SURVIVING JAPAN- Chris Noland’s Tryst with Volunteering and Documentary Making After Fukushima

Surviving Japan
Surviving Japan is a documentary by volunteer and director Chris Noland. It is in short, a documentary of the events in Japan after the tsunami as a catalyst to inspire the world to push for renewable Energy to avoid the cataclysmic future we will face if we continue to ignore these problems.The documentary shows the humanitarian and aid crisis that faced the people in the wake of both natural and man-made disaster. That the continuance of using finite resources will only produce limited results for a limited number, leaving the rest of the world out of the equation

Experience after the disaster.

I had moved to Japan because of what I had heard about community and how people took care of each other. The low crime and social health care system, it seemed like Japan took care of its people better than where I came from, the United States, where medical care was pricing people out of their homes. However the disaster showed me a different side of this. Week by Week month by month as I volunteered I saw the social system of Japan to be different as did some of the victims and a government that left their people out in the cold information wise and to starve days after the tsunami.

When the incident occurred at Fukushima after the tsunami, I was living in Tokyo. There was little information about the real risk to us, only weak explanations of how the power plants worked and what supposedly went wrong. There was no mention that the meltdown had occurred until later on when the inspectors came to the plant, only then did the Japanese Government divulge that all had melted down within days of the explosion.

After becoming a volunteer in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima disasters in april, I experienced a great disconnect from the people and their Government. I decided to make this film myself after meeting a lady who received no aid from the Government for 2 months. I made this film through several volunteer trips to the Tohoku area. Gathering interviews from the Mayor of Minami Soma, whose city resided partially in the exclusion zone, the Disaster Management office in Miyagi prefecture, and even Tokyo Electric Power, there seemed to be a lot of missing information not only to the people but even to the cities in the disaster areas.

During these months radiation hit our food supply. In particular the radioactive beef from Fukushima has been sold in stores all over Tokyo and the Yokohama School district had been accused of buying the beef due to its cheap price and feeding it to the school children. While the population still seemed to stay silent at large, you noticed that milk and dairy items disappeared from the refrigerators, so even though they were not opnely talking about it, you could tell they were thinking about it.

In July I met the Minami Soma city councilman Mr Ohyama, who explained to me his great concerns over people living and returning to Fukushima as the government wanted to reduce the exclusion zone. He told me how the power company executives infested the Government, that the mayor of minami Soma was spending over 1000 a day to bus children our of the exclusion zone to other schools to keep the families living there, Cause if the children and families go, so do the businesses and so do the towns, so he felt the children were being sacrificed. The information he gave to me made review what the Mayor had told me back in May, that the city was safe to return to, even though Mr Ohyama did not believe so. He also told me the Government does not want people to measure radiation for themselves and Japanese customs stopped 25,000 geiger counters from entering the country and that the city only had 200 some on hand and they did not show readins for things such as plutonium and the deadlier elements, that the method of testing was to bend the numbers so it looked like the radiation was decreasing.

After meeting him I visited another part of Fukushima Koriyama city. Much farther from the power plant by 80 kilometers I had heard rumors of children with nosebleeds and radiation illness symptoms. I met a mother who lived outside the city in the mountains who told me the radiation level was so high the children were not allowed to be outdoors during school for more than 3 hours a day. She said even though the radiation was 5.3 Usv per hour, the government and Tokyo electric power has refused to recognize this area as a diaster zone, her notion was because they did not want to compensate such a large population even though compensation was being given to those in the 30 km zone from the power plant, the radiation in her city was actually higher than that of minami-soma in the 30km zone. (measurements aken by myself and several independent sources)

In August Prime Minister Kan resigned to what I think was internal politcal pressure as he wanted Japan to go with more renewable energy, and the Government does not want this. They appointed a new Prime Minister Noda, that stated Japan could not just get rid of nuclear power, and stressed more Nuclear safety rather than abolishment.

On September 19th 2011, I followed one of the largest protests against Nuclear power since the Disaster. Over 60,000 people turned out to express they wanted a no-nuclear Japan. this event went almost untelevised as the Disaster in Japan has since only a week after the accident.

On September 24th it was reported that the hydrogen at 10,000 parts per million was detected at two points in reactor 1 pipe passing through the containment vessel. 10,000ppm is equal to 1 percent in air and liquid, it only takes air of 4 to 5 percent oxygen to cause an explosion…. Tokyo Electric Power has stated “there is no immediate danger” of course, they have lied about everything thus far, but since the Government and TEPCO will not release all the data of the accident until the end, we are left to sit in the dark wondering how much radioactivity could be dumped onto us again due to their mismanagement.

This experience has taught me a great deal of empathy for people in need, it has changed my life forever. I will never forget the kindness of the people I met in Tohoku, however in retrospect it made the people in Tokyo seem cold, and uncaring to their affected neighbors in the north. While me and many other people rushed to volunteer and aid, most of Tokyo was only concerned about Tokyo. Some Japanese companies even offered PAID volunteer leave, but I met one employee from England that stated she was the ONLY person to use it, no one else bothered to go up north to help their own people.

The stiuation in Japan is very dire. many face denial to several degrees about the accident. Some do not know what to do, some simply cannot afford to move away. My only opinion that I will strongly stand by as the disaster keeps unfolding is that the children and families in fukushima, in places like Koriyama City need to be evacuated and relocated. It is a crime to keep children in a radioactive zone only to keep business supported. I am in agrement with My Ohyama that it may take some kind of world intervention to save the children of Fukushima.

This nuclear accident is still a problem for the entire world as it pollutes the ocean and air. The Japanese Government has been criticized for its lax approach it fixing it. This accident should be a lesson to the world that we need to lesson our dependence on such energy, reduce our consumerism as this accident could happen anywhere is it is said the earthquake caused the initial damage to reactor one which melted down on March 11th that night only 7 hours after the tsunami. Places like New York city, with an aging nuclear plant at indian point, would be in the same exclusion zone as minami soma if an accident this large occured there. All radiation is dangerous, it is cumulative the more you are exposed the more it mutates your DNA and can cause health problems like thyroid cancer, genetic mutations and death. We have the technology to use clean energy. We the people need to demand that our governments use it as our health is more important than their corporate kickbacks that never trickle down to the people. People need to stand up to their governments, In Japan especially and the world over, otherwise this accident I have lived through could be your reality….

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