Wakayama Ladies Against Nukes: A Report

Summary of 11/19 ‘Wakayama Ladies Against Nukes’ Meeting: Ms. Nita’s evacuation to Wakayama from Fukushima & Dr. Yamazaki’s report

Cathy Iwane is a native of California, who has lived in Wakayama, Japan for 25 years. Ashtanga Yoga keeps Cathy vibrant & healthy; presently, she’s studying to become a yoga teacher.

The nuclear meltdown in Fukushima on 3/11 has propelled Cathy into nuclear activist mode attending protests, promoting petitions & translating developments into English/Japanese to educate the international community. She’s preparing to evacuate Japan with her two daughters and Japanese husband in the near future.

I attended our ‘Wakayama Ladies Against Nukes’ meeting on Saturday, 11/19. A woman, Nita-san, spoke of her trials and tribulations of evacuating to my prefecture (Wakayama) and of the real stories of her friends, some of whom remain in Fukushima. I cried. In Japan, there is ‘honne’=one’s deeply held truth and then there is ‘tatemae’=one’s outward ‘opinion’ (collectively understood as sometimes being borderline, ‘harmless’ white lies; all for the preservation of harmony) Please know that we are dealing with a culture of people that a) inside Fukushima, are completely unable to voice their ‘honne’, thus it is the job of us and those who have escaped to fight for them b) the elderly who remain in Fukushima are mostly there because they want to be…they want to die there; there is nothing for them elsewhere (as there is nothing for my parents-in-law in America, when I propose taking the whole Iwane clan with us to California) c) this is a battle of class warfare, the ‘haves’ have for the most part escaped- to varying degrees: i.e. sending a daughter to live in Tokyo to live w/relatives or renting an apartment outside of Fukushima to take the family on weekends to at least lessen radiation exposure; however, the ‘have nots’ remain: of this group, there are the mothers who force their kids to wear masks, long sleeves, pants with only 30 minutes of outside play…they apply for ‘decontamination services’ from government or private NPOs to cement over any small patch of garden or soil near their living space/ wash down, scrubbing their cars/homes/streets…but the contamination just flows down the road, ultimately eliciting complaints from neighbors who are on the receiving end of such radiation infested sludge.

The remaining ‘have nots’ have subscribed to the brainwashing that all is okay; their kids run in the streets without masks, playing soccer, etc; last summer, the municipal pool (outdoor, uncovered) was opened ‘only for those children that could get permission from their parents’….you have to understand that this is a culture of compliance; when 5 kids get permission, and your child is stressed out from living inside 24/7 in 90% humidity without air conditioning or open windows…the Japanese have a very hard time prohibiting their children from joining the group. (I have never understood this and thank my lucky stars that I am truly an outsider in this respect) d) this is a serious people who in the midst of 3/11 dutifully sent their children back to school after Spring break, come April; as well, the parents returned to work…business as usual. e) of these remaining ‘have nots’ or blissfully ignorant, the children had a terrible influenza outbreak in June, continue to have regular nose-bleeds, diarrhea, sore throats and ‘weird sensations’ in their mouths…the adults experience terrible lethargy (long naps during the day with no rejuvenation upon waking), many with ulcers….yet, when diagnosed at the hospital they are sent home with the usual rounds of antibiotics/other medications with nary a peep about what is causing all of this.

Dr. Yamazaki, a local doctor from Iwade, Wakayama, who has followed closely the events in Chernobyl and Fukushima, made two trips to Fukushima taking measurements of radiation exposure in public spaces, like parks. He noted that activists from outside of Fukushima have made an impact by going against the law and actually posting signs in parks, near city offices, etc., informing the people of the TRUE measurements. One example of this is a ‘public reading’ of 2.58 microseiverts/hr at a public office parking lot in Yamakiya town, inside Fukushima prefecture….yet Dr. Yamazaki shows us slideshows of measurements of a pile of decaying leaves in the same parking lot which measure 19.99 microseiverts/hr (Keep in mind that this geiger counter stops at 19.99 so he implemented a larger, more expensive, recently purchased device.) The results of an open soil, weed infested area bordering this same parking lot? 32 microseiverts/hour…pure insanity.

At the end of the meeting, there was Q & A. As is the usual scenario, I was the first to pose a question….everyone has questions galore but it takes a minute or 2 for people to get up the gall to express themselves even among hard-core, fellow activists/doctors/researchers. I asked Ms. Nita what the people of Fukushima thought about the Japanese government’s plan to bail out TEPCO instead of bailing out the people directly, after all, it is the taxpayers who will be footing the bill and wouldn’t the tax payers be fully willing to help their fellow man over helping the corporation responsible for the atrocity and everyone’s suffering? People in the room looked around at each other and then the MC looked at me and asked what I was talking about!! I said, “ Haven’t you all read online about the government’s plan to bail out Tepco?!” Only half were ‘getting’ what I was trying to convey….??!!! Of course, Ms. Nita understood right away and chimed in that the remaining folks believed that they were ‘handed down’ their fate and that it is almost as if the government is ‘god’….in any case, she went on, there is no energy to be fighting the government from inside Fukushima; which is why you have over 100 mothers from Fukushima staging sit-ins in front of METI in Tokyo….these women are the voice, they are the fight….and in their fight, they are verbally abused and threatened by the ‘Uyoku’ , the right-wing, nationalists who believe that if Japan gives up nuclear power entirely, it will be the permanent downfall of a once economic power, ‘Japan Inc.’

A final aside here, the ignorance of outsiders is creating a terrible form of prejudice against those who have been exposed to high radiation in Fukushima. There was a very successful Fukushima high school baseball team that made it to a national play off in Tokyo. Well, some mothers in the home team of Tokyo made it loud and clear to their boys that ‘those boys’ have brought with them terrible contamination, so stay away from them and do not dare handling any of their equipment or socializing with them, as you will surely become ‘contaminated’…..Dr. Yamazaki, chimed in here with his research to dispel such insanity. The only possible way to be contaminated by another individual is if that individual has been overcome with gamma rays so high that internally, his organs and tissues are beginning to irradiate the whole body…in such a case, death is imminent and one must be careful….otherwise, it is simply not true…especially, in the case of these star baseball players from Fukushima.
In the elevator, after our meeting on Saturday, I met an elderly woman who was also present at the meeting. She apologized to me that Japanese people cannot speak up for their rights!!! She explained how embarrassed she was of her own government….I again wanted to cry, but expressed that it was up to the outside world to help those suffering in Japan.

P.S. I had an English school for kids in Wakayama for 10 years, (between our school in Wakayama City and in Tanabe, 600 hundred students) and actually had 3 mothers call to soothe their paranoia regarding whether or not our staff of all foreign teachers had indeed submitted to AIDS testing, because they didn’t want to expose their child in the classroom! Note that this was in 1993. Only the truth will set us free….and sadly, the events of 3/11 will scar and mutate this culture, hopefully awakening them to fend for themselves LOUDLY, CLEARLY….

Ms. Nita notes that the media is rarely present reporting at sit-ins/protests, but she is more apt to get attention if she carries a placard similar to this. It reads, ‘I have evacuated Fukushima with my 3 kids to Wakayama. Give ALL the children of Fukushima their right to evacuate!!!’


Ms. Nita, who evacuated Kawamata, Fukushima with her 3 children on March 12, 2011 to pick up her mother in Chiba, Saitama...then to Kiminocho, Wakayama on 3/14.


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