JAPAN SIX MONTHS ON - DIARY 1: Memories and an uncertain future

Publié: 7 septembre 2011 11:31 CET

By Francis Markus in Yabuki, Fukushima Prefecture

Mrs Yamada lights a short stick of incense and plants it in a bowl in front of the photograph of her late husband and the stone spirit tablet, which is Japanese people’s traditional way of remembering the dead. 

I can see in this simple action the charge of emotion in this tiny 76-year-old woman, who was widowed in December last year.

As if that wasn’t enough, she then had to leave her home with her family in March this year after the government declared a 20 kilometre exclusion zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. The family’s home in Namie was squarely inside the forbidden area.

“I was glad that we could pay a temporary visit back to our house in early August so I could retrieve the photo and the spirit tablet, and I could go and lay fresh flowers on his grave,” she says.

We are talking in one of the rooms of the family’s prefabricated temporary house in a community on the outskirts of the town of Yabuki, about 60 kilometres west of the Fukushima plant. On the low table where Mr. Yamada’s photo stands is a bowl with three grapefruit and standing on the floor, a celadon vase of fresh flowers. On the wall of the prefabricated house several water colours of fruit and flowers have been taped.

Not Worried about Radiation

Sitting with us are her daughter, Ayako, and 23-year-old grandson Takaaki, who was working in the Fukushima plant at the time of the disaster. “I haven’t had a radiation check, but several of my mates went for one and the results were not too bad, so I’m not really worried,” He says. His mother is more worried.

When I ask her if she thinks they will be able to go back, she says: “Half of me wants to, but half of me knows that we can’t.” As to where they will go if they’re unable to return home, she says: “We can’t think about that now. We will think about it if it comes to that.”

What Takaaki is more worried about right now is trying to find a job. The family has been here since late May and he says he’s not choosy. “Any job would be OK as long as it brings in some income.”

Red Cross Helps

The family has received cash grants from the Japanese Red Cross Society, distributed by the local government. Their temporary home is also equipped with domestic appliances – a package comprised of a refrigerator, washing machine, TV, hot water dispenser and rice cooker and microwave – all provided by the Red Cross. For now, they are as comfortable as the circumstances allow. But they face an uncertain future.

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