Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mayumi Oda: On Energy of Change, Feminization, and New Birth of Japan

"Earth Ship" by Mayumi Oda  (Image: Safe Energy Handbook

Longtime nuclear-free activist and visual artist Mayumi Oda shared her wisdom in "On Energy of Change, Feminization, and New Birth of Japan," a 2012 interview with Alice Miyagawa published at Kyoto Journal.  A few excerpts: 
You were interviewed previously for Kyoto Journal following the Tokaimura nuclear accident in the summer of 1999, when you lived in California. You said that you had come to Japan to help empower people, especially women, in response to the government’s negligence in handling the issue. Then, at the turn of the millennium, you moved from California to Hawai’i. That seems to have marked a turning point in your life...

Until 1999 I had really tried to focus my work to let people know the dangers of having nuclear [power plants] on earthquake faults. I couldn’t convince them. I already saw the possibilities of disaster. I thought it would be in Tokai, or Hamaoka, near Tokyo. I was terribly, terribly worried. I had worked nearly nine years in the antinuclear movement. I was very discouraged that Japan was not really responding to the danger.

 I was just very tired, and I felt like I had to rebuild a new life. So I chose Hawai’i to do sustainable living, making a farm, to show people that there’s another way to live. I felt like somebody had to be doing this — not just thinking about the possibility, but practicing it. Hawai’i taught me to live with aloha, within an island. In 2000 I bought the farm [Ginger Hill Farm and Retreat, in Kealakekua, meaning the Path of God], and for eleven years I have worked on it. I have probably educated about two hundred young people, just to live hopefully sustainably through farming, through eating the right things, making medicines, cleansing, healing oneself with herbs and the things that we grow.

I just finished painting a six-panel screen of mostly women marching towards Amaterasu the Sun Goddess — I painted about forty women, with a few men. They are all practitioners of my Goddess Academy, marching from the life they lived, to a more nature-based life, symbolized by Amaterasu — marching from an oil-based economy towards a solar-based economy...

...I painted a Sotatsu screen of the Gods of Wind and Thunder turned into females to bring more of the feminine into culture, especially Japanese culture, which really needs more feminine. Traditional culture has it, but somehow this modern culture in Japan became so Westernized that we gave up a lot of that stuff.

... I felt almost like the women in Fukushima all feel, and so it’s a lot of force and a strength — I felt that these Goddesses can somehow break through something that we are so up against. That’s how I painted those two Goddesses, to bring an energy of change that our country needs at this moment...

These are all yamato-e style paintings, the tradition is extremely old-fashioned. It’s been going on 1,300 years in Nara so I kept that tradition...So I decided that I will focus on this old beautiful tradition that our ancestors used, and with that how can I express who we are now in this time.

In 1993 I did some hand-scrolls called Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty [for] a story that was written by Anne Herbert and Margaret Pavel, right after I became an anti-nuclear activist, so my message was very anti-nuclear, anti-war and anti-violence, and how to live with the peace of others in the land. That was the story behind it. Now it’s a nine-meter scroll.

...So I did this work for the younger generations that we just deprived because of our own luxury, our own wantings, our own electricity, our rich food, we really just left such a legacy to these young people. It feels to me this is an apology — I’m sorry that we did so badly. I’m dedicating this to the younger generations. When I think about it, it just makes me so sad. Our generation was so bad, especially men in my generation, [they] could not think about anybody — they were so caught up in the Japanese becoming so wealthy, so luxurious, they were just awful, awful, so wrong...

...The people who can really make a choice will win, get out and start a new life somewhere in the country, or in other cities. Especially if they have parents in the countryside, they should go back, and start a new life...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fukushima Daiichi disaster workers self-medicating with alcohol to deal with stress, PTSD, depression, negative work environment, poor wages, wage-skimming, substandard living conditions

"Plummeting morale at Fukushima Daiichi as nuclear cleanup takes its toll: Staff on the frontline of operation plagued by health problems and fearful about the future, insiders say," by Justin McCurry at The Guardian:

 Tepco employees wait for a bus at J Village, a soccer training complex 
now serving as an operation base for those battling Japan's nuclear disaster. 
(Photograph: Reuters via The Guardian)

...Even now, at the start of a decommissioning operation that is expected to last 40 years, the plant faces a shortage of workers qualified to manage the dangerous work that lies ahead.

The hazards faced by the nearly 900 employees of Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] and about 5,000 workers hired by a network of contractors and sub-contractors were underlined this month when six men were doused with contaminated water at a desalination facility...

...the head of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), Shunichi Tanaka, told reporters, "Mistakes are often linked to morale. People usually don't make silly, careless mistakes when they're motivated and working in a positive environment. The lack of it, I think, may be related to the recent problems."

...70% of Tepco workers at Fukushima Daiichi who were also forced to evacuate their homes by the meltdown. They have yet to come to terms with that loss and many live away from their families in makeshift accommodation near the plant.

"They were traumatized by the tsunami and the reactor explosions and had no idea how much they had been irradiated," Shigemura said. "That was the acute effect but now they are suffering from the chronic effects, such as depression, loss of motivation and issues with alcohol."

..."Tepco is spending its money on fixing the technical problems, but it also needs people to carry out that work. I'm very worried about the labour shortage. If they don't do something about it soon, the employment system at Fukushima Daiichi will collapse first, not the plant." concern grows over Tepco's ability to address the myriad technical challenges facing Fukushima Daiichi – starting next month with the removal of 1,300 spent fuel assemblies from the top of reactor No 4 – the unfolding human crisis is being largely ignored.
Another eye-opening report on the human costs of the Fukushima clean-up attempt, "Help wanted in Fukushima: low pay, high risks and gangsters," via Reuters:
In reviewing Fukushima working conditions, Reuters interviewed more than 80 workers, employers and officials involved in the unprecedented nuclear clean-up. A common complaint: the project's dependence on a sprawling and little scrutinised network of subcontractors - many of them inexperienced with nuclear work and some of them, police say, have ties to organised crime...

Dismantling the Fukushima Daiichi plant will require maintaining a job pool of at least 12,000 workers just through 2015, according to Tepco's blueprint. That compares to just over 8,000 registered workers now. In recent months, some 6,000 have been working inside the plant.

The Tepco hiring estimate does not include the manpower required for the government's new $330 million plan to build a massive ice wall around the plant to keep radiated water from leaking into the sea...

Japan's nuclear industry has relied on cheap labour since the first plants, including Fukushima, opened in the 1970s. For years, the industry has rounded up itinerant workers known as "nuclear gypsies" from the Sanya neighbourhood of Tokyo and Kamagasaki in Osaka, areas known for large numbers of homeless men.

"Working conditions in the nuclear industry have always been bad," said Saburo Murata, deputy director of Osaka's Hannan Chuo Hospital. "Problems with money, outsourced recruitment, lack of proper health insurance - these have existed for decades."

The Fukushima project has magnified those problems. When Japan's parliament approved a bill to fund decontamination work in August 2011, the law did not apply existing rules regulating the construction industry. As a result, contractors working on decontamination have not been required to disclose information on management or undergo any screening.

That meant anyone could become a nuclear contractor overnight. Many small companies without experience rushed to bid for contracts and then often turned to brokers to round up the manpower, according to employers and workers...

Hundreds of small companies have been given contracts for this decontamination work. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed in the first half of 2013 had broken labour regulations, according to a labour ministry report in July. The ministry's Fukushima office had received 567 complaints related to working conditions in the decontamination effort in the year to March. It issued 10 warnings. No firm was penalised...

"Major contractors that run this system think that workers will always be afraid to talk because they are scared to lose their jobs," said Hayashi. "But Japan can't continue to ignore this problem forever."
And in-depth background by Paul Jobin: "Dying for TEPCO? Fukushima’s Nuclear Contract Workers" (APJ, May 2, 2011):
In the titanic struggle to bring to closure the dangerous situation at Fukushima Nuclear Plant No1, there are many signs that TEPCO is facing great difficulties in finding workers. At present, there are nearly 700 people at the site. As in ordinary times, workers rotate so as to limit the cumulative dose of radiation inherent in maintenance and cleanup work at the nuclear site...

But this time, the risks are greater, and the method of recruitment unusual.
Job offers come not from TEPCO but from Mizukami Kogyo, a company whose business is construction and cleaning maintenance. The description indicates only that the work is at a nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture. The job is specified as 3 hours per day at an hourly wage of 10,000 yen. There is no information about danger, only the suggestion to ask the employer for further details on food, lodging, transportation and insurance.

Those who answer these offers may have little awareness of the dangers and they are likely to have few other job opportunities. $122 an hour is hardly a king’s ransom given the risk of cancer from high radiation levels.  But TEPCO and NISA keep diffusing their usual propaganda to minimize the radiation risks.

Rumor has it that many of the cleanup workers are burakumin. This cannot be verified, but it would be congruent with the logic of the nuclear industry and the difficult job situation of day laborers. Because of ostracism, some burakumin are also involved with yakuza. Therefore, it would not be surprising that yakuza-burakumin recruit other burakumin to go to Fukushima. Yakuza are active in recruiting day laborers of the yoseba: Sanya in Tokyo, Kotobukicho in Yokohama, and Kamagasaki in Osaka. People who live in precarious conditions are then exposed to high levels of radiation, doing the most dirty and dangerous jobs in the nuclear plants, then are sent back to the yoseba. Those who fall ill will not even appear in the statistics.
Paul Jobin, "Fukushima One Year On: Nuclear workers and citizens at risk" (APJ, March 26, 2012):
Many prefer to turn a blind eye as it is reassuring to believe TEPCO’s nonsense and the nostrums provided by scholars associated with the nuclear lobby. But there is also a growing awareness of the problem, which can be observed for example through the vast mobilization in the region of Fukushima and Tokyo among citizens and on the Internet...

Temporary subcontract workers who have never entered a nuclear plant before probably have a very vague perception of these risks.

Paul Jobin, "The Roadmap for Fukushima Daiichi and the Sacrifice of Japan's Clean-up Workers 福島第一原発のロードマップと除染作業員" (July 15, 2013):
Public bids are now almost entirely controlled by the construction companies at the top (moto uke) and the yakuza at the bottom;

Though the Ministry of the Environment only authorizes two levels of subcontracting, in practice, the levels of subcontracting are even more numerous than at F1 and other nuclear plants. Between his own employer and Shimizu Construction, the moto uke, Masato has counted 24 levels;

Wage skimming is the norm and many workers only get a tiny portion—if any—of the 10,000 Yen hazard allowance;

The majority of workers receive no health insurance benefits from their employer and for many reasons they do not register for the national health insurance system on an individual basis.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Japan as Number One in Radiation Education: Lessons for the World

"Children taught radiation studies: Nuke education now compulsory subject in schools in Fukushima" 
(Story and Photo: Mizuho Aoki, JT, March 24, 2012)

Today Martin Frid at Kurashi reminds us that Japan is now number one in the world in radiation education.

The Japanese educational system should have been number one in radiation education starting in 1946, when Japan's grassroots nuclear-free movement began, amidst US Occupation censorship of news about the consequences of radiation fallout from the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

When the US Occupation ended in 1952, the Japanese nuclear-free movement gathered more steam, especially after the March 1954 irradiation of the fishing boat, "The Lucky Dragon #5," by fallout from the US hydrogen test bombing of the island of Bikini in the Marshall Islands.  Outrage increased after people learned irradiated tuna was sold and eaten in Japan.  The explosion provided the initial scenes of the film quasi-sci-fi film Godzilla which premiered eight months after the bombing.

With the raw hindsight of 3/11, it's astonishing to realize that Washington was able to explode 105 nuclear test bombs in the Pacific from 1946 to 1962, vaporizing entire islands, irradiating the Asia-Pacific region, and, simultaneously, in partnership with the Japanese postwar political establishment, was able to overcome the nascent Japanese nuclear-free protest movement, and successfully promote the idea of nuclear energy production as "safe." How did nuclear industry promoters subdue awareness and concern in Japan about the dangers of nuclear radiation?

Yuki Tanaka and Peter Kuznick detail how Washington's "Atoms for Peace" program worked to counter the widespread perception of the dangers of nuclear radiation in Japan.  This program was especially calculated to obscure the memory of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Atomic Energy Commissioner Thomas Murray and a US congressman even proposed that Japan's first nuclear energy plant be built in Hiroshima to push the images of radioactive carnage out of the Japanese public mind.  The Washington Post seconded their idea:
Many Americans are now aware … that the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan was not necessary. … How better to make a contribution to amends than by offering Japan the means for the peaceful utilization of atomic energy. How better, indeed, to dispel the impression in Asia that the United States regards Orientals merely as nuclear cannon fodder!"
Japan's first nuclear power plant was not built in Hiroshima, of course, but The Daily Yomiuri's traveling exhibition "The Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy” did make a stop in the atom-bombed city in 1958, incredibly with the support of the Hiroshima establishment:
Although in other cities the exhibition was sponsored exclusively by the Yomiuri with the assistance of the U.S. Information Service, in Hiroshima co-sponsors also included the Hiroshima City Council, Hiroshima Prefectural Government, Hiroshima University, and the Chugoku Newspaper... All praised the promotion and application of this new powerful energy.  By contrast, many A-bomb survivors were skeptical and cautious about this non-military application of nuclear power, claiming that there was still no solution to the problem of managing radioactive materials produced by operating nuclear power reactors.
The newly completed A-bomb Museum building in Hiroshima was even used as the pavilion for the  exhibition:
Thus, in the same building, exhibits related to the devastation caused by the atomic bombing were displayed together with various dream-like applications of nuclear energy.  Such things as nuclear powered planes, ships and trains, as well as medical, agricultural and industrial uses of radioactive materials were displayed.
Hundreds of thousands of people throughout Japan, including 155,000 in Kyoto, visited the exhibition when it stopped in their cities. However, nuclear-free activists, including many Hibakusha, and some media, notably The Mainichi, countered:
First, baptism with radioactive rain, then a surge of shrewd commercialism in the guise of 'atoms for peace' from abroad. 
Nuclear power propaganda efforts continued, and the nuclear industry made inroads by the 1960's. In 1966, Tokai, Japan's first nuclear power plant began operating, and in the 1970's, nuclear plants were constructed throughout the archipelago.  The nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are from this era.

Even throughout the heyday of nuclear boosterism, the Japanese nuclear-free movement stayed strong, with notable local successes. The movement strengthened after the Chernobyl meltdown and during the 1990's, a period of numerous nuclear accidents in Japan.

Local communities, Japanese civil society and nuclear-free activists stopped the construction of nuclear power plants, notably in Iwaishima, where the Chugoku Electric Power Company has attempted to build a nuclear power plant in the Inland Sea National Park. In 2006, musician Ryuichi Sakamoto and  Greenpeace launched an international awareness project protesting the Rokkasho [plutonium] Reprocessing Plant under a campaign called "Wings of Peace – No more Hiroshima Nagasaki."  Japanese nuclear-free activists warned of the risks at Fukushima Daiichi long before 3/11.

Gavan McCormack says it's no longer possible to kick Japan's radioactive cans down the road in "Japan as a Plutonium Superpower."  He suggests a way forward for Japan (and the world) in "Hubris Punished: Japan as Nuclear State."  It's the same choice that Japanese nuclear-free,  carbon-free, renewable energy, energy conservation, organic, and Slow Life advocates have been calling for and working towards: turning the ongoing disaster into a time of change towards a sustainable future.
Successive generations of Japan’s bureaucratic, political, corporate, and media elite have insisted that Japan pursue the nuclear power path at all costs. In retrospect, they drove the country forward, as the elite of the Kwantung Army drove it in the pre-war era, towards disaster, ignoring, coopting, or crushing all opposition. Only now, facing the costs—human, environmental and economic—the long-postponed debate opens...

What is called for, in short, is the reversal of a half century of core national policies and the switch to a renewable energy system beyond carbon and uranium.  Such a strategic decision, turning the present disaster into the opportunity to confront the key challenge of contemporary civilization, amounts to a revolutionary agenda, one only possible under the pressure of a mobilized and determined national citizenry.

At this crucial juncture, how Japan goes, the world is likely follow. The challenge is fundamentally political: can Japan’s civil society accomplish the sovereignty guaranteed it under the constitution and wrest control over the levers of state from the irresponsible bureaucratic and political forces that have driven it into the present crisis?


"Children taught radiation studies: Nuke education now compulsory subject in schools in Fukushima" (Mizuho Aoki, JT, March 24, 2012)

Anti-Nuke Who's Who (Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Tokyo)

"The Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant: Community Conflicts and the Future of Japan’s Rural Periphery" (Tomomi Yamaguchi, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Oct. 10, 2011)

"Japan, the Atomic Bomb, and the “Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Power” (Yuki Tanaka and Peter Kuznick, The Asia-Pacific Journal, May 2, 2011)

"Hubris Punished: Japan as Nuclear State 驕れる者は久しからず−−核国家としての日本" (Gavan McCormack, The Asia-Pacific Journal, April 18, 2011)

Japan's Once-Powerful Nuclear Industry is Under Siege" (Caroline Fraser, Environment 360, March 17, 2011)

Japan as a Plutonium Superpower" (Gavan McCormack, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Dec. 9, 2007)

"The Power of Protest: The campaign against nuclear weapons was not simply an ideological movement; it was a potent political force"  (Lawrence Wittner,  Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, July-August 2004)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Singer & Organic Farmer Yae: "That's what I want to prove by living this way, to show how important it is to live in a system that is sustainable and not simply going on exploiting and harming the land..."

Via webdocumentary AU-DELA DU NUAGE °Yonaoshi 3.11, singer and organic farmer Yae—daughter of two renowned Article 9, nuclear-free, environmentalist activists—singer Tokiko Kato and the late author Toshio Fujimoto, who created Daichi-wo-Mamoru-Kai (The Association to Preserve the Earth), an organic farming and food distribution organization and the Kamogawa Natural Kingdom, an organic farm/community in Chiba:
There's certainly something in this soil that protects us. That's what I want to prove by living this way, to show how impt is is to live in a system that is sustainable and not simply going on exploiting and harming the land...

We need to share ideas and build a future together...

All this didn't begin with 11 March 2011.

For many years, we've been subjected to many forms of contamination without even realizing it.

An yet, we're still alive. It's still a mystery, the life force, the power of life. It has so much undiscovered potential.

In the next five or ten years, we still don't really have any idea what diseases or physical changes we might see in children. Perhaps some incurable disease.

But at this stage, we don't know anything yet. We will think about what needs to be done when such things do happen. Together with the parents of the  little children, we'll be looking for solutions.

People are quick to forget. With the passage of time, we forget the past and look towards the future without learning from our mistakes.

In Japan in particular we have allowed things to happen during and after the war as if we didn't learn from our mistakes. We haven't learned from our mistakes. It's as if we were made to forget.

Today, we should teach the true history of Japan, the things we have done for the sake of the children, as well as for people like me so that we can reflect together on how we should behave in the future.

Iitate mura is a wonderful village, so very beautiful...The people tried to be self-sufficient in energy production....But from one day to the next, it has become a radiation hotspot, with high levels or radioactivity. Despite this, people in the village yearn to return to their homes.

I read in a magazine about a 102-year-old gentleman who committed suicide in one of the temporary shelters....If ever he'd remain behind in the contaminated area, he would probably have been irradiated, but he certainly wouldn't have died immediately. He had lived for 102 years but ended up taking his own life.

My father used to say: "If you don't take pleasure in life, then you're not really living...


Singer and farmer, Yae is the daughter of the famous singer and anti-nuclear activist Tokiko Kato. Yae has written a song for UNESCO, dedicated to the children who were affected by the triple disaster of 11 March. She herself chose a different lifestyle when leaving Tokyo to live in the area referred to by her father as « the kingdom of nature of Kamogawa ».

We are in Chiba, two hours from Tokyo by train, where the land has also been affected by radiation. They can still plant the rice, and people come from Tokyo at each season to help and learn rice planting.
(Many more video interviews by Keiko Courdy at the AU-DELA DU NUAGE °Yonaoshi 3.11 website).

Some background on Yae, Tokiko Kato, and the late Toshio Fujimoto: 

"Soil and Peace Festival 2011 – it would never be the same again" (Keibo Shinichi Oiwa Tsuji, Slow Japan blog, Nov. 24, 2011)

"Hands-on farm training new path for city slickers" (Hayato Ishii, JT, Jan. 11, 2006)

"POWER TO THE PEOPLE: Tokiko Kato gives voice to anti-nuclear power movement" (Louis Templado, Asahi, Jan. 15, 2012)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Filmmaker Hitomi Kamanaka: "We need to face the problem otherwise it will never be solved..."

Via webdocumentary AU-DELA DU NUAGE °Yonaoshi 3.11, filmmaker Hitomi Kamanaka:
The people of Fukushima think it's too late.

They think they have been contaminated and the country has abandoned them. They can't do anything about it so they better live without worrying.

A lot of people think like this. Today I read in the newspaper that the children of Fukushima say they will die anyway, so there's no need to study...

It is not only the cancer risk that grows. For example, heart attacks also. Cesium goes into the muscles...The risk of strokes also grows...Diabetes also...

In spite of that, they say everything is fine.

This is because these are diseases anyone can have...

Concerning the accident, we all have to face this: Face the fact that we've been contaminated and that it's not over, that there is still no serious compensation even though we lost our way of life, and that for a long time, our health will be exposed to danger.

Can we just go along saying, " Everything is fine."

We need to face the problem otherwise it will never be solved.

For many years, Japanese electricity companies have hidden information.  In 2007, it was revealed that nuclear power plants had hidden many accidents.  On this occasion, a complete report was ordered, with many details. It revealed 456 accidents. Among them, there had been very serious accidents. And they had hidden everything...

We lost trust...

They knew there was a meltdown but they didn't say it.

To avoid the explosion and release internal pressure, they vent radioactive vapor into the air, releasing a lot of radiation. But when they did this, they didn't inform the population to escape in a certain direction. They didn't reveal the quantity released into the air. They didn't say anything.

And it was only after the accident, one, two, three months later, that the inhabitants of the cities nearby, Futaba, Okuma, or Minami-Soma, finally learnt about the facts, one after the other.

This was an unbelievable situation.

They were not prepared for crisis management, although these facts were openly revealed, one year has passed, and there is still no one to take responsibility.

Before and after the disaster, the very same people are still in charge.  It is an incredible situation.

If they had changed to new people, people we can trust, it would have been different...


Hitomi Kamanaka is a Japanese documentary filmmaker known particularly for her films on the danger of atomic power and the nuclear industry in Japan. In 2012, she directed a movie on internal contamination where she interviews 4 doctors from Japan and Russia who studied the consequences of Hiroshima, Tchernobyl, and now Fukushima.

ドキュメンタリー映画監督, 鎌仲ひとみは2012年に発表した映画で、広島、チェルノビルそして福島での被曝(ひ


Interview conducted by Keiko Courdy for 霧の向こう*AU-DELA DU NUAGE°Yonaoshi 3.11_ Japan Webdoc project in Tokyo on June 18, 2012
Background: Hitomi Kamanaka's website:


Hitomi Kamanaka's website:

"Complicity and Victimhood: Director Kamanaka Hitomi's Nuclear Warnings" (Norma Field, The Asia-Pacific Journal, May 2, 2011)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kyoto: The Forest Within the Gate - A transcendent journey in poems and photographs to Japan's ancient capital

A few years ago, when I received the chapbook incarnation of Edith Schiffert's and John Einarsen's Kyoto: The Forest Within the Gate, I felt like I had been surprised by a dream of the ancient capital in the mail.  A new incarnation of this luminous book has been launched; with an IndieGoGo campaign to finance publishing costs. They are asking Kyoto lovers to help support and be a part of this beautiful project (JD):

                                                  Resting on the earth

                                                  who needs satori or faith?

                                                  Embrace what holds you!

Imagine a book enfolding some of the best expat poetry and photography of the 1200-year-old city of Kyoto, cultural and spiritual heart of Japan. For five decades Edith Shiffert, now age 97, has written haiku and poems inspired by the ancient capital. John Einarsen has been making striking yet serene photographs of Kyoto for more than three decades.

Now Edith and John share their vision and love of this magical city with the book Kyoto: The Forest Within the Gate (144 pp, more than 100 duotone photographs and 30 poems). In addition, three renowned writers on Japanese culture, Marc P. Keane, Diane Durston and Takeda Yoshifumi, have contributed illuminating essays. Rona Conti's calligraphy is yet another treat for the eyes.

We plan to publish an edition of this singular book. Its design is complete to the last detail, but for this first edition to go to print we need your help.

Take this transcendent journey to Kyoto by contributing today. All donations are warmly appreciated. Those giving $60 or more will receive a signed edition of this remarkable book.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Organic tea farmer Ayumi Kinezuka on protecting Japan's rich family farm culture, food safety, and the need for reconnection—with each other, with land and nature...

In this 5-min. video (via Reciprocity/Food Sovereignty Japan
Ayumi Kinezuka talks about her family farming cooperative; community-supported farming;  how her father embraced organic farming after reading Rachel Carson's Silent Spring,
 and Nouminren, the farmers' union.

Ayumi Kinezuka, after getting degrees in psychology and sociology at the University of California (Berkeley). returned home 10 years ago, to help carry on her family's organic tea farm near Fujieda, Shizuoka.

Her father, Toshiaki Kinezuka, is one of the pioneers of the global organic farming movement:  Thirty-seven years ago, he shifted his 2 hectare (5-acre) tea and orange farm to organic and founded a group with several tea growers that became Hito to No, Shizen wo Tsunagu Kai (Connecting People, Agriculture, and Nature). Their organic green and black teas are popular worldwide among tea enthusiasts.

In 2011, after they were hit (as was most of Japan) with fallout from the Fukushima meltdowns, the Kinezukas decided, at great financial loss, to destroy their entire crop from that year, even though the radiation readings of their tea were far below the Japanese government's safety standard.  The reason: as organic farmers, food safety is their integral to their ethos and they felt responsible to maintain their high standard of purity to protect their customers.

They are now continuing to recover from the accident, while strengthening organic food culture in many ways:  hosting WOOLF interns; deepening relationships with their consumers and other farmers, and welcoming urban dwellers in need of reconnecting with nature.

This is an inspirational family and community -- on every level.  The Kinezukas and their farming cooperative keep in contact with their customers and sell directly to them at their website, (, a trove of info on tea and the rich traditional Japanese way of life (reverencing nature, farming, food, relationships, and community).

In the second -part (5-min) of a 3-part series of video interviews,  
Ayumi Kinezuka relates why she became a farmer:
 it is a field in which she can help connect people with each other and with nature 

In the  final short video, she talks about miso-making, and rice-growing with friends (non-farmers who visit the Kinezuka farm during rice-planting, weeding, and harvesting seasons to enjoy connecting with the earth, others, and eating fresh, organic local foods).  She brings her social psychological and outreach skills to creating and deepening awareness, connections in all that she does.

Also in two (10- and 15-min.) videos at the same webpage, Toshiaki Kinezuka shares his story of why and how he became an organic farmer.

The above videos were made in January, 2011, during a peak  the Japanese organic farming movement, which had been developing steadily since the 1970's.  The multiple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant have hit farmers throughout Japan (not just in Fukushima) hard, especially organic farmers like the Kinezukas.

In this Women Rising radio interview (her interview begins at 20:30 of the tape), Ayumi Kinezuka describes her organic philosophy and how her family and their organic tea cooperative decided, at great financial loss, to destroy their entire 2011 crop  to protect the food safety of their customers.
I'm living in the community, hoping to protecting the rich culture we've inherited...There are not many young farmers...So when I came back ten years ago, one of the things I thought was very important was to have a network of young farmers because, first we need to share an understanding of our current situation...When I attended the youth meeting of Nouminren, I met a lot of young people and they are facing the same challenges.  As I talked to them, it was very inspiring, so I suggested to La Via Campesina to organize the youth...  Since 2008, we have started a regional youth gathering...

I think farming is not just the production of food. To produce the food is more like an expression of our own ideology or our own beliefs. So participating in La Via Campesina meetings and Nouminren meetings, I'm receiving a lot of information and education about how to perceive the world, how to perceive the current agricultural system, and so on. It's given me a lot of inspiration in that way...

I live in Shizuoka Prefecture, which is west of Tokyo, close to Mount Fuji. From the Fukushima nuclear power plant, it's about 400 km (260 miles) away.  I never imagined our farm would be affected when the accident happened. So after we harvested the tea, we sent our tea samples for testing and we found 350 becquerels of cesium in our tea. At the end of the second harvest season, after June, we found 150 becquerels. And the last harvest in October, there was 76 becquerels. Even though the government regulation at that time was 500 becquerels, and according to them, since it's below the regulation level, they say it's safe.

But as an organic farmer, we have never used any chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers in our fields to ensure the safety of our tea and food, and also to protect the environment. It was a very difficult time for us. We did not know how to understand this reality that our tea was contaminated.

So, collectively, since we're a group of organic tea farmers, we discussed and decided we were going to destroy all the tea we produced that year. All together, we destroyed more than 20 tons of tea that was produced in 2011.  Since then, we've been testing the tea at least three times a year to make it obvious to the consumer the truth about the tea.

We are very upset at what happened because we have been working so hard to build a community of organic farming, and at the same time, we've been working very hard to build very good relationships with consumers and producers. But all of a sudden, without our control, this accident put radioactivity into our tea. What's scary about radioactivity is that you can't see it, feel it, taste it, smell it, but it's still there. The accident contaminated our soil, air, water, and also all the plants, and, of course, our bodies too. We have to be very clear that we can't co-exist with this dangerous generation of power.

Now many people in Japan are living in cities so they are detached from nature. Even though human beings are part of nature, we forget that, and that is driving people crazy. So organic farming has the responsibility of connecting people back with nature. It is very nice when people come to my farm and they have a very beautiful smile on their face, and their eyes are just bright. That really tells us what is really essential for us to live as a human being. It's not just money, goods, iPhones, and computers. So I want to provide, as an organic farmer, not just safe food, but an opportunity for people to come back to nature and feel for themselves what it is like to be alive.

The Kinekuza Family taking a break.
 (via Samovar Life: photo and (great blog post on the Kinezuka tea festival))

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ayumi Kinezuka: "TPP and the dismantling of Japanese Agriculture"

Preface: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), perhaps the world's most ambitious free trade agreement, is currently under negotiation. What began as a small regional free trade agreement has become one of the primary tools in the United States' geopolitical pivot towards the Asia-Pacific region...

This "Food First Backgrounder" outlines the agreement's assault on democracy and food sovereignty and examines the TPP's likely impacts on food and agriculture in Japan, the latest country to join negotiations.

TPP and the Dismantling of Japanese Agriculture

By Ayumi Kinezuka

According to the Buddhist concept of “shindo-fuji,” a healthy body comes from healthy soil, so one must appreciate the environment one lives in. Japan has a strong food movement, rooted in shindo-fuji, promoting local production and consumption.

However, agricultural imports have been on the rise since World War II, severely undermining Japanese food production: in 1965, Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate was 73 percent, but by 2010, it had dropped to 39 percent. Japanese food self-sufficiency—now one of the lowest among OECD countries—is often explained as merely the result of changes in dietary preferences. Often missing in this discussion, however, is the tremendous pressure the US applied on Japan to accept surpluses of wheat, soybeans and corn following WWII.

The traditional Japanese diet—rice combined with locally produced vegetables and fish—constituted one of the biggest barriers to post-war US imports. To open up a market for US food products, Japanese diets had to change to include bread, meat and dairy products. Through the US-funded “Nutrition Improvement Action” program, people were told, “Eating rice makes you stupid! Eat Bread!” School lunch menus were westernized and “American Trains” and “Kitchen Cars” crisscrossed the country to promote a western diet.

Today, Japanese people consume 9.5 percent more wheat, 152 percent more animal products and 131 percent more fat than in the 1950s. According to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAFF), TPP would drop food self-sufficiency from 39 to 14 percent. Rice production would be hit severely. This could destroy Japanese agriculture and its rural culture.

Additionally, important land reform laws passed in the 1940s and 50s that safeguard farmers’ right to land have come under attack. Under pressure from the private sector, the government passed a revised land law in June 2009 cancelling the principle of “land to the tiller,” allowing non-farmers to own farmland and foreign capital to lease farmland. Deregulation under TPP would grant foreign investors further influence over national policies that protect farmers, farmland and rural communities.

The opposition against TPP in Japan encompasses a wide range of groups from progressive to conservative forces such as the Japan Agriculture and Fishery Organization, the Japan Medical Association and others. As much as 94 percent of prefectural assemblies and 80 percent of local city assemblies have passed resolutions against TPP. In Hokkaido, the opposition encompasses almost all groups and organizations in the prefecture, including the finance community.

Of the 13 political parties, seven are opposed to TPP and only one party is vocal about its support to TPP. Opposition transcends traditional political divisions, demonstrating that a broad political coalition against TPP is possible. To do that, we must increase international solidarity among farmers, citizens’ groups and local communities. The farmers of Japan hope to build strong alliances with groups and farmers in other TPP negotiating countries to stop corporate interests from destroying our agriculture and eroding our work for food sovereignty.

Ayumi Kinezuka is a young organic farmer in Shizuoka Prefecture. She studied psychology and sociology at UC Berkeley before returning home to carry on her family's tea farm.

She wrote this article for the Summer 2013 (Volume 19, No. 2) edition of Food First Backgrounder: "The Trans-Pacific Partnership: A Threat to Democracy and Food Sovereignty."  Food First Backgrounder is published by the Institute for Food and Development Policy, an Oakland-based think tank.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

World Food Sovereignty Day • Soil and Peace Festival @Hibiya Park, Tokyo - Oct. 20, 2013

soil and peace festival 2013

Today is the international family farmer movement Via Campesina's World Food Sovereignty Day; and this weekend, Japanese organic family farmers and their supporters will join in a celebration of the best of visionary Japanese (organic, recycling, nuclear-free, GMO-free, fair-trade, Slow Life, satoyama, Tohoku-supporting) culture.

Via the Consumers Union of Japan:
There will be a Soil and Peace Festival in Hibiya Park, Tokyo, on Sunday October 20, 2013. Starting at 10:00 hundreds of farmers and activists and artists will hold a great event until the evening.

A great opportunity to meet your favourite NGOs and learn more about organic food, anti-nuclear campaigns and the future of Japan. Look forward to lots of inspiration! Music by Kato Tokiko and many others throughout the day, starting with a taiko performance by Gocco.

Website with more info (J) here.

Monday, October 14, 2013

40,000 rally in Tokyo for a nuclear-free and war-free Japan (and World); Global Article 9 gathering in Osaka

(Via Jacinta Hin and Beautiful Energy)

Good Morning world! Today is NO NUKES DAY in Tokyo, the day of the big demonstration. Many people from all over Japan coming together in protest to ask for a nuclear-free Japan.

If you're in Tokyo, JOIN, be seen, be heard, make a difference!

If you cannot join in person, be with all of us in spirit and heart.

To get you in the mood, we have the perfect song for you. Talented musician Natsu of our Beautiful Energy core group, has created a NO NUKES version of a famous pop song. Listen to her beautiful voice and soulful NO NUKES, BABY and be connected with us today!
At the end of September, nuclear-free supporters held two rallies after TEPCO asked for permission to restart TEPCO on Friday asked Japan's nuclear watchdog for permission to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

Since September 15, all of Japan's nuclear plants have been in shut-down for maintenance.

Also over the weekend, the Global Article Nine Campaign held 
its second international conference  supporting a (nuclear-free) world without war:  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Is it safe for any of Fukushima's 160,000 nuclear refugees to return to home?

A Tamura resident used to harvest organic fruit from her orchard. 
Her house was decontaminated; her orchard was not. 
Authorities say it is ‘out of category’ – it does not fit  the categories  in the decontamination plan.
(Greenpeace: Fukushima's Returning Residents 2013)

Is it possible to decontaminate irradiated areas around the (still unstable) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and make them safely inhabitable again? 

In March 2011, a series of hydrogen explosions amid nuclear meltdowns (not acknowledged by the Japanese government until June 2011) at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant resulted in sudden evacuations of residents who lived  in communities around the plant.  

The first evacuation zones were simply concentrically drawn around the plant complex.  

March 11, March 12, and March 15, 2011 revised evacuation zones. (Image:

However when it was realized that radiation was not dispersing concentrically around the plant, but deviated because of winds, and gathering in hot spots (as far south as metropolitan Tokyo), the evacuation map was redrawn.  Iitate, a farming village 40 km northwest of the nuclear plant, showed  higher much higher radiation readings than some places adjacent to the plant.  The hot spots were created where snow, rain, and dust delivered radiation to the ground. 

Revised evacuation zone on April 11th, 2011. (Image: Wikipedia)

The evacuation zone, altered several times since 3/11, now includes eleven towns and extends up to 45 km (northwest) from the nuclear meltdowns. It is divided into three categories: a "no-return zone" (above 50 mSv of radiation dose per year); "no-residence zone" (above 20 mSv of radiation dose per year); and "zones being prepared for lift of evacuation order."

In the "no-residence zone," residents will be allowed to  enter the areas and return to their homes on a temporary basis, but they cannot stay overnight.  In "zones being prepared for lift of evacuation order," residents will be allowed to visit and to reopen stores or engage in farming.

In April 2012, the towns of Tamura, Kawauchi, and Minamisoma were reclassified. Tamura (10 miles west of the nuclear plant) was redesignated as being prepared for lift of evacuation order.  Kawauchi (15 miles west) was redesignated as two areas: a "No-residence zone" and a zone being prepared for lift of evacuation order.   And Minamisoma (16 miles north) was reclassified into three zones.

In July 2012, Iitate was also reclassified into three zones. Decontamination work was scheduled for houses, but not farmland.  Not surprisingly, since most of the former inhabitants were farmers,  Iitate remained a "ghost town" by December  2012.  Only a nursing home housed permanent residents (who had opted out of the April 2011 mass evacuation).

Despite the lifting of the evacuation order, running water, electricity, sewage systems and other infrastructure were not restored and hospitals and schools remain closed.  Proprietors of small businesses dependent on ruined local economies had lost their livelihoods. Except for decontamination projects, there is little employment available.  

In December 2012, Minamisoma  remained partly deserted.  Of the 70,000 residents (outside the exclusion zone) who voluntarily evacuated; one third have not returned.  Many in Minamisoma who did not voluntarily evacuate told filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash (In the Grey Zone, A2-B-C) that they could not afford to leave without economic assistance.

 In July 2013, authorities announced the preparation of resumption of utilities in Tamura, to ready for the return of residents. 

Greenpeace has questioned the feasibility of safe return, citing radiation monitoring that reveals inconsistent decontamination in Tamura: 
A recent Greenpeace survey found that decontamination programs have been effective for houses and many parts of major routes in the city.

But some lesser-used public roads, large areas of farmland and mountain areas still have high contamination levels, said Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace radiation protection adviser.

He said the cleaned houses and roads were like “islands” and “corridors” in an otherwise polluted region.

It would be “unrealistic” to ask residents to stay off contaminated roads and farmland, he said.

“They can be exposed to high levels of radiation” if they returned home, he said...

“It requires enormous dedication to reduce radiation levels on roads, on houses and farmland,” he said.

But Vande Putte added that radiation levels around houses have been “significantly lowered” after decontamination work.

Residents should be given adequate information before deciding whether to return to their homes, he said, and government financial assistance should continue regardless of their decision on going back.

Contaminated soil in temporary storage (plastic bags) in Tamura; long-term storage hasn’t been worked out. 
17,800 tons of contaminated soil and leaves remain in plastic bags piled along streets and in fields.

Authorities also plan to reopen Katsurao, Namie, Kawamata, Tomioka, and the no-go parts of Iiate,  although the evacuation order will continue through 2016 and 2017.  Most of the 83,000 nuclear refugees from these highly irradiated towns within the 20-km exclusion zone now doubt they will ever be able or want to return.

David McNeill and Miguel Quintana explore issues related to the ambitious decontamination and repopulation plan  in "Mission Impossible. What Future Fukushima?"  (ミッション・インポッシブル 福島に未来は ) published at The Asia-Pacific Journal.

At the top of concerns: uncertainty; contradictory monitoring reports; conflicts regarding what constitutes "safe" radiation limits; and how to deal with massive collections of irradiated soil and debris:
Nobody knows for certain how dangerous the radiation is.

Radiation levels in most areas of Fukushima have dropped by around 40 percent since the disaster began, according to central government estimates, but those figures are widely disbelieved. Official monitoring posts almost invariably give lower readings than hand-held Geiger counters, the result of a deliberate strategy of misinformation, say critics.

The disagreement over real radiation levels is far from academic. Local municipalities are desperate for evacuees to return and must decide on what basis, in terms of exposure to radiation, evacuation orders will be lifted. If they unilaterally declare their areas safe, evacuees could be forced to choose between returning home and losing vital monthly compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), operator of the ruined Daiichi complex.

For the refugees, a worrying precedent has already been set in the municipality of Date, which lies outside the most contaminated areas. In December 2012, the local government lifted a “special evacuation” order imposed on 129 households because of a hotspot, arguing that radiation doses had fallen below 20 millisieverts per year (20 mSv/yr). Three months later the residents lost the $1000 a month they were receiving from Tepco for “psychological stress.”

...The Fukushima cleanup, however, faces another, perhaps insurmountable challenge: securing sites to store contaminated soil, leaves and sludge. Many landowners balk at hosting “interim” dumps – in principle for three years – until the central government builds a mid-term storage facility. Local governments throughout Japan have refused to accept the toxic waste, meaning it will probably stay in Fukushima for good. The waste is stored under blue tarpaulins across much of the prefecture, sometimes close to schools and homes.

This irradiated soil and leaf storage site is in Naraha. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Alone in the Zone: Naoto Matsumura, caretaker of hundreds of animals in evacuated Tomioka, Fukushima

Alone in the Zone (原発20キロ圏内に生きる男)
via filmmakers Jeffrey Jousan and Ivan Kovac for VICE Japan 

Naoto Matsumura and his elder parents lived on a rice farm in Tomioka, a coastal town in Fukushima prefecture, known for having one of the longest cherry blossom tunnels in Japan.

After hearing the hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, eight miles away from their home, the Matsumuras  attempted to evacuate. However, they were turned away from a relative in Iwaki, a coastal town in southern Fukushima prefecture.  She feared they had been radioactively contaminated.  Afterwards, they were turned away from a shelter because it was full.

So they returned to their home, where his parents stayed until his mother became ill in April 2011. She then moved  to her daughter's home in Shizuoka where there was no room for the Matsumura's animals.  Therefore, Naoto Matsumura decided to stay—to take care of them.

He told filmmakers Jeffrey Jousan and Ivan Kovac that he gradually took on the task of caring for cattle, pigs, cats, dogs, and an ostrich (the sole survivor of a flock of 30 birds) throughout Tomioka, all left behind by owners who were initially told the evacuation would be temporary and short-term: 
Our dogs didn’t get fed for the first few days. When I did eventually feed them, the neighbors’ dogs started going crazy. I went over to check on them and found that they were all still tied up.

Everyone in town left thinking they would be back home in a week or so, I guess. From then on, I fed all the cats and dogs every day. They couldn’t stand the wait, so they’d all gather around barking up a storm as soon as they heard my truck. Everywhere I went there was always barking. Like, ‘we’re thirsty’ or, ‘we don’t have any food.’ So I just kept making the rounds.
Over a thousand cattle and hundreds of thousands of caged chickens died from starvation in Tomioka. Then on May 12, 2011, the Kan administration ordered the euthanasia of surviving cattle. But a bright spot for animal survivors was that Japanese authorities have allowed Matsumura to remain to care for animals since the return of the town's other 15,000 residents is unlikely.

(Left) A dog that survived trapped inside a cattle barn for a year and a half after 3/11 by eating the dead flesh of the starved cattle was rescued by Matsumura in the summer of 2012.  Naoto named the dog Kiseki (“Miracle”) because his hair eventually grew back. (Right) Kiseki, approximately two months after being rescued.
(Photo: Jeffrey Jousan and Ivan Kovac, VICE Japan )

Matsumura now spends six to seven hours a day feeding animals with supplies donated by support groups, before going to bed at around 7 p.m. He uses a solar panel to power his computer and cell phone and a kerosene heater and charcoal heated kosatsu (quilt-covered table) to keep warm during cold months. 

In the film, he describes Tomioka's idyllic past: 
Tomioka may be a small town, but it’s rich in nature. You’ve got the rivers, the ocean, and the mountains nearby. You can swim in the ocean, fish in the rivers, and go pick wild vegetables in the mountains. Except now we can't do any of that.
Filmmakers Jeffrey Jousan and Ivan Kovac share their motivation for making this film:
This is more than just the story of one man standing up to the government. Naoto Matsumura makes up the best inside each of us. We send him our emotional support and want the world to remember the sacrifice he is making for the animals and for his beliefs. In an age of social media, one man's story can easily be lost.

It is our goal that this doesn't happen to Naoto Matsumura. We hope you will feel the same way and join us to in showing our appreciation to this unique and courageous man. Naoto-San deserves much more than his 15 minutes of fame.
Background on Naoto Matsumura

警戒区域に生きる ~松村直登の闘い~ (Living in the Evacuation Zone ~ Naoto Matsumura's Struggle ~)  (Website of Naoto Matsumura's NPO)

Naoto Matsumura, Guardian of Fukushima's Animals  (Facebook page dedicated to Naoto Matsumura)

"The Most Radioactive Man on Earth Has the Kindest Heart (Julia Whitty, Mother Jones, March 12, 2013)

"Living Alone in the Fukushima Evacuation Zone"  (Tomo Kosuga, Vice, March, 2012) 

"Naoto Matsumura, Japanese Rice Farmer, Refuses To Leave Fukushima Nuclear Zone: (Eric Talmadge, AP via HuffPost, Aug. 31, 2011) 

Updates on Animals in Fukushima:

Animal Friends Niigata on FB

More Background on Animals in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone:

"Keigo Sakamoto cares for 500 animals inside the Fukushima Exclusion Zone" (TTT post, Oct. 8, 2013) 

"PROMETHEUS TRAP/ The disaster and animals: Woman repeatedly rescued pets in the Fukushima off-limits zone" (Article 8 of an investigative series by Misuzu Tsukue, Asahi, May 8, 2013)

"The Lost Pets of Fukushima: Photos" (, Dec. 12, 2012)


Towns evacuated around Fukushima on April 11th, 2011. (Image: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Keigo Sakamoto cares for 500 animals inside the Fukushima Exclusion Zone

In September 2013, Keigo Sakamoto,  holds his dog, Atom. A farmer in Naraha, a town of previously 8,000 in Futaba district, Sakomoto refused to leave his home inside the exclusion zone.  He remained to care for  500 animals that owners were forced to leave behind when ordered to evacuate their homes and farms.  

On March 11, 2011, the Japanese government began what was believed to be a temporary evacuation of residents who lived in the area surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.  On March 12, and again, on March 15, the evacuation was expanded in size after several hydrogen explosions at the plant's reactors.  The evacuation zone, altered several times since 3/12, now includes eleven towns and extends up to 45 km from the nuclear meltdowns.

Hundreds of thousands of these evacuees were forced to leave behind many thousands of animals.

Initially the severity of the nuclear disaster was downplayed, leading residents to believe that their evacuation would be short-term and temporary. Thinking they could come back and get them soon afterwards, many evacuees left pets and farm animals with enough food and water for a few days.

Others did not want to leave beloved pets behind, even for a few days, and tried to bring their pets with them, but temporary shelters in Fukushima prefecture did not provide for pets until a "Pet Village" was open three months later,  in June, 2011. Faced without any other options, many refugees kept their pets inside their cars parked outside of temporary shelters; some even chose to stay inside their cars with their pets. (Niigata Prefecture, which accepted 10,000 nuclear refugees, had established a system to care for pets from the start.)

Animals left behind included dogs tied in backyards, cats in locked homes, and farm animals confined in barns and pens, without the opportunity to escape to forage for food and water.

Animal welfare groups scrambling  to feed and save animals throughout Tohoku's earthquake and tsunami-hit area also tended to and rescued animals within the overlapping nuclear exclusion zone for the first few weeks of the evacuation. However, their animal rescues were impeded when Tokyo enacted a strict “Do Not Enter” policy on April 22, 2011.

Animal Friends Niigata, HEART Tokushima, the Japan Cat Network (based in Shiga Prefecture, near Kyoto), and Animal Rescue Kansai (ArkBark) were some of the animal welfare groups that joined to form Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support (JEARS) to support shelters caring for animals  affected by both the natural and nuclear disasters.(JEARS suspended its Facebook page in February of this year, directing animal supporters to member groups that are still actively caring for Fukushima rescue animals.)

Yoko Mieko, who lost four of her twelve cats during the disaster started a campaign for the rescue and care of animals left behind.  She regularly went into the exclusion zone to feed and rescue animals. On June 30, 2011, the cram school teacher issued a video plea, "Cry from Fukushima: Help animals around the nuclear plant" on YouTube.

Some individuals and animal welfare groups sneaked into the zone to attempt to feed and save animals. 1,500 dogs and cats were rescued the first six months.

Nine months later, when the severity of the nuclear meltdowns became undeniable, and  the public realized that the temporary evacuation order would not be lifted  as they were initially led to believe, the Japanese government gave into pleas from rescue groups asking that they be allowed to save any surviving animals from freezing to death during the winter. 16 humane groups were permitted to enter the zone from Dec. 7 to Dec. 27, 2011 where they were able to rescue some animals among the thousands they found starving, ill, and dead.

The United Kennel Club Japan (UKC Japan), was one of the groups that helped in this highly publicized rescue of hundreds of animals. UKC Japan is now caring for many of these animals at its shelter in Tokyo.

After some disturbing film footage of the rescue was aired on television, the Japanese government decided to refuse animal rescuers further entry into the zone, going so far as arresting Hiroshi and Leo Hoshi on Jan. 28, 2012, for not heeding the no-entry order.  The Hoshi family, at their own expense, had rescued over 200 animals.  The Hachiko Animal Federation is sponsoring a petition asking for their release, with the plea to Chief Prosecutor Toru Sakai, that such a release on humanitarian grounds would be just in that there was no criminal intent; the Hoshis were simply unable to witness suffering animals and do nothing.

The compassionate and heroic work of Keigo Sakamoto (and that of others who also stayed to care for animals left behind; residents who regularly visit their former homes to care for animals; Japanese and international animal welfare groups; and countless individuals in Japan and around the world supporting the humane treatment of natural and nuclear disaster animal victims) are some of the jagged silver lining stories of post-3/11 Japan.

On June 8, 2011, Keigo Sakamoto holds two of his dogs in the front yard of his house. Sakamoto lost his livelihood as an egg farmer, but was allowed to remain in the exclusion zone to care for animals.  


Animal Friends Niigata on FB

Some Background: 

"Alone in the Zone: Naoto Matsumura, caretaker of hundreds of animals in evacuated Tomioka, Fukushima" (TTT, Oct. 10, 2013)

"PROMETHEUS TRAP/ The disaster and animals: Woman repeatedly rescued pets in the Fukushima off-limits zone" (Article 8 of an investigative series by Misuzu Tsukue, Asahi, May 8, 2013)

"PROMETHEUS TRAP/ The disaster and animals: Pets forgotten in the mass evacuation" (Article 3 of an investigative series by Misuzu Tsukue, Asahi, April 26, 2013)

"The Lost Pets of Fukushima: Photos" (, Dec. 12, 2012)

"Yasusuke Ota: The Abandoned Animals of Fukushima"
(Aesthetica Magazine, Oct. 3, 2012)

"Fukushima's rebel farmers refuse to abandon livestock: Small band of renegades make regular trips to nuclear evacuation zone to feed cattle, in defiance of government orders" (Justin McCurry, The Guardian, Feb. 28, 2012)

"Fukushima pets in no-go zone face harsh winter" (photo slide show of animal rescue, featuring United Kennel Club Japan (UKC Japan) ) (Reuters, Jan. 31, 2012)

"Fukushima's animals abandoned and left to die" (Kyung Lah, CNN, Jan. 26, 2012)

"Activist Hiroshi Hoshi defies fallout to pluck animals from Fukushima dead zone" (Rick Wallace, The Australian, June 27, 2011)

"Thousands of Animals Left to Die Around Fukushima" (, June 9, 2011)

"Welfare groups race to rescue Japan's abandoned animals" (Mark Tutton, CNN, March 17, 2011)


Towns evacuated around Fukushima on April 11th, 2011. (Image: Wikipedia)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Damir Sagoji: "Broken Lives of Fukushima" • Japan's nuclear refugees "in limbo"

Mieko Okubo poses with a portrait of her father-in-law Fumio Okubo in the room where he committed suicide. His old jacket hangs on the wall. Fumio, a 102-year-old farmer, hanged himself in the house where he had lived for all of his life after authorities ordered the town of Iitate be evacuated following the nuclear disaster at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant. 

Mieko, who lives outside the exclusion zone, comes back every other day to feed Fumio's dog and clean the house. She says he committed suicide because he could not stand the idea of ending his life anywhere else.  
(Text and Photo: Damir Sagoji)

See all of Sagoji's powerful documentary photographs of some of Japan's largely forgotten 160,000 nuclear refugees (from the 30-km+ exclusion zone) here (NBC News online).


NYT's Martin Fackler's report on 83,000 nuclear refugees (from the 20-km exclusion zone)  around Fukushima Daiichi , takes the reader through the evacuated town of Namie. The Japanese government says these towns will be decontaminated enough by 2017 to allow the return of former residents, but many are skeptical:
Two and a half years after the plant belched plumes of radioactive materials over northeast Japan, the almost 83,000 nuclear refugees evacuated from the worst-hit areas are still unable to go home. Some have moved on, reluctantly, but tens of thousands remain in a legal and emotional limbo while the government holds out hope that they can one day return.

As they wait, many are growing bitter. Most have supported the official goal of decontaminating the towns so that people can return to homes that some families inhabited for generations. Now they suspect the government knows that the unprecedented cleanup will take years, if not decades longer than promised, as a growing chorus of independent experts have warned, but will not admit it for fear of dooming plans to restart Japan’s other nuclear plants.

That has left the people of Namie and many of the 10 other evacuated towns with few good choices. They can continue to live in cramped temporary housing and collect relatively meager monthly compensation from the government. Or they can try to build a new life elsewhere, a near impossibility for many unless the government admits defeat and fully compensates them for their lost homes and livelihoods.

“The national government orders us to go back, but then orders us to just wait and wait,” said Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of this town of 20,000 people that was hastily evacuated when explosions began to rock the plant. “The bureaucrats want to avoid taking responsibility for everything that has happened, and we commoners pay the price.”
Fukushima evacuation zone in April 2011.
 83,000 nuclear refugees were evacuated from the 20-km exclusion zone.
At present, the entire nuclear refugee population is over 160,000.
 (Image: Wikipedia)