My present state (from KS in Fukushima)

Declaring that the Situation is Safe with No Clear Explanation Led to Anxiety

The explosions at the nuclear power plant right after 3.11 were a great shock to all of my family. The earthquake affected phone connectivity, but my father who lives away from us due to his work managed to contact us by phone. He told me, “Get your wife and child and run, right away!” I did not understand what he meant. I thought, “Why do we need to run, when the government is saying that it’s safe?”

We had a heated argument on the phone – It’s the only time I have been yelled at by my father since I became an adult. He said to me, “Look at the map!” Then I realized that the nuclear power plant was much closer to our home than I had thought. I realized how close it is to our home, although it felt so far away when I went there with my family in my childhood.

However, I could not convince myself to leave my mother and my grandparents behind. It is a natural thought because they are my family. But in reality, it was impossible — both of my grandparents are over 85 and they require nursing care. Evacuating could have made them ill, so we had to make a sad decision. They had to stay with my mother. When we were having this discussion, I saw my grandmother cry for the first time. Facing the reality that they could not evacuate, although they wanted to, left me feeling powerless. We packed our things with tears in our eyes.

My mother saw us off with a smile, telling me, “We have no regrets because we have lived long enough. We want you young people to stay healthy and live long. That will make us happy. You should do everything you can to protect your wife and child!” I have not forgotten how sad it was to see my mother shedding tears in the rear view mirror as we drove off.

After we arrived at our new apartment in a different town, we opened the boot of the car to find the food that I had originally brought to my parents’ house to give to my mother and grandparents after the earthquake, as well as the food from my parents’ house. My mother must have packed them for us.

I decided to write this blog article because I wanted people to know that even people who lived outside the evacuation zones found themselves in this surreal situation.

Our Health Problems / Neighboring People’s Reaction to the Contamination

My family members experienced health problems around three weeks after the nuclear disaster. My grandmother suffered a cerebral infarction caused by high blood pressure although she used to have low blood pressure. My grandfather, who insisted on eating budded leaf vegetables harvested from his contaminated kitchen garden, suffered from very bad diarrhea and lost weight rapidly. My mother’s voice became raspy just like a boy at puberty. I am not an expert and cannot tell if exposure to radiation directly caused these changes, but I was surprised to see my family members suddenly fall ill because before then they had not had any major diseases. I also felt weary and I felt light-headed for about a month after the explosions at the nuclear power plant.

After moving, it took me a while to get better and start thinking about what was going on. I started being concerned about radiation levels where we live.

I measured radiation levels around my parents’ house with a radiation counter that I managed to purchase. It measured between 1.2 and 45.0 μSv/hour outdoors depending on the area. The counter made a continuous noise from the speaker as radiation hit the detector tube. Despite the elevated radiation levels, the neighboring areas looked peaceful and life was going on as usual.

Food shortages, which were the main concern, gradually decreased while the aftershocks continued. However, the general public had no idea that enormous amounts of radiation were continuously hitting their bodies.

Individual people started “declaring that everything was safe” by themselves one after another without having any detailed knowledge of what was going on. My father was one of them.

When I was wondering what I (who evacuated leaving some of my family members behind) could do, I saw Safecast on the TV by chance. I wanted to help with their measurement activities.

Totally Changed Lifestyle

Our lifestyle completely changed while our family ties strengthened after the explosions at the nuclear power plant on March 12.

My family used to grow various vegetables in our kitchen garden and all the family members joined the “harvest festival” in the harvest season. We would hold various annual events using the harvested vegetables such as barbecues and a “pork miso soup party.” It was my father’s delight to send freshly harvested vegetables to his friends and acquaintances every year who would then call to thank him. However, after gardening for many years he had to stop this year. This is because a Geiger counter we borrowed from Safecast made a continuous noise, just like the snow on an analog TV, when we held the counter close to the garden soil. This told us that a lot of radioactive material fell on the garden. After hearing this sound, my father silently pulled up the vegetables that he had planted.

I later asked my father why he was not growing vegetables in the garden this year. He said that he could not have his garden vegetables checked for radioactivity because his vegetables are not for commercial use and it is unbearable to let his grandchild and other family members eat vegetables which have not been confirmed safe. He also told me that stopping growing vegetables all together is the best way to protect everyone because once he grows the vegetables, it would be very hard for him not to give them to people or eat them himself.

We used to take my child to my parents’ house often so that they can see how fast their grandchild is growing, but such chances decreased after the accident. My child began walking but we cannot let him walk around the garden of my parents’ home any more.

My father and I have just completed a large wooden deck and a sandbox which we were working on since last year. Sadly, they became hotspots (9600 cpm). My family has completely lost the outdoor part of our own home.

Sad Safecast Measurement

I was able to learn how to take measurements using a bGeigie (a Geiger counter in a bento-box) after receiving a brief explanation when I borrowed the device. Taking measurements is very easy. You attach the bGeigie to the side of your car, switch it on and then drive around. You then attach the data to an email and send it.

At first, I did not notice the situation in the areas I was driving around because I was more interested in this new measurement system. As I got used to using the device, I started to feel uncomfortable with what I was seeing.

While I had the radiation counter (that I bought) inside the car, the alarm kept going off, but children in front of me were sitting on the ground and enjoying fishing, elementary school students were running in the water in a roadside ditch as they played tag and a little child and mother were enjoying strolling around.

I did not know if that particular place was dangerous at the time, but the place was marked with red and brown when I later saw the Safecast measurement map (colors closer to red and brown indicate higher radiation levels). I realized that the general public does not know that a large amount of fallout came down on the area. It made me very sad and at the same time, I felt angry at myself because I could not solve any of these problems.

Although it is not glamorous work, I believe that our measurement efforts will contribute to a better future for our children.

曖昧な安全宣言からの不安
 311直後の原発爆発事故の家族全員のショックはかなり大きいものでした。
 震災の影響で電話のつながらない状態で、単身赴任中の父から突然電話があり、「子供と嫁を連れて直ぐに逃げろ!」と言われたとき、私は意味が分かりませんでした。国が安全だと言っているのに、なぜ逃げなければならないのだろうか?と思っていたからです。
 大人になってから、父に怒鳴られたことなどないのに、久々に激論をしながら「地図を見ろ!」と言われ見てみると、原発と自宅の直線距離が予想以上に近いことが分かりました。小さい頃に家族旅行で行った時は、あんなに遠く感じられたのに、今はすぐそこに原発があるではないか!と思いました。
 しかし、逃げるためには母や祖父母も一緒でなければ納得がいきませんでした。同じ家族なのですから当然です。現実的にはそれは無理で、祖父母はどちらも85歳を過ぎていたため介護が必要で、例え避難したとしても体調を崩してしまう恐れがあったため、母と一緒に残るしかないという悲しい決断しか残されていませんでした。そんな会話の中で、私は人生で初めて祖母の涙を目にしました。逃げたくても逃げれない現実を目の当たりにし、自分の無力さを改めて感じながら、家族全員で目に涙を浮かべて避難準備をしました。
 母は「私たちは十分生きてきたから、悔いは残らない。あんた達、若い人たちがこの先健康で長生きすることが励みになる。息子よ、嫁と子供は死んでも守りなさい!」と言って笑顔で見送ってくれました。車を発進させた直後に、バックミラー越しにあふれる涙を流しながら私たちを見送る母の姿が見えたときの悲しみは今でも忘れません。
 新しい町のアパートに到着後、車のトランクを開けると実家に救援物資で私が持っていった食料の他に、残り少ない実家の食料も積まれていました。母が積んでくれていたのでした。
 このような非現実的なことが、避難区域以外の場所でも起きていたことを少しでも多くの人々に知っていただきたいと思い、ブログに書く決心をしました。
健康の変化と周囲の人達の様子
 原発災害後、約3週間近くして家族に異変が起きました、低血圧で悩んでいた祖母が高血圧による脳梗塞で倒れ、家庭菜園の汚染された茎立ち菜を頑固に食べ続けた祖父が激しい下痢で急激に痩せてしまい、母はまるで声変わりしたようにガラガラ声になってしまったのです。私は専門家ではないため、被曝が直接的な原因なのかは分かりませんが、今まで病気になどならなかった家族が突然、体に変調が起こることが信じられませんでした。私自身も原発爆発から約1ヶ月間は体がだるく、ボーっとするような日々が続きました。
 引っ越ししてしばらくした後、ようやく体調も回復しいろいろ考えられるようになると、身の回りの放射線が気になるようになりました。
 やっとの思いで購入した放射線測定器で実家の放射線量を測定してみると、場所によっては毎時1.2~45.0マイクロシーベルトを超える場所が屋外で発見され、放射線が検知管に当たると同時に、スピーカーから出てくる音も絶え間ない連続音でした。このような状態にも関わらず、近所の生活風景はいつもと変わらない平和なものでした。
 余震は相変わらず続き、心配された食料も少しずつ回復するかたわら、おびただしい放射線が体に当たり続けていることは、普通の人には全く分からないというのが、現状でした。
 さらには、詳しい現状も分からずに個人的に安全宣言をしてしまう方々も続出し、私の父もその一人となりました。
 そんな中、避難してしまった自分に何ができるかを考えていた際、たまたまセーフキャスト(Safecast)の存在をテレビで放送しているのを見て自分も手伝いたいと考えました。
ライフスタイルの崩壊
 3月12日の原発爆発事故から私の家族の絆は強まった一方、ライフスタイルは完全に崩壊してしましました。
 私の家族は毎年、家庭菜園でいろいろな野菜を育て、収穫時期には全員で収穫祭を行い、とれた野菜でバーベキューや豚汁会など様々な年間行事を行ってきました。友人知人には毎年収穫した新鮮な野菜を宅急便で送り、感謝されることが父と私の喜びでした。しかし、今年は長年続けた家庭菜園を中止せざるを得ませんでした。なぜなら、Safecastからお借りしたカウンターを畑の土に近づけると、アナログテレビの砂嵐のように連続音が聞こえ、たくさんの放射性物質が降り注いでしまったことが分かったからです。父はこの音を耳にしたあと、畑に植えた野菜を無言でむしっていました。
 後に、なぜ今年は野菜を作らないのか?と父に尋ねると、個人野菜の測定はできないと断られたうえ、安全かどうか分からない野菜を作って孫や家族に食べさせることは耐えられないことだと、辛い胸の内を明かしてくれました。また、仮に作ってしまうと、愛着があるゆえにきっと人に譲ったり、自分でも食べてしまうかもしれないので、始めから作らない方が皆を大切にできる、最善の方法だとも話していました。
 度々実家へ帰り日々成長する子供の姿を見せに行く機会も減り、やっと歩き始めた我が子が実家の庭で走り回ることもできなくなりました。
 昨年から作り始めて、やっとの思いで父と作成させた、大きなウッドデッキと砂場が無残にも我が家のホットスポット(9600cpm)になってしまいました。私たち家族は自分の家にいながら、外の世界を全て失ってしまったのです。
悲しいSafecastの測定
 bガイギー(bGeigie:お弁当箱に入った放射線測定器)をSafecasstの方からお借りして簡単な説明を聞いた後、すぐに測定ができるようになりました。測定方法はとても簡単で、自分の車側面に測定器を取り付け、スイッチを入れてひたすら走るというもので、測定が終わったらメールでデータを送信します。
 初めのうちは、目新しい測定器が珍しく思えたため、周囲の状態があまり見えませんでしたが、だんだんと慣れてきた頃に普段と変わらぬ風景に違和感を覚えるようになりました。
 なぜなら、自前で購入した放射線測定器の警告アラームが車内でカリカリ、ピリピリと激しく鳴っているすぐ目の前で、子供たちは地面に座り釣りを楽しみ、小学生が鬼ごっこをしながら側溝の中をジャブジャブ走り、幼い子供が母と散歩を楽しんでいるのです。
 私にはその場所が危険であるかどうかは分かりませんでしたが、後からSafecastの測定マップを見ると赤や茶色の場所でした。(注:赤や茶色になるほど線量が高くなる。)私はその時、放射性物質がたくさん降ってきたことは、普通に暮らす一般人は知らない世界なのだと思わされ、とても悲しい気持ちになると同時に何も解決できない自分自身に憤りを感じました。
 決してかっこいいわけではありませんが、私たちの地道な測定アクションこそが今後の子供たちに対する明るい未来につながっていくのではないかといつも信じています。