Sunday, August 4, 2013

Aspri: Building Hope in Fukushima (えすぺり 福島で希望を作る)

The government and the media, and the average Japanese person for that matter would like us to believe that everything is back to normal in Fukushima. That couldn't be farther from the truth. People continue to fight hard to regain a semblance of "normal" and there is still a long way to go. This is about a big step forward taken by local farmers.

This is a story about our friends the Okawaras, (Mrs. Okawara is featured in Women of Fukushima) organic farmers in Fukushima, who have, with the help of friends, family and other supporters, built a farmer's market, cafe, event/education space to restore hope and community to their local area. This is a completely grassroots effort that is injecting energy and spirit into the community.
Synopsis: This heartrending 5-minute video brings us an update on the Okawaras, who shared their lives in the aftermath of 3/11, in the powerful documentary film Women of Fukushima.  Organic farmers, they were traumatized not only by the natural and nuclear catastrophes, but also loss of livelihood when longtime customers abandoned them because of fears that their products have been contaminated by radiation.

However, their part of Fukushima has been only minimally contaminated; therefore they want to stay and work towards restoration, centered around a store and community center they have named "Aspri" which means "aspire" or "hope" in Esperanto.

Mrs. Okawara explains, "The year  after the plant exploded and last year, I would drive around and look at the scenery. Fukushima's mountains, skies, and fields. I couldn't stop myself from crying, when I thought such beauty was contaminated with radiation. To tell the truth, I cried every time I got in the car.

"But since year three, my thinking has changed. Even if it's contaminated, I really love this place. I don't cry anymore. I think it's because we decided to build Aspri. We will be selling many things, including vegetables, bread and fruit. It is also a place for learning. We will have study sessions about strategies for dealing with radiation. It will also be a place for performances...many things..."

They are receiving no support from the government, which refused to give them a loan. "So the politicians talk like the nuclear problem has gone away. But that's not true. Everyone is still really suffering."

At the grassroots, people are filling this gap,  donating money to help support Aspri, which opened on July 13, 2013.  This video is a request for a little more...

(Women of Fukushima is now streaming at Vimeo. Other films in their series on Tohoku may be viewed at the links listed at this  post:

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