The reason why I visited Fukushima this summer was that I wanted to see persons living in Fukushima, each of whom has their own name, life, background, and story beyond just as a symbol of “disaster victims.” Through interactions with them, I wanted to make friendships and weave own map of Fukushima prefecture, which grasp specific and various picture of the area, beyond a symbolic place “FUKUSHIMA,” damaged by the nuclear disaster.
As was introduced at the page of 2013 Program, I, Yuhei Suzuki, was in Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture, which is at north of Fukushima prefecture, another disaster area, and worked with local persons, especially women in fishermen villages in Oshika Peninsula after the disaster until August 2012 (Two projects: a local accessory bland “OCICA” and food store “Boppora Shokudo.” Pictures are below, and I introduced them a few times in NY and at my blog – 3.11 Symposium introducation and Video of my speech there).
They, women in Ishinomaki, told us they wanted to work by themselves and do something for others, not just receiving help and donation as “victims.” I entered the area and worked with them for job creation and community recovery, but as a result, I was also empowered by them through the projects. Our relationships had become far beyond a relationships between “helpers” and “victims,” but more mutual and individual ones, and we didn’t thought we were “helping” the “disaster area.” Rather each of us just sought and did what each of us can do and enjoyed our ordinary, usual (but precious) days. At this point, I felt we human can go beyond simple dichotomy and categorization that divide us into “we” and “they.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit Fukushima before coming to NY and participate in this program. Thus, for me, Fukushima area was still in a fog covered by a vague symbolized image of “FUKUSHIMA,” though I was convinced there must be more diverse reality. That’s why I participated this program.
As I had a time this summer, I stayed in Fukushima for 3 weeks, not only for this 1-week Nishimiya Fellows Program, and visited a lot of friends and local persons. After this travel, for me now, the word “Fukushima” mainly refers to Fukushima-city, more specific area in Fukushima prefecture, and is less and less connected to the symbolized image of disaster area “FUKUSHIMA.” Fukushima prefecture is large, and has various places with rich culture and history that I know about now such as Fukushima, Minami-soma, Futaba, Iwaki, Koriyama, Aizu, Iitate etc.
During the program, I studied about disaster medicine and radiation related biology and epidemiology, and visited local places. There works lots of power and gravity that divide apart people and community: gradation of radiation contamination level, and politically, economically and administratively decided lines that define criteria for evacuation & habitation and eligibility for compensation. Some of those who previously lived together in the same community were forced to be separated. Different levels of anxiety and risk assessment about radiation of each person sometimes result into conflict between friends, couples, and families. Different living condition and compensation level led envy and angry between those who evacuated from the area near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and those who live in areas that received such evacuees. I met several persons who confess their stress and complaint. Actually, Fukushima prefecture has different and heavy problems from other disaster areas.
However, even though such factors function to divided people, there are still lots of people who struggle to build common ground for dialogue beyond different positions and beliefs and to create decent future. Meeting such persons enlightened and empowered me again, and now I have a small but strong belief and dream toward the future. On this blog, showing contents of Nishimiya Fellows Program, I will introduce you several episodes of person and places that I visited and met during this travel. Hope you would have compassion with my friends in Fukushima beyond the sea.