Chie Morita / from Maebashi Gunma

It took a year from 3.11. It was first time that I felt a year such long, but also such short.

I took shelter from Maebashi city in Gunma prefecture to Sapporo in the end of June, 2011. As I look back, it seemed as if I was in a gray world before I took shelter a little less than four months ago. Information became complicated. I couldn’t judge what is right in the chaotic world. I was scared in anxiety, and I was working on PC lonely day after day. As I went out from my house, nothing is strange as usual. Radiation, the nuclear power plant after the accident…I was mentally cornered in the mood where I couldn’t say “I’m scared.” More and more I hated myself…

On the other hand, what was the color of the world after I took shelter to Hokkaido? Metaphorically speaking…dazzling white. Or, it might be rainbow color. Vivid and beautiful seven colors.

I took shelter to Sapporo where I didn’t have any friends and relations, but I was in cheerful days more than I imagined. It was lucky that I moved in a housing complex where victims of the earthquake gathered around. I’m physically challenged person who have several chronic sicknesses, and I went through the operation of uterine cancer just before going to Sapporo. So it was even reckless for me to take shelter to unfamiliar place with little child without my husband. However, mentally damaged people were closely supporting each other there. Especially, the mothers who took shelter with children could meddle with each other. When I or my children became sick, they presented stuffs for us. I soon made friends who can take care of my children. As they did for us, I did my best for such good friends.

Above all, I was so free there that I could say “I’m scared” about what I felt scary. And, how joyful I felt for doing ordinary things! Things like opening window and bathing in sunlight, breathing fresh air without wearing mask, and caring nothing about my children playing outside! I laughed and cried every day while I thanked and was impressed for such natural things.

Moreover, I was surprised at great care and hearty supporting from Sapporo and Hokkaido. Especially, I don’t know how I was supported by civic groups such as “Musubiba” and “W0elcome to Attakaido” both mentally and economically. I saw valuable activities that men worked on for men, but it was not patronizing. I wonder if it is disposition of people in Hokkaido. And the existence of the evacuees group “Michinoku-kai” was big for me. At first I was just supported from it, but half a year later from taking shelter, I could act myself as a member of Michinoku-kai.

Of course, our living after taking shelter in Sapporo was not easy. However, I got “treasures” in exchange for our hard time. After I and children lived in Hokkaido for four months, my husband quit his job and came to us. It is not easy to find a job, but I don’t regret about our decision. I’m proud of us that I acted to put our life and health before job and money.

Our living supported by mu husband’s income will be severe. I cannot work because of my handicap. My children may suffer from our poor living. But I believe that when they understand the meaning of our decision, they will forgive us. Even though they will not, I’ll be confident and say to them “I thought your health were most precious. This is how your mother live!”

I couldn’t stop writing this now because I have too many things that I want to write, or I have to.

I deeply thank to every people who met in Hokkaido. People in the housing complex, neighbors, the doctor and staffs in the hospital in front of our house, people of Musubiba and Michinoku-kai, workers in the Hokkaido government office, people in Hokkaido including Sapporo, and…

Thanks to everyone, I, husband, and children are living now. I can look forward. We want to bow and say to them with loud voice, “Thank you!”

Sayaka Miyake / from Mito Ibaraki

According to Obunsha Japanese Dictionary, shuki means “to note one’s experience or impression. Notation.” I want to forget about things happened after the earthquake, but now I think I should note them. It’s just a list of notations, but I should note them not to forget.

Earthquake and Afterwards

I felt shaking starting in rest room in the junior high school I worked at. I was looking my face through the mirror, and then I noticed unusual rumbling of the ground. The shaking was terrible and long. I was panicked and rush out to the corridor.

I stuck on wall of the corridor on which window glasses lined up. I knew it’s dangerous to be near window glasses, but I couldn’t move to anywhere. The moment the shaking stopped, I was relieved that window glasses weren’t broken up. Then one science teacher was running around at courtyard of the school as he shouted again and again. “Go out from the building! Big aftershock must come!” He rushed into the teacher’s room.

I fled to the playground. Many students cried while squatting down. We felt successive aftershocks in playground. It was cold. School stuffs couldn’t decide to send students to their home.

Some students who knew I had four children said to me, “Teacher, are your children all right? Where are they now? ” as they feared aftershocks. In such situation, They worried about other’s children. I was deeply impressed.

Because the principal told me to go home, I got in my car before sunset. But there was an enormous traffic jam. Traffic lights were out of use. It usually took for thirty minutes to my son’s elementary school, but at that time it took for three or four hours. I thought it was really good to fill up gasoline the day before.

In the way to the school, I saw broken houses, torii of shrine. The broken outer walls spread around like destroyed toy blocks. I had a digital camera unexpectedly. Since there was a traffic jam and I drove slowly, I took many pictures of outside. “It was serious affair”, I thought.

I could see the all faces of my family members in my husband’s parents’ home in front of the elementary school. The strong relief I felt at that time was really strong so that I had never felt before.

It took few hours from the earthquake until I could identify my husband and four children’s safety. But I felt it was surprisingly long time. I thought we needed cell phone especially in such a situation, but I learned that it is no use carrying it.

Fear of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident

I knew that the nuclear power plant appeared to be in danger, and most of my friends from overseas had already gone abroad. Mothers close to me ― especially who related to medical jobs ― suddenly moved to west or south areas with their children.

In such situation, my office seems to have mood that it is natural to work. I felt somewhat out of place. One morning, when I went to the office, I saw papers put on all stuff’s desks. They words “Don’t be confused by wrong information!” were printed on the paper.

Right after the accident, my husband appealed again and again that at least I and children should take shelter to somewhere as soon as possible. But I hesitated to make decision while hearing reaction of surroundings. The surroundings never talked about radiation.

In such situation, he kept warning and said, “Don’t be drenched with rain” “Foods must be dangerous after the accident.”

“The least you must search something about the problem!” He scolded me. By his words, I finally started to search information. The more I searched about the accident, the more strongly I doubt danger of the influence of that. I and he talked night after night about how it influenced on children’s future, and what we should do ahead.

I couldn’t have forgotten how precious foods, water, and electricity were, but after they were supplied again, we gradually get back our ordinary living as one before the earthquake.

My children had been getting nose bleeds in the morning for days.. I heard from the teacher of their nursery school that the number of children who got a nosebleed had increased there.

I requested their elementary and nursery schools to stop making them drink milk of school lunch.

When the children practiced for the field day in the play ground where dusts risen, I was looking at them with pale face.

When I temporary took shelter to Hokkaido in summer vacation, people there greeted us with open arms. They were so warmhearted that I cried in the way to go back to Mito.

After we decided to take shelter to Hokkaido, I became anxious forcibly about the living with four children without my husband in snowy country.

After Going to Hokkaido

I was surprised at great care for refugees of the earthquake in Hokkaido. I could feel existence of the people coming there who have same feeling with us. I closely felt mind of sympathy and supporting each other.

I can think of the earthquake positively that it was good opportunity I could replace all of my sense of values.

When I think about what the most important thing is, I can see what I really need.

Now I can think that my life is full.

I’m worrying about how I tell my mind of thanks to the people supporting us.

Anonymity / from Date Fukushima

When the earthquake happened, our family lived in Date city, Fukushima. It influenced house only on waterline stopped, so it was minor than other victims who damaged terribly. I thought we can restore our ordinary life gradually.

However, the situation changed immediately after the explosion of Fukushima nuclear power plant. Pictures of the explosion on TV, telops of increasing amount of radiation, information from the government that urged on us, the words broadcasted on TV like “It is safe after the explosion. Don’t worry, act calmly.” I searched how each embassies in Japan and US armies acted to avoid radiation, and I worried what to do as a parent of five-month baby. Finally, I decided to take shelter to as far as possible not to be influenced by radiation.

Fortunately, I have my uncle and aunt in Hokkaido. I called them and explained the situation in Fukushima, and I told them that I didn’t want to regret at remaining in Fukushima. Then they prepared to accept us immediately, and we went out from Fukushima right after the explosion. But at that time, seats of airplanes were full, general people couldn’t drive on Tohoku Expressway for transportation of supporting stuffs. So we didn’t have any choice except driving to Aomori with making detour, and then get on ferry for Hokkaido. I was driving on snowy ways with smile not to make my wife and child anxious, but actually I was so anxious. I wonder if my five- month child could finish this long journey safely, and if gasoline of my car was enough because we had to wait for long time to get it in Tohoku. I intended to arrive at Aomori and get on ferry at the night of that day. But I was in the center of Akita at the evening because of the way that I didn’t usually drive with a snowstorm. I had to go across a mountain next, but surface of road was frozen. It was unclear whether we could arrive at Aomori.

In such situation, I found one store opened, so entered to ask the way. As I explained the situation, the clerk said, “You don’t have to be hasty because you drove far enough. I call a hotel near here now, so you can stay there.” Hearing these words with Akita dialect which made us heartwarming, I thought “Yeah, I don’t have to be hasty.” The strain I had been under was relieved. If I didn’t enter the store and hear the words, I might have been overstrained and the result was not good. We had enough rest, and then next day we arrived at Hokkaido safely. As I saw self gas station opened in peace, I was impressed.

In Hokkaido, I went the rounds of many stores to bring back supporting stuffs to my company. As I explain the situation to clerks, they gave some goods that were limited in damaged area to me comfortably. Also When I apply for driving on Tohoku Express to transport supporting stuffs to Fukushima, I could be allowed to drive on highway. In a service area, I met members of Japanese Army who went to support from Hokkaido to Miyagi. They told me “You must be hard, but we can do it.” In the way to Fukushima, I reminded what happened from the accident while I was listening music on radio. Many people who I met supported us with hearty words. As I looked back their kindness, I couldn’t thank them enough. My eyes were filled with tears.

Now, I, my wife, and our child have moved to Hokkaido. I suffered from many things to make this decision. I and my wife had to quit our job. I thought that I couldn’t meet many people such as my family and friends in minutes. Above of all, I had to leave my hometown, Fukushima where I had been familiar with. Even so, I thought about influence from the accident, and put our child’s health before anything, I chose the way to make a fresh start in Hokkaido. My parents and my wife’s parents allowed our decision without unpleasant attitude, said “Take care.” My superiors and associates got me off, said “Be sure to come back here.” My friends held farewell party for us, and got me off with saying “Let’s gather around and drink together again.”

The day we went to Hokkaido, we took picture with my wife’s family. My mother got us off with crying. The accident robbed my ordinary life where I had walked with many people in Fukushima. To get back such ordinary life someday, I will walk foward step by step.

Machiko Yoshizumi / from Sendai Miyagi

I finished my lunch, and I waited my daughter to come back home as usual. Then, “the time” came….

My cell phone was started ringing in my pocket. It was earthquake early warming alarm. At the same time, TV and refrigerator started shaking and moving forward, and dishes on the kitchen counter I had washed fell down on the floor with loud clashing noise. The music I was listening to stopped playing for no reason), all of lights in the room went out, and the room heater was went off. Hearing all the noises that the windows are making, I was really horrified thinking that they can shatter anytime soon. When I noticed, I prayed under the dining table. “Please, please do no t kill me…” Not to make my daughter sad when she came back from kindergarten. Not to make my son sad when he came back from elementary school. Not to make the man who loves me sad. Now I say again, it was really horrified.

My mobile couldn’t catch anyone. I couldn’t know their safety for days. Aftershocks happened frequently. In the days, electricity, gas line, and waterline stopped, I couldn’t get gasoline, and couldn’t even buy enough foods. In such a situation, one friend worked hard in rescue team in the front line. I’m proud of him. A red sheet which means “dangerous” was pasted on another friend’s house. Then, explosion of the nuclear power plant…our living changed completely.

My awareness changed positively in many ways, and I noticed many things. I thought it was natural to be with things and people I cherish. However, being with them was not natural but actually precious. Before the earthquake, I lived ordinarily, calmly, so I was so happy enough. When I was laughing, crying, fighting and making up with precious people. When I said, “I love you” to people who I love. Those are actually so precious time. We as human beings forget stuffs right away, but we must never forget that day…never.

In the situation that various information of radiation got complicated, my family decided to get help of my brother to take shelter. I didn’t have enough time to say goodbye to my loving hometown where I had grown up, and my friends. It was my decision, but I felt absurd. “I wished the explosion had been just a dream…” I though again and again. I knew what my friends feel, those who couldn’t leave there even though they wanted to. I felt guilty to leave them behind, but still I came to northern land, Hokkaido, with complex feeling.

But my anxiety had changed into hope. I met a lot of people through the group of evacuees, “Michinoku-kai”. Thanks to it, I could live there as a citizen of Sapporo for only a few months. I met many people who supported us, and fortunately this relationship has lasted even now. It is fact that I lost many things, but also that I got many. Because our life is only once, it’s mottainai and unproductive that we keep grieving for long time. If you become brave and make action by yourself, your sight will surely change. I can now think that I want to keep sending my voice as one of the victims.

To protect children’s future, to pass the “life baton”, what can we do “now”? What can we learn “now”? I will not forget these in everyday life, and I want to walk forward future with thank to what I’m living.

What is “living”? I wish my feeling of thank reaches to a lot of people who accepted us. And, please don’t forget. Please know the existence of a lot of people not only who suffered in the past, but also who are suffering now. Please do not say “Good luck!” to us. Please have feeling like “Let’s bear up together!”

And if you can, I want you to nestle up to someone with your hands holding. Don’t think yourself as powerless person, and be unconcerned about the problem. It happens in “Japan”, where you are living… Let’s create our future. It is in our hands.

Anonymity / from Iwaki Fukushima

What I just desire now is “to know the truth”. I want government to measure which and how places and foods were polluted, and to disclose them. Then, I will measure whether they are safe or not.

I do not need unclear words anymore like “Radiation will not influence on your health immediately.” Even though the facts are horrifying, I won’t be panicked. I will accept them. I loved Japan. But now, I cannot believe it.

Hokkaido is great. People in Hokkaido are kind, and do well for us. Now, I’m living in anxious days because I cannot expect the future. But I will try to live toughly with thanks to everyone.

Kazunori Ueno / from Fukushima

I had worked as a staff in Citizen’s Radioactivity Measurement Station in Fukushima from June to end of October last year. I had worked food measurement.

From that day, everything had changed. I was driving near Mt.Shinobu at 14:46 on March 11, 2011. As I heard emergent information from mobile, I stopped a car beside road. I couldn’t even get down from the car because of hard shaking. Traffic lights went out and water overflowed from burst water pipelines.

I was born in Noda town in Fukushima. It was detached house. At the time of the earthquake, I was living in an apartment house in Ara town in Fukushima with my wife, daughter and son. In the detached house in Noda town, my mother was living alone (my father died 17 years ago). My older sister was living in Sendai, and younger sister was living inside Fukushima city.

After I graduated technical college, I took over parents’ book store. However, it was out of business after 5 years. After that, I worked at various factories as a temporary staff. I became a semi-employee at Toshiba, but I was dismissed because of low achievement in end of March.

I couldn’t get retirement allowance because I was just a semi-employee. Right after the earthquake, I was searching new job while I spent paid-holiday.

In aftershock of the quake, I was on the way to my apartment house without traffic lights. My wife and manager of the apartment ―she was my real mother― stood outside. At once I went to my daughter’s elementary school to bring her back, and my wife went to my son’s preschool to pick up him by car.

At that night, the manager checked whether inhabitants are safe or not in manager’s room. Since the prefectural office of Fukushima was in front of our house, emergent cars were driving backward and forward along the street. At midnight, lights were retrieved. Emergent alarms didn’t stop ringing around prefectural office of Fukushima. The water tank on the top of our apartment house was out of control. I was fighting with it alone, but I didn’t know how I could stop it. I finally gave up controlling it, and about 70% of the rooms were sodden with its water.

From next day, I was living in parents’ house without water and gas for about 10 days with my mother, older sister, younger sister and her husband, wife and two children. Of course, we were living with bare gasoline and foods. I worked to collect water. After I secured water for my families in the morning, I helped getting water for nursing home and receiving supporting supplies as a volunteer staff at city hall in Fukushima. At that time, Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant was exploded. The maximum radiological dosage was 24 μSv/h. I didn’t have any knowledge about radioactivity. I didn’t even know where Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant was, much less about electrical power supply to Kanto area.

Never did I dream I became a victim by just being outside.

From that time, I was searching for information about radioactivity on my mobile. I played outside and went shopping with my children, but I was half in doubt. Schools started in April, but children couldn’t play on schoolyard, and they had to wear masks. It seemed to be strange, but anyway it was dairy life. I was trained for new job to get qualifications. I pretended not to see agitations on the Internet.

In the end of April, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced that playgrounds were available if the radiological dosage was less than 3.8μSv/h. I didn’t have much knowledge about radioactivity, but I thought that I couldn’t accept the announcement.

On May 2nd, I participated in demonstration of civic movement with my children for the first time. It was secret for my wife. Because I had been completely irrelevant to civic movement, I got nervous about claims and banners. People around us were also unconcerned with the movement. It was the first time that I met “Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation.”

In the end of May, I went to Tokyo to claim for withdrawal of the announcement by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology that the amount of radiation of 20mSv/h in a year is safe. I was glad to found a lot of people who agree with us. I told about it to my wife with exciting, but she wasn’t interested in it.

In June, I retired the vocational training. Then I went to Wakkanai to search job in other prefectures that allow me to work with children.

At that time, people in Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation talked about the problem of internal exposure. I decided to disclose my radiation value on media in order to inform public about the problem. I hoped people to talk about it. As a result, my value of Cs137 was 120Bq/kg. The doctor told that I was actually exposed to radiation, but it was not so high as compared with workers in nuclear power plants.

I completely couldn’t understand this explanation of the value at that time.

In the end of June, I went to the office of Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation for the first time, and talked with Mr. Iwata. He was well-informed about radiation. From that day, I started to learn about radiation after I took my son to preschool. Then I picked up my son, my wife came to home, and after that I went out again for food measurement and learning about PC ― I didn’t have PC so I couldn’t use it ―with Mr. Iwata.

In July, my wife appreciated the danger of radiation, but she didn’t have idea to abandon her apartment house, human relations and job.

I wanted to let children to play outside for the time being. I met a supporting group that acted in Hokkaido in summer camp. Then I went to Hokkaido with my father and children from the end of July to August. I really appreciate it.

By measuring food, I sufficiently experienced how badly Fukushima was polluted.

In August, Mr. Iwata went to Belarus with Ms. Marumori, and they asked me to go with them. I hesitated whether I went there with my children, but I finally gave up since I didn’t have passport. After I came back from camp in Hokkaido, I helped the movement to establish a radioactivity measurement station in Fukushima. I worked as not core member but supporting staff because Ms. Marumori told me to do so in order not to disturb my job hunting.

In September, I learned about whole body counter system and food measurement. As I actually experienced the machine, I was amazed with wonderful performance and high radiation value of hoods in Fukushima.

In October, the Citizen’s Radioactivity Measurement Station was established. I was worried about the future because the unemployment insurance nearly expired. At that time, my wife abandoned things in Fukushima. She decided to go to Mie with me to find my job. Mie is 800 distance from my home.

However, I gave up going to Mie because of severe requirement. I sent my resume to a company in Hokkaido, but nothing had been heard.

At last, I decided to live in Hokkaido because it had good supporting systems for victims of earthquake, and Mr. Shishido, I met in the negotiation with Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, lived in Hokkaido. I searched new job. I decided to work hard on any kind of job, even agricultural work and part time job. 3 days before I moved to Hokkaido, I heard that one company in Hokkaido decided to employ me as semi-employee with good treatment. I cried.

From October 36th, I became one of citizens of Sapporo!! Thanks!!

Anonymity / from Koriyama Fukushima

I really remember vividly what happened on the day, March 11th, 2011. When I look back on the day, it impresses me how calmly I handled accidents. I could behave like that because my son existed, I guess.

On that day, I and my son was watching DVD in our room on the second floor. I think my mother stayed in next room on the second floor. When the first quake started, we joked each other about the quake during shaking.

However, the quake became bigger and bigger. “We must go out now!!” My mother shouted. By that word, I felt danger instinctively. We run down stairs, and observed the situation in front of the door of entrance. The earthquake occurred one after another, and we were hard to keep standing. It shook our house, dog, and us. Stuffs inside the house were falling down with large sound. It was moment I prepared death. I just held my son desperately. “I must protect him”, I thought.

At long last, the quake stopped. We walked around our house. We found rubbles on the road, and people mainly seniors cleared stuffs scattered around. Before the disaster, I had managed a cram school near my house. Though I worried about aftershocks, I decided to go there. On the way to the school, I saw broken fence, cracked road, and stuffs I’ve never seen before. One girl burst into tears. When I arrived on the classroom, its glasses were broken so terribly that children would not learn there. After that, the days started when we were under the control of shortage of supplies and large amount of different information.

During shaking, I was thinking calmly about how we live in future while I realized importance of the disaster. I moved to get lifelines like waterline, gas line and electricity, but it was too late. All of drinking water bottles including those in vending machines had already sold out. I went through day after day by getting well-water from acquaintances of my mother, by collecting information about sale of supermarket on the Internet like blogs, mixi, Twitter and so on.

Since aftershocks continued, I decided to sleep for 4 hours in daytime, and I devoted other time to exchanging information with the students of my school, collecting information including the accident of nuclear plant in Fukushima. Such days didn’t continue long time like other disaster areas. It seemed to recover daily life, and I restarted my cram school in my house because the classroom was still in danger by aftershocks.

However, I concerned about not only aftershocks but also the accident of nuclear plant in Fukushima. Everyone seems to worry about its late and inaccurate information. Some victims fled into outside of Fukushima, and various guesses appeared on the Internet. Since my work concerned to the future of children, I worked hard to collect information about the accident as a teacher, and as father of my son. The information was also shared with students and their parents.

In that process, I watched a movie of Taro Yamamoto on the Internet. I showed it to everybody I know. This movie made me think deeply about living with my son in future. I weighed two things in the balance; staying in the place that might not be safe, social responsibility as a company.

As a result, I shared my opinion and information I found with students and their parents, I decided to flee into outside of Fukushima voluntarily. It means that I gave up managing my company and teaching students until examination. These two things became a big cross that presses heavily upon me. On the other hand, my son can play outside with smile. It makes me so happy. I’m sorry for students, but it had no other choice to protect my son. Our living is still unstable and my dog was taken care of by the volunteers. However, I will work hard to overcome the disaster, and show myself to the local friend and people in Hokkaido as one of the people from Fukushima.