TRAVELLING THROUGH CONTAMINATED LANDS (9)
Sitting in a cute café in Kofu. From here, it’s not possible to see the beautiful mountains surrounding the city, but yesterday, as I was going to my interview, I could see the Fujisan from the car window. This place is a paradise to raise children. The air is not too polluted, there is nice local food, you can go for walks in the mountains, etc. I do understand why some evacuees decided to settle here. Moreover, the cities (at least Kōfu and Kōshū) were welcoming people and locals were taking care of the newcomers. “I saw your number plate, it must have been hard on you.” People used to give vegetables and fruits, while associations are still distributing rice. People from urban areas in Fukushima sometimes had to accept lower salaries in order to get a job in here. It’s still a problem for some of the refugees, especially those with many children. But they all say that the kindness of local people was a blessing.
I can’t start to imagine how worried they must be, now that the government announced that housing aid (the rent being taken care of by Fukushima Prefecture) are going to end in 2017. I wonder how many of them are going to go back to Fukushima, because the financial pressure becomes too important. Many of the evacuees (what they call ‘self-evacuees’) are mothers with children, away from their husbands and families. Leading a double life, as they say (二重生活), is already hard now; how will they survive without help? The government is basically telling them to go back and to stop being a burden to the Japanese society. Actually, some of the evacuees I met were siding with the government, saying that it has been more than 4 years since the accident and that evacuees should now be able to take care of themselves.
I wonder if it’s linked to the fact that Japan has an underdeveloped welfare state. I’ve read papers explaining that the traditional provider of care in Japan is the family: the husband works and supports the household financially while the wife takes care of children and parents. Even though this structure is changing, the state is still asking a lot from families. Well, I don’t want to say that’s a bad thing, because family should always be there to support you. But it’s asking too much from families that were torn apart by the disaster. Living a double life, having parents living as a third household, being away from their former community and sometimes not being able to go back… There are so many situations and complications that important people do not seem to take into account. Everything is summarized by this: “they are self-evacuees, they decided to leave so now they should take responsibility and live on their own”. Take their own responsibility after having been exposed to radiation because of an accident… for which no one is taking responsibility? Right, coz that’s totally fair.