More than five years have passed since the earthquake and tsunami devastated much of eastern Japan in March 2011. Looking back on the past half-decade, we are sharing some stories and recollections from those we have been “walking together” with since the devastation, one by one.
Given below is a story from the eleventh speaker in this series, Ms. Nanako Nakata, from the Okinawa Diocese. Ms. Nakata is an instructor at Shoseito Hoikuen (All Saints’ Nursery), located in Okinawa City. In the “One Family” program to assist with child nursing in Fukushima, she came to St. Paul’s Kindergarten, Koriyama, in October 2014, to help with childcare. While she was in Fukushima, she visited Tomioka Town, the temporary housing of Gangoya, and other places to see how deep the wounds are from the 2011 disaster and the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown.
What I learned from the “One Family” program
Ms. Nanako Nakata, All Saints’ Nursery, Okinawa
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA
From October 23rd through November 1st, 2014, I participated in the One Family program to help with childcare in Fukushima. I am grateful to the principal and other instructors at my nursery, as well as to my parents, whose help to me when I joined the program was essential.
Before I hit the road, I was really nervous, wondering: “What can I do to help?” Once I was at St. Paul’s, however, its principal and all the other staffers warmly welcomed me and alleviated my worries.
The instructors at St. Paul’s strive hard every day to protect their children. For example, during the 10 days I was there, they took the children out to a place with low radiation levels twice. Normally they have such an outing every week. During these outings, the children have a great time doing what children want to do—run and play and exercise their bodies. They knew what the instructors wanted them to do.
I also had opportunities to talk with the children’s parents who told me, “We are so happy you ‘walk together’ with us. It tells us that we remain in your awareness. Also, we see that you are the same as us.”
I also had opportunities to spend time together with some temporary housing residents. Smiling and chatting, they seemed so cheerful and unaware of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown. They were determined to walk onwards, an attitude that lifted my spirit. At the same time, however, some residents spoke honestly, saying, “I wish to go home (which is still in a no-go zone) as soon as I can.” This wish was something only those “forced out” of their hometowns by the meltdown could really understand, and so I did not know how to respond. Anyway, they said, “Thank you for visiting us” when I left. And so did many parents of St. Paul’s children. I believe that going all the way to visit them and have fellowship with them gave them some encouragement.
On my last day in Fukushima, I visited Tomioka Town, where the radiation level is high. Though the radiation was really high, my body did not sense anything. What my eyes saw, however, were many damaged and abandoned buildings. I wished those buildings would be rebuilt soon to accommodate former residents once again. Still, the truth is that no human can live in the midst of such high radiation. Radiation stands in their way, preventing their return home.
One year later, another staffer from my nursery visited Tomioka. She told how the town was. Nothing had improved. I was shocked. The one consolation I found in her story was that the No Nuke Project was continuing to keep people together. I believe this togetherness helps all those people a lot.
A year and a half ago, I did not know much about what radiation can do to the human body, and I was more concerned with people struggling to get over their difficulties in Fukushima than with my own health. Today, I still feel concern for the people. Today, however, I am also concerned with my own health and future as well. So, now I am not sure whether or not I should visit Fukushima again.
Still, speaking of health, Fukushima’s people are facing much greater risks and anxieties than I do. Nevertheless, they are striving to move onwards, an attitude that inspires me to keep praying for them, and for the quickest possible recovery of Fukushima.
Thanks to the No Nuke Project, Fukushima is now quite familiar to me. Every time I see news or weather forecasts about Fukushima, I find myself staring at the TV screen. I love Fukushima, just as I love Okinawa.
The No Nuke Project moves the people involved in ways that are way beyond the scope of this article—and beyond any words I might write. I hope to share my emotions with as many people as possible, as I walk together with Fukushima. We might be physically apart, yet God keeps us together. I thank God for giving me such a great opportunity.