The Fourth Winter of Fukushima

Feans (CC BY 2.0)

Feans (CC BY 2.0)

Alexis Dudden writes at Foreign Policy in Focus:

“No, nothing. I have nothing planned for New Year’s. Nothing at all. No one is coming.” A shy, round-faced woman spat these words like darts into the protective mask she wore. Moments earlier she had been laughing happily together with several other former residents of the small town of Tomioka as they reminisced about a friend they all knew. She quickly became raw, however, when asked about the coming holidays.

Tomioka counted 15,839 residents before the March 11, 2011 nightmare of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear explosion began. All but one person has left — Matsumura Naoto, the now well-known rice farmer who refuses to abandon his family’s fifth-generation farm.

Confusion and despair among the others is common, a state of existence that government officials bewilderingly made even worse on March 25, 2013 when they divided the roughly 25-square-mile seaside spot into three zones: never to return, return for short periods, and in preparation to return. Government-sponsored scientists determined such divisions here and in other areas near the nuclear plant based on so-called acceptable annual dosage rates. Such designations may make surreal sense in scientific terms. In daily life, however, it means streets separated down the middle, one side “safe” while houses around the corner are condemned for tens of thousands of years to come.

All involved understand that the official designations are of critical significance in terms of compensation. If your property was anywhere but “never to return” you won’t be paid for much longer. Less appreciated is how such nuances taken together are playing out among those on the verge of their fourth winter in limbo.

Read more here.