen (Operation Ueshima) appeals people, especially for elders, not to buy things if you don’t need them really.

     The name of Ueshima Sakusen made after Yashima Sakusen. Ueshima is a member of a comic trio named Dacho Club. “Dozo, dozo,” is one of their gag lines. “Dozo, dozo,” means “Please go ahead.” Other two members, Higo and Jimon, bid for something difficult or nasty mission, saying “Me! Me!” while Ueshima is hesitating to volunteer. But Ueshima raises a hand and says, “Me!” in spite of himself later. Then the rest of the two start saying, “Go ahead, please,” and let Ueshima do the mission. So, the campaign suggests giving over.  折りヅル

     Radiation leak is not only a domestic problem. It’s a big issue for all over the world. I hope those nuclear power plant will be under control as soon as possible.The current situation in Japan is really disastrous and people are far from over. But we haven’t forgotten smiles and humors yet as you see above. Japan is now trying to get back on its feet with support of a great number of countries and areas and people. Thank you for your help and support.