Fukushima

Jul 20,2016

Five years after the earthquake, there's still a severe degree of damage that doesn't find its way into everyday conversation outside of Fukushima any more. One of my students informed me last night that this past weekend some students from the affected areas made a presentation at a local public hall, asking the rest of the nation 'not to forget'.

While it didn't occur to me that anyone could necessarily 'forget', it is apparent that the mainstream media don't report much about the lingering effects of the disaster, and haven't in a long time. The media, of course, don't exactly control what people think per se, but they do have an awfully big influence on what people think about.

Sometime between the earthquake and the big meltdown, people had ventured into the disaster area and back for reinforcements, only to be blocked by the arriving police and military barring people from entering. Considerable psychological trauma was generated from the stifling of people desperate to rescue people they knew. In some cases, the military put on their radiation suits and ventured in for reconnaisance; in other cases, apparently, they simply let people die. This is an interpretation, of course; I don't have any firsthand accounts of what was going on. I'm told the military were occupied with shuttling large numbers of victims to other areas for treatment and quarantine, with many of them dropping dead during the trip. In the surrounding areas, not a few localities refused to shelter the dispossessed, in fear of the radiation they carried.

The latest word is that outside of a thirteen-kilometre dead zone and a few radioactive hot spots, cleanup continues and life goes on as normally as can be expected considering the circumstances. Children go to school, and adults whose jobs are still intact still go to work every day. A large number of farmers and fishermen have lost their livelihood and subsequently their health; it seems to be a matter of debate whether the primary culprit in their incapacity was the radiation itself or the depression and sedentary lifestyle that came of being deprived of the only life they knew. Approximately 80 cases of thyroid cancer have been found in children in Fukushima, and the medical community can't come to an agreement about whether radiation exposure was the cause because they aren't testing for it at the rate they are in Fukushima.

There also isn't much checking of the fish caught in oceans and rivers, for example, or other food items like mushrooms in the surrounding prefectures. Most of us don't think about radiation anymore when we shop at the supermarket. Perhaps we should.

There's no particular insight here, but it's worth pointing out, once in a while, the extant degree of damage, lest the whole incident recede too far into the recesses of everyone's subconscious.

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