A mother forced to flee Fukushima fallout speaks in Hiroshima of their shared nuclear burden
By Yoko Shimosawa
On March 11, 2018, we profiled a courageous young mother — Yoko Shimosawa — as she stood on a street and spoke with passion, in English and Japanese, about the threats posed by nuclear power. Shimosawa had evacuated from Tokyo to Kansai with her two children, once her daughter became sick.
Now a relentless campaigner to bring truth to light, she told her full story during a visit to Hiroshima on August 6, marking the 73rd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on that city. Below, in powerful and moving testimony, she recounts the persistent health threats and risks to populations still living in the region and draws a parallel between the “invisible and quiet nuclear bombing” of the Fukushima and Hiroshima populations across the decades.
Watch her speech (in English) and read her story, below.
“Seventy-three years ago today, many precious lives were instantly destroyed by the terrible blast and the heat from the atomic bomb. Did you know, however, that the atomic bomb has had another, lasting effects? It’s an invisible, quiet and lasting effects from the nuclear bombing, called “internal radiation exposure.”
Seven years ago, Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant had an accident and the nuclear accident developed into a nuclear disaster. Today, we Japanese have to live with this invisible and quiet nuclear bombing. It’s a kind of invisible violence that quietly invades human bodies.
I would like to talk about the violence called “the internal radiation exposure” as an evacuee from the terrible nuclear disaster.
I evacuated to Kansai three years after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. Where do you think I evacuated from? I evacuated from Tokyo. Do you know that Tokyo has serious radioactive contamination? Tens of millions of people in East Japan live with radioactive contamination now.
My daughter was 5 years old at the time of the accident. She was a cheerful and active girl. But after one year since the accident, her health conditions became bad and she was troubled by strange symptoms.
She told me, “Mommy, I feel so bad, I have no power. My hands hurt, my legs hurt, my body hurts!”
In fact, my daughter became so sick that she could not live a normal life at all.
At that time, I met a doctor who was working with the issue of radiation exposure in the metropolitan area. He said, if sick children are moved to the west away from contaminated eastern Japan, some of them might recover health.
According to his examinations after the accident, the number of white blood cells of children living in the metropolitan area was decreasing. And he added that neutrophils among white blood cells were particularly badly decreasing. And as we found out later, our two children also had the same condition. Today, the doctor is saying that for every ten children in Tokyo, nine of them have below the standard number of neutrophils.
When I consulted the doctor about my daughter, he clearly stated that she was affected by the radiation exposure. And he gave me advice to move my daughter to the western part of Japan.
In any case, I tried to move my sick daughter out of Tokyo. Whenever we stayed in a place where there was no radioactive contamination, she became very well. But when we returned to Tokyo, she became sick again. We did not have the option to stay in Tokyo any longer. We just fled from Tokyo and moved to Kansai.
Living in East Japan means living with many radioactive materials, and it is not a place where people can live in good health. So, as evacuees from eastern Japan, we are calling for evacuation to West Japan. Our existence here is not broadcasted on the radio nor published in newspapers. So, I am telling you about it here and now.
After the accident, we were told that radiation was not a problem and health damages would not occur. But it was not true. Many of us have evacuated from East to West due to various health problems. Many people are getting sick today in East Japan. People are dying without noticing that it is due to radiation. Many Japanese can not face this nuclear catastrophe.
Now my daughter is 12 years old. She’s healthy and enjoys everyday life. She has good friends and says she wants to continue living here forever.
She is very afraid that more and more nuclear power plants now will get restarted and there may be another accident. If that happens, she will have to move away from here again. If another nuclear accident happens, she knows that she can not live in this country anymore.
And accidents are not the only ones that threaten her. It is a basic issue that after the accident, our government has not confined radioactive materials to one place. On the contrary, our government has a policy of diluting toxic radioactive waste by mixing it with water, cement or other materials, and making it look harmless.
And the Japanese government now allows incineration of highly contaminated nuclear waste of up to 8000 Bq/kg, 80 times as high as before the Fukushima accident. It’s all to reduce the enormous amount of nuclear waste. But as conscientious scientists say, we should never burn radioactive materials. It should never have been allowed.
We don’t seem to be able to stop this crazy, irresponsible way of our government.
I hope that my daughter can live in her beloved country where she was born and raised.
What the Japanese government is doing can be called a nuclear assault. This political nuclear bomb is being dropped over us slowly and penetrating into our daily lives.
We can protect precious LIFE of not only humans but also the LIFE of all living creatures from internal radiation exposure. How? By containing radioactive waste in the locations where they were made and by keeping the waste under strict control. We humans can also evacuate from contaminated areas and relocate.
But people can’t move out of the contaminated areas because central and local governments conceal the facts of contamination and victimization, killing many people just like powerful bombs do. That’s a kind of national war waged against its own people.
We deeply deplore such war situation and want to stop it. That’s why I am here speaking to you.
Let us work together so we can recover our country and our earth in which our children can grow up in good health.”
This story first appeared on Fukushima 311 Voices and is republished with kind permission.
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