Monday, October 24, 2011

Must Read: Asahi Shinbun "Trap of Prometheus" Series Part 1 - Men in Protective Clothing (9, 10) "500 Microsieverts/Hr Radiation"

(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's series "Trap of Prometheus" - Men in Protective Clothing documents what happened in Namie-machi in Fukushima Prefecture right after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.

In these 9th and 10th installments, the Namie-machi residents learn all too late that the radiation levels of their area were extremely high (in hundreds of microsieverts/hour) but the authorities (police, Self Defense Force, etc.) did not tell them because the government told them not to reveal.

If you read Japanese, you can read all installments (1-12) in one location, at this blog.

Even if the series is written by a reporter at a major Japanese newspaper, not many Japanese are aware of it, which, after the initial launch, was buried in the 3rd page of the printed version.

"To be buried in the 3rd page" is symbolic in the context of the history of Japanese newspapers. Traditionally, particularly before the newspapers were beefed up with many pages, the articles that appeared in "the 3rd page" of a newspaper was considered "insignificant" - with "significant" or "important" articles being politics (1st page) and economics (2nd page). The "3rd page" was filled with "other" articles - crimes, corruption, sex, gossips, and articles that the newspaper editors didn't want to attract much attention from the public. The newspaper would fulfill its social obligation of reporting the news but the news is "buried in the 3rd page" so as not to attract too much attention.

That's where this series appears in Asahi Shinbun, I was told.


Men in Protective Clothing (9)


It's been 55 years since Yasuko Sanpei (age 77) married and moved from the neighboring Iitate-mura. She lived in Akogi District of Namie-machi. She and Mizue Kanno were members of a "minyo" [traditional Japanese folk music] singing circle.


Yasuko lived in her home at the end of a narrow mountain road all by herself, until the beginning of August.


Right after the earthquake, she and her eldest daughter and the daughter's son moved to a 1-room (plus dining and kitchen) apartment of her granddaughter in Kanagawa Prefecture.


However, you could hear the noise of the next-door neighbors, and you would have to be careful not to offend people around you [in a big city]. "I cannot adjust to city living at my age." She went back to Akogi at the end of April. She wanted to take care of her dog and her cat, too.


Around that time, there were still a few families remaining in the district. But one family left, then another, and finally there was none. When the police started to control traffic at around 30 kilometers [from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant], there was no car passing through the district.


She felt lonely. There was no light. No matter how she tried not to think about things, her hands shook, and she couldn't eat much.


She went for a ride in her car to relax. But on the way back from the drive she saw dark houses with no light. If her car fell off the cliff in the mountain, no one would come to rescue her. She became afraid of driving.


On Sundays, men in work clothes with "Ministry of Education and Science" on the back came to measure the radiation. Every time when their car came, Yasuko would go out and ask "How much is it today?"


"15 microsieverts/hour", answered the man.


"Can you measure my house?"


On another Sunday, the man measured around her house. 10 microsieverts/hour outside the house, 5.5 microsieverts/hour in her living room. They far exceeded the normal level.


The man wrote down the number on a piece of paper and handed it to Yasuko.


On one Sunday in early June, the man told Yasuko unexpectedly.


"It was over 100 microsieverts/hour here, in the beginning. I couldn't tell you at that time. I am sorry."


Afterwards, the man gave Yasuko the map that had radiation levels in various locations for her reference.


However, Yasuko ended up stayin Akogi until early August.


"You can't see radiation. Besides, I didn't know what the numbers meant."


She left Akogi in early August when she was selected for the temporary housing in Nihonmatsu City.


But she still commutes to her home by car, 25 kilometers from Nihonmatsu, every 2 days.


To feed her dog and her cat.

(前田基行) (Reporting by Motoyuki Maeda)



Men in Protective Clothing (10) Policeman who was told to be quiet


Kazuyo Sekiba (age 52) moved to her relative's house in Aizu Wakamatsu City on March 14. Her house was in Minami Tsushima in Namie-machi, close to Mizue Kanno's house.


But since there was no formal instruction to evacuate, she came back home on April 2. Several days later, a Self Defense Force jeep stopped in front of her house, and a SDF soldier alighted from the jeep. He said he came to make sure the residents were safe.


Around that time, it was being reported that the radiation level in Namie-machi was high. Worried, she asked the soldier nervously.


"What is the radiation level around here?" The solder smiled brightly, and answered it was all right.


"We are fitted with dosimeter. We know how much radiation we get every day." Kazuyo was relieved. She stopped staying indoors all the time, and went about in the neighborhood.


April 17. When she was on the bridge near her house, a man approached her. He was Naomi Toyoda (age 55), a freelance journalist. Kazuyo asked him if he could measure the radiation at her house. Toyoda started to measure at various locations at her house.


After he measured the level under the rain gutter at the front entrance, Toyoda stood up in surprise, shouting "Oh my goodness!"


Kazuyo begged the hesitant Toyoda. "Please tell me the truth."


"If you stay here for 2 hours, you will get 1 millisievert", answered Toyoda.


According to Toyoda, the radiation level was over 500 microsieverts/hour. If one remained there for 2 hours, he/she would get more than 1 millisievert which was the annual radiation exposure limit set by the government.


On hearing the actual number for the first time, Kazuyo realized this was a big deal. She hastily packed her belongings and fled the house as Toyoda saw her off.


Several days later, she came back to get her cat. A police patrol car came in.


"So the radiation was high here, wasn't it?" She tried to draw information out of the policeman who looked in his 30s.


"Yes it was. But we couldn't tell you because the government told us not to."


The policeman answered.


Kazuyo was shocked. Then what was it that the SDF soldier had told her?


"Would he have said the same thing to his family members? No. He would have made them escape as soon as possible. But us, we are just strangers, I guess."


In July, the Chinese government was found hiding the evidence of the high-speed rail accident. The Japanese media heavily criticized the response by the Chinese government. Kazuyo was angry.


"It's the same thing in Japan."

(前田基行) (Reporting by Motoyuki Maeda)


It's the same thing, or worse in Japan, for the pretense that what they have is so-called "democracy".


Ise said...

Thank you Laprimavera, facts are already becoming pieces of literature, they will be read as that in the near future, as I remember reading first-hand accounts on the atomic bombs which deeply impressed me. However, these are happening now, and they just show how disgraceful is the government better than any accusation or petition, or demonstration.
I hope these reports will be circulated among a wider audience.
And yes, it is worse in Japan, as it will be the model for any "democracy", that is for most countries in the Western world. Then, we have been cheated not only on the scale of the disaster, but also on the very meaning of democracy and 'developed' country...but we already knew it at the bottom of our consciousness. Next step will be how to face this truth.

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