Friday, October 14, 2011

Must Read: Asahi Shinbun "Trap of Prometheus" Series Part 1 - Men in Protective Clothing (1) "Why Are You Here? Flee!"

(Installment 1, Installments 2 and 3, Installments 4 and 5, Installment 6, Installments 7 and 8, Installments 9 and 10, Installments 11 and 12)

Asahi Shinbun print version (including digital print) has started a series called "Trap of Prometheus (プロメテウスの罠)" - comparing nuclear energy to the mythical fire that the Greek god gave to humans. The first installment of Part 1 "Men in Protective Clothing" was published on October 3, 2011. The series is written by the Asahi Shinbun journalist Motoyuki Maeda.

It is an astonishing read. Part 1 "Men in Protective Clothing" deals with 25 people in Namie-machi in Fukushima Prefecture, where no information about the seriousness of the plant accident reached, and where many evacuees from within 10 kilometers radius from the plant sheltered. There are 12 installments for the Part 1 so far.

Tsushima District of Namie-machi in the article is about 30 kilometers northwest of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, considered very safe from radiation. The government and the experts who appeared on TV right after the accident were all saying "The further you evacuate from the plant the safer it gets, and there is no worry for people outside the 10 kilometer radius".

It looks Asahi, after nearly 7 months after the accident, finally feels guilty enough to report the truth for a change.

The following is my quick private translation of the 1st installment of Part 1, as it appeared in Asahi Shinbun digital version on October 3, 2011. It deals with March 12 night in Tsushima District in Namie-machi.



Men in Protective Clothing (1)


Tsushima District in Namie-machi, Fukushima Prefecture lies in the mountains about 30 kilometers northwest of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.


On March 12, one day after the nuclear accident, 10,000 people fled from the coastal area within the 10 kilometer radius from the plant to Tsushima District. Elementary school, middle school, community center, temples were used to house them, but there were not enough public shelters. People were housed in private residences in the district.


Mizue Kanno (age 59) welcomed these evacuees at her home all day. By nightfall there were 25 people. Most of them were her relatives and acquaintances, but some were total strangers.


Her home is a newly built home after demolishing the 180-year-old house. It has a large gate, and the compound is large. It has a big room with 20 tatami mats [32.4 square meters, or 349 square feet]. Quite ideal for accepting evacuees. Soon, inside the gate, the yard was full of evacuees' cars.


"I don't know what happened at the nuke plant, but we should be OK here". People looked relieved, at least for now.


Mizue cooked 7 cups of rice in each of the two pressure cooker she had. The supper for the evacuees was rice balls and miso soup with pork and vegetables. The evacuees, with only the clothes they happened to wear when they fled, gathered in the big room and ate supper.


After supper, people introduced themselves, and decided on the community rule.


- To avoid clogging up the toilet, toilet paper should be discarded in the paper box next to the toilet.


- Everyone helps in cooking and laying out the dishes


- Let's not be too shy.


The evacuees were to sleep in two rooms in the house. Mizue rounded up all the futons there were in the house for the evacuees.


Then, Mizue stepped outside and noticed there was a white wagon parked in front of her house. There were two men in white protective gear in the wagon, and they shouted at her. But she couldn't hear well.

 「何? どうしたの?」

"What? What is it?"


Mizue asked.

 「なんでこんな所にいるんだ! 頼む、逃げてくれ」

"Why do you remain here? Please, we beg, flee."


Mizue was shocked.


"Flee? But this is a shelter."


Two men came out of the wagon. Both were wearing gas masks.


"Radioactive materials are spreading." They spoke seriously and urgently.


In front of her house was the Route 114, lined with cars of people who couldn't find shelters. Two men shouted at people who were stepping out of their cars, "Get back inside the car quick!"


Two men then drove away toward Fukushima City. They didn't go to the town office branch or post a warning on the message board.


The national government said it was safe outside the 10-kilometer radius. Then why were these two men wearing the protective clothes and gas masks? Who were they anyway?


Mizue didn't know the answers. But she hurried back inside the house, and told the evacuees what the men just told her. (Reported by Motoyuki Maeda)



According to the Greek mythology, Prometheus gave fire to humans.


By obtaining fire, humans developed civilizations. Fire from fossil fuel increased the productivity. Then, humans obtained fire from nuclear energy. It was dubbed as "dream energy". But there was a pitfall.


Humans, who obtained civilization by Prometheus fire, are troubled by the nuclear fire. This series will consider the nation, the people, and the electricity in the backdrop of the failure of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.



"Trap of Prometheus" series will be written over the next several months. The 1st in the series "Men in Protective Clothes" will have over 10 installments. In the series, names will be listed without honorifics.


(Translation for the 2nd and 3rd installments are on this post.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the translation. I am very interested in how people will deal with this crisis intellectually and emotionally, but my Japanese is too basic to read this easily.

The idea of artistic "coping" gives me some hope that it is possible to survive even the unimaginable.

shusse said...

Thanks for the translation!

Anonymous said...

I'm greatly impressed with the story. ==Elena==

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they were officials but then thinking on it they could have been thieves, alarming people to abandon their homes so that they could help themselves to the content. Possible? After all they did not go on to post any notices or go to the town hall..... Just an idea.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

I posted the translation for 2nd and 3rd installments.

Anonymous said...

...Men in Protective Clothing (1) - Thks.

psst. Hidden Message: "It WAS ... only in Japan"

Forget the
- Californian Men in Protective clothing around municipal water... keep going, nothin to see here!
- How it goes, 1986: Strontium in Japan, EU, US, Asia ... from Pripyat, means that...
- Melted Reactor cores ARE open, filling the skies through TEPCOTheater


Anonymous said...

Anonymous @14:40AM

I don't think it is easy and cheap to get a Dupont radioactive-proof clothing and a gas mask, much less for two.

Don't be delusional, please.

Anonymous said...

I don't quite understand.... Is this a true story or fiction?

Anonymous said...

>"I don't think it is easy and cheap to get a Dupont radioactive-proof clothing and a gas mask"

Tivek suits are ~$5-10 each. Nothing to do with being "radioactive-proof" as far as I know. Just a matter of keeping radiation off of one's body. They're not difficult to obtain. On short notice, maybe, but no- they're used in many industries every single day.

Gas masks? Maybe a little harder, but something one might be able to find at a Don Quixote in any medium to large-sized Japanese city.

Anonymous said...

It certainly is not a fiction!!
It's a documentary report by a journalist of Asahi newspaper, entitled "the Trap of Prometheus." The report is ongoing and revealing to us a lot of facts which have been untold until now.

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