p.s. When I sent Mrs. Inoue this article in advance to the publication, her reply came with the nice photos. She took them at a decontamination site. It is heartbreaking when the team has to disturb or destroy these natural habitats in order to bury radioactive materials.
Some of my friends thought I liked Japan so much that I would stay there indefinitely. No, it was not the reason why I delayed my return to the states. It was simply because I felt I was needed there, but that made me arrogant. I could read that between the lines in my old blog. My overconfidence was now completely replaced by humbleness. It has been three weeks since I came back to South Dakota. I finally feel recuperated. I am now eager to share with you what I have learned in my country.
An American friend of mine said to me, “I did not know people still live in Fukushima.” Yes, close to 2 million people currently reside in that prefecture. One of them was Mr. Yoshihiko Azuma. He told me, “We had choices, and most of us made an informed-decision to remain here.” Information on radiation effects was provided by countless non-governmental organizations. The citizens were allowed to weigh the pros and cons and reached their own decisions. Three percents of the population have chosen to move; and the rest, remained. Mrs. Mihoko Inoue, Mr. Azuma’s colleague, has a 17-year-old daughter. When I asked her if she would consider relocation to another prefecture had the daughter become pregnant, she answered, “No.” According to her, it would be safe to carry pregnancy in Fukushima, although she would like to put the daughter’s wishes in consideration regarding this matter.
The public can view live data sent from radiation detectors. Mr. Azuma lives in Iizaka Town, which is located 41 miles (66 km) northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. On Oct. 30, a monitor set at Iizaka Elementary School was indicating 0.118 µSv/h. It was slightly above the radiation exposure limits recommended by International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). However, at a park on a hill near the elementary school, the dose was elevated to 0.57 µSv/h. Without knowing what those numbers mean, they can stir unnecessary fear in the people. (I will cover more about it in my next blog.)
Imagine the effects of such fear and uncertainty on the farmers in Iizaka Town. As radioactive elements accumulate on the surface soil, fruit trees with deep roots have been unaffected. No radioactive contamination was found in the peaches and grapes shown in the above photos. However, Japan Agriculture Group (a powerful bureaucracy) has been conducting the test only on a few selected harvest. Mr. Azuma thinks that it is necessary to check every single produce that will be put on the market, and place the result in each box. That is the only way to give reassurance to the consumers. He has already purchased a radioactive monitoring device. With his new organization “Dream Farm Fukushima,” hope is budding on the fruit trees in Iizaka Town.
“Before the earthquake, I was an ordinary blue-collar worker,” explains Mr. Azuma about himself. When I first met him last August, he had just lost his dog. Out of sorrow, he could not eat. It is rare to find a tenderhearted man like him in Japan. His right-hand support is steadfast Mrs. Inoue. They wish people, who live outside of Fukushima, to understand their situation the way it is without biases. Feel free to reach them with your questions. I will be more than happy to translate them into Japanese.